The view from Battleship Spur at sunrise is the best way to appreciate the natural oddity that is Carnarvon Gorge in outback Queensland.
- The toughest of Carnarvon Gorge’s sidetracks
- Gain a true appreciation of the immense scale of the gorge
- Spend two nights at Big Bend campsite to turn a long one-day hike into a three-day adventure
Spectacular hiking isn’t what most people would normally associate with outback Queensland. In fact, if you’re too deeply involved in your Spotify top songs of the year, the turnoff to Carnarvon Gorge could easily go missed on the otherwise featureless road between Roma and Rolleston.
But Carnarvon Gorge is like a desert mirage that actually turns out to be real, with a dozen hiking tracks set amongst the pristine creeks, thundering cliffs, and pockets of wild nature that make up the park.
Most of the hikes in the area follow, or branch off, the main gorge and creek. And these tracks are great, but while walking at creek-level, it can be hard to gain a real appreciation of the tremendous scale of the gorge.
Short of paying for a helicopter (which is an option), the best way to get a helicopter cabin’s view of Carnarvon Gorge is to tackle the lightly-trafficked climb to the top of Battleship Spur, which looks over every twist and turn of the gorge. And for even more of a challenge, opt to reach the summit for sunrise.
Camp in a (Really) Big Bend
Big Bend by name, big bend by nature. As walk-in only campsites in Australia go, Big Bend is pretty high up there. Situated at the end of the main trail at Carnarvon Gorge lies a Queensland Parks campground that’s nestled next to a dramatic curve of the gorge.
All prettiness aside, the key attraction of Big Bend for this adventure, is its proximity to the start of the Battleship Spur track.
It’s a very long day walk (30km return) to Battleship Spur from the main visitor’s area at Carnarvon Gorge. But it’s only 8km return from Big Bend which makes it an ideal place to base yourself for two nights so you can make a day-trip to Battleship Spur. Walk to Big Bend on day one, exploring all the other side tracks on offer on the way. Boost up to Battleship Spur and back to Big Bend on day two. Cruise back to the start on day three.
That’s a pretty sweet three days of hiking.
A Rough Start
Don’t let this title deceive you, the start to the Battleship Spur track is rough but in a very good sense.
The track to Battleship Spur starts a few hundred metres back from Big Bend. And for the navigationally challenged among us, it’s almost impossible to miss as the start of the trail follows the photogenic Boowinda Gorge. Small boulders line the floor of the gorge, which narrows to only a few metres at some points. Overhead the cliffs soar 30 odd metres into the sky, although it feels like much more.
As you venture deeper into the gorge the air temperature drops dramatically, which is very welcome on a hot day. After 600 metres, the gorge starts to decrease in height and there’s a collection of cairns and a small sign that shows the trail branching off to the right.
It’s hard to miss this turnoff, even if you’re on the trail before first light.
King Ferns And Open Surrounds
The first 100 metres of the ascent out of Boowinda Gorge are the toughest, as you ascend up a steep gradient that requires a small amount of scrambling.
Following the initial ascent, the trail’s a painful tease most of the time, with plenty of false summits and testing inclines. After 30 minutes I thought I could see Battleship Spur in the distance, but it was only after 90 minutes of climbing that I could actually see it. There’s one rocky section that has a small ladder to assist hikers. Once you reach this point you’re almost there.
Being out west, it can get seriously hot in this area, and with not much shade on the trail, the trail can feel like a slog. Add in 650 metres of elevation in just four kilometres, and it’s exactly that.
King ferns are the predominant feature on the trail and must be incredibly resilient to survive the harsh and dry environment. The trail’s well-marked and navigation is easy in low light, but it still pays to have a map or GPS app at the ready in case of difficulties.
Reaching Battleship Spur
Two hours after setting off from Big Bend we reached Battleship Spur, quite surprised at how tough what we thought would be a short climb actually was. There’s a ring of rocks at the summit, and then a small track that leads through the trees for the view over Carnarvon Gorge.
When the sun starts peeking over the horizon, more and more of the gorge’s dramatic features can be seen. The whole landscape looks much bigger from above, with the cliffs cutting through the landscape in a wicked assortment of zig-zags.
While the summit is almost dead-quiet and void of wildlife, the noises of the birds and other critters from the forest below float up and add to the pristine vibe Carnarvon Gorge oozes.
Given the remote nature of Battleship Spur, you’re almost guaranteed to have the summit to yourself for sunrise. Another tick for a hike that undoubtedly provides the best vista of Carnarvon Gorge.
After savouring the view for an hour, the descent back down was nice and easy. We made it back in time for lunch and a dip in the pristine waters beside Big Bend.
- Snacks and plenty of water. There’s no water or toilets on the trail once you leave Big Bend
- Overnight gear and food for three days if you’re camping at Big Bend
- Grippy shoes for the scrambling sections
- Warm clothes for the exposed summit
- A fully charged headlamp if attempting the hike for sunrise
How To Get There
Carnarvon Gorge is located between Roma and Emerald, 8.5 hours drive away from Brisbane. The entry road to the park is sealed and suitable for 2WD vehicles.
The track can be steep and loose underfoot at times, but there’s nothing too technically challenging.
Distance Covered / Time Taken
Battleship Spur from Big Bend: 8km return, 3.5-5 hours
Battleship Spur from the main visitor’s area: 30km return, 8-12 hours