Check out this cheeky double-microadventure in the Scenic Rim region that packs a punch; Mt May and Mt Barney’s Upper Portals.
- Stunning views of Maroon Dam and the Scenic Rim region from Mt May’s slopes
- Hike up 2 peaks
- Go sightseeing or swimming at Mt Barney’s Upper Portals
Summiting Mt May
As dawn broke through a thick blanket of fog, we weaved slowly onto the gravel road leading us to the Waterfall Creek Reserve campground at Mt May’s base. The fog obscured much of the landscape around us, and we could see little more than the outlines of the surrounding mountains as the sky slowly brightened from black to a misty grey.
The ascent starts on a narrow trail leading up the mountain next to the campground and to the left of the 4WD track. We lost the trail initially but it was quickly found near a lookout point as we continued up. At first, the trail is distinct but eventually fades to foot padding cutting through the grass.
The hike gets real steep quickly but the views as you ascend give you plenty of opportunities to catch your breath. The morning fog made for one of the most spectacular sunrises I’ve ever seen in the Scenic Rim.
Fog sat heavily over the Scenic Rim valley, with only a couple of mountain tops peeking through. As we climbed higher to a viewpoint on the North Peak, the fog was staying put making for a beautiful panorama. The track starts to thin out as you ascend, and the bush begins to take over. Dew from the grass and trees quickly soaked us as we pushed our way through to the first summit.
The summit is fairly closed in so make sure your photo stops are on the way up for the best view. It’s an adventurous hike down into the saddle between the two peaks, with some narrow rocky sections. Pay attention to the trail as it’s easy to lose as it’s faint down into the saddle and up the South Peak.
The South Peak is mostly a bush bash and rock scramble, especially as you approach the summit. The South Peak’s slopes are also the best photo spots with only partial views out to the surrounding mountains — including Mt Barney — from the top.
It’s all downhill from the South Peak — and it’s quite the knee killer. With the dewy morning, the rocks and scree were slippery so it was a slow climb down. Once down from the South Peak, you’ll reach a 4WD trail. Heading right will take you back to the carpark.
Unlocking the Upper Portals
If you’re anything like me and aren’t just content with climbing a mountain, take the left path to reach the peaceful Upper Portals of Mt Barney National Park. As we’d started at the crack of dawn and were down Mt May by 9.30am, we decided on an impromptu trip to the Upper Portals — which was totally worth the extra hike.
From the bottom of Mt May’s South Peak, it’s about a 6km hike to the portals up and down some steep hills, and across pretty creek crossings.
- Rock scrambling
- Rock hopping
- Long pants for bush bashing and rock scrambling
- At least 2 litres of water for Mt May (4 litres if you’re doing the Mt May/Upper Portals double)
- Camera (and drybag) for exploring the Upper Portals area
- Lunch and snacks
- Hat and sunscreen
How To Get There
Head down the Mt Lindesay Highway to Beaudesert, and follow the signs to Rathdowney. Take a right onto Boonah-Rathdowney Road just after you past through the Rathdowney township. Continue along this road for about 20 minutes until you reach Newman Road on your left. This is a dirt road but suitable for 2WD. Follow this road until the road goes around to the right, and there’s a house on your left. Immediately after the house you’ll see the dirt road on your left. Head down here until you reach the Waterfall Creek Reserve campground and park here.
To reach the Upper Portals, go left on the fire trail at the base of the South Peak. After about 1.5km, you’ll reach the Cleared Ridge 4WD carpark. Go left and follow the signs to Upper Portals down the mown grass path. You’ll cross a number of small creeks, and when you get to the large crossing, cross the creek and follow the faint path through the bush and you’ll hit the portals.
Intermediate to expert. You need to be a fit, experienced hiker to do the double adventure to Mt May and Upper Portals due to terrain and distance. You’ll need some navigational and rock scrambling skills for Mt May, and be able to negotiate the slippery terrain. The hike to Upper Portals is straightforward but you’ll cover a considerable distance.
Distance / Duration
Mt May — The Mt May circuit from the campground to the 4WD trail is 6.5km and will take about 3-4 hours to complete. Add another hour to walk the 4km back to the campground.
Upper Portals — If adding the Upper Portals to the adventure, it’s a further 6km to Upper Portals, then you have to return back down the 4WD trail. The Mt May/Upper Portals double is about 22km in total.
Do the double — The return double adventure will take about 8-10 hours.