Raise your hand if you’re up for a challenge! Only two hours drive from Brisbane there are dozens of hard trails that will get your heart pumping, your feet muddy, and your knees begging for mercy.
I can’t promise it will be easy, but it will definitely be fun. Okay, so it might be the type of fun that isn’t fun at the time. It will be fun afterwards though, when you hit the downhill section… If you’re a fit and experienced hiker, get some like-minded friends together and hit my pick of the best challenging hikes near Brisbane.
What You Should Know….
These hikes are all very hard, rated expert in difficulty and should only be attempted by fit, experienced hikers with sound navigational skills. Some of these tracks are sporadically marked, often informally, simply with coloured tape by hikers coming before you – and some are not marked at all. It’s recommended you attempt these hikes with someone who’s done the hike before. Always check the weather forecast before you go as they are all potentially dangerous in wet weather. These hikes are all also knee killers. If your knees are not the best you may experience some issues on the descent and we’ve measured each hike in duration rather than distance due to the very steep ascents.
1. Mt Barney // Mt Barney National Park
Duration: 8-10 Hours
Mt Barney is one of the most magnificent mountains in the Scenic Rim region of South East Queensland. The 1,354m mountain offers a challenge, views and even bush camping opportunities.
The best route for first timers is either up and down South (Peasant’s) Ridge, or up South East Ridge and down South Ridge. If you’re planning to go up South East Ridge you’ll need to have a good head for heights and some rock scrambling and navigational skills. There are no trail markers on this route and you’re following foot padding the entire way up. South Ridge features some trail markers along its length and it’s a good route if you have overnight packs. South East Ridge terminates at East Peak, while South Ridge terminates at Rum Jungle bush camp and then you can hike up to East Peak.
Allow 8-10 hours for the round trip. It’s especially important to check the weather forecast before you go on this one as rocks can be very slippery in the rain and low cloud. Be aware that the weather can change quickly on Barney, so be prepared with the right gear.
2. Mt Maroon // Mt Barney National Park
Duration: 4-6 hours
I know, Mt Barney National Park again, but I promise this is a good one that you don’t want to miss. Mt Maroon is among the best challenging hikes near Brisbane because it offers stunning 360° views of the Scenic Rim.
Mt Maroon lies in the shadow of the awe-inspiring Mt Barney and you’ll also be able to spot Mt Lindesay and Mt May. It’s a tough climb up to the summit and you’ll need some navigational and rock scrambling skills, as well as a head for heights to take on the challenging trail. The return trek will take between 4-6 hours depending on your fitness and time enjoying the views at the top. It’s a top spot any time of day, but sunrise is particularly epic. However, the hike up in the dark is only recommended if you’ve completed the hike before, in order to avoid any navigational errors (there’s a few cliff drop-offs on the trail!)
3. Stinson Wreck Trail // Lamington National Park
Duration: 8-10 hours
The hike to the Stinson plane wreck in a remote area of Lamington National Park is one of my favourite hikes because it’s so diverse and beautiful. Some background first on where this hike ends up. The Stinson airliner crashed in a storm in February 1937. Seven people – two pilots and five passengers – were on board. Two survivors were found by Bernard O’Reilly, an excellent local bushman who located the crash site after noticing a burnt tree many kilometres in the distance and tracking his way to it. A third man, Jim Westray, survived the crash, but sadly fell down a waterfall while going for help.
It’s a long, strenuous day combining the Westray’s Grave, Larapinta Falls, Stinson Wreck and Point Lookout combo. Alternatively, you can split the hikes and complete over two days, staying overnight at Stinson Park campground. The first section of the hike takes you to Larapinta Falls following Christmas Creek. The last kilometre of the hike requires you to rock hop down the creek, which will take at least an hour one-way due to the slippery rocks. This is a very strenuous section both physically and mentally due to the concentration required not to fall into the creek!
To get to the Stinson crash site from the falls, you need to backtrack to a junction near Westray’s Grave, along a track heading steeply up the hill. The terrain changes a couple of times during your ascent, from dry forest to very wet rainforest. Be prepared for a slippery, muddy trail. The Stinson wreck can be found to the left of the Stinson bush camp clearing. You’ll see two paths when you get to the bush camp, one straight ahead and one to the left. The wreck is located about a five-minute walk from the campsite and is marked with coloured tape. All that remains are twisted fuselage pipe struts, a memorial stone, and a geocache box. Heading straight ahead from the bush camp will take you to Point Lookout in about twenty minutes. Retrace your steps for the return hike back to the carpark.
4. Mt Cougal // Springbrook National Park
Duration: 4-6 hours
Mt Cougal is another diverse hike taking you through sugarcane fields, rainforest, and up to East Peak for a clear view of the mountain’s West Peak. This Gold Coast Hinterland hike is popular in the cooler months, meaning there’s a good footpad to follow up to East Peak. You also follow the border fence for part of the way. There’s some rock scrambling required on the final push to East Peak. More adventurous hikers can tackle the West Peak. Be warned: it’s a steep, slippery ascent with some bush-bashing and there are minimal views at the summit. Also, be warned that the sugarcane fields are tick central, so get tick-savvy before you go.
5. The Steamers // Main Range National Park
Duration: 6-7 hours
Navigational skills are essential for the hike to The Steamers rock formations due to their remote location. There is only foot padding to guide you. People have been known to get lost looking for the Steamers, or night has fallen before they got back to their car, so you must know what you’re doing out here. If your navigation game is strong and you have a 4WD to traverse Emu Creek Road to the starting point, you’re in a for a great outdoor adventure. The hike traverses the rugged rock formations that make up The Steamers. First comes the edge of the Prow, followed by the Funnel, Mast, and then you climb up to the top of the Stern for a view of the first three. Be aware that it’s about a two and a half to three hour drive to get to the start of The Steamers hike from Brisbane, so you’ll need an early wake up call.
- At least 3L of water
- Lunch and snacks such as nuts and fruit
- Topographic map and/or GPS
- First aid kit
- Personal Locator Beacon
- Hiking buddies
- Hiking shoes with good grip
- Long pants and/or gaiters. Long sleeves are also a good idea
- Warm jacket and wet weather gear
- Sunscreen and hat
- Torch or headlamp
- Insect repellent
Before You Go Hiking
Before you get in the car and make the road trip down to your chosen challenging hike, make sure you tell someone (partner, friend or family member) where you’re going and what time you expect to be back.
Check the weather forecast before you head out. Postpone your hike if rain or severe weather, including high winds, are forecast. Many of these routes are very exposed in sections.
Be prepared for cold weather and pack enough food or water to last for a full day hike. You should have sufficient food in case you are out longer than planned due to any navigational errors.
Be prepared for cuts and scrapes from plants and rocks. Cover up as much as possible. Hiking pants and a light long sleeved shirt are recommended.