The Turtle Rock and Sphinx trail located in Girraween National Park is a popular 3-4 hour hike for all fitness levels. Girraween National Park is located just outside of Stanthorpe in southern Queensland, and is the perfect place for a weekend escape from Brisbane. The Turtle Rock and Sphinx trail here is perfect for experiencing two things Girraween is most famous for: its gorgeous wildflowers and impressive rock formations.
With only short hilly sections and a clearly marked path, this 7.4 km (there and back) trail is perfect for all ages and fitness levels. Explore some of the best of the Granite Belt’s natural landscapes by hiking the Sphinx and Turtle Rock trail at Girraween National Park!
How to get to the Turtle Rock and Sphinx hike in Girraween
Girraween National Park in Queensland is located a scenic 30-minute drive south of Stanthorpe town. Stanthorpe itself is located inland about two and a half hours southwest of Brisbane. A car is requested to reach Girraween, as there is no public transport option servicing the national park.
Girraween National Park is easy to navigate by car, with one large parking lot and a smaller one in front of the un-manned Visitor’s Information Center. A large grassy park with picnic tables, barbecue facilities, and restrooms can also be found here.
The two main groups of trails in the park, the Northern Walking Tracks and the Southern Walking Tracks, all leave from this general area. The Sphinx and Turtle Rock hike at Girraween is part of the Southern Walking Tracks section, which is across the main road from the Visitor’s Center.
Key information about the Turtle Rock and Sphinx hike in Girraween
Here is some key information to help plan for your hike to the Sphinx and Turtle Rock formations at Girraween National Park:
- Distance – 7.4 km
- Duration – 3-4 hours
- Difficulty – Easy, with some hilly sections and stone stairs. For all ages and fitness levels.
- Things to know – Trail is wide, mostly made of gravel, and clearly signposted. A perfect entry-level hike at Girraween National Park
Note: I hiked the Sphinx and Turtle Rock trail in Girraween as part of a 3-day Stanthorpe itinerary. Although it was raining on the day we hiked, we found that due to the wide gravel trails it was entirely possible (and a great experience!) to hike this with umbrellas in the rain.
What to expect on the Sphinx and Turtle Rock trail
Starting the hike:
The trailhead of the Sphinx and Turtle Rock Hike is opposite the parking lot of the Visitor’s Information Center. A number of trails start from this same location including to Castle Rock, and Mount Norman. The sign at the start shows a map of all the trails that make up the Southern Walking Trails.
As we started walking on the trail we were stopped by hikers coming back, who let us know a large green python (non-venomous) that had just eaten something was near the path up ahead. Be aware of critters like this on the trail! Although we didn’t spot the snake, we did see two wallabies in the jungle.
The path is wide with gentle ups and downs. Some sections have short sets of rock stairs to climb or descend, and one part of the trail was over a granite rock (follow the painted white lines to stay on the trail). Almost all of the trail is under a canopy of eucalyptus trees. You’ll also be walking amongst the ferns, wildflowers, and countless granite rock formations.
Reaching the Sphinx, then Turtle Rock
Out of a number of impressive and picturesque granite rock formations passed on this trail the Sphinx and Turtle Rock are the two largest. About three-quarters of the way to the far end of this hike is the Sphinx. Nicknamed after the massive Egyptian limestone statue, this granite rock looks similar in shape with a large base rock supporting a balancing “head”.
Turtle Rock is another impressive monolith, with its round granite features looking like a bulbous turtle.
Once you’ve spent time wandering the base of these two structures that are the namesake of the trail, follow the same path back to the parking lot to complete this hike.
The Turtle Rock and Sphinx Hike at Girraween - Summary
It took us about three hours to walk the length of the 7.4 kilometer (round-trip) Sphinx and Turtle Rock trail. This included some exploring around Turtle Rock so Marty could get some epic drone shots when the rain cleared.
The trail is clearly signposted and easy to follow, so there are no concerns about getting lost. About halfway into the trail is a sign marking where trekkers and turn off and summit Castle Rock too.
We hiked this trail in the rain, and it was a wonderful experience. With proper rain gear, waterproof boots (I had my trusty Merrell Moab boots), and umbrellas if preferred, trekkers will have no problems hiking this trail in the rain.
Due to the number and variety of wildflowers on this hike, I recommend hiking in the springtime in Australia (Sept-Oct)!
The Sphinx and Turtle Rock Hike Packing List
No amenities are available once starting the Sphinx and Turtle Rock hike at Girraween. Be sure to use the bathroom at the parking lot before starting the hike.
The National Park itself also doesn’t have any food or drinks available for purchase. The park as a Visitor’s Centre on-site with some information boards and pamphlets, but we found it un-manned. Be sure to bring enough water from Stanthorpe town to stay hydrated, or purchase some food and drinks on the drive to Girraween National Park.
- Water – bring at least 1 liter per person for this hike.
- Sunscreen – although most of the hike is in eucalyptus canopy, many sections can be sparse overhead so there is sunburn risk on sunny days. Check out a reef-safe sunscreen option here, recommended in my Great Barrier Reef snorkeling post.
- Snacks if you need them. Or just have some food in your car for when you return from the hike. No obvious picnic areas are available on the hike.
- Emergency toilet paper and trash bag – no toilet facilities are available along the Sphinx and Turtle Rock hike at Girraween. The closest toilet facilities are located at the parking lot, so if you might have an emergency, take some emergency TP and a bag to carry out your waste!
After the Sphinx and Turtle Rock hike - Castle Rock, the Pyramid, or Bald Rock Circuit
After completing the Turtle Rock and Sphinx hike and you’re up for a steep climb with a view, check out the Castle Rock viewpoint. Castle Rock is a short detour off of the Sphinx and Turtle Rock trail. You’ll be able to see both the Sphinx and Turtle Rock formations from a whole different angle. Due to the steepness of the granite rock face that needs to be climbed at Castle Rock, this is NOT recommended when it is raining.
If you’re up for a different epic summit hike to finish off a day at Girraween National Park, consider the short and sweet (and steep) Pyramid Hike. This is part of the Northern Walking Trails, and is one of the most popular hikes at Girraween. Also NOT recommended when it is raining.
If you’d prefer a leisurely walk, check out the other Northern Walking Trails like the Bald Rock Creek Circuit and the Granite Arch, a visitor’s favorite and perfect photo opp.
Where to stay in Girraween National Park
The only option to stay in Girraween National Park is camping, either in a trailer or tent. Camping spots are limited so reservations must be made in advance through the Queensland National Parks website.
The closest accommodation option to Girraween National Park is the beautiful Girraween Environmental Lodge. This highly sought-after accommodation puts visitors at the doorstep of the park, in beautiful chalets located in the heart of the Australian bush.
For recommendations on where to stay in Stanthorpe, including in town and other alternative options, check out my Stanthorpe 3-day Itinerary.