Porcupine Gorge, everyone loves it! An ancient landscape. A gorge carved deep into the country, its coloured walls revealing over 200 million years of geological history, and at its heart stands a giant, multicoloured sandstone pyramid. What is this place, where is it and is it worth going? The Porcupine Gorge National Park is in outback Queensland, it’s a 6.5hour drive from Cairns and is about 1 hour from Hughenden. We first heard about it at Cobbold Gorge, so when we planned our trip on the Dinosaur Trail, this was the very first place we stopped. There was no phone reception and my son said something so profound, I wrote it down – “We are removed from the world, but connected to the earth” – so yes, it’s worth going to Porcupine Gorge and we definitely recommend camping / staying there.
Camping at Porcupine Gorge allows you to enjoy epic sunsets and sunrises, with early morning walks to explore the gorge.
Porcupine Gorge, have you heard of it? We hadn’t but once we did, we knew we had to go. Porcupine Gorge National Park is in the Flinders Shire, in north-west Queensland. From the highway, as you drive through the savannah plains of the area, you wouldn’t even know this place existed. It’s described as the jewel in the region’s crown and we have to agree, viewing this gorge from all of its aspects, at all times of day and night, is a slightly surreal and definitely beautiful experience. Camping at Porcupine Gorge lets you make the most of your time here, and as it’s an hour from the nearest town of Hughenden, it just makes sense to stay here.
“We drove from Cairns straight through to Porcupine Gorge, arriving at the Pyramid Camping Area around 4pm. This provided enough time to set-up and wander over to the gorge lookout, a short walk away, and enjoy the sunset. The camping area has 22 sites which can accommodate swags, tents, camper trailers and caravans, and you need to pre-book online prior to visiting the park. We enjoyed the million-star view, were visited by some playful possums during the night, and woke early the next day ready to explore the gorge from top to bottom on the 2.4km Pyramid Walking Track.” – Julie Johnston
Porcupine Gorge is impressive in its beauty, scenery and geological history. Standing at one of its lookouts, which is also the beginning of the Pyramid Walking Trail, you gaze across the surrounding country of mostly flat plains, which give steeply away to the 120m deep gorge, carved out by Porcupine Creek. The gorge walls are layers of multicoloured rock, which provide an insight into the age and evolution of this ancient landscape. I took some notes from the signage, (which I will use and acknowledge here) that revealed the lookout layer at the ‘top’ was deposited by a shallow sea around 115 – 110 million years ago. This was ‘followed by the red-brown Gilbert River formation about 145 to 120 million years ago’ and beneath that, a dull brown Blantyre Sandstone which is about 170 million years old. The oldest rocks are at the base of the pyramid, ‘the purple-white Warang Sandstone was laid down by rivers about 240 to 235 million years ago’. Now I’m not a geologist, but the signs helped us make sense of what we were looking at.
Now for the adventure – the Pyramid Walking Track. This takes you from the top of the gorge to its base, where you can wander on the ancient sandstone and admire the magnificent pyramid monolith. This is a 2.4km return track on uneven surface with lots of steps and not much shade, but those views, amazing and you could literally see the changing sediment layers in the stones beneath your feet. At the base of the gorge, the sandstone was almost lunar in appearance with the waves of water etched into its surface which was dotted with circular washouts. Water is present here all year round and on the calm morning we visited, this created a mirror-like reflection of the pyramid. We’ll always remember Porcupine Gorge, not only for its beauty but for the fact that it was here, Richard crashed his drone. Good thing we had a spare. Side note for the walk: we visited at the end of June 2023, in the Term 2 school holidays, it was warm and the daytime temperature reached 33 degrees. So, make sure you take water, wear a hat and have sun protection.
We took our hybrid caravan to Porcupine Gorge National Park and stayed 2 nights at the Pyramid Camping Area. This is the only place you can camp in Porcupine Gorge National Park. There are 22 sites available, which means it’s really important you book online prior to arrival, to ensure there is space and you have a permit. This can be done online through the Queensland Government Parks and Forests website, see Camping in Porcupine Gorge. The camp facilities are basic. There are some covered picnic tables and toilets, but no showers and no camp kitchens or similar. All of the camping sites are unpowered and not all of them are suitable for camper trailers and/or caravans. Smaller sites are available specifically for swags and tents. Some sites have partial shade, thanks to trees and vegetation. Campfires are only permitted in the steel fire rings, provided at campsites.
Given the remote location, we recommend you make sure you have everything you need for your stay when you get there. Otherwise, it’s roughly an hour to drive to Hughenden, which is the closest town and being a small outback country town, the shops are not always open, especially on weekends. We enjoyed camping at Porcupine Gorge, this was a great way to start our Dinosaur Trail adventure and get a unique perspective on the ancient landscapes we would be exploring on the trip. There are three walking tracks you can do here, the Pyramid Walking Track (which we’ve written about) and two shorter walks, the Pyramid Lookout (400m return) and Gorge lookout (200m return) which is an 11km drive from the Pyramid Camping Area.
The Gorge Lookout provides a different aspect and view of Porcupine Gorge (you can't see the Pyramid) and is an 11km drive from the camping area.
Yes, it is worth going to Porcupine Gorge. This gorge is different to Cobbold and Copperfield Gorge. It’s very scenic and the walking track provides the means to explore it. However, given its relatively remote location and the distance required to get there, I would suggest incorporating a visit to Porcupine Gorge as a part of a larger itinerary. We made it our first stop as part of the Dinosaur Trail.
The gorge. Ha. Seriously though, the dominate feature is obviously the gorge, with its towering cliffs and freshwater Porcupine Creek. The national park extends more than 25km along Porcupine Creek and includes woodlands and savannah grasslands.
Porcupine Gorge National Park is in the Flinders Shire, in north-west Queensland. The closest town is Hughenden. It’s a 6.5 hour drive from Cairns, taking the inland route.
Yes you can. There are 22 basic camp sites available, which can accommodate swags, tents, camper trailers and caravans. All camping at Porcupine Gorge must be booked prior to arrival and this can be done online through the Queensland Government Parks and Forests website, see Camping in Porcupine Gorge.
No, you don’t specifically need a 4WD to visit Porcupine Gorge, especially in the ‘dry season’ which is March to November. It’s always a good idea to check road conditions prior to setting out with updates available on the Queensland Traffic website.
Yes, you can swim at Porcupine Gorge. There is freshwater at the bottom of the gorge throughout the year. However, when we visited in June 2023, the water wasn’t free flowing and didn’t look that inviting for a swim, so we didn’t but have friends who have swum there in January and really enjoyed it.
Yes, you can take a caravan to Porcupine Gorge. You can book a site to stay at the Pyramid Camping Area. Campsites must be booked prior to your arrival. Spaces are limited and this is a popular place during school holidays, so make sure you book early.
A long way, this is not a day trip destination. Porcupine Gorge is roughly a 6.5 hour drive from Cairns, if you take the inland route via the Tablelands, Innot Hot Springs, Mount Garnet out past the Forty Mile Scrub National Park, through the Lynd and on to the Porcupine Gorge National Park on the Kennedy Development Road.
The roads between Cairns and Porcupine Gorge are reasonable and mostly sealed. When we visited in June 2023, there was probably only 40-50km unsealed road to travel on, across the whole journey, and it was in pretty good condition.
Yes, you can fly a drone at Porcupine Gorge. It is a National Park in Queensland so check out their website for more information.
No, you can not take your pets to Porcupine Gorge as this is a national park and normal park rules apply.
The Porcupine Gorge National Park is in outback Queensland – between Lyndhurst and Hughenden – and is very remote. You can access it on 2WD and 4WD vehicles and you need to bring all of your own supplies, as there are no shops onsite. The closest shops are at Hughenden, which is about a 1 hour drive away and please note, most shops there are closed on Sundays and from noon on Saturdays. There are toilets, but no showers or laundry facilities. With only 22 camp sites available, you need to prebook if you are planning to go camping at Porcupine Gorge.
© I Love Cairns 2023