Trail Open

Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail

Queensland - North

4 based on 3 reviews
Location: Atherton, 88km south west of Cairns, 1730km from Brisbane
Length: 20 km
Surface: Coarse gravel
Start / End: Atherton to Walkamin
Public Transport: Bus
Suitable for:
  • Cycling – Mountain BikesCycling – Mountain Bikes
  • Cycling – Touring and Hybrid BikesCycling – Touring and Hybrid Bikes
  • Horse RidingHorse Riding
  • PramsPrams
  • Scooters and Inline SkatesScooters and Inline Skates
  • WalkingWalking

Map Legend:

  • Rail Trail
  • On Road
  • Possible Rail Trail
  • Other Trail
  • former Railway
  • The trail passes through rich agricultural landscapes with a gentle grade
  • Well interpreted Aboriginal history
  • Extensive World War II history
  • Produce stalls and coffee shops
  • Good climate year-round; April-September optimal

Attractions

  • Outstanding heritage listed natural environment and unique wildlife
  • Expanding network of touring, MTB and road bike trails in the region
  • Proximity to Cairns, Great Barrier Reef and coastal attractions
  • Well serviced towns and villages

Trail Guide

The trail links Atherton with Walkamin on the central Atherton Tablelands. Facilities adjacent to the trail in Atherton and Tolga (6 km north) include toilets and cafes and most facilities; the small settlement of Walkamin (14.5 km north of Tolga) has toilets, car parking and a small store.

Section Guides

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

The trail runs north to Tolga, passing the Tolga Scrub, a remnant of endangered mabi forest that once covered most of the Atherton Tablelands. A diversion off the trail leads to the popular 28 km Tolga to Kairi cycling loop: Tolga Kairi Cycle Loop

From Tolga the trail heads to Rocky Creek, which during World War II housed the largest military hospital complex in the Southern Hemisphere. Around 60,000 Australian soldiers were treated here for war-related conditions.

The trail passes the restored Rocky Creek igloo, one of the complex’s remaining buildings. Across the road is the Rocky Creek campground and war memorial park, the focus of Victory in the Pacific celebrations each year. There are rest and toilet facilities at Rocky Creek.

The trail continues beneath the Kennedy Highway road bridge and runs a further six km north to Walkamin (see map at Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail)

Background Information

Traditional owners

We acknowledge the Tableland Yidinji people, the traditional custodians of the land and waterways on which the rail trail is built.

Development and future of the rail trail 

A feasibility study detailing the extension of the remaining 16 km section between Walkamin and Mareeba was released in early 2020. RTA representatives continue to work with Mareeba Shire Council on the project, which could link the two major townships of the Tablelands by way of a safe 36.5 km trail.

Extending the trail to the south from Atherton towards Herberton is also a priority. Atherton Herberton Historic Rail (AHHR) holds the lease for the railway corridor between Atherton and Herberton, and the development of a 21 km shared use trail is well advanced.

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

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

The trail also crosses a diverse landscape with outstanding natural features such as Carrington Falls and Hasties Swamp National Park, a large seasonal wetland that is a refuge and birdwatching hotspot for resident and migratory birds.

From Herberton the original trail runs for 35 km to Ravenshoe, but this section is partly demolished and effectively unrideable. The last 7 km section from Tumoulin to Ravenshoe is intact and the Ravenshoe Railway Company still holds the lease, though the train is not currently running.

There is limited political interest in redeveloping the redundant sectors of the Tablelands region, but there is potential for a trail of around 92 km from Mareeba to Ravenshoe.

Rail line history 

The Atherton Tableland Rail Trail constitutes a small part of the extensive history of the Cairns to Ravenshoe railway system. For comprehensive information on this system, go to:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tablelands_railway_line_Queensland

Acknowledgements

We thank Tablelands Regional Council, Rail Trails Australia and Atherton-Herberton Historic Railway Inc. for their continued support, and look forward to working with AHHR on the shared trail from Atherton to Herberton. This link will also open up safe cycling opportunities in the savannah country to the west of the Tablelands, including the Lappa Trail and the Irvinebank to Boonmoo tramline.

No services listed for this rail trail.

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3 reviews of “Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail”

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.

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!

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. are pleased to advise that the official opening of the ...

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

Posted: 12/10/16

Come and join us for a celebration of cycling! and enjoy riding the Rail Trail ...

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Opening of the Atherton Rail Trail (far North QLD)

Posted: 21/08/14

Friends of the Atherton Rail Trail and the Tableland Regional Council invite you to the ...

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Atherton Rail Trail nears completion (Qld)

Posted: 22/07/14

Stage one of the Atherton to Mareeba Rail Trail is now 85% complete,with stage one ...

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Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail get a green light

Posted: 10/09/13

After 7 years of hard work by the Friends of Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail and the ...

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Funding Offer for Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail (QLD)

Posted: 30/11/10

Tablelands Regional Council Mayor Tom Gilmore, Transport Minister Rachel ...

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Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail Community Meetings (QLD)

Posted: 09/02/10

Disused Rail Approaching Atherton Tablelands Regional Council will ...

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Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail (North Qld) Community Meeting

Posted: 20/08/07

A feasibility study for the proposed Atherton Tablelands Rail Trail from Atherton to Yungaburra has ...

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