There are two creek crossings to get to El Questro township. The second one is reasonably long, and a bit of fun after a lot of water. These are the first introduction to the 4WDing available at El Questro.
Upon arriving at the reception, we paid our camping fees, and were told of a number of 4WD tracks. Some were just touched on, but we were specifically advised not to do a water crossing over towards Brancos Lookout, because it was ‘deep, and very rocky’. She said only 4WDers with high clearance and lots of 4WDing experience should tackle it, because they didn’t want ‘anyone getting into trouble’.
You can guess where we headed the second day!
Really though, as long as you have some 4WDing experience, the tracks around El Questro are not too difficult.
On the first evening, we went up Saddleback Ridge to watch the sunset. The signs say ‘very steep with slippery rocks’. Only experienced 4WDers past this point etc etc. It is made to sound a lot more difficult than it really is, unless you go after heavy traffic.
Saddleback Ridge is the first 4WD track you will see heading out of town, opposite the air strip. We were told it had spectacular views for sunset, so left camp at about 4. The guide says it’s a 40 minute return track, with a steep and rocky track that has hairpin bends and is very difficult.
The signs say only experienced 4WDers past this point. I was fairly confident the track would be nothing serious, but we made sure we were in low range, with the hubs locked and the tyres let down (still the normal Gibb River Road pressures – 25 PSI cold.
The track proved to be quite easy. It is steep, and the corners are narrow, but there is plenty of room to pass oncoming traffic in many places. It had a few rocks and a couple of little steps, but the suspension stayed pretty well level for the majority of the track.
However, the view made up for the lack of intensity. I really struggle to express the beauty of El Questro; it is absolutely stunning, and I thoroughly enjoyed the 4WD track. We parked near the lookout, and walked up with the cameras, keen to watch it go down.
By 4:30PM the vehicles were coming up fairly solidly, and by 5 there were about 10 cars, including a bride and groom who had just been married. They took their photos (with spectacular backdrops), and headed off.
The sunset was lovely, and the view of the station is fantastic, even just seeing the cars driving up and down the dusty roads. 100% recommend this track to anyone who has a bit of 4WD experience. It only takes about 10 – 15 minutes to get to the top, and a bit longer coming down.
Just let your vehicle do the work on the way down; 2nd low and it just cruises all the way down without the need to touch the brakes and heat them up.
We went back a couple of years later after school holidays, and found Saddleback Ridge, and a number of the other El Questro 4WD tracks considerably more chopped out. Not beyond the capabilities of a stock 4WD with a reasonable driver, but certainly not just a steep gravel track either.
This was the crossing we were told was ‘deep and rocky’. I laughed when we pulled up to it; the water was barely 20cm deep. I guess the receptionists don’t see how much the station changes.
The bottom was rocky, but in first low it was an easy drive. The crossing is split into two sections, and is probably longer than the original Pentecost river that you drive over on the Gibb River road (same river though).
To be fair, I would imagine after a good wet season, the river would be up a lot more, and there could be potential for problems. However, with the number of rocks that have been moved around, it would have to be flowing awfully quickly to cause any problems (and I would assume El Questro would close it if this was the case).
The crossing itself is stunning; absolutely amazing views of the Pentecost river. You aren’t advised to walk the crossing either, as a resident salt water croc lives in the river (and we saw it; further upriver).
Not too far on from Brancos crossing is another climb, to the top of Brancos Lookout. Like Saddleback ridge, it is steep with a few rocks and a couple of little steps.
The turns are relatively sharp, but there is nothing too hard about it. However, the view from the top is magnificent; you can see the Pentecost river flow around a bend from on high, and it is truly something to behold.
Have a look in the water for dark shapes too; we spotted a big saltwater crocodile trying to stalk the cows, and watched him for a good hour. The Explosion gorge tour comes here at sunset (probably not every day), but it would be an incredible spot to watch the sun go down.
Again, just idle down in 2nd low, and you won’t have a drama.
Pidgeon Hole Lookout
On the Eastern side of the Pentecost River is the Pidgeon Hole Lookout. Again, this is a fairly easy 4WD track that yields a great view. If you want a bigger challenge though, head to the bottom of Pidgeon Hole, below.
The only 4WD track at El Questro that I was a bit concerned about was Pidgeon Hole. It tees off the lookout track, and is fairly narrow with some sharp turns and lots of big rocks.
Our Dmax has a decent amount of clearance, and there were a few times I was waiting for a crunch. We moved a few rocks around mainly for my parents Pajero, which has far less clearance.
We both made it to the bottom and back up with only minor damage, but its not something I would take a stock 4WD unless you are extremely confident. If you have an older solid axle 4WD with plenty of clearance, you’d be just fine.
Moonlight and El Questro Gorge
A very easy 4WD track out to Moonlight gorge, except for one river crossing which was about 70cm deep in May 2015 (after a very poor wet season). The bottom was relatively firm, but it is just river sand with minimal rocks.