Girraween National Park

Girraween National Park might be relatively small compared to other big parks, but its unique landscape makes it a standout place to visit in Southern Queensland. The granite countryside is strewn with huge boulders and rocky outcrops carved by flowing rivers and creeks. 

The park is a lot of fun for all ages, with some Girraween National Park walks requiring some scrambling up to peaks. With names like Turtle Rock, Castle Rock and The Pyramid, it’s no surprise that you’ll be overworking your leg muscles and concentration skills to navigate around and over some of these huge granite boulders. But it’s all worthwhile with incredible panoramic views from many of the walks.

Being just a 3-hour drive southwest of Brisbane, it’s the perfect place to head for a weekend of exploring. The compact park has campgrounds and walks all accessed from the same point, making it ideal for those with just a couple of days up their sleeve.

This guide will look at the best Girraween National Park walks and other information for anyone hoping to explore this spectacular park.

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About Girraween National Park

Girraween is an Aboriginal word meaning “Place of Flowers” because of the incredible spring wildflowers that bloom each year.  

The national park covers an area of around 11,000 hectares on the Queensland-New South Wales border. It’s famous for its granite boulders, native wildlife and plenty of opportunities for a weekend of adventure. With camping and a variety of walks, you can easily see why the park is a popular trip in Southern Queensland.

While the park is open all year round, the weather can change drastically throughout the year. Spring and autumn present the most moderate temperatures and conditions, with spring also bringing the stunning wildflowers. Winter can be incredibly cold, with below zero overnight temperatures, while summer can be quite the opposite. Plan your trip accordingly.

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Getting there

Girraween National Park is 260 km south-west of Brisbane. It’s located on the New South Wales-Queensland border and is connected to Bald Rock National Park, which is on the NSW side.

Girraween is an easy drive on a sealed road off New England Highway between Stanthorpe and Tenterfield. 

Staying in and around Girraween National Park

There’s a variety of accommodation options for Girraween, depending on whether you’re keen on camping or prefer more comfortable rooms. If you want to stay closest to the walks, then camping will be your best bet, but there are some lodges and cottages nearby as well.

Girraween National Park camping

Girraween National Park is a great camping destination. There are two main campgrounds inside the park which act as a base to explore the walks and visitor centre.

You must book and pay for your site before arriving, as there is no phone reception in the campground or visitor centre area. You can book online here.

Bald Rock Creek Camping Area: A shady campground on the bank of the creek, this is made for tents and camper trailers only. However, I camped here in my campervan and it was perfectly fine. There is a toilet block and untreated water available. 

Castle Rock Camping Area: The larger of the two camps, with various sites for all different setups, including campervans, caravans, tents and camper trailers. There is an amenities block with toilets and untreated water.

Bald Rock Creek Camp in Girraween
Bald Rock Creek Camp in Girraween

Nearby Girraween National Park accommodation

If camping isn’t your thing, then you can stay outside the park. Here are a couple of places to check out on Pyramids Road just before the park entrance:

Wisteria Cottage || This beautiful rural property offers one and two-bedroom cottages to rent. With a kitchenette, living area, private bathroom and garden area, it’s a cosy place to return to after a walk. Prices start from around $200 per night. Check availability here.

Girraween Environmental Lodge || Another beautiful retreat, this property has ten architecturally designed self-contained luxury cabins. They also offer family sized cottages. Prices start from $290 per night. Check availability here.

Best Girraween National Park walks

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Best Girraween National Park walks

The walking trails are divided into northern tracks and southern tracks, with the visitor centre and campgrounds being right in the middle. All the Girraween National Park walks branch out from the same spot, so it’s easy to park your car in one place for the whole day.

The tracks are broken down into shorter walks to certain attractions like The Pyramid, Turtle Rock and Castle Rock. However, it’s also possible to join most of these attractions and walking tracks into two longer walks, the Southern Circuit and Northern Circuit, if you’re keen for a couple of big days.

If you’re relatively fit, I highly recommend doing this, because it means you get to see all the highlights of both the northern and southern parts of the park in just two walks. I’ll detail these big circuits below, but also highlight how to break them down into shorter walks if you prefer.

View from The Pyramid
View from The Pyramid

Northern walking tracks

The northern part of the park is the more popular side, especially because it features The Pyramid, the most famous attraction.

Full Northern Circuit

  • Distance: 8.5 km
  • Time: 2.5 hours
  • Ascend: 323 m
  • Descend: 317 m

This is the ultimate way to see the northern part of Girraween National Park. The northern circuit takes you to all the attractions in the north, including The Pyramid, Granite Arch and The Junction, by joining all the tracks together.

From the visitor centre, I recommend doing the circuit in counter-clockwise direction, which means heading to The Pyramid first. You need to cross the creek on the concrete bridge and then head to the track on the right (it’s signposted). 

The trail wanders through the trees for about a kilometre to the intersection with the Granite Arch track. You need to continue to the right as the trail starts to ascend towards The Pyramid. You’ll climb some rocky stairs and around some boulders before meeting the base of The Pyramid. 

Base of The Pyramid
Base of The Pyramid

From here, you need to follow the white painted stripes on the rockface as you walk up the granite rock. There are a couple of scrambling sections, but otherwise, nothing too difficult. You really need to stick to the white stripes though, as they show you the best way to navigate the rockface. The rough surface should be pretty easy to grip with your shoes, but be careful as it can be slippery if wet.

Once you’ve wound your way to the top, you’ll see the balancing rock on your left which is a famous spot for photos. But, you can still continue to climb up the rocks to the very top, which offers an incredible panoramic view.

The Pyramid balancing rock
The Pyramid balancing rock

Once you’ve caught your breath and admired the view, climb back down the same way to the intersection with the Granite Arch track. This time turn right and take that track as it takes you under the incredible natural archway. Then you’ll come to another intersection. Turn right again and follow the Bald Rock Creek Circuit through the bush.

Granite Arch
Granite Arch

You’ll then come to yet another intersection. Here, you’ll want to turn right towards The Junction. This flat trail is easy to follow along the river all the way to where the Bald Rock Creek and Ramsay Creek meet. This spot is incredibly beautiful and is popular in summer for those looking to jump in for a swim or in spring when the wildflowers are out in force. Outside of these seasons, you’ll likely have this wonderful trail to yourself.

You need to return the same way. Except when you come to the first intersection on the return, you can take the track on your right, which crosses Bald Rock Creek and leads to Bald Rock Creek Campground and back to the Visitor Centre to complete your circuit.

The Junction
The Junction

Shorter walks

If you want to break this circuit up into shorter walks or see these attractions individually, then these are your walking options from the visitor centre:

The Pyramid 

  • Distance: 3.6 km return
  • Time: 1.5 hours

Granite Arch Circuit

  • Distance: 1.6 km loop
  • Time: 30 minutes

Bald Rock Creek Circuit

  • Distance: 2.2 km loop
  • Time: 45 minutes

The Junction

  • Distance: 5.4 km return
  • Time: 2 hours
Southern Circuit Walk Girraween National Park

Southern walking tracks

The southern part of the park is more remote and requires you to walk longer distances to reach some of the attractions. However, I really enjoyed this part of the park, as it’s much quieter and offers more varied nature and terrain.

Southern Circuit

  • Distance: 15.8 km
  • Time: 5 hours
  • Ascend: 776 m
  • Descend: 743 m

This is a decent day hike which is incredibly diverse, a little challenging but simply beautiful. This joins the three main attractions in the southern part of the park together, Castle Rock, Turtle Rock and Mount Norman, so you’ll get to see the best of the area. 

The first two kilometres follows a relatively easy path away from the campgrounds and visitor centre. You’ll then come to your first intersection. Take the track on your right which goes to The Sphinx and Turtle Rock. 

View from Turtle Rock
View from Turtle Rock

From here, it’s just 1.5 km to The Sphinx and then another 200m to Turtle Rock. These are huge impressive granite boulders and rocks, although they don’t offer panoramic views like Castle Rock. However, you can follow the trail beyond the sign which says “End of Track” and then scramble a little bit up Turtle Rock to get higher, if you want a bit of a view. Return the same way back to the main track. 

Scrambling to Castle Rock
Scrambling to Castle Rock

Then, turn right and continue on this for just 100 metres until you reach the intersection with the Castle Rock track. Take this walking trail, which climbs steadily over, through and under large boulders for 450 metres following white painted stripes. You’ll need to be careful in a few spots as there is a steep drop down one side and there are a couple of scrambling sections and tight squeezes to get to the very top. But it’s worth the effort, as the panoramic view is one of the best you’ll get in the whole national park.

View from Castle Rock
View from Castle Rock

Then, carefully return the same way to the main track and turn left to continue towards Mount Norman. The track is pretty easy for a while taking you through the bush and across streams. However, for the last kilometre you’ll be following those white stripes again as you walk up and over large granite rocks. The views start to appear in all directions behind you, so it’s not all bad.

Mount Norman walking track
Mount Norman walking track

The you’ll duck back into the bush and continue around Mount Norman and up to the very base of its rocky peak. Unfortunately, to reach the very top, you need rock climbing experience. When I first heard that, I wasn’t entirely convinced, but when I got there and scrambled around, you do get to a point where it’s near vertical rock and you’d want to be very confident in your skills. So, I turned around and found a nice little spot on the south side which had beautiful views anyway.

Then, you can return all the way back for 5.5 kilometres to the visitor centre by retracing your steps. 

Mount Norman summit
Mount Norman summit

Shorter walks

If you want to break this circuit up into shorter walks or see these attractions individually, then these are your walking options from the visitor centre:

Castle Rock

  • Distance: 5.2 km return
  • Time: 1.5 hours

The Sphinx and Turtle Rock

  • Distance: 7.5 km return
  • Time: 2.5 hours

Mount Norman

  • Distance: 11 km return from Visitor Centre or 4 km return if you drive to Mount Norman Picnic Area on the southern side of the mountain
  • Time: 4 hours (1.5 hours from Mount Norman Picnic Area)
Girraween National Park walks signpost
Girraween National Park southern walks signpost

Essential hiking and camping gear for your trip

  • Head torch: As soon as the sun sets, you’ll be needing a good quality headlamp to help you find your way around the campground. This Black Diamond one is USB rechargeable too.
  • Camp chair: Kick back and relax at the end of the day with a comfortable and lightweight camping chair. This Helinox camp chair is a high quality option that packs away easily.
  • Gas cooker: Cooking up quality meals while camping makes the experience so much more enjoyable. I recommend a JetBoil stove which is super portable and boils water rapidly for easy cooking.
  • Portable solar panel: If you’re camping at an unpowered site, a small portable panel can come in handy when trying to charge your phone off the grid. This BioLite Panel is easily packable and powerful enough to charge your devices.
  • Sleeping bag: A good sleeping bag is essential to keep you warm, dry and comfortable while camping out. Sea to Summit make some incredible down options, with the Spark III being a staple for many different adventures.
  • Day pack: For exploring beyond camp and heading off on day hikes, a good sized day pack will help you carry all your hiking essentials. Osprey Tempest is the classic day pack I take on all my adventures.
  • Water bottle: To save plastic bottles ending up in landfill, I always carry a LifeStraw Water Bottle with me so you can refill it from anywhere and be confident that the water will be safe.
  • Quick drying towel: From beach swims to freshwater swimming holes, carrying a quick drying towel is a handy addition to any camping trip. Sea to Summit make great lightweight and quick drying towels of all sizes.

  • Things to do and see nearby

    If you’re in the area with more time, then I highly recommend driving around to the New South Wales side, which is called Bald Rock National Park.

    Bald Rock National Park

    This is home to the largest granite monolith in the southern hemisphere. While it has less walks on offer than Girraween, the Bald Rock Summit Walk is definitely worthwhile and rivals any view you’ll get in Girraween National Park. There’s also a campground there if you want to stay the night.

    Read my guide to walking and camping in Bald Rock National Park

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