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Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail - Trail Description



Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail

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Type: Rail trail
Location: Atherton, 88km south west of Cairns, 1730km from Brisbane
Start/end: Atherton to Walkamin
Status: Open
Length open: 20.5km
Surface: Compacted earth
Terrain: Gentle downhill from Atherton to Walkamin
Best seasons: Year round but the dry season (April to September) is cooler
Public transport: Coach
Features: tourist
Contact Region: North Queensland
Glorious day on Atherton to Tolga section
Glorious day on Atherton to Tolga section
Suitable for walking Suitable for cycling mountain bikes Suitable for cycling touring hybrid bikes Suitable for horse riding




• The Rail Trail traverses through rich agricultural landscapes and sections of rare Mabi rainforest

• Well interpreted Aboriginal history

• Extensive WW2 history

• Produce stalls and coffee shops at numerous points along trail

 Support Services



The 20.5 km Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail currently links Atherton to Walkamin on the central Atherton Tablelands.

The Trail begins at Platypus Park on the southern side of Atherton and traverses through the centre of the township. There are numerous trails leading to the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park and the Atherton Skills Park and MTB trailhead lie on the trail.

The rail trail runs north to Tolga, passing Tolga Scrub, a small remnant of Mabi forest which once covered most of the Atherton Tablelands. There is a wonderful diversion off the trail which leads to the popular Tolga Kairi cycling loop.

From Tolga the trail heads to Rocky Creek, an area which housed the largest military hospital complex in the southern hemisphere during World War 2. Between 1942-45, approximately 60,000 Australian soldiers were treated here for war-related conditions.

The rail trail passes beside the restored Rocky Creek igloo, one of the military complex’s remaining buildings. Across the road from the igloo, is the Rocky Creek campground and war memorial park. The park is regularly visited and becomes the focus of Victory in the Pacific celebrations each year.

The rail trail continues under the Rocky Creek road bridge and travels for a further six kilometres northward to Walkamin (see Rail Trail map at Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail)

Background Information

The Mareeba to Atherton section of the Cairns to Ravenshoe railway line opened in 1903. The railway line extending to Herberton to transport tin ore to the coast was officially opened in October 1910, and the line eventually reached south to Ravenshoe in 1916.

As Queensland’s rail traffic decreased due to improved road networks and increased car ownership, Queensland Rail began closing branch railways that were no longer economical to operate. The rail service beyond Atherton ended in 1988 and the last train to Atherton ran in 2004. A tourist railway train operating between Atherton and Herberton ceased operations in 2003 but is currently being resuscitated by Atherton - Herberton Historic Railway Inc. (AHHR) - a very active community group of rail enthusiasts.

Future plans

A feasibility study detailing the extension of the remaining 15 km section between Walkamin and Mareeba was released in early 2020. Once completed the rail trail link the two major townships of the Tablelands by way of a safe 35 km trail. RTA representatives intend to meet with Mareeba Shire Council to promote the extension of the trail.

Extending the trail to the south, from Atherton towards Herberton, is also a major priority. AHHR holds the lease of the railway corridor between Atherton and Herberton and has agreed to the development of a 21 km shared use trail.

The current railway line is being restored so that AHHR can operate tourist train rides between Herberton and Atherton and a section of the corridor between Atherton to Hasties Road has been developed for use by cyclists, horse riders and walkers.

The Atherton to Herberton railway line has significant historic and cultural values, and the tunnel at the top of the Herberton Range is reported to be the highest in Qld.

The trail also traverses an environmentally diverse landscape with outstanding natural features, notably Carrington Falls and Hasties Swamp National Park, a large seasonal wetland which is a refuge for resident and migratory birds.

It is believed (and confirmation is required) that much of the steel has been removed from the 35km Herberton to Ravenshoe corridor. Unfortunately there are many sleepers which litter the alignment, but in spite of this it is still partly rideable.

The section of 7km from Ravenshoe to Tumoulin is intact as the Ravenshoe Railway Company still holds the lease. It appears that the train is not running due to Covid and other issues.


We would like to thank Tablelands Regional Council, Rail Trails Australia and Atherton - Herberton Historic Railway Inc. for their continued support, and we look for-ward to working with AHHR on the shared trail from Atherton to Herberton. This link will also open up numerous safe cycling opportunities in the savannah country to the west of the Tablelands, including the Lappa Trail and the Irvinebank to Boonmoo tramline, both detailed in the North Queensland Region on this site.


Support Services and Attractions


 July 2020

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23 May , 2017 by Shazz62

Part of this Trail is Run by Park Run each Saturday, it is a good run if you are ion the Atherton Tablelands area at any time .

14 September , 2015 by Barnes

The Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail starts at the Mountain Bike Trails in Atherton and heads north through Tolga. Keep peddling north to the Historic site of the World War 2 Hospital which saw 60 thousand people treated for sickness and injury here during the years 1943-45 when Australia defended its Northern shores from Japanese invasion. All that remains of the massive site is the dilapidated Rocky Creek Igloo which is being restored by the Rotary Club of Atherton. Check it out on the Rocky Creek Igloo WW2 Restoration Facebook page.

18 October , 2014 by KateDrysdale

Have just walked from Atherton to Tolga and back. This trail is the best idea in the region. Finally something for all ages to enjoy! However, next time I may reconsider my choice of footwear as thongs led to a rather painful walk home haha! The dogs loved it too so we will all sleep well tonight. It would be great to put a botanical garden along the track since the proposal to do so along Priors Creek was rejected...if anyone would like to try and do so let me know because I am keen!

09 September , 2014 by 

I know it isn't officially open yet, but I walked the track from the Tolga Museum to Grove Street one day, and then the section from Herberton Road back through Atherton to Grove Street on another. The section from Grove Street through to Railway Lane doesn't really follow the railway line so was a bit confusing at the beginning but the new signs are making things easier. Photos at

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Come and celebrate the opening of the extention of the Atherton Rail Trail Saturday 23 March 2019.

(Posted: 18/03/19)


Tablelands Outdoor Recreation Association Inc invites eveyrone to the extention of the Atherton Rail Trail on the 23rd March 2019


Come and enjoy the 2016 Atherton Bike Fest on the Rail Trail

(Posted: 12/10/16)

Join the Friends of the Atherton Rail Trail at the 2016 Bike Fest 21- 23 October


Opening of the Atherton Rail Trail (far North QLD)

(Posted: 21/08/14)

 Stage one of the Atherton Rail Trail is about to open (Far North QLD)


Atherton Rail Trail nears completion (Qld)

(Posted: 22/07/14)


Stage one of the Atherton to Mareeba Rail Trail is now 85% complete


Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail get a green light

(Posted: 10/09/13)


The friends of the AthertonTablelands Rail Trail are delighted that funding have been approved for start of this trail


Funding Offer for Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail (QLD)

(Posted: 01/12/10)

QLD State government offers $4M for Rail Trail development.


Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail Community Meetings (QLD)

(Posted: 10/02/10)

Tablelands Regional Council invites community members to attend meetings on rail trails.


Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail (North Qld) Community Meeting

(Posted: 21/08/07)

A public meeting will be held at Merrilands Hall in Atherton on Tuesday 28th of August 2007 from 6pm to 8pm. More...