Big word. Hard to pronounce. Rare rainforest gem. Home to the humble beginnings of the Barron River, rare and ancient rainforest and many wild and wonderful creatures, including a forest dragon. Here you can walk, explore, rest and revive in waterfalls and cool pools. Oh, did I mention a volcanic pipe? – The only one of its kind in North Queensland. All free and waiting for you.
From the viewing platform, look down 58m to the crater (volcanic pipe) lake below.
Crater lake hidden amongst the rainforest? The top is covered with a thick, green layer of native waterweed and its depths descend 70m beneath the surface. This is an ancient and special place, where you can feel the history in the landscape surrounding you. That’s at the heart of Mount Hypipamee National Park and it’s all just a short 880m return walking track from the car park.
“This national park is not as well known or visited as some others in our region, but it delivers a massive rainforest and geological experience to visitors. The walk is shaded by trees, the crater lake is deep and mysterious and you can extend the exploration by doing the Dinner Falls circuit, which I highly recommend.” – Julie Johnston
The Dinner Falls circuit is an optional diversion from the crater lakes walk, as you return to the car park. As the name suggests, it takes you to Dinner Falls, which is a series of cascades in the headwaters of the Barron River. If you’ve seen the Barron River in Cairns, or in the Barron Gorge from Skyrail and/or Kuranda Scenic Railway, you’d be expecting something massive. It is in fact the humble nature of this river system’s beginnings that shock you.
Beyond the waterfalls and crater lakes, Mount Hypipamee National Park offers visitors so much more. This pocket of rainforest is home to ancient plant species and rare and endemic animals. There’s examples of cauliflory trees (which flower and fruit from the trunk), we’ve seen Boyd’s Forest Dragons here at least twice (more below), beautiful birds and a diverse array of wildlife.
Want to see a real rainforest dragon? Well, this is one of the places to see the Boyd’s Forest Dragon. This critter is small for a dragon, with adults generally measuring around 50cm long, but it’s a perfect miniature of what a dragon would look like. From its ornamental head and throat, to the curved spikes down its back, it’s a picture perfect dragon – only found in the Wet Tropics world heritage listed rainforests.
While it’s not a threatened species, it’s rarely seen, as it camouflages perfectly to its surrounds. Which is no surprise given it’s evolved in these rainforests since before Australia became its own land mass. They cling to tree trunks vertically, so keep your eyes open during your walk for a chance to see a real forest dragon (and if you have kids, they will be impressed!).
Boyd’s Forest Dragon can be seen at Mount Hypipamee National Park. We’ve seen it here twice.
Mount Hypipamee National Park is located between Atherton and Ravenshoe on the Atherton Tablelands. It is sign posted on the highway, but you need to be looking for it. From the turn off, it’s probably a 2-5 minute drive to the car park. Here you will find parking, public toilets and picnic amenities. It’s also the start point for the Crater Track (880m return, easy walk) and optional Dinner Falls Circuit (1.34km return, graded as moderate). There’s plenty of signage regarding Cassowaries, but we’ve never seen one here. However, we’ve seen the Boyd’s Forest Dragon twice and lots of birds and reptiles, including Scrub Turkey’s, Orange-footed Scrub Fowl and more recently the Scarlet Honeyeater. It’s a national park and entry is free, but it’s off the beaten track and you will need a vehicle to get there. There are toilets, but there’s no food or cafes, so bring your own and have a rainforest picnic or drop in and then have lunch somewhere on the Tablelands.
© I Love Cairns 2023