Time: 2 to 3 hours.
Distance: variable (to the third hill approximate 2 km).
How to find the trail
It is exciting for me to find a new trail, but also a little embarrassing to know in retrospect that such beautiful trails have been sitting nearly on my doorstep and I had ignored them for the past 3 years. This all changed recently, when we decided to go and explore the Mount Stuart trails with out little hobbits. So here we are, the hobbits in Mount Stuart.
How to find the trail? We decided to take the trail starting at the back of James Cook University (JCU to the locals). First, find Buchan road and turn to the left after the John Flynn college. Follow the road and soon you'll find the free parking lot. The trail starts right there. A mob of wallabies were there welcoming us, and were quite accustomed to the presence of humans, letting us get within 15 m before bounding off into the bush.
Oh no Mum stairs, not again
The first part of the trail has stairs. Yep, my older hobbit does not like stairs but she quickly found that stairs were not that awful after all. She turned the whole experience into a game. The steps are marked every fifty steps, and as soon as the two hobbits saw this, they were both quickly rushing to the next number. There are exactly 493 steps to the first hill. It took is about 25 min to reach the first hill.
Up to the second hill
From the first look out, there are four trail options, with most of these prioritised for mountain bikers (although hikers can use these too; just make sure to give way!). For some reason they all have marine based names; blue ring octopus trail, hammerhead trail, sea eagle trail. There was also one in the middle with a sign specific for hikers only, which is the one we took. If you want more details on the trails check the mountain bike trails map for more information. It does not take that long to reach the second hill (about 30 min with few breaks), where we took another break. The youngest hobbit (age 5) ate all the biscuits. The whole family ran out of food. After a while, everyone was keen to continue again, so we did...
Up to the third hill
On the way to the third hill things got a bit confusing because there are several tracks to choose from, as mountain bike tracks continually cross over each other. We followed the hammerhead trail for a while but at some point, we went off and took another direction. This other trail led us to the right side of the hill and we found out that there was an amazing view of Townsville along the way. You can see the whole city while walking (see photos), and as rainclouds had swept in from the sea, we also got to see a rainbow over the city.
We passed a tunnel, went up a bit though a short cut and soon we were on the top of the third hill. The view from the top was even better than the hills before, and well worth the walk. We stayed there admiring Townsville for a while. From a conversation with a volunteer with the mountain bike club along the way, we learnt that the chairs on top of this hill had been dragged up by uni students as this was an unofficial party mountain. Luckily the fun was obviously had with respect for the environment as there wasn't the piles of rubbish lying around that is a common sight in many other places we have seen (read our post).
Sit on the chairs and watch the live movie playing.
We followed the way down using the hammerhead trail. This trail does a loop to the other side of the hill. We finalised the trail in three hours (with plenty of stops) and came back just before sunset. It almost got dark. Next time we will bring a torch. And perhaps a better plan for the trails.
Recommendations from the hobbits
Heat: Do the trail in the afternoon.We started at 3 pm. The trees are not very tall and there is not much shade. We got lucky with cloudy conditions and a sprinkling of rain.
Snakes: We did not see any but a volunteer for the mountain bike club was clearing the grass the day of our hike and told us that he saw many snakes. Wear long pants and closed shoes.
Bicycles: I am sure the mountain bike riders do not want to hurt but watch out for them. They are there for a challenge and can come down tracks with great speed. For them it is probably difficult to see people on the track. Also the rules when on the mountain bike trails is to give way. We would suggest that one adult goes on the front and the other one on the back so you can tell your kids to go on the side of the trail if a bike comes your way.
Enjoy this fairy trail that has options for all levels of hikers!