Mount Cairncross (the Elephant)

A very steep climb (low range 4WD) to the summit for a 360 degree view

Trail information

Mount Cairncross (the Elephant)

Cairncross State Forest is the location for a popular trail run, The Elephant Trail Race, featuring distances from 2.5km for the kids, up to 135 miles for the diehards. What’s with the elephant? As you drive from Wauchope toward Pembroke, the mountain has a distinctive profile, with the humped back of the elephant, the head and the trunk stretched out.

Long before sleeping elephants, the Birpai people called this area Coolapatamba. Mount Cairncross may be named for the wife of a Sydney judge, a friend of a surveyor Lt Phillip King who travelled with Oxley in 1819.

We set out to drive to the fire tower on the summit of Mount Cairncross, first amusing ourselves on some side trails in the state forest, which can be boggy and rutted after rain. The map below shows the direct route to the top. You will need low range 4WD for this ascent as it is very steep, dry weather only. There is a gate near the top, which was unlocked on our visit.

Cairncross Fire Tower
Towers on Mount Cairncross

There are communication towers on the summit, and an old fire tower with a trig hiding within the tower structure at an elevation of 535 metres.

The 360 degree view is magnificent – east to the sea and Port Macquarie, south to Bago Bluff and beyond, west to Banda Banda and the tablelands, north to Mount Yarrahapinni. On the inside of the roof, the degrees are marked out with the peak names, with some interesting spellings (Gollongbatti?).

Cairncross Fire Tower from the inside, showing the degrees and landmarks
Looking north from inside the tower


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Best Walks on the NSW Mid-North Coast has 40 walks from Port Macquarie to the Coffs Coast and Clarence Valley.

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