Forget the echoing of children’s screams, laughter and the rhythmic creaking of swings. This is a serene escape from reality, an adrenaline charged playground for explorers.
Located on the border of Queensland and New South Wales, Girraween National Park is dominated by hardened molten granite boulders as well as an abundance of wildlife and snaking creeks. While the landscape feels remote and rugged there is a range of comfort; with 10 hiking/walking trails ranging from very easy to very hard to choose from and well-maintained glamp-grounds with hot showers and flush toilets.
With so much ground to cover and only one full day in the park we opted to conquer the renowned trails of this thrill seeking explorer’s playground; The First Pyramid, The Granite Arch, Castle Rock, The Sphinx and Turtle Rock.
The First Pyramid, an indescribable sized granite dome protruding 1180 meters high seemed like the perfect place to catch the sun rise. Armed with decent headlamps and the best grippy footwear available we set off. Not going to lie, it was a tad daunting walking through the bush in the pitch black. The crunching of leaves as we stepped on them and every branch that creaked almost sent us into cardiac arrest. Not to mention the wallaby’s and kangaroos popping up out of nowhere! The Granite Arch also caught us by surprise. On the same track, we suddenly passed through a natural arch formed by three enormous boulders. Could this be a natural gateway to the Northern section of the giant’s playground? We believed so, as soon enough we were faced with a sheer, near vertical rock face. Everything but reaching the top was going through our mind. We were in for one hell of a ride.
Finally, after the challenging climb we had reached the top. As the wind whipped across the rock, orange, pink and yellow rays kissed the cloudy grey sky. We climbed to the eastern face where we were greeted by the enormous Balancing Rock. Balancing rock is a ten-tonne, 7.5-metre-high, 6-metre-wide granite boulder balancing on a base of only 1 metre! The earth began to glow and as the sun continued to rise higher and higher, the rays illuminated everything in the 360-degree view. It was a magical experience but the ride was not over because what goes up must come down! The common belief is that climbing a mountain is the hardest part, we would disagree. While the granite rock was quite grippy, the exposed rock face had no natural or in fact any fall protection. No handrails or ledges. If we were to step on a loose rock or trip and fall while descending, it would have been near impossible to stop ourselves from tumbling down the whole side of the mountain. Snaking our way down, the steepness and absence of obstacles on the face convinced us that this was a slippery slide for giants.
A quick pit stop back at camp for a caffeine and breakfast booster was in order before exploring the Southern trails. Moss and lichen covered boulders sprawled the surroundings of these trails with tree roots criss-crossing the path and leaves dancing to an unheard beat. Mesmerised by our surroundings we were suddenly greeted with an ‘end of path’ sign. With extreme caution we wandered beyond. Climbing up, through and around the boulders we discovered hidden beauty’s and eventually made our way to the top of Turtle Rock. Turtle Rock offered spectacular views of the park. The focal point being our next hurdles, The Sphinx and Castle Rock. It was really hard not to imagine these formations as natural play equipment and toys in a giant’s playground. The Sphinx resembled a giant’s game of jenga as each boulder was balanced on top of one another creating a tall yet stable structure. While the top of Castle Rock resembled that of an abandoned game of marbles.
After an action packed day of exploring the park the sun was setting and it was time for us to get back to camp before the Giants of Girraween came out to play.