Calling all trail runners.
Forget the 14-hour flight to Los Angles and six-hour drive along the I–15 in the name of stepping it out in the Grand Canyon – did you know Outback Queensland has its own version?
Sign up for the Porcupine Gorge Challenge and set your destination to Hughenden, Queensland, to stride through the “Little Grand Canyon” (as known by locals).
While Porcupine Gorge may not compete in size compared to its American namesake, it’s equally impressive with geological rocks dating back hundreds of millions of years.
Prepare to be dwarfed by cliffs and sandstone ridges while you work up a sweat around the course.
Before you kickstart your training plan for the event that happens each June, get in the know with what to expect with this guide.
For bragging rights with your local running club, tackle the full–course distance where there’s eight kilometres between the start and finish line.
Prepare to scramble over rocks and get your feet wet as you cross Porcupine Creek, especially if there’s been recent rain.
The event caters for the whole family and fitness level, too, with a 1.1km race for those under eight and a 5km walk for those who prefer a slower pace to soak up the scenery.
Top tip: leave your credit card at the hotel – this is a cash only event.
How to get there
Unless you’ve got ample time up your sleeve (17 hours one way from Brisbane) and are committed to a multi-day road trip, you’ll need to fly, or book a fly and drive combo to get to Hughenden.
For the time poor runner, book a connection via Townsville with Regional Airline Express (Rex) and they’ll deliver you five kilometres from downtown Hughenden on Monday, Wednesday or Friday.
If you want to add a bit of adventure to your itinerary and book a fly and drive combo, the closest airports to touchdown are Townsville (4 hours), Longreach (4 hours) or Mount Isa (5 hours) – and you’ll be connected via The Overlander’s Way.
Where to stay
If you chose to fly and drive, you’ll need to book one of Hughenden’s four-walled establishments.
Offering three hotel-motels, as well cabins, camping and caravan spots, there’s digs to suit any preference.
If you’ve opted for the road trip and loaded the back of your car with your camping essentials, pitch your tent at one of the 22 campsites at Pyramid Campground – make sure you book ahead.
Although you’ll have the rock star spot for the start line (a 2km walk), you’ll be 74 kilometres from Hughenden, so make sure you’re fully stocked with food, drinking water and rubbish bags – Hughenden wears the badge of Tidiest Town (2017) with pride.
Where to eat
Did you even go to Hughenden if you didn’t stop by FJ Holden’s Café?
FJ’s (as known by locals) has been on the Hughenden map for nearly 30 years, sharing its collection of Holden and Elvis memorabilia along with fast-food, cold drinks and hot coffee.
Stop by for a post-race FJ Super Burger, because calories out = calories in.
If burgers aren’t your thing, the town has a Chinese restaurant, cafés, bakery and fueling stations serving up plates of hot food.
For any last-minute supplies to fill the esky, swing by the Spar or FoodWorks.
When you’re not racing
There is so much to discover around Hughenden. Stop by the Flinders Discovery Centre and meet “Hughie”, a seven-metre tall Muttaburrasaurus, learn about sheep production at the “Sheering of the Stragglers” exhibit or take a stroll along the banks of the Flinders River.
Get in the know before you hit the Overlander’s Way and read about Hughenden here.
Have you tackled the Porcupine Gorge Challenge? Let us know your tips.