WAE Explorer Of The Month, Lisa Owen, talks us through this classic hike in the foothills of Mount Barney, Queensland. A gentler alternative to summiting the mountain itself, the Lower Portals offer the added bonus of the chance for a wild swim.
- A stunning hike, accessible for all levels of hiker
- Wild swimming
- Dirt tracks
I grew up only a 45 minute drive from Mt Barney in south-east Queensland.
I’ve driven past it many times, seeing its distinctive peak from near and far, but I’d never ventured up the mountain. I’d heard a lot about it – I knew that Mt Barney was an unpredictable beast of a mountain. An unmaintained rough track and steep terrain meant many a bushwalker has spent an unplanned night camping out in the bush.
The summit of Mt Barney may be out of reach for many people – especially those of us like me who aren’t so handy with a compass, but I’ve found a happy medium. The Lower Portals at the foothills at Mt Barney is a worthy stop in the Scenic Rim region, showcasing many of the beautiful natural assets in this area. The hike features beautiful views at every twist of the track.
The Lower Portals
The Lower Portals are located in Mt Barney National Park. The 3.7km Lower Portals track is well signed and easy to follow. Within minutes of leaving the carpark, you’ll be negotiating boulders and passing through tall gum forests and bright green grass trees.
The dirt track winds through tree-filled vistas and then you’ll be rock hopping across Mt Barney Creek, before heading up the red sandstone track, which is moderately steep in some parts.
If you’re lucky, you might spot some rock wallabies near the track.
Regular hikers should reach the Lower Portals waterhole in about an hour, but if you’re hiking with children allow about ninety minutes one way.
When you arrive at the large boulders sitting in the creek, you’ll need to manoeuvre up through a couple of round boulders on the right to reach the gorge section. The waterhole is an impressive sight surrounded by giant boulders and the hint of Mt Barney over the top of the trees, and is the perfect place to cool off with a swim or just to get your feet wet.
A visit to the Lower Portals is an easy day trip from Brisbane or the Gold Coast. If you want to avoid the crowds, head there early. My friend and I reached the Lower Portals around 9.30am and had it all to ourselves, but we met a lot of people on the track on the way back.
How To Get There
You can reach the Lower Portals carpark in a 2WD vehicle.
The Lower Portals are located near the small rural town of Rathdowney, south of Beaudesert. Just after you pass through the town, head onto Boonah-Rathdowney Road and then take Upper Logan Road. Follow the signs to Mt Barney Lodge, until you come to a sign heralding Lower Portals Road on your right. This is a dirt road but it’s well maintained. Then follow the Lower Portals signage to the carpark.
The dirt road leading to the carpark is accessible by a 2WD. The last couple of hundred metres up to the carpark is a little steep and may be rutted if there’s been recent rain. If you’re in a 2WD, you may want to pull off into an informal parking area just before the hill.
Reaching the Lower Portals carpark is about a two hour drive south of Brisbane, and about an hour and 45 minutes from the Gold Coast.
This trail is of moderate difficulty. There are some steep sections, and some rocks to scramble over, but it’s an easy trail for regular hikers. There were people of all abilities tackling the trail when I went including very young children. The trail is rated moderate to hard by Queensland National Parks. Allow about three hours for the return trip.
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