The Incredible Box Forest Circuit – Lamington National Park

If you’re looking for an escape from Brisbane, somewhere you can detox an electronically defiled mind, the Box Forest Circuit in Lamington National Park could be just the thing. In fact, this walk is the best of the best as far as accessible experiences go. It packs a punch with 1500-year-old brush box trees, numerous waterfalls, plenty of birdlife and luminous green forest. I feel so rejuvenated after coming here!

I’m a regular visitor to Lamington National Park, as it’s such an incredible place for Brisbanites, Gold Coastians and people from all around the world. This was my second time doing the Box Forest Circuit and this time I came with Olin, my 13-year-old, his friend Ruben and Ruben’s dad Marty. Out of all the walks to do in Lamington National Park, this is the one I recommend to people for a good taste of this incredible part of the Gold Coast hinterland.  

Some of the marvellous trees on the Box Forest Circuit

How to Get to The Box Forest Circuit

Basically, just head to Canungra and go up the mountain to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat. Canungra is a cool little town about an hour from Brisbane and half an hour from the Gold Coast. We stop here for Breakfast – typically at the Outpost Café – before making the sinuous ascent up to O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat along Lamington National Park Road.

While from Canungra it’s only about 30 kilometres to O’Reilly’s – which is at the start of the Box Forest Circuit – it takes about an hour from here. It’s a winding road so make sure you start your day early as the hike and the drive will likely take up your entire day! Once you’ve got yourself to the top of the plateau at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, park in the car park and walk across the road to the Border Track, where your adventure begins.

The start of the Border Track

Navigating the Start

Armed with just over a litre of water and some snack food each, the four of us took off along the Border Track, slowly immersing ourselves into the Green Mountains section of Lamington National Park. The walk along the Border Track starts off fairly flat and there are a few sights along this section.

Marty taking some time out in a hollow brush box tree

Important tips: when you come to your first junction, keep going straight ahead as you don’t want to veer left along the West Canungra Creek Circuit, as it’s longer and harder than the Box Forest Circuit. It’s pretty amazing though and you can read about us doing exactly what I just said not to do here.

Following this, you’ll come to a second junction. This is where you leave the border track and take the lower route towards the Box Forest Circuit. Pay attention to the trees along the way as there are some bulging beauties here, with twists, growths and hollowed-out sections. It’s the artistry of Lamington National Park and some of these whoppers, as I’ve mentioned, are 1500 years old!

Marty and Ruben by one of the many beautiful beasts in Lamington National Park

Two Roads Diverged in a Wood…

Soon you’ll reach a third junction and here you can choose to do the Box Forest Circuit in an anti-clockwise or a clockwise direction. We were with another group at this point and they went left, in a clockwise direction, where you’ll hit most of the waterfalls at the end of your walk. I decided to take the troops in the opposite direction, giving them all the pretty waterfalls straight up as we were with kids and I thought they’d be tired by the end (turns out this was a good call).

The National Parks website also recommends you walk the Box Forest Circuit in an anti-clockwise direction, as it’s slightly easier. Of course, that’s entirely up to you. Just think, if you tackle it anti-clockwise, you’re not far from your first rest stop, Picnic Rock, which is where the falls begin…

Picnic Rock

Picnic Rock is a nice spot to rest but arguably the star of the Box Forest Circuit is Elabana Falls, which is only a short walk from here. However, if you’re tired, by all means rest at both places. Furthermore, if you walk down a few ledges at Picnic Rock, you’ll come to the very top of Elabana Falls. This provides a great overview of the falls.

The top of Elabana Falls from the lower end of Picnic Rock

Picnic Rock is severed in two by Picnic Creek, but it’s an easy step over it to continue on your journey through the forest. The top side of Picnic Creek looks like it’s worth exploring, as it’s shady and severed by the running creek. Be warned, as Olin got a leech at Picnic Rock (which he wasn’t too happy about), as there are leeches on this walk. About 10 minutes further through the forest, downhill, you’ll come to Elabana Falls.

The top side of Picnic Rock

Elabana Falls

Most people spend the majority of their time at Elabana Falls, which is the only problem with it. Elabana Falls is popular! It’s easy to see why. The falls have two sections, with the bottom section producing three cascades that flow into a pool that changes colour, depending on the time you visit.  

Elabana Falls

As you can see in the photos, we had it crocodile green and as there had been a decent amount of rain in the weeks prior, the large waterfall at the back was flowing nicely. Check out my video at the end to see it in action! We explored Elabana Falls for a little while and had a few snacks before continuing to the next waterfall, Tullerigumai Falls, which is only another 10 minutes or so further.   

The top part of Elabana Falls

No Swimming at Elabana Falls

What was slightly annoying was there was a no swimming sign at the falls, but a group of girls decided to swim and parade in front of it. I therefore had no qualms about putting them in the shots/video! (and not much choice otherwise). A good dozen or so other people were trying to enjoy the falls while the girls were in front of it and in it. The only consolation was at least they were enjoying themselves.

Swimmers at Elabana Falls

The reason you can’t swim is that contaminants such as sunscreen and sweat are dangerous to the endangered frog and crayfish species that inhabit the area.

The pool between the two sections at Elabana Falls

Anyway, there are better spots to swim further down Canungra Creek, which is the main body of water you’ll follow along the Box Forest Circuit.

Tullerigumai Falls

Tullerigumai Falls, otherwise known as Box Log Falls, lives in a darkened recess within the forest. Although less famous than its neighbour Elabana, Tullerigumai Falls plummets in its own private corridor, which is refreshing to look at. Bright green foliage hangs over a scabrous cliff edge and there’s a small pool at the bottom. Standing on one of the stones at the bottom will give you a satisfying spray too. It’s a cool, dark and slightly mysterious spot.

Me in front of Tullerigumai Falls

The last time I was here it was flowing a little harder, so Tullerigumai must need a substantial amount of water to gush. Nevertheless, it’s one of the highlights of the Box Forest Circuit for good reason. We only encountered one other person here, and that wasn’t for about ten minutes. Subsequently, we thought it was a good spot for a few snaps.

Spirits were pretty high at Tullerigumai

Trees & Fungi

The next section of the Box Forest Circuit passes enormous old trees, some of them (as I’ve mentioned) are up to 1500 years old. These are pink brush box trees, bulging in their enormity and peculiarity and we stopped to admire several of them on this stretch. There were also some impressive-looking strangler figs in this primordial national park, with birds nest trees growing in sections higher up.

Marty next to a beautiful bulging brush box
Giant strangler fig with birds nests growing from it

Further along, we encountered strange and beautiful fungi growing on the bottoms and sides of fallen trees. What was interesting was the boys were each showing us their perspectives on the forest. I loved this, as they pointed me towards microcosms of nature I would have otherwise missed – strange leafy patterns, twisting behemoths and mushrooms hidden in the faintest of light.

Thanks for pointing out this cool little microcosm Olin!

Darragumai Falls

The last of the waterfalls, if you’re tackling the Box Forest Circuit in an anti-clockwise direction, Darragumai Falls is less assuming than the other two major falls. However, in ways it’s even better. There are fewer people, for a start, and there’s an expansive pool beneath the falls, which is accessible after clambering up a big pile of rocks. Here Marty decided to go for a swim. Check out my video at the end and you can see he’s quite happy about it!

The top side of Darragumai Falls and its pool

We hung around here a little bit, hopping over rocks, walking through water and chatting to another young couple sunning themselves on the far side of the falls. I remember this part being so green on my last visit. It wasn’t quite the same today but that’s the beauty of this forest – no two days are ever alike.

Darragumai Falls

Our Return

We passed more giant brush boxes on the way home, which were incredible to look at. We also saw some eastern bristlebirds flittering across the forest path. However, the way back was less spectacular, as we were treading a forest trail that didn’t change altogether much. The forest trail after Darragumai Falls gradually climbs upwards and by this time the boys were pretty spent.

More giant strangler figs on our last stretch home

The last couple of kilometres were filled with questions such as, ‘how long to go now’. If you did this walk in reverse, know that you would get all the pretty waterfall splendour at the tail end of your walk. However, if you’re on a walk with kids like we were, I recommend the anticlockwise direction as we did here. Again, Queensland National Parks recommends this too.

Pretty soon we were back at the gates where we started. We walked over to the shop at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat and I shouted the boys an ice-cream before we topped up on our water and started our return home.

Back at O’Reilly’s enjoying the view

Wildlife On The Box Forest Circuit

You’ll likely see birdlife along the Box Forest Circuit and if you’re a keen bird watcher, there’s species such as the Australian king parrot, Coxen’s fig parrot, eastern bristlebird, Albert’s lyrebird and the Richmond birdwing butterfly. As I mentioned earlier, there are crayfish and frogs at the falls areas, although we didn’t see any.

Australian King Parrot? Correct me if I’m wrong!

I did spot a new sign this time around, which is that dingoes have been seen recently in the forest. This is new to me so they must be coming in closer due to increasing development. We didn’t see any but enquire through Queensland National Parks or O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat for more information if you’re at all worried about this.

Ruben with what I think is an Australian King Parrot.

As I’ve mentioned earlier, there are leeches on this walk, although only one of our squad got one leech, so they don’t appear to be too numerous. Obviously the wetter the walk, the more chance you’ll have of encountering these slimy little devils.

How Difficult is The Box Forest Circuit Walk?

It’s classified as a Grade 4 walk by the Queensland Government. There are only five grades, so it’s up there. The classification for a grade 4 walk is – ‘rough track. May be long and very steep with few directional signs. For experienced bushwalkers’. Saying that, you should haven’t any problems if you are a reasonably fit person and take your time.

Information about the Box Forest Circuit

It’s 10.9 kilometres in length and there are hills and sections with unstable ground (creeks to cross, rocks, etc). Therefore, this walk is not recommended for the unfit or those who aren’t able-bodied. Additionally, be careful walking here during and after heavy rain. Perhaps avoid it at this time altogether and check with Queensland National Parks about track closures before your departure.

How Long Does The Box Forest Circuit Take?

The Queensland National Parks website states the walk time for the Box Forest Circuit is 4 hours, but I would add a little more to that. We had a few rests but walked steadily the whole way and took over 5 hours on our journey. I would leave early (we left Brisbane at 6:30am), and then you should get home around 5pm. You’ll need to allocate a whole day for this one!

What Should You Bring On The Box Forest Circuit?

Good walking shoes, a broad-rimmed hat and a big water bottle. I brought a 1.2 litre bottle of water for this hike and it was fine, as we drank from the fresh flowing streams of Canungra Creek. My 13-year-old drank lots of water from the flowing parts of the creek (under cascades) and he was fine. Don’t do this if you’re unsure what to do and enquire at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat or through Queensland National Parks for more information.

The boys fueling up at the Outpost Cafe pre-walk

I just brought an apple and some nuts and dates for food and this was enough. Saying that, I had a pie in the Outpost Cafe in Canungra before making our ascent! Just bring as much food (preferably energy food) as you think you’ll need for 5 or so hours. You’ll also need a poncho when it rains and definitely bring both sunscreen and insect repellent, as the mossies can be pretty active on this trail. However, they weren’t too bad on this trip.

What’s the Best Time to Walk The Box Forest Circuit?

Because it’s such a spectacular place to view waterfalls, it’s best to tackle this walk after there’s been some rain. As the track can get slippery or muddy, it’s not recommended during rain. Again, check with Queensland National Parks about which tracks are open and closed prior to departure.

A Bit About Lamington National Park

Lamington National Park, which was declared a national park in 1915, is over 21,000 hectares in size and is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. This area is the most extensive area of subtropical rainforest on earth. It’s a wonderland of water, trees and microworlds that are waiting to be explored. Watching the birds soar about on our way in, I thought they have a true paradise at their disposal.

Check out my video of our Box Forest Circuit experience below!

Indigenous Custodians

Lamington National Park is a sacred and spiritual area to the Yugambeh people, who have been the custodians of this Eden for thousands of years. The mountains of Lamington National Park are known as ‘Woonoongoora’ and family groups within the Yugambeh people are the Wangerriburra, Birinburra, Gugingin, Migunberri, Mununjali, Bollongin, Minjungbal and the Kombumerri people.

Final Thoughts

The Box Forest Circuit is one of the best walks I’ve ever done in terms of accessibility – being able to see spectacular waterfalls and incredible forest in a short amount of time. It’s a pretty long drive up the mountain to get here, but it’s totally worth it. Just leave early, take your time and inhale your surroundings. You’ll come back a little different from this experience, I promise!

Just leave the place as you found it :).


Leave a comment