Picnics And Secret Passageways // Mt Norman (QLD)

Summiting Mt Norman makes for a challenging rock-scramble (although there are easier options) with a secret tunnel to explore amongst the boulders. Bag the highest peak in the Girraween National Park and take in epic views, sunsets and the Balancing Rock while you’re at it. 


Highlights

  • Negotiate steep granite slabs
  • Explore inside rock crevices and tunnels
  • Get spectacular views across the Granite Belt region

A Weekend At Girraween National Park

With my car packed full of camping gear, warm clothing and marshmallows, I hit the road bound for the granite playground of Girraween National Park.

It’s an easy drive to Girraween National Park, but at three hours away, I had decided to take the whole weekend and join nine fellow adventurers to explore the granite wonderland.

Picnics And Secret Passageways // Mt Norman (QLD), Lisa Owen, WAE_MtNorman_TinyHuman, boulders, rock formation, forest, view, valley

Climbing Mt Norman

Our first hike of the day was up Mt Norman, the highest point in Girraween National Park.

We set our hiking boots on the trail from the Castle Rock campground, our base for the weekend.

The hike starts out easy, gradually ascending along a sandy trail past granite boulders, before it becomes a mostly rock slab scramble up grippy rock faces.

Safety Tip: Don’t attempt this ascent if the rocks are wet or rain is forecast.

Make sure you take the time to check out the views across the park from the slabs as you ascend.

About three quarters of the way up Mt Norman at the base of a steep slab, see if you can find the rock crevice. This place is an explorers dream. It lives underneath a set of huge boulders to the right of the rock slab.

You slide into the opening under the rocks and you’ll find a narrow path between the rocks and even a tunnel (beware of wildlife though and bring a head torch).

Picnics And Secret Passageways // Mt Norman (QLD), Lisa Owen, WAE_MtNorman_Crevice, crack, woman, path, walls,

We spent about half an hour taking a look around and snagging some moody shots in the narrow crevice.

Back in the sunlight, we continued along the rock slabs and wound past more giant boulders, before reaching the Eye Of The Needle rock formation. We tried – and unfortunately it’s not possible to scramble up to the Eye but you can get a good look from below.

The next section is where it gets a little tricky – as you attempt to reach the summit.

A Scramble To The Summit

The formal track ends at the base of the Mt Norman monolith so the final ascent is not for everyone – and rock scrambling experience is essential.

This rock scramble requires you to ascend a series of rocks like a ladder and then do a bit of a rock shuffle, wedging yourself between the rocks and shimmying up to the slabs at the top. I couldn’t do it by myself with my short legs and needed a few helping hands.

Once on the slabs at the top, you’ll need to gain some momentum to get up the steep slopes, negotiate a couple of boulders with some agile jumps, and then you’re up on the summit with views of the First and Second Pyramid, Bald Rock and Sphinx and Turtle Rocks.

Picnics And Secret Passageways // Mt Norman (QLD), Lisa Owen, WAE_MtNorman_Slabascent, smooth rock, hikers, climbing, gully, erosion

Blessed with a clear day, we could even see the Scenic Rim out to Mt Barney from our rocky perch.

Checking out the sights, we found a cool rock shelf we named ‘The Wave’ due to its shape sloping down the cliff.

We had lunch at the top, finding a sheltered bay of rocks out of the chilly wind before descending back to Castle Rock campground.

The descent down is a little hard on the knees and I ended up zig zagging down the slabs to reduce the pressure on my knees and the top of my toes.

Back at camp, we set up our tents and chilled out before embarking on our sunset adventure.

Castle Rock Campground

The Castle Rock campground is a great place to spend a night or two while you enjoy the Girraween sights. There are taps throughout the park where you can get water for cooking or to wash dishes, wood fire barbecues (no firepits allowed), flush toilets and even showers.

The first day ended with a windy sunset on the First Pyramid (make sure you take some cool silhouette shots with the Balancing Rock) and we were early to bed in preparation for our sunrise hike the next morning.

Sunrise took us up Castle Rock for a sub-zero photography session owing to the wind chill.

We ended the weekend with a pancake and bacon cooked breakfast before hitting the road back to Brisbane.

Picnics And Secret Passageways // Mt Norman (QLD), Lisa Owen, WAE_MtNorman_Boulders, silhouette, woman, strong, move mountains, push, heave

 

Activities

  • Hiking
  • Rock scrambling
  • Exploring rock formations
  • Camping
  • Photography
  • Wildlife spotting

Essential Gear

  • Camping permit (you’ll need to book online on the Queensland Parks website and print out the voucher)
  • Tent, sleeping bag, insulated sleeping mat
  • Warm clothing (warm jacket, thermals, beanie)
  • Grippy shoes
  • Camera
  • Water (water is available on site but needs to be boiled or treated first)
  • Food and campfire snacks
  • Gas cooker or firewood if you plan to use the wood fire barbecues
  • Gloves (for the cold and also good when descending the granite slopes)

How To Get There

It’s super easy to get to Girraween National Park. From Brisbane, get on the Ipswich Motorway and follow the signs to Warwick. From Warwick, follow the signs to Stanthorpe along the New England Highway. About 20 minutes from Stanthorpe, look for the signs to Girraween National Park and you need to take a left onto Pyramids Road. The drive will take about 3 hours.

There’s lots of signage in the park to guide you to the campgrounds and walking tracks.

The Mt Norman and Castle Rock tracks can be reached from the Castle Rock campground.

The First Pyramid track starts near the Visitor Information Centre.

Skill Level

Beginner to Expert. The skill level depends on how far you want to go. The walking track to the base of the Mt Norman summit has some epic viewpoints and would be suitable for intermediate hikers to reach, however to reach the summit you’ll need sound rock scrambling skills. The last five minutes of the scramble is steep and technical in places. If you’ve got short legs like me you’ll likely need a helping hand to get up some sections safely.

The First Pyramid and Castle Rock also have a couple of rock scrambles sections but can be attempted by confident beginners.

All tracks are well maintained and marked. Follow the white painted markers on the rock slabs to guide you to the top of Mt Norman, Castle Rock and First Pyramid once you get off the sandy trail.

Distance/Elevation

Mt Norman is the highest point in Girraween National Park at 1,267 metres. The return hike is 11km.

Castle Rock is 5.2km return and First Pyramid is 3.6km return.

Duration

Mt Norman is about a 3-4 hour hike depending on how far up you go and the time you take exploring around the rock formations.

The hikes up Castle Rock and the First Pyramid will take about two hours return each.

 


Queensland rocks…

Sunrise Without The Crowds // Mt Cordeaux (QLD)

Beyond The Lower Portals // Barney Waterfall, Mt Barney (QLD)

Choose Your Own Adventure // Summiting Mt Greville (QLD)

Mt Mathieson // Main Range National Park (QLD)