Explore the lesser-known wonders of North Queensland, Australia with this beginner-friendly hike.
Located within the stunning Paluma Range National Park in North Queensland, Australia, Saltwater Falls and Saltwater Creek offer a breathtakingly beautiful experience for hikers of all skill levels. Saltwater Creek was later renamed Crystal Creek due to confusion with another Saltwater Creek further south. So Saltwater Creek Falls is Crystal Creek (or Crystal Creek Falls).
This easy, Grade 3 trail covers a distance of 11 km and takes approximately 4 hours to complete.
To reach Saltwater Falls, you can start your journey from the Paluma Dam or Culvert 81. The ideal time to embark on this hike is right after the wet season when the Paluma Dam is full and the waterfalls are at their most magnificent.
During your hike, don't miss out on visiting Wilfred's Lookout and Torsten's Rock Garden, named in honour of bushwalkers Wilfred Karnoll and Torsten Lindgren, who discovered these sites in the early 2000s. The Rock Garden is a prime example of North Queensland's rainforest beauty, offering an incredible display of ferns, moss, and tree roots enveloping large granite rocks.
Planning Your Journey to Saltwater Falls and Saltwater Creek
To help you plan your adventure, we've provided an interactive map of the journey with two starting points for your convenience:
Getting to Saltwater Falls from Paluma Dam
Begin your hike at the Paluma Dam, situated at an altitude of 900 meters. Follow an old logging road that circles the dam for 1.5 kilometres. At track junction 29, take the foot track on the right, which leads towards Saltwater Falls. After just 100 meters, at track junction 30, the path to Wilfred's Lookout veers off to the right.
From the dam, it's approximately a 30-minute walk to Wilfred's Lookout, offering stunning views of the surrounding countryside. Be cautious of sunbathing snakes in the area. The trail then descends through the rainforest into a tea tree forest, nestled between granite outcrops. After crossing the headwaters of Little Birthday Creek, you'll arrive at junction 31, with Wilfred's Lookout on your right.
Exploring the Area
Take a moment to enjoy the breathtaking vistas at Wilfred's Lookout, a prime spot for birdwatching and observing the local wildlife, including Victoria's riflebird, pythons, snakes, and skinks. On a clear day, you can even spot the Paluma township and high-voltage power lines.
Continuing east from junction 31, you'll reach Torsten's Rock Garden, a mesmerizing display of granite rocks adorned with lush ferns, moss, and tree roots. The area also features two bat caves, created by the overhang of adjoining boulders that form narrow, cave-like structures that house hundreds of microbats.
The Final Stretch to Saltwater Falls and Saltwater Creek
From junction 32, you have two return options if you wish to shorten your journey. Otherwise, continue uphill north towards Saltwater Falls. At junction 33, take the right path downhill, leading you to the sound of rushing water and the granite slab creek of Saltwater Creek. Upstream, you'll find a large swimming hole, while downstream lies the breathtaking Saltwater Falls.
Enjoying Saltwater Falls and Saltwater Creek
At an altitude of 765 meters, Saltwater Falls Lagoon is an idyllic spot for a picnic, swim, or a well-deserved rest. After your break, make your way back towards the dam, passing an impressively large tree just before you reach Junction 33. The distance from Saltwater Falls to the dam is 5.3 kilometres.
For those seeking a longer hike, consider the 17-kilometre circuit that includes a stop at DCK Shelter (private property). This route takes you through creeks, swimming holes, and a mossy rainforest filled with colourful fungi. The temperature along the trail is pleasantly cooler compared to the coast in the summer.
Another option is to follow Bullocky Tom's Track past Saltwater Falls and Gold Creek Falls, which eventually leads to Paradise Waterhole. This through walk is a fantastic adventure, but a car shuttle is recommended. For thrill-seekers, abseiling down the numerous waterfalls in Saltwater Creek to the water intake plant near the rockslides is an exhilarating experience, but again, a car shuttle is advised.
What to Bring
- Food & snacks
- Sun protection
- Mosquito repellent
- Swimmers and a towel
Escape the hustle and bustle of everyday life and immerse yourself in nature with this rejuvenating hike. Ideally, venture into the great outdoors at least once a week for a few hours to refresh your mind and refocus on what truly matters in life. The suggested route is approximately 10.5 kilometres long, with an overall ascent of 609 meters and a descent of 612 meters. Remember to bring a map with you to avoid getting lost at the junctions.
If you enjoyed this hike, be sure to also check out the Three Lagoons Hike for another unforgettable experience in the great outdoors.
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