Location: Paluma Range National Park, Queensland, Australia; Rollingstone / Mount Halifax area, south east of Paluma Township.
Distance: Approximately 11 km return with over 1,000 metre ascent & descent.
Time: Approximately 5-10 hours return depending on fitness and breaks.
Grade: Difficult & strenuous.
Summiting Mt Halifax is a strenuous walk and you'll need to be fit to climb up some steep hill sections. The bush track is rough and uneven underfoot. There is also a little bit of rock hopping involved so you need to have adequate technical skills and good foot placement. The route is generally well marked with orange and yellow metal reflective markers, and pink tape but sometimes it's just a marked route with no defined track, or in the creek rock hopping, therefore ensure markers are always in sight. The trail is rough and in some places difficult to discern without the markers – so ensure you are always in sight of markers.
I recommend starting early; I suggest 6am. Allow 4 to 6 hours to reach the Halifax summit from Paces Road depending on your fitness. Though, if you are super fit & with minimal breaks, I've walked it in 2 hours 30 minutes (5 hours return including break - lunch and taking in the views). It's also a good trail run with a killer elevation gain; The current record is 1 hour 25 minutes and 4 seconds to the summit.
Ensure you have time to return to the finish point in daylight. If you have not reached the summit by midday, turn around and descend to finish. There is a sign-in logbook at the start of the walk with a detailed mud maps in the box — please ensure you return the mud map at end of walk. The upper parts of the route have mobile phone reception. The marked trail is a privately developed and maintained trail. It's rough, and not yet up to scratch with Queensland Department of National Parks standards. Hopefully National Parks take onboard these Paluma Tracks soon.
Mt Halifax is a dominate mountain located at Rollingstone, the highest peak (1,063 metres) north of Townsville on the mainland until Tully area (AFAIK). This is the mountain you can see from Bruce Highway behind the pineapple farms. It can be seen from Castle Hill in Townsville and other vantage points. The only higher mainland peaks around Townsville are to the south on Mt Elliot range.
Mt Halifax profile
A marked trail was built in the 2000s from Paces Road to the summit, by some Vietnam veterans. The route is approximately 11 km return. It is a 1,000 metre ascent, then 1,000 metre descent.
Much of the bushwalk at lower altitudes is in or alongside a rocky and boulder strewn jungle creek. Along the way there are some small gorges, waterfalls and cascades. Note that in some parts of the year there may be no flowing water in the creek. There are diverse vegetation changes along the walk as altitude changes, from woodland, to rainforest, then she-aok and grass trees, bottle brush on exposed ridges, then rainforest at the top. As the track ascends you climb narrow rocky ridgelines to reach rainforest near the top.
Before Rollingstone bridge, turn left onto Pace's Road, drive until you reach the log book sign-in point for the start, then park cars on the roadside before the gate. Vehicles are not to proceed through Paces gate as it's private property.
Paces gate – start point, elevation 92 metres.
Paces gate to Gorge Falls (elevation 171 metres) – 1.4 km, 30 minutes, cross country easy walking. Gorge Falls has a pool that in good times is suitable for swimming. Today the water was dark, rancid and unsuitable. There is no waterflow in the creek today.
Gorge Falls to Rope Falls (elevation 174 metres) – 10 minutes. In good times a nice pool and waterfall here – today no flowing water, and a dark smelly pool. Clamber up right side rock face, there's a could of ropes in place to assist.
Rope Falls to Flat Rock (elevation 360 metres), via Loop Falls side trip (elevation 261 metres). This section is an undulating hike on a loop track left side of creek that avoids the creek. Steep climb (with a side trip to Loop Falls about half way), then descend to Flat Rock. Allow 1.5 to 2 hours from start to Flat Rock. Flat Rock is in the creek bed, can have a flowing stream in good times, today was dry.
The ascent really commences now.
Flat Rock to Camp 1 (altitude 510 metres). A very steep section, allow 30-40 minutes. Depart and climb up 'Rocky Creek'. Rock hop up the creek, then leave the creek left side onto ridgeline, and up the 'rock slide' - a steep scree slope, loose rocks. There's a rope in place to assist. Above the rock slide, on track with loose dirt surface, about half way to Camp 1 the climb steepens more, rope in place to assist here. 25 minutes later and you will arrive Camp 1. There's a side track to the right for 125 metres leads to Bridal Falls. This is the last water point on the ascent and it's a good place to refill. It's also a pretty waterfall.
Camp 1 to Camp 2 (altitude 639 metres) — More very steep climbing, allow 30-40 minutes, at one point 87% gradient.
Camp 2 to Camp 3 (altitude 743 metres) — More very steep climbing, allow 30-40 minutes.
Camp 3 to Echo Hill (altitude 894 metres). Steep climbing, onto the rocky ridgeline, she-oak and grass tree country, getting great views of the landscape around and below. Godwin's Peak visible to the south east as is Townsville. Views to east and north of Palm Island group, in the distance is Hinchinbrook Island. Looking west we can see Mt Halifax summit. Slow going as the track is overgrown and needed clearing as we proceeded. A good breeze provided cooling conditions even though no shade on this ridge.
Echo Hill to False Crest (altitude 1015 metres) — More along the ridgeline, and then into rainforest and the False Crest. Great views along the ridge. The temperature noticeably decreases in the rainforest.
False Crest to Mt Halifax (altitude 1063 metres). A 15 minute walk through rainforest, down a gully then back up, over moist rainforest ground, to reach the summit. Approximately 5 hrs to get to this point.
Crowd onto a rocky outcrop just south of the summit for great views. If you continue further south a few meters, you can scramble onto Mickle's Lookout, overgrown, but has even better views.
If you camp at the summit, there is a water point about 1km away, but track is slightly more overgrown and downwards.
Allow two hours from Camp 3 to Mt Halifax summit.
This image shows the road to the start of the walk and location of the ridgeline.
The Pace family are being very generous to keep this open for visitors - hopefully no-one abuses the privilege to give them reason to reconsider.
Return via the same route:
After a lunch break start the return journey. After resting and now going downhill, the pace should be a little bit quicker than the way up. However, the steep downhill sections can put pressure on your knees or your feet can slip out underneath you. Allow 4 hrs to come down.
Essentials to bring
You must to be self-sufficient in remote area rugged terrain hiking for the day. Ensure you have a map, compass, GPS, and safety communications devices.
- drinking water: Carry adequate water for the whole day. Alternatively you can use water sterilisation tablets or another way to treat your water
- extra food
- topographic map & compass and/or GPS
- Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or similar (EPIRB)
- first-aid kit
- warm clothing and wet weather gear
- rubbish bags; practice concepts like "Leave No Trace" and the "Hike It Out" campaign.
- insect repellent
- fuel or gas stove
- and a small trowel for burying faecal waste. Bury human waste and toilet paper at least 15 cm deep and 100 m from camp sites, tracks and watercourses to guard against pollution and the spread of disease. Read more about things to know before you go.
Access: Hike-in access only
Remote hiking and camping: Only experienced and well-equipped bushwalkers should undertake extended overnight hikes.
Number of camping sites: A maximum of six remote campers are permitted in any one group.
Facilities: None. Must be self-sufficient. Water collected from creeks should be treated before drinking. All rubbish (including food scraps) must be carried out.
Open fires: Prohibited. Use fuel stoves only.
Note: Rats are in the area; hang your food and rubbish bags from trees at night.
- Snakes and spiders
- Slippery rock when wet
- Twisting an ankle and falling over
- Cliffs near the summit. Stick to the track.