Not one to be easily put off, Rhys decided to take on the tricky ascent of Mount Cougal. A five-hour return, rock-scramble near the top and some bomber views to top it off – all without even reaching for the machete.
- Epic views from several points along the walk
- A vast variety of scenery and terrain to traverse
- From leisurely stroll to rock scramble along one track
- Hard to lose the track!
Climbing Mount Cougal
Online articles and trail notes make this out to be a sketchy walk. ‘Overgrown, needing a machete’, ‘close to the edge of the cliff’, and ‘hard walk, slippery, and muddy’ were some quotes I found myself fretting over. In reality, it wasn’t nearly as bad as such reviews would have you believe. Leave that machete at home kids! Although the trail was slippery and slightly muddy at first, once you pass that point you’re cruising. Plus who doesn’t like a laugh when someone slips in the mud?
We wanted to start the walk at first light, so reaching the peak at sunrise wasn’t our aim, but you can try for sunrise if you feel comfortable walking with head torches. We followed the fence line the entire way from the bottom to top and back again. As simple as that.
The Trail To The Peak
The fence ensures that it’s hard to lose the path. Once you’ve passed the first 500m or so you really start to enjoy the walk. You’ll find yourself crouching through sugarcane tracks, losing your feet when pushing through the tall grass and looking back on views of the Currumbin Valley. There’s a lookout on the right just past the sugarcane saga where I would recommend a stop; Kodak moments for days.
Continuing on through what seemed to be endless tall grass, you then arrive on a change of scenery. Dense forest with ancient trees, hanging vines and lush green overgrowth welcomes you. The track really opens up here, so any lost time from selfie stops can be gained back. Don’t forget to appreciate the age of the trees that you walk past. I was hit hard with a sense of being so young on this earth.
A Bit Trickier At The Top
The path meanders a little up and down from here but it’s nothing too strenuous even if you’re a little bit unfit (winter vibes). The last climb, however, is literally a climb. You’ll notice a sudden incline for a good few hundred meters. This is a sign you’re getting close to the top.
Towards the top of the incline, the path appears to open up and slightly flatten out. You’ll then arrive at what is essentially a fork in the road. To the left is a very questionable lookout, so be cautious on this thin track. It is a decent view, but nothing more than you’d see at the summit. I would attempt this one at your own risk. No one likes the person who has to be helicoptered off the mountain.
The (lack of) path to the right is the way you want to head; around the base of a rock formation which you’ll soon be on top of. You’ll get to a point where the path doesn’t seem to continue around the base. This is correct, as you need to climb.
Look for a small pink ribbon tied to a root/branch. Once you see that, you’ll see the path. Then follow the path up a small rock scramble/climb which leads to the summit. Upon arrival on the summit, you’ll find a 360° view which looks towards the West Peak of Mount Cougal and beyond. You’ll also be able to see all the way out to Tweed Heads and towards sister mountain, Wollumbin (Mount Warning). Sit down, take those piccys and enjoy a well-earned break.
All in all, the walk took us five hours return, including photo time and travelling at a leisurely pace.
There’s a path towards the West Peak if you come prepared. It’s mapped and doable, so if you’re keen for a higher view and have a reasonable idea of safety precautions why not give it a shot?
How To Get There
Mount Cougal is a part of the Gold Coast Hinterlands. It’s approximately half an hour drive inland from Tweed Heads. If you use the app ‘All Trails’ (or other map reference apps) there’s a start point reference for where you can park your car. On that note, car access is a must as there’s no access via public transport. There’s no need to stress about the small off-road section; I have a Corolla and she did swimmingly.
- A good pair of shoes/boots
- Gaiters wouldn’t go amiss for the start, otherwise water-resistant pants did me well
- A head torch if you’re starting early/aiming for sunrise
- A good amount of water and snacks
- First aid is always a must
- A car to get you there
Moderate – the final climb is the hardest part
Distance Covered / Elevation Gained
7.6km return, 425m elevation gain