From creek trails to steep trails, as Australia’s greenest capital city, Meanjin/Brisbane is spoilt for choice with trail running opportunities in and around the city’s forests. Join Riley as he takes on the week, one trail at a time.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Turrbal and Jagera peoples people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Lately I’ve found myself spending a bit too much time in front of the computer and not enough time with shoes on gravel. With the summer temperatures and humidity starting to drop, it was the perfect time to try and squeeze a bit more adventure into the work week.

With Strava to keep me honest, I set out to challenge myself to get out on the trails every day for a week, exploring old favourite loops and new trails in and around the city.

Here’s how it unfolded.

Day 1: Golden Hour on the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk

Location: Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk (Kondalilla National Park section)
Distance: 18km

Taking advantage of a Monday public holiday and some pretty spectacular weather, I decided to head to the hills for a long run.

After spending the day exploring the idyllic Sunshine Coast Hinterland (Kabi Kabi Country) towns of Maleny and Montville, I pulled into the carpark at Kondalilla Falls just before 4pm.

What I love most about trail running is the ability to squeeze in adventures with little preparation!


A rainforest creek in Kondalilla

A well-formed trail signposted to the Falls soon gives way to steep stairs, winding down to the bottom of the Falls, which drops an impressive 90m into the rainforest below.

‘Kondalilla’ means ‘running water’, and on a warmer day, and with more time, there are several opportunities along this run to cool off in the cascades.

Leaving the busy Kondalilla Falls loop behind, the trail immediately turns to a more technical single track (watch out for the odd vine across the trail!).

With the setting sun casting a golden hue through gaps in the rainforest canopy, this is trail running at its best.

There’s something very Jurassic Park-like about the Gondwanan World Heritage Rainforest, with its towering palm trees, lush ferns, and twisted vines. There’s something even more breathtaking about being deep in the rainforest at dusk.


Water is everywhere on the trail

As the light was quickly fading I’ll be honest, I didn’t quite make it all the way to Baroon Pocket Dam trailhead, though with more time it would be very achievable.

This run could also easily be shortened if you can convince a mate to pick you up at Baroon Pocket Dam. Likewise, linking up other stages of the Sunshine Coast Hinterland Great Walk would make for an adventurous ultra or through-hike!

With the light fading, I returned back along the same trail to rejoin the Kondalilla Falls Loop, which switchbacks gradually towards the Falls.

Emerging from the forest I was met with an auburn sunset over the valley and the Falls – earlier busy with day trippers – all to myself. A final staircase and easy trail leads back to the carpark. Public holiday well spent.

Ideally, remember to factor in enough time to for a post run brew back on the verandah at Brouhaha – a Maleny institution.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace

Day 2: Rambling Around Barambin/Victoria Park

Location: Barambin/Victoria Park, Kelvin Grove
Distance: Choose your own adventure

While not technically a trail run, Barambin/Victoria Park offers a smorgasbord of mixed-terrain running, only a stones-throw from the CBD, Fortitude Valley, and Herston.

Not far from my office in the Valley, it’s my go-to for a quick lunch time dose of endorphins – featuring panoramic views of the city. With the legs feeling surprisingly fresh after yesterday’s mission, there aren’t many better ways to spend a lunch break than a quick 8km hills session on a perfect Brisbane autumn day.

An old golf course, now opened up to the public as one of Australia’s largest inner-urban green spaces, this one is a choose-your-own adventure. It’s great for cross country season training, with plenty of punchy climbs.

It’s only going to get better, with the master plan proposing to transform the park into an urban adventure playground, including wetlands and native forest trails. It’s also easily accessible via public transport.

Day 3: Morning Mt Gravatt Mission

Location: Toohey Forest Park
Distance: 11km

With an 8:30 am meeting, I knew this was going to have to be the first early morning of the week to squeeze in one of my favourite trail loops.

Toohey Mountain and Mt Gravatt have an extensive network of single tracks and wider trails, winding through several ecotones – including vine forest, stands of casuarina, and sandstone outcrops, popular with the local bouldering and mountain bike community. Toohey Forest is also an important refuge for local koala populations.


City views from Mt Gravatt

There are a myriad of running opportunities at Toohey Forest, with plenty of access points to the trail network, many of which are accessible via public transport.

For this run, I wanted to link up Toohey Mountain and Mt Gravatt from the Toohey Road picnic area, including a steep ascent to the lookout on Mt Gravatt.

For a post-run, pre-work caffeine hit, it’s hard to go past Cafe A Mano in Annerley.

After a quick change from sweaty running gear to something a bit more presentable, I slid into the Zoom meeting at 8:29 am, enjoying the smug feeling of superiority that comes with knowing you’ve enjoyed an hour of quality trail time before the work day.

Day 4: The Secret Forest

Location: Oxley Creek Common
Distance: 6km

A 6km out and back trail from the Oxley Creek Common leads to the ‘Secret Forest’ – a hidden glade surrounded by a stand of Araucaria cunginghamii (Hoop pine) trees.

A hidden gem located along the banks of the Oxley Creek, and set amongst agricultural and wetlands, the mostly flat and easy gravel trail is perfect for a mid-week run. With plenty of vertical in the legs already, I was grateful for a flat run to add in a speedier session for the week.

In an industrialised and largely degraded catchment, the Oxley Creek Common is an important area of bushland rehabilitation along the Oxley Creek corridor.


Oxley Creek wetlands

There are long-term plans for an exciting 20km trail following the Oxley Creek Corridor and importantly, restoration of the riparian corridor (the space between land and water) of one of Brisbane’s major waterways.

On an unseasonably chilly Brisbane autumn morning, the sunrise through the low-hanging mist around the wetlands made for a spectacular start to the day.

In a largely industrialised, urban catchment, the Oxley Creek Common provides habitat for wetland bird species and is a popular spot for bird-watching as well.

Day 5: The Scorpion’s Tail

Location: Mt Coot-tha (Brisbane Forest Park)
Distance: 9.5km

With its extensive network of steep trails only a stone’s throw from the CBD, Mt Coot-tha is undoubtedly the home of trail running in Brisbane.

On a weekend the trails are usually pumping with walkers and runners, but pulling up at 5:30am, today I was the only car in the carpark. Setting out in the early morning darkness with just a head torch, I was racing the sun to the summit for striking sunrise views over the city below.


Views from Mt Coot-tha

This morning’s mission was a shortened, mid-week version of one of my favourite hilly, long run loops which starts and finishes from ‘the Hut’, on the southern side of the mountain.

It’s a constant uphill gradient, including some steep switchback climbs up to the Chapel Hill Reservoir, followed by a series of steep up and downs, gradually winding west around the slope.

But that’s just a warm-up for the Scorpion Trail, which climbs up to the Ghost Hole Picnic Area – so called for the sharp sting in the final hundred metres of the climb!

It was a relief to join a contouring trail which winds on a gradually-descending path back to the Summit Lookout. With sweeping views over the city and beyond to Moreton Bay islands and Glasshouse Mountains, there’s a reason why Mt Coot-tha Summit is so popular amongst the outdoor community in Brissie.

From the lookout, a flowy descending trail back to the Reservoir and to the car is a welcome opportunity to open up the legs.


The trail back down the mountain


Oh, and there’s a good reason why I like to start and finish my runs on the southern side of Mt Coot-tha. Gathered Bakery is a compulsory post-run refuel. Order the doughnuts and thank me later. Actually, get a couple – you’ve earned it after this run!

Day 6: Easy Afternoons at the Reservoir

Location: Enoggera Reservoir
Distance: 8.5km

Day six and I’m stoked with how surprisingly easy it’s been to squeeze so much quality trail time into a work week. But I’d be lying if I said the legs weren’t starting to feel pretty tired!

Fortunately, I’d organised some company for an easy afternoon loop around Enoggera Reservoir. It’s an 8.5km loop on mostly undulating fire trails that starts and finishes from the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre, located just inside the D’Aguilar National Park.


Sunrise at Enoggera Reservoir

Alternatively, this loop can also be accessed via public transport at the Gap Park and Ride. After crossing below the spillway, the trail climbs steeply back up to the dam before following the shoreline around.

Despite being only 20 minutes from the CBD, the Res is one of my favourite spots to quickly feel like you’re a long way from the city.

Enoggera Reservoir is the gateway to D’Aguilar National Park and Brisbane Forest Park. Many options for longer runs are possible.

Linking Enoggera Reservoir and Gold Creek Reservoir via the South Boundary Trail and Gap Creek Reserve makes for a pretty epic 30 km loop.

The reservoir is also a perfect spot for a post-run swim. There’s a formal swimming and paddle craft launch located at the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre.

Day 7: Camp Mountain climb

Location: Bellbird Grove, D’Aguilar National Park
Distance: 14km

As all trail runners know, Sundays are for missions. To round out a great week of exploring around Brisbane, I’d left an old favourite for a tough final run.

Camp Mountain strikes a unique mix of pain and pleasure into the minds of the Brisbane trail running community. With 900m climbing over a 14km loop (or around 500m in 10km) the Strava KOM (King/Queen of the Mountain) for this run reads like a who’s-who of Australian trail running and orienteering talent.


Camp Mountain trail

Starting at the Bellbird Grove day use area in D’Aguilar National Park, the climb doesn’t waste any time getting steep. After approximately 2km, a short, flatter section leads to a fork (a good place to leave a gel or a bottle).

Taking the right hand fork, a wide fire trail contours around several steep gullies before reaching the bottom of the main event – the 1.5km Sutton Track to the summit of Camp Mountain (414m above sea level), averaging 15% but with sections of steeper gradients.


Elevation for the win!

This one is a tough climb, but you’re immediately rewarded at the summit with views over Brisbane, the D’Aguilar Ranges, and Glasshouse Mountains.

An equally steep descent leads back through Xanthorrhoea-covered ridges to the trail fork, where for the full 14km Camp Mountain experience you can turn left and do the summit loop a second time.

Alternatively, descending back to Bellbird Grove via a steep descent to the Turrbal Circuit Trail is a not-too shabby 10km loop.

No run at D’Aguilar would be complete without a compulsory stop for coffee and pastry at Ashgrove’s Banneton Bakery – the line around the corner is worth the wait on tired legs!

Week in Review

Total distance: 75.5 km

Total elevation: 2000m+

Post-run beers and pastries: Lost count

Stoke: High

After seven days of exploring old favourites and new trails within an hour of home, I’m stoked with how much adventure time I’ve been able to squeeze into the work week with a few early starts and lunch time sessions. 

In doing so, I’ve been able to experience everything that’s great about trail running: mates, post-run beers and immersing myself in the hills and waterways around Brisbane.