Progress Village

Outdoor Recreation Management Specialist and 

Project Planning and Evaluation Consultant

Adventure Blog

Bikes, Hikes and Outdoor Recreation Management

The Gillies Lookout- Stunning views

Written by Leah Stevenson and Helen Pink

November 2021

Visiting the Gillies Lookout offers picturesque views over the Goldsborough Valley. The valley’s view comprises dense rainforest illuminating greens of every colour. Deep in the valley the Mulgrave River engraves its path from south to north, initiated by the steep mountains that create the valley and the accumulation of torrential tropical rain that falls each wet season. The river snakes towards Gordonvale and then, beyond the view, the river exits into the Great Barrier Reef. The view also includes a panorama of the western side of Queensland’s two highest peaks- Bartle Frere and Bellenden Kerr (unless Far North Queensland’s iconic tropical clouds visit that day).

The Gillies Lookout itself is perched on a cleared area on the edge of the escarpment. You can soak up the views from a flat grassed area shaded by huge old trees making it perfect for a picnic. So, bring your rug and a cuppa. Back from the precipice is a fenced area. (Keep an eye on the kids, as it is a significant drop beyond the fence.) Hang gliders frequent the lookout, and you can see why. Because there is a large boulder right on the edge that makes a great take off platform!

It is a stunning view from the Gillies Lookout!

Not only are the views amazing, but the expedition to get there is worth the journey. In this article we suggest two ways to access the Gillies Lookout. Option A: via Yungaburra and Option B: via Tinaroo Falls township. Both are ideal ways to travel to the Gillies Lookout because you travel through diverse landscapes: from lush green farming areas, tropical rainforests, pine tree plantations and views of Lake Tinaroo. Option B: via Tinaroo Falls is a great option for mountain bikers with long-distance riding experience.

Travel by car requires a high-clearance vehicle because both travel options meet at Madigan Road to access the National Park. Madigan Road is a gazetted road however, it has two farm gates before you get to the National Park section, so please leave the gates as you find them. The first 1.7 km is gravel through farmland, and once through the second gate, there is a stark change in scenery and the environment turns to dense rainforest. The last 1.9 km is in the National Park and is where the road becomes more challenging. The road turns to a steep, rainforest mud-based road which can be a little rutted. You can walk, mountain bike, if you don’t have a high-clearance vehicle. We recommend parking at the Madigan/Boar Pocket Road intersection before the first gate. The walk/ride along Madigan Road is quite nice.

Option A: via Yungaburra

Access via Yungaburra is a much shorter drive and mostly on a sealed road until you reach Madigan Road. The narrow winding road hugs old timber farming sheds that are reminiscent of farming from days gone by. Also, because of the region’s good rainfall, moss grows on rustic wooden fence posts and the local cows look fat and happy. The Cathedral Fig is only 100 m further down the road and is worth checking out before heading to the lookout.

Directions: When travelling via Yungaburra, heading east (towards Cairns), follow the highway for 12.9 km, then turn left onto Boar Pocket Road, which is past the Lake Barrine turnoff. The sign on the left side of the road is overgrown, however there is a clear sign at the T-intersection. Follow Boar Pocket Road for 4.4 km. You will see a turn to the right at the sign to ‘Gillies Lookout 4 km’. This is the start of Madigan Road and the first farmgate is clearly visible from the road.

Option B: via Tinaroo Falls

Travelling via Tinaroo Falls township is mostly narrow unsealed road and not recommended for 2-wheel-drive vehicles. This travel option takes you the ‘long-way’ around Lake Tinaroo to get to the Gillies Lookout and add just over an hour to your trip, depending on where you start your drive on the Atherton Tablelands. The northern side of Lake Tinaroo is a beautiful drive and mountain bike ride. There are many walking trails and camping sites within the Danbulla National Park to visit on the way. To access the Gillies Lookout, continue along Danbulla Road, taking you through pine tree plantations and dense tropical rainforests.

Directions: Drive to Tinaroo Falls township and continue through to Danbulla Road towards the dam wall. At the dam wall, the water either disperses into the channel or continues as the Barron River. Continue around the dam wall to the other side where there is a lookout on the top of the rise with views of the lake and the lower section of the Barron River. From here it is about 32 km of majority unsealed road to Madigan Road. The road runs parallel to Lake Tinaroo and winds through pine forests and rainforests with crystal clear creeks. Turn left onto Madigan Road to head to the lookout.

There are so many amazing places to visit on that Atherton Tablelands and we recommend adding the Gillies Lookout to your list of places to visit.

Helen Pink and Leah Stevenson are a mother and daughter outdoor recreation enthusiasts. Helen enjoys long-day hikes to lookouts and waterfalls. Leah enjoys heading out on her mountain bike adventures.  

Article published in the What's On & Where To Go magazine - December Issue 2021

Do you really know your mountain biking trails?

Written by Leah Stevenson

August 2021

Do you really know your mountain biking trails?

I suspect some of you reading this article are mountain bikers and may even ride our awesome trails right here on the Atherton Tablelands. Even to those of you who ride regularly, I ask, do you really know your trails?

There is an unspoken rule when riding- no one wants to be the one who slows down the group. For example, when riding with others you may be at the front of the pack, often trying to set the fastest pace you can without blowing up. (Come on, we’ve all done it!). Or are you just keeping up with the others and you do not want to keep anyone waiting? But unless you are on your training ride, I would like to suggest a few options for you to try. And I suggest, it could be the best thing to do if you are trying to improve your mountain biking skills. As a mountain bike coach, I first teach the foundations and followed by my next coaching tip is ‘Play!’

Play?! What does that mean? For me, ‘Play’ when mountain biking is slowing things down, taking the time to try something challenging and have some fun while doing it. I recommend taking a pause during your ride (at least once per ride) and consider how you could approach a section better. Have a good look at a section of trail, get to know your trail…. And then play!

• Are you taking your best line?

Mountain bike trails often have a line that is more worn. But you may find a less conspicuous option you have not have ridden before and could be only centimeters from your current line. There is a good chance if you don’t stop to have a look, you will ride right by without seeing it. Or if you do see that line as you promptly pedal pass you are likely to forget to try it next time. ‘Play’ while it is still fresh in your mind. Do not follow the main line, experiment, there is more than one option, see if you can find another stellar option.

• Anyone for pop rocks?!

No, not those overly sweet lollies that break your teeth. Pop rocks or roots are small rocks or roots protrusions on the trail often seen as little minor obstacles you need to avoid. But in fact, it could be a mountain biker’s best friend. You do not have to find a big, structured mounds of dirt to practice your jumps. It may surprise you what you can use to get a little air. These morsels of fun are everywhere, and you will find lots of them.

• Stop avoiding sections of trail.

Often when the hustle has started, the riding pack has momentum and then it is hard to get the group to stop. But if you see the rest of the group ride around those little drops or steep sections, be brave. Say “Hey!! Let’s give that feature a go!”. Often, riders who may avoid features may not have considered if they could in fact ride the feature. Get off your bike, have a good look at the feature. It might surprise you that the feature is not as difficult as you first thought. (If it is too difficult, call Off Camber. Our details are at the end of the article.)

So next time you ride your regular mountain biking trail haunt, why not try a couple of these tips. Ask yourself, do you really know your trail?

Leah and Rob Stevenson own Off Camber Mountain Biking and are mountain biking coaches right here on the Atherton Tablelands. Leah has twenty-years’ experience mountain biking. She enjoys encouraging people to experience the great outdoors and provide personalised instruction to help mountain bikers achieve their goals. Rob has 25+ years’ experience mountain biking and racing and loves getting a bit of airtime. Together, they aim to help you increase your confidence on the bike and improve mountain biking skills no matter your experience. We take small groups, so you receive personalised instruction. We offer beginner to enduro skills clinics, custom individuals and group clinics, and after-school programs and the iconic annual Women’s Enduro Skills Weekend. MTB skills clinics are held in the Atherton Forest Mountain Bike Park and Davies Creek Mountain Bike Park.

Article published in the What's On & Where To Go magazine - August Issue 2021

Gravel crunching rides on the Atherton Tablelands

Written by Leah Stevenson

April 2021

Australia's cycling boom has seen more gravel-crunchers taking to the trails. The Atherton Tablelands can accommodate these new cyclists with the variety of trails from rail trails, farm road loops, and mountain bike parks in the area. Rail trails are great to start with because they are mildly undulating trails and have limited interaction with vehicle traffic, and the scenery is amazing too.

I suggest the following two entry-level/scenic rides to kick off your riding experience. These short rides are ideal for riders who want to establish some cycling fitness while seeing our beautiful region. Also, kids who are competent on two wheels can also ride these trails. I recently rode these trails with my family and friends and would like to share them with you.

Platypus Park, Atherton to Hasties Swamp

This 'easy' 8km return trip is an ideal starter ride for fun and fitness. The trail is almost entirely flat. The ride starts at Platypus Park, Atherton where there is car parking and public toilets. The ride starts on the other side of the Railway Cafe and heads south east alongside the rail trail. Along one side of the trail, there rich green pastures with cattle grazing. The cattle are quite a novelty. They stare curiously at our chattering kids and are not fazed by their energy. Next, the trail steps down into bushland and meanders amongst the trees next to the railway line. There is plenty of shade in this middle section of the journey and a good place to rest if needed. The trail meets Hastie Road where you turn left. Ride for about 300m on Hasties Road before turning right onto Koci Road. Take care here, it isn't a busy road, however; it is a 100km zone. There is a sign here to Hasties Swamp. If taking kids, I find bunching them together and then walking/riding across as a pack directly across the road is the shortest and safest way to get the kids across. The Hasties Swamp two-story bird hide is about 1km down the gravel road. We enjoyed finding the birds labelled on the information boards. There are so many types of birds in these wetlands throughout the year. Once rested, follow your same way back to the start. Platypus Park is a good place to end the ride. I would recommend a take-away coffee from Railway Café while the kids burn off the rest of their energy in the park.

Tolga Racecourse (Tolga Market Day) to Old Hospital Ruins return

This 'easy' 14km return trip has one small hill climb. I suggest doing this ride on the 1st Sunday of the month when the Tolga Markets are on. A small reward from the markets may entice you to complete the ride.

The ride starts on the north end of the Tolga Racecourse and head north along the rail trail. About 1km along, the trail drops beside an old railway bridge then continues for another 1.5 km. Turn left off the rail trail at Banchio road (opposite to the Me2U café). Head up the rise (this is where you may need to give some encouragement) then turn right onto Rocco Road. Rocco Road is a fun downhill gradient next to the power line. Check out the impressive view of the northern Atherton Tablelands. You can see as far as Dinden National Park on a sunny day. The road finishes at Frazer road. Turn right. This is the only section of the ride that is bitumen road and there usually isn't much traffic. About 400m down the road on the left, you will come to the ruins of a WWII hospital. There is an information sign explaining this WWII history in the area. There are cement structures and a chimney. It is nice and shady and a good place to rest, have a snack and explore some Atherton Tablelands recent history. Roll on down Frazer Road to the Rocky Creek WWII Igloo. The Igloo was recently renovated and is now a beautiful old building which can take you back in time. Next to the Igloo is an entry to the rail trail. Head back south on the rail trail to the Tolga Racecourse. Once you are back at the Tolga Market stock up on your fresh fruit and vegetables and, sourdough bread. Oh, don't forget to give the kids the treat if you bribed them to pedal up that hill. 

Article published in the What's On & Where To Go magazine - April Issue 2021