Lamington National Park is, in my opinion, one of Queensland’s best places to start hiking. With more than 150km (93mi) of clearly marked tracks through lush, green rainforest, it’s hard not to fall in love with the place.
Early on, I was addicted to the vibrant rainforest that was home to so many curious sights. From both the Binna Burra entrance & O'reilly's, there’s trails for all levels of ability.
If you ever visit the Oreillys park entrance (Green Mountains) you may have noticed the large plane sitting there on display. This is a re-construction of the historic plane that crashed in 1937 in the southern part of the park.
While the crash site is well worth a visit, many often neglect the equally impressive Larapinta Falls which is upstream from Westrays Grave. And if you want to have a read of the history here regarding the crash, have a look at this post:
This epic waterfall standing at over 50 meters high has an amazing, deep pool at its base and is perfect for that hot summer mid-hike swim.
THE TRIP TO LARAPINTA FALLS
Starting from the end of Christmas creek road, we headed through the gate and on down to the creek, crossing at its shallowest point. Almost all year except after heavy rain, it is never more than shin/knee depth. Skilled rockhoppers can cross the creek without even getting wet!
After crossing to the other side (right side facing upstream) we headed along the now well worn Stinson track. When I first followed it years ago it was a lot fainter than it was now. That had been an adventure in itself as it was my first off-track hike, but I will leave that story for another time.
Following the trail was easy. If at any point we lost it, we just stopped, backed up a little, and quickly found it again. With the whole track up to Westray’s Grave on one side of the creek and a steep incline on the other, it’s hard to get truly lost. You just keep near the creek which acts as a handrail.
After 1.5 hours, we reached Westray’s Grave. This was the burial place of James Westray, who after surviving the initial crash, had gone for help. An experienced mountaineer, he had correctly estimated Christmas creek as the easiest exit to civilization again. As he descended the many slopes, he accidentally lost his footing and slid down a cliff. Surviving the impact but badly injured, he crawled for a while longer before succumbing to his injuries.
It’s worth pausing here at his grave, a mound of rocks with a plaque, and reflecting on what it must have been like to be all alone in the rainforest after the crash. It was over a week before the other two survivors were found by Bernard O’Reilly.
ONWARD TO THE WATERFALL
To get to Larapinta Falls from here, just keep going upstream making sure to take the left branch (looking upstream). The track is now very faint or non existent in places but the key is to stay around the creek and don’t wander into the rainforest. In dry weather, you are often best off staying in the creek and rock hopping along. Progress is slower now with most parties travelling at a rate of 1-1.5 hrs per kilometer of creek. In the wet, the rocks can be very slippery.
It's a nice adventure heading along the creek. As it's not common for people to be here, the rainforest is mostly untouched and you have the place to yourself.
After about 1-2 hours, depending on how quickly you can move along creeks, you will see Larapinta Falls in front of you. I found myself speeding up to get there, excited to stand at the base of the falls.
And they didn’t disappoint!
The waterfall is massive! With sheer rock cliffs surrounding it, it makes you feel small standing all the way at the bottom. We went for a quick swim and had a lengthy lunch drying off in the sun. This is life! Wouldn’t it be nice to do this everyday?
WHERE TO GO NOW?
Getting back is easy, simply head back down the creek the way you came. You will come across Westray's Grave and the Stinson track again, and if you did miss it, you can still just keep heading down the creek always heading downstream.
This is a great thing about these types of hikes. Getting lost is difficult provided you have some common sense and have done a few hikes to prepare. The creek acts as a ‘handrail’ to guide you should you lose the trail, but overall and with the tape around the trees, most people should be fine.
THE IMPORTANT STUFF
Here’s the info & tips you’ll need to get started:
Moderate to hard (depending on your hiking experience). Some off track navigation required, you can’t just wander along without taking note of your surroundings like on marked tracks. If in doubt, go with someone who has been before.
Carpark to Westrays Grave- 1.5 hrs
Westray’s Grave to Larapinta Falls- 2 hrs
Allow a whole day (8 hours) to complete.
Car park is HERE.
Larapinta Falls is HERE.
You can find an online topo map resource from Queensland Government HERE.
You can find a GPS track on Wikiloc.
◘ General day hiking gear
◘ Good footwear, rocks can be slippery so trainers can often have better grip but are less sturdy.
◘ A PLB is always good to have.
◘ Spare clothes for the car trip home.
◘ Avoid starting late in the day. Get a morning start!
◘ Avoid during heavy rain or just after. Christmas creek does become swollen.
◘ Check for ticks after the hike. Wear long sleeve clothing to help protect from them.
◘ You can stay at the nearby campground which is really nice. A weekend away allows two great hikes to be done, the other being the Stinson wreck itself.
I love this hike for its added historic value and pleasant swim at the end so it should definitely be one for you to check out. And after you’ve tried Larapinta falls, why not try the hike to the actual Stinson wreckage itself?
You’ll be sampling some of Lamington National Parks best attractions that are seldom visited!