Calling all sunrise hikers, Queensland’s Mount May is waiting for you! This one’s for those who live for the foggy morning servo dash, the caffeine hit, the race to beat daybreak, speedy rock scrambles and maybe a stubbed toe, all to witness the rise of our gorgeous glowing orb. A well-kept secret, perfect for those eager to catch first light.

Quick Overview

Mount May trail is a 7 km, grade 3 hike located in the Mt Barney National Park in Queensland. The hike should take around 3-4 hours to complete.


  • Hike and rock scramble
  • Choose from two peaks for spectacular sunrise views!
  • Get panoramic mountain and lake views

Darkness At The Base Of Mount May 

Under a blanket of stars, our trio of keen hikers pulled into the Waterfall Creek Reserve carpark.

Arriving just before 4.00am, Mount May loomed above us, it was time for another sunrise hike!

Downing the last sip of an instant coffee from my trusty KeepCup, I pulled on my backpack and began following the clear footpad up Mount May, with mates Ellen and Dave.

Soon after we started, the footpad turned right and headed towards the first peak of Mount May – our target for sunrise!

We reached the ridgeline quicker than expected – despite taking a wrong turn in the dark and overshooting the ridge. The mistake was quickly realised when the going got a touch too slippery…

After reaching the first rocky outcrop on the ridgeline, we came across a grassy section, before the final scramble up Mount May’s summit.

After climbing for another 15 minutes or so, we reached a rocky outcrop on the first peak that wasn’t far from the summit. This became our sunrise viewing perch.

Settling in, 20 minutes before sunrise, I scouted around for the perfect photo position that looked out to the horizon, Mount May’s second peak and Mount Maroon.


The early bird catches the worm…

This was true for our crew who weren’t disappointed by the spectacular sunrise! Peeking over a layer of cloud, the sun began to light up Mount Maroon and the valley below us.

After soaking in daybreak, we then made tracks towards the view of Maroon Dam located on the other side of the first peak. Eager to catch the morning light over Mount Barney National Park, we then traversed across the saddle and up to the top of the second peak. From the second peak, we experienced a stunning view of Mount Barney drenched in soft, golden morning sun.

For our trio, one hike isn’t enough. So, after our Mount May climb, we headed to our second hike of the day – the Upper Portals and Montserrat Lookout – creating an epic 12 hour hiking day, just how weekends should be spent!CatchSunriseFromMountMay(QLD)_LisaOwen_View_MountMayPeak


  • Hiking
  • Photography
  • Rock scrambling

Equipment List

  • Hiking shoes
  • About 1.5 litres of water (add an extra litre if planning to continue to Upper Portals)
  • Torch or headtorch
  • Snacks
  • Camera
  • Warm jacket during the colder months for the summit

How To Get There

From Brisbane, drive to Rathdowney and turn right onto Boonah-Rathdowney Road. From Boonah-Rathdowney Road, turn onto Newman Road (it’s a dirt road but 2WD accessible). Follow this down for about 5-10 minutes and you will reach a bend in the road and see a house on your left. Next to the house is Waterfall Creek Road. Follow this down to the campground on your left (don’t go through the gate past the 4WD only signs). Park here and then find a distinct footpad up the mountain in front of you.

You can choose to head up to the first peak only, or, continue to the second peak. Return the way you came or head down the backside of the second peak and you’ll end up on the 4WD fire trail. Go right to return to the carpark, or to extend your hike, head up the hill to get to Cleared Ridge and follow the signs to the Upper Portals.

Skill Level

Intermediate – You’ll need some navigational skills to head up here as the trail is not marked but the footpad is distinct along most of the route. The hardest part is finding the start of the trail from the carpark. It’s best to hike up the mountain for the first time in daylight before heading up here for sunrise. Some sections of the path are very loose and there’s some rock scrambling required. It’s more difficult to reach the second peak than the first peak due to the rock scrambling required.

Distance / Duration / Elevation

Overall Distance – approx 7km

Duration – 3–4 hrs

Elevation – 836 metres


More for early risers

The 5 Best Sunrise Spots Near Brisbane 

Start Your Day The Mountaintop Way // Punurrunha – Mt Bruce (WA)

The Beauty Of An Early Morning Run