We don’t know a single person who has seen Mount Barney from more angles than Lisa Owen, one of our top contributors and Explorer of the Month May ’17. But although she’d seen Mount Barney from afar, Lisa was yet to hike to the top. Here, she recounts her first summit of the 1,354 metres-high giant in the Scenic Rim of Queensland.
- Multiple routes with the South East Ridge offering several sunrise viewpoints
- Challenging hike with rock scrambling opportunities
- 360-degree views of the Scenic Rim region
- Can be done as a day hike or overnight at Rum Jungle Campground between West and East Peaks
I’m going to climb that mountain!
I grew up in the bushwalker’s wonderland of Queensland’s Scenic Rim region – but I hate to admit that I only just climbed one of the biggest mountains in the region. But boy, I wish I’d done it sooner – because the views are spectacular and this is one of the best hikes I’ve ever done.
At 1,354 metres high at the West Peak summit, Mt Barney is an impressive sight looming over a landscape formed by volcanoes many thousands of years ago.
Mt Barney is one of the highest mountains in Queensland, and has a reputation to match.
Being a member at one time of the local SES in this region, I knew there had been many a bushwalker injured or lost on the slopes of Mt Barney. The mountain is known for rapid weather changes, resulting in people becoming disoriented or losing the faint trail.
It is also not a walk in the park. There’s a couple of routes, but all are strenuous, steep climbs ascending over 1000 metres. You must be fit, an experienced hiker, and have reasonable navigational skills.
With all this in mind, it was with some trepidation that I planned to hike Mt Barney. I started to get conditioned by hiking nearby mountains – Maroon, Greville and Cougal. All the while, I was trying to find someone of equal fitness that was prepared to take on the slopes of Mt Barney because I didn’t want to be up there alone.
Make sure you get an early start because you do not want to miss some of these boulder viewpoints at sunrise.
By the time a perfect Saturday of clear sunny skies and mid-20s rolled around, I’d managed to find a friend to tag along who had summitted Barney once before, and off we set for my very first time hiking Mt Barney.
We drove into the Yellow Pinch car park at 5am, the skies still dark and bright with stars. Only one other vehicle was in the carpark.
With our torches in hand, we started along the fire trail to reach the base of Mt Barney. To get to the base, head up the hilly dirt trail until you reach a steel gate on your left. Go through the gate – not the trail to your right.
Walk some more, hop a gate, step through a creek, then you pass a couple of national park signs. Keep going and look for wide trailhead with a log step at the start that winds quickly uphill, which is about 3.5km from the carpark. It’s not marked but this is South East Ridge.
I had the Maps.me app uploaded to my phone and you can see the trails on this in flight mode. We used this throughout the morning to make sure we were keeping on trail.
You can also ascend up South (Peasant’s Ridge) which is a little further along and signed. We chose South East Ridge as it’s more challenging due to the exposed ridge, and plus if you start early, you’ll get to see a cracking sunset.
The South East Ridge quickly heads up through a forest of gum trees before you start climbing up a rocky trail. Try to reach at least the first of the boulder viewpoints for sunrise and you’ll be grateful you got up so early as the sun gradually lights up the surrounding valleys and mountains.
Following the first boulder viewpoint, there are a couple more rocky outcrops that will give you breathtaking views over the Scenic Rim region, and close ups of Mt Ernest and the easily recognisable knob of Mt Lindesay.
About halfway up the South East ridge, the fun begins – if rock scrambling is your idea of fun (obviously it’s mine!). You’ll start picking your way up the ridge, and at times the trail will become indistinct so keep a close eye on where you’re going.
In some sections, the ridge is quite exposed so you must have a good head for heights to do this route and the ability to rock scramble and free climb. The second half of the ascent is hard on the legs as you go steeply up along the ridgeline – so take it slow and steady.
There are some false summit moments when you believe you’re nearly there but then you realise the summit of the east peak still rises above you. This happened at least three times to me.
The views from the 1351 metre East Peak (slightly smaller than the West Peak) are on point, with views across to Mt Maroon, Mt Ernest, Mt Lindesay and Maroon Dam. Make sure you bring a jumper for the summit – it gets cold up there!
What goes up must go down…
Hopefully you still have energy and the leg strength to continue on as what goes up must go down. Pick your way down the East Peak to the Rum Jungle campground, below the West Peak. The trail is easily lost and it’s slow going – but you’re looking to get down to the creekline and then you will find tracks to Rum Jungle. We found our way by following the trail down East Peak and also picking a recognisable point in the saddle of a small clearing where we saw people, and continually aiming for that.
The route from Rum Jungle back to the carpark is the South (Peasants) Ridge route, and is well marked. There are orange trail markers, and arrows carved in trees and spraypainted on rocks to show you the way both up and down. The trail is very easy to follow and does not have the very steep exposed rock scrambles like the South East Ridge. It’s a steep and rocky path though, and can be slippery so take care as you wind down the mountain.
South Ridge is not as scenic as South East Ridge. While you get views over to Mt Lindesay and Ernest, it’s not as open as South East Ridge but it’s a good choice for the descent – or those who don’t have such a good head for heights.
Mount Barney – The Verdict
Mt Barney can be done as a day hike or an overnight by camping at Rum Jungle in between East and West Peaks. Make sure you check the weather forecast before you go – the trails can be slippery and would be extremely difficult if rain is about.
We did the day hike in seven hours, however use the Queensland Parks and Wildlife Service time of 8-10 hours as a guide.
So my verdict on Mt Barney? In perfect weather, this is a scenic, challenging and diverse hike that experienced hikers will thoroughly enjoy. It definitely wasn’t as daunting as I had imagined – but I owe that to the weather and that the trail was reasonably easy to follow as there are lots of people traversing the mountain during the cooler months. Would I do the hike again? Most definitely.
My advice for first timers
Be hiking fit and test your fitness and navigational skills on nearby mountains such as Maroon and Greville, do the day hike on a sunny day and start early, and try to go with someone who has done the mountain before. You need to be prepared to hike for up to 10 hours – and be warned, your knees are going to hate you by the end of this hike!
- Headlamp or torch (for early morning starters)
- At least 3L of water
- A good head for heights
- A hiking buddy
- Queensland Maps.me app map
- Jacket for the summit
- Hiking shoes
- Emergency beacon (some parts of the hike do not have mobile reception)
- Long pants (some parts of the track are narrow and overgrown with vegetation and you may need to slide down steep sections of rock on the descent)
- Rock scrambling
How To Get There
From Brisbane, head to Beaudesert along the Mt Lindesay Highway and then follow the signs to Rathdowney. Turn right just past the Rathdowney township onto Boonah-Rathdowney Road, then take a left onto Upper Logan Road following the signs to Mt Barney/Mt Barney Lodge. You’ll hit a dirt road, and keep following the road, keeping to the right. Park at Yellow Pinch Reserve and head up the fire trail.
Expert. Strenuous, steep climb up South East Ridge with rock scrambling and free climbing. Navigational skills required up South East Ridge. South (Peasants) Ridge is also very steep and slippery in places.
Distance / Elevation / Duration
About 16km from the carpark taking South East Ridge up and South (Peasants) Ridge down, 1,154 metres, 8-10 hours.
Lisa Owen is becoming an encyclopaedia on the Scenic Rim of Queensland. Check out some of her other cracking hikes…