Location - Paluma Range National Park, North Queensland, Australia
Distance - approximately 16 km return
Time - Allow 8-10 hours return
Grade - 5, difficult
UPDATE 2019: The Ollera Creek Track was recut by Michael Mohring, his friends, and some other members of the public. Now the trail is well-marked up to Mickle's Entry. Note that the start of this track has not been recut, however, as most people access via private property after gaining permission from the property owners.
Ollera Creek has so much to offer, especially great waterfalls, but also many rock slides and gorgeous swimming holes. Arguably, the most beautiful waterfall in this area is Big Ollera Falls. The area also hosts a stunning creek with a six square kilometre catchment above Ollera Falls, which means that you will experience good flow in the creek year round.
Some of the rocks in Ollera Creek are quite unusual for the area, having sharp, jagged edges instead of the normal round river rocks characteristic of many of the nearby streams. There are many landslides in the area too, which is also uncommon for Paluma Range National Park.
This walk can be done return in one day, but it is recommended to camp overnight at the main falls.
The Ollera Creek Track was completed around 2009. The track connected Ollera Creek with the PRB Track via Three Ways, which also made Circle View Mountain much more easily accessible. Then, in 2011, Cyclone Yasi destroyed the rainforest canopy and the trail network. It wasn't until November 2019 when significant trail clearing and remarking was executed. The Ollera Creek Track was recut by Michael Mohring and his friends – as well as some other members of the public, including Wilfred Karnoll, Luen Warneke, and members of Townsville Hike and Explore and the Wanderstories community. Although the track is not completely cut all the way to Big Ollera Falls, hikers can follow it until the creek, and then rock hop up the creek to the falls. Maintenance is an ongoing process in these rainforests, indeed. You can help keep these trails open too by packing a set of secateurs before setting out for your adventure.
Ollera Creek itself flows under Ed Kratzmann Bridge and into private property on the eastern side of the highway. Ollera Creek and the beach area were once popular for camping, dirt biking, and 4WDing with lots of variety; easy tracks to holes that will swallow your truck. There was a track from the highway straight to the beach, as well as some that followed the creek. There was also the track that ran along the powerlines. It was a perfect place not too far from Townsville to relax with the creek, beach and open bushlands to explore. This area is now private property on a 100 year lease. It is also marked as Clerk Creek near the creek's mouth on QTopo and on some old Forestry Maps.
Here is an interactive map of the track, potential alternate routes, points of interest, and things to see nearby like Circle View Mountain. Note that you can also rockhop the entire way up the creek to reach Ollera Falls, which can be easy to do if the water levels are low.
Ollera Creek Falls may be the prettiest in the entire Townsville area, but even most locals have not had the opportunity to enjoy them because they are a bit difficult to reach. However, now with the freshly recut track, they are much easier to reach, and hopefully many more will take the opportunity to enjoy them.
There are many routes you can take to reach Ollera Creek Falls, both the small and big falls. Some even make this a side trip when summiting Circle View Mountain,
Some just simply choose to enjoy Ollera Creek. During particularly we seasons, it flows over the causeway on Caleo Road and makes for a lot of fun to float down with tubes. If the conditions are right, y0u can float for about nine kilometres to the highway.
To start, find the old trail head at the end of Caleo Road, which makes its way left around the private property at the end of the road. This route is currently overgrown. If you gain permission from the owner, however, the start is much easier. You can have an easy walk through the owner's property. Once the barbed wire becomes less obvious and you reach a small creek, you will no longer be on private property and will traverse the cut track alongside Ollera Creek. Alternatively, you can always rock hop up the creek to the cut track from the causeway at Caleo Road.
The cut track goes alongside Ollera Creek for one kilometre before reaching Leo's Creek where you can enjoy a dip in the small waterhole before continuing. Cross Leo's Creek and continue. The track then climbs along the ridge to Spurl's Lookout. From here, if you continue further uphill (off-track), you will be greeted with a vantage point of Big Rock – Big Rock Lookout. Alternatively, if you continue on-track, the track descends southernly toward Coffee Creek.
After crossing Coffee Creek, continue along the cut track for about 650 metres to Mobile Creek Junction. At this point, you will be alongside Ollera Creek. From Mobile Creek Junction, continue on for another kilometre or so before encountering Lizard Gorge.
It should take approximately 1.5 to 2 hours (approximately five kilometres) to get to Lizard Gorge from the road (private property).
From Lizard Gorge, the track ascends a ridge and then contours for about 1.8 kilometres. At this point, you will find some ancient trees that survived the logging era and a swampy palm garden. What a sight to be had!
From the big trees, continue on the cut track to where you once again reach Ollera Creek. Then, the cut track will end. At this point, you can break away to ascend Circle View Mountain or wait for another opportunity closer to Ollera Creek Falls.
Now the rockhopping begins. Rock hop up Ollera Creek for about 1.5 kilometres. Along the way, you will encounter a long rock slide and an interesting natural stone bridge.
From the natural bridge, proceed a further 500 metres, and you will arrive at the beginning of the large waterfalls. These smaller falls are impressive, but keep going by scrambling around to the left of the falls to continue onward. Tube Creek (350 metres upstream) and Big Ollera Falls (500 metres upstream) both await.
At the fork of Tube Creek, you can ascend the creek another 300 metres to see Tube Falls. If you choose to do this, you will have to return the same way to get back to the fork of Tube Creek to proceed on toward Big Ollera Falls. This area can also be accessed via the PRB Track when it has been cleared.
Alternatively, continue up Ollera Creek on to Big Ollera Falls. Here, you can scramble up the right hand side and climb up (grade 12) the falls. Or, you can take more of a detour and walk around.
After you reach the top of Big Ollera Falls, you can continue for another 200 metres to see Small Ollera Falls. Again, you can either choose to scramble (Grade 9) up the right side of the falls or take a wider berth by walking around and up the side of the falls.
After Small Ollera Falls, walk for another 200 metres upstream. At this point, you can either take a left up the ridgeline to reach Circle View Mountain, or head right onto the PRB Track.
If traversing the PRB track, do stop by Ollera Valley Lookout for grand views along Ollera Creek, Big Rock, and Circle View Mountain.
Along Ollera Creek, there are a few spots for small cliff jumps, slides, and swims if you are so inclined. There are a few rock walls in the valley to climb; however, the rock cliffs up the mountains are made of decomposed granite, which can resemble anything from crumbling kitty litter to enormous exfoliating flakes. Be cautious.
Flora and fauna
Wild boars (pigs) roam the national park and are quite destructive to the environment. Australian Brush Turkeys and Bush Stone Curlews are also seen in this area, and water dragons and snakes can be spotted sunning themselves on the warm rocks. Jungle perch and eels inhabit the creeks. Many of the pools will contain Green Filamentous Algae in the dry season.
What to bring
- Water (2-3 litres recommended per person). If refilling from the creek, treat your water.
- Food and snacks for the length of the trip
- Long pants and long-sleeve shirt recommended
- Hat and sunscreen
- Insect repellent
- GPS and navigation tools
- First Aid Kit and PLB (or equivalent)
- Camera and/or phone
- Overnight gear if camping