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Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail - Trail Description



Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail

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Type: Rail trail
Location: Atherton Tablelands, 88km south west of Cairns, 1730km from Brisbane
Start/end: Atherton to Walkamin
Status: Open
Length open: 20.5km
Surface: Compacted earth
Terrain: Gentle fall to north - easiest to cycle from south to north
Best seasons: all year Dry Season - April to Seotember 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




• Rail Trail traverses through rich agricultural landscape and section of endangered Mabi
    rainforest • Well interpreted Aboriginal history
• Extensive WW2 history - see description below
• Agricultural produce stalls and coffee shops at numerous points along trail

 Support Services

BIG4 RGB logo webBIG4 Atherton Woodlands

Located in the heart of the stunning Atherton Tablelands, with a variety of accommodation options to suit all tastes and budgets, catering extensively for our cycling guests with a purpose built bike wash down and service bay area, providing pro tools, pumps, and environmentally friendly bike wash products.




The Atherton - Walkamin Rail Trail begins at Platypus Park, on the southern side of
Atherton township. It traverses through the centre of Atherton and facilitates access to
various trails leading to the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park. The Atherton Mountain
Bike Skills Park and mountain bike trailhead lie adjacent to the rail trail. The trail heads
north to Tolga, passing just east of the Tolga Scrub, a small remnant of Mabi forest which
once covered most of the Atherton Tablelands. From Tolga the trail heads to Rocky Creek
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 Rocky Creek igloo, one of
the military complex’s remaining buildings which is now being restored by the local Rotary
Club. Across the road from the igloo, is the Rocky Creek campground and war memorial
park, on the site of what used to be the general hospitals’ laundry and medical stores. The
memorial park has a number of military unit plaques representing units that had a
connection with the Rocky Creek Australian Army Hospital, or that trained or provided unit
support on the Atherton Tablelands during World War 2. The park is regularly visited
throughout the year 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


FATRT would like to thank both Tablelands Regional Council and Rail Trails Australia for their continued support, and looks forward to working with AHHR on the shared trail from Atherton to Herberton. This linkage will open up numerous safe cycling opportunities in the savanna country to the west of the Tablelands, including the Lappa Trail and the Stannary Hills to Boonmoo tramline.

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.
The Friends of Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail Inc. (FATRT) was formed in 2007 and one of
its early initiatives was to assess and develop the rail trail potential on the Tablelands. A
feasibility study was commissioned in 2008, and with the support of the Tablelands
Regional Council, the trail now extends from Atherton to Walkamin.
The 20.5 km trail has proved to be extremely popular with walkers, joggers, bike riders and
horse riders.

Future plans

Developing the remaining 16 km section between Walkamin and Mareeba for safe use
requires support from the Mareeba Shire Council. FATRT continues to promote this
development which, once completed, would link the two major townships of the Tablelands
by way of a safe 26 km trail. Extending the trail to the south, from Atherton towards
Herberton, is also a major priority. The Atherton - Herberton Historic Railway Inc. owns
the lease of railway land between Atherton and Herberton and has agreed to a shared trail
being developed between the two locations with a Memorandum of Understanding
between the two parties signed in 2016. The plan is for the existing 21 km railway line to
be retained and restored so that AHHR can operate tourist train rides between Herberton
and Atherton. A shared trail that would be open to bike riders, horse riders and walkers is
to be constructed within the railway corridor, alongside the existing line. The first stage
from Atherton to Hasties Road is on the 2018 development agenda with funds having
been sourced from a DNPSR Get Playing Places and Spaces Grant late in 2017. This
funding application was drawn up and submitted by Tableland Outdoor Recreation
Association. The Atherton to Herberton railway line has significant historic and cultural
values, and the tunnel at the top of the Herberton Range is 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.


FATRT would like to thank both Tablelands Regional Council, Rail Trails Australia and
Atherton - Herberton Historic Railway Inc. for their continued support, and looks forward 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


 June 2019

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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...