It’s been a few years since Saphira visited Mt Joyce and spent the night at Ngumbi Base Camp. So when she recently returned for the weekend, she was surprised she hadn’t remembered the place more fondly.
I last did the Mt Joyce summit back in 2017, and thought it was a pretty good hike with a nice big campsite. Last year, I wanted to catch the southern Delta Aquariids meteor show, so I returned to Mt Joyce because it’s a short drive from the city, with free (yes, free) camping, and well-suited for stargazing.
As it turned out, my memory had not done Mt Joyce justice – it’s an absolute banger of a campground with heaps of surrounding microadventures. I was quickly left wondering why I hadn’t been back sooner.
- Views of iconic Scenic Rim peaks and Wyaralong Dam
- Multi-modal adventures (fishing, kayaking, and mountain biking)
- Melodic birdlife
- No tent required (sleep in the old school building)
Is Mt Joyce Brisbane’s Best Kept Secret?
Mt Joyce is the most underrated adventure spot around Brisbane. It’s a wicked spot for stargazing, perfect for group hikes, and it’s free too. The walk to Ngumbi Base Camp is beginner-friendly with limited elevation and very wide tracks. More experienced hikers can make this microadventure more challenging by taking the steep return trip to the Mt Joyce summit.
The campsite has full facilities (rainwater tank, bench, and toilet), and with an old school building at the site, you don’t even need to pack a tent. Although Ngumbi Base Camp is just a two hour walk-in from the carpark, you’ll feel worlds away. It’s a tranquil little escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.
Make it a Microadventure and Take a Hike!
A great little overnight adventure you can do at Mt Joyce is the return trip from Eastern Trailhead to Ngumbi Base Camp. From the trailhead, take the Shoreline Trail which meanders around the edge of Wyaralong Dam. The track is wide and mostly flat. After about two hours, it gets a wee bit steeper before you hit a junction. Go left for just a little longer to reach Ngumbi Base Camp, or right for an epic detour to the Mt Joyce summit.
Those looking for a challenge should leave their bags at the junction and ascend towards the summit of Mt Joyce. Allow an hour each way for this much steeper track along the ridgeline. You’ll be treated to great views and impressive grass trees (awesome in winter). Keep an eye out on your right to glimpse the Brisbane skyline in the distance.
There are a series of steep ascent ‘humps’, and a false summit for good measure, before you finally get to the top. Some people definitely camp up here, but it’s not permitted by SEQ Water, who manage the area – make sure to respect nature and limit your impact to the designated camping area!
Up here, you get great views of the Scenic Rim: Mt Lindesay, Mt Barney, Mt Mitchell and Mt Cordeaux will be familiar peaks on the horizon. You also have 270 degree views of the dam, which is a real stunner as far as dams go.
Back at the junction, it’s a very short walk to Ngumbi Base Camp. You’ll find a clean composting toilet, a bench, an old school building (it rates 5/10 for spooky vibes), and a rainwater tank (requires treatment with tablets, UV, or a filter). Camp under the stars, in your tent, or in the school building. In the morning, the most beautiful chorus of birdsong will herald the dawn – even the whip bird calls Wyaralong home.
If you’re looking for an even meatier adventure, you can turn this casual overnighter into a proper trip by organising a car shuffle and hiking from Ngumbi Base Camp to the Western Trailhead (~25km).
- Mountain biking
- Bird watching
How To Get There
Head south on the M3, M2 and National Route 13 then take State Route 90. The dam is large with many access points; you’re aiming for the Eastern Trailhead which is at the end of Wyaralong Dam Access road. It’ll take you about 1.25 hours from the city to the carpark.
- Water filtration system and bottles
- First aid kit
- Food as required
- Sun protection
- Mat and sleeping bag (but you can sleep under the stars or in the schoolhouse if you don’t have a tent)
- Good shoes, especially important if you’re heading to the summit or taking the 25km Shoreline trail around the dam
Beginner to Intermediate. The walk into Ngumbi Base Camp is gentle with limited elevation. The Mt Joyce summit is steeper and rougher, suited to an intermediate hiker. The Shoreline Trail from Eastern to Western Trailhead is a 25km slog, requires good fitness and some experience.
Distance Covered/Elevation Gained/Duration
Eastern Trailhead > Ngumbi Base Camp (~7km, 103m elevation, allow 2-3 hours)
Ngumbi Base Camp > Mt Joyce Summit (3.8km return, about 300m elevation, allow 2 hours)
Eastern Trailhead > Western Trailhead (car shuffle required, not including summit) (27km, 525m elevation, allow 2 days)