Location - Paluma Range National Park, North Queensland, Australia
Distance - 8 km one way from Paluma to Little Crystal Creek bridge;
7 km one way from Little Crystal Creek bridge to Base of Range.
Time - 6-12 hours one way
Difficulty - Medium to difficult; Off-track bushwalk. Rock hopping and rock scrambling.
The crystal clear waters and pristine waterfalls of this freshwater creek are ideal for a refreshing swim. The mountain water cascades under a picturesque heritage-listed stone arch bridge built in the 1930s depression. It's bridge is a popular place amongst the Townsville locals on the weekend; just watch out for those the wet, slippery rocks covered in moss and lichen.
A few locals have rock scrambled their way up Little Crystal Creek but I do not know of anyone going all the way to Paluma. This hike will take you from Paluma village along the PRB Track down past the bridge to the Bruce Highway. You can also break it up into two trips starting at the bridge and climb up to Paluma village or rock hop down to the base of the range. Note: Car shuttle required.
How to get there
From Townsville, drive north along the Bruce Highway to the Paluma turn off. Follow the windy road (Mt Spec Road) up to the Stone Bridge at Little Crystal Creek. Drop one car off here and continue up to the township. Start walking from Paluma Village along the PRB Track for 4km towards Smith Falls; look out for Little Crystal Creek's valley. Bushwalk down into Little Crystal Creek following it down 3km to the heritage-listed bridge of Mt Spec Road and down to the base of the range.
"The present road to Paluma was largely completed by 1935. Construction was undertaken as a Depression unemployment relief project. Most work was done by men with picks and shovels, mostly labour intensive, with up to 180 men employed at a time. The masonry arch bridge over Little Crystal Creek was built at this time, with stone quarried from Barrett's Bluff, not far past Crystal Creek. A series of guest houses and camping grounds were established along the length of the road during its construction. As construction teams moved slowly up the mountain building the road, they built ten tent camps. One team would work up the mountain from their camp while the other would work down to meet them from a higher camp. They would then abandon camp and move on and up... McClelland's Lookout (The Loop) was named after the Main Roads Officer-in-Charge of the construction of the Paluma Road." - History of Paluma, Mount Spec
What to bring
You'll need a day pack with:
- About 2-3L of water for the walk in. The water in the creek should fine to drink without sterilising it above the bridge but do so at your own risk. You will need to sterilise your water around and below the bridge. You may also want to keep a bottle of water in the car at the bottom.
- Food and snacks for the days.
- Shoes that have grip on wet & mossy granite rocks.
- A headlight in case you go into the night.
- An extra set of clothes to leave in the car at the bottom.
- First Aid Kit & PLB
- Dry bag
If rain is expected, rock hopping will be very difficult and you should cancelling your trip. Climbing up and down the wet mossy rocks would not only take four times as long, but it would be dangerous and not possible in a day.
Here's an interactive map on the journey with points of interest marked.
Above the bridge
Just above the bridge as some very spectacular waterfalls. It's also the most popular place in Little Crystal Creek and for good reasons. A perfect place to escape the summer heat by having a quick dip in refreshingly cool water. The rainforest has a good canopy so the vegetation isn't too dense.
Below the bridge
Below, is completely different terrain. It turns into open bushland with large boulders make for some tricky rock scrambling. Since it's downstream from public access, there is also a lot of litter in the creek.
Devil's Leap, a.k.a. Peanut Falls, is also a well known place located a few hundred meters below the bridge and has a dirt track leading to it. There are also has rock slides that provide an extra bit of fun (Devil's Slides a.k.a. Peanut Slides).
Be careful around cliffs, wet rocks, and fast flowing water. Many people have been injured and emergency services have had to be flown in.
Last waterfall of the creek at the base of the range
The waterfall at the bottom of the range is spectacular. Not only does it offer a beautiful large & deep swimming hole but has the opportunities for abseiling, cliff jumping, and climbing up the side of the waterfall (approximately Australian climbing grade 15). The smaller waterfall above the large one has its own small swimming hole which you can slide off the waterfall into and has a good little climb up a crack next to the falls.
Just upstream from these falls is a mini slot canyon and above that is another large swimming hole and cliff jumping area.
Gimpe Gimpe (stinging tree)
Loose & wet rocks