We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional lands of the Jukambal, Bundjalung and Kamilleroi peoples who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
You might know of the Granite Belt region as one of the premier food destination, located near the QLD and NSW state border. But apart from its gourmet cheeses and fresh produce, the unique boulder-strewn landscape is an underrated playground for an adventure-filled weekend.
Lying on the western side of the Great Dividing Range, the Granite Belt straddles the border of Queensland and New South Wales around the towns of Stanthorpe and Tenterfield. There are three national parks surrounding the local vineyards and farms: Girraween, Bald Rock and, Boonoo Boonoo. But while relatively small in size, these parks pack a whole lot of punch for some time immersed in nature.
Whether you have a day or a week, the otherworldly landscape of huge granite boulders, rushing rivers and forested hills make it a region you can easily stray for a while in lululemon’s new hike gear. Here are some of our favourite spots.
Distance / elevation gain: 4 km loop / 220 m
Duration: 2-3 hours
Prepare to be simply blown away by Bald Rock National Park. The centrepiece of the park in New South Wales is a massive granite monolith rising 200 metres above the surrounding landscape and stretching 750 metres long and 500 metres wide. In other words, it’s a damn big rock.
The rock served as a neutral meeting ground for the three Aboriginal nations of the area: the Jukambal, Bundjalung and Kamilleroi. Today, it’s where the Girraween National Park and Bald Rock National Park boundaries meet on the QLD-NSW border.
Starting from the picnic area at the base, the best way to appreciate the rock is by taking the steep climb to its summit. You’ll need some good walking shoes with decent grip, as at times you’ll feel like you’re walking almost vertically up the side.
Take the Rockface walk on the way up and ensure that you’re following the white painted stripes for the safest route. You’ll pass unique balancing boulders, which seem to magically sit glued to the rock surface overlooking the land below.
At the highest point of the monolith, you can enjoy panoramic views across the entire Girraween and Bald Rock National Parks, and as far as Mount Barney and the Scenic Rim Region of Queensland in the distance.
For the descent, take the easier Bungoona Track. This is much more gradual (but slightly longer) and takes you past interesting granite boulders and rock formations, including natural archways.
Hot tip: We highly recommend doing this summit walk at sunset or sunrise. The striking colours of the sky and the last golden light against the rock make for some stunning photos, or scenes to meditate on.
Admire the Waterfall on the Boonoo Boonoo Walking Track
Distance / elevation gain: 700 m return
Duration: 30 minutes
There’s nothing quite like chasing a secluded waterfall to have it all to yourself, but that’s more than likely the case in Boonoo Boonoo National Park. Few people make the effort to drive the 12km of unsealed road not far from Bald Rock National Park to reach Boonoo Boonoo Falls. But those who do are generously rewarded..
Boonoo Boonoo is a Jukambal phrase meaning ‘poor country with no animals.’ However, much has changed since its original naming and it’s become a haven for the endangered and shy Brush-tailed Rock wallaby. You may be lucky enough to spot one at dawn or dusk near the walking trails if you take the time to stray awhile.
From the picnic area, you can take the short and easy stroll along the formed track to the stunning lookout above Boonoo Boonoo Falls. It’s said that the famous poet Banjo Patterson proposed to his sweetheart, Alice Walker, at this very spot. And you can see why. The platform provides incredible views over the long, tiered drop of water as it finds its way down to the bottom of the valley.
Find Natural Swimming Spots on Rockpool Ramble
Distance / elevation gain: 400 m return
Duration: 20 minutes
If you’re visiting Boonoo Boonoo National Park on a warm day, the Rockpool Ramble is definitely where you’ll want to spend your afternoon. Just as the name suggests, it’s a short ramble from the car park to a series of rockpools and cascades upstream from the main waterfall.
The pools can be reached by walking over some rocks, which may be submerged in high water levels, so caution should be exercised. However, the place definitely gives Top End vibes, think Litchfield National Park except in rural NSW.
While the water can be pretty fresh, it’s worth the walk to either take the full plunge or just dip your toes in.
Escape the Crowds on The Junction Track in Girraween
Distance / elevation gain: 5.4 km / 90 m
Duration: 2 hours
On the Queensland side of the border, you’ll find Girraween National Park. It’s well known for scrambling hikes to lofty boulder-strewn peaks. However, if you’re looking for a slower paced wander where you can quickly find yourself surrounded by undisturbed wildlife and the loud but soothing sounds of rushing water, The Junction is where you’ll want to head.
From the main car park, simply cross over Bald Rock Creek and turn left towards The Junction. You’ll follow a relatively flat trail parallel to Bald Rock Creek as it heads west. At the end, you’ll come to The Junction, which is the meeting point of Bald Rock Creek and Ramsay Creek, or AKA a spot of absolute natural paradise.
Whether you opt to lay basking in the sun on the rocks or find a quiet spot to listen to the rushing water and singing birds, it’s one of the most peaceful places in the national park to stray awhile. If it’s a warm day, you’ll likely feel the urge to take a dip in the cool water. There are some natural pools with sandy banks just before The Junction where you can enjoy a swim on the way back.
Scramble Up to Castle Rock
Distance / elevation gain: 5.2 km return / 210 m
Duration: 2-3 hours
If you’re looking for more of a workout, then Castle Rock is my top choice in Girraween National Park. While not much is known about the Traditional Owners of the region, Girraween is said to be an Aboriginal word meaning ‘place of flowers’. Rock markings, marked trees, and tools have all been found in the national park.
While everyone rushes to do The Pyramid in the northern part of the park, I highly recommend heading to Castle Rock instead. It’s a similarly fun scramble with panoramic views, but without the crowds.
From the visitor centre, head south following the Castle Rock track. The first 2.5km is fairly gentle, however, don’t be fooled into thinking it’ll all be a breeze. As soon as you reach the turn off for Castle Rock on your left, you’re in for a fun last few hundred metres to reach the top.
The trail curves in between huge boulders before skirting around the outside of the peak. The views start to open up as you make the final scramble up the rock face to the summit. Ensure you follow the white striped markings on the rock to find the safest route.
The panoramic view across the entire national park is worth the effort, as you can see The Pyramid to the north and Mount Norman to the south. You must follow the same track to return, with an optional side trip to Turtle Rock and The Sphinx on the way back if you have time and energy left.
How To Get There
The Granite Belt region is located between the towns of Stanthorpe in southern Queensland and Tenterfield in northern New South Wales. The area can be reached on the New England Highway, either from the north or south depending on which state you’re coming from.
Girraween National Park is easily reached off New England Highway. To reach Bald Rock and Boonoo Boonoo National Parks, you can access them from Mount Lindesay Road off the highway.
Basecamp: Bald Rock CampgroundThe area has some great campground options to use as a basecamp. However, the Bald Rock Campground is a particularly beautiful spot right at the base of the huge granite monolith. From here, you can take the walking tracks to Bald Rock summit at sunset or sunrise and easily drive to Boonoo Boonoo National Park for a short trip.
You have to book online before you go.
You could easily take a day trip from Bald Rock to Girraween National Park as well, which is just across the border. However, there’s also a couple of great bush campgrounds near the visitor centre there, if you wanted to stay closer to The Junction and Castle Rock walking tracks.
Best Time To HikeYou can head out and explore the Granite Belt at any time of the year. However, the area does experience some pretty extreme temperatures. In winter, it’s not uncommon for freezing overnight temps, while summer is often stiflingly hot.
Leave No Trace
Please be a respectful adventure seeker and adhere to the leave no trace principles. There’s limited access to rubbish bins in the national parks, so ensure that you carry your rubbish out with you.
There are toilets available at the picnic areas and campgrounds for public use.
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