Scenic Rim Trail, Main Range National Park Brisbane | Southern Queensland Country

It can be misty in the mountains, but clear days give stunning views. Photo: Karen Smith © Qld Govt

Walking

    The first day on the trail is out in the open and all uphill. Pause often to catch your breath and take in the nature that surrounds you. Photo: © Greg Carter
    Mist and cloud often clothe the mountains. Be prepared for wet walking and enjoy the rainforest in all its moods. Photo: Robert Ashdown © Qld Govt

    Walking options

    The Scenic Rim Trail is not a hardened walking track and has steep and difficult sections. Walk with experienced hiking companions, or join a guided walking group.

    To walk the trail without a guide you must have the relevant topographic maps. You can obtain these on-line from sites such as QTopo. Download or print Thornton, Glen Rock, Townson, Mount Develin and Cunningham’s Gap 1:25,000 map sheets.

    For details on guided Scenic Rim Trail experiences where you don’t have to sleep under the stars visit scenicrimtrail.com.

    Main Range National Park also has many short and long walking options that you may wish to add to your Scenic Rim Trail experience, or explore on a return visit. For details visit Main Range National Park or download a copy of the Main Range Discovery Guide (PDF, 3.3MB) .

    Emergency contacts

    It is imperative that hiking details are left with a responsible contact person who can raise the alarm in an emergency or if you become overdue. The contact person must know:

    1. the names and contact details of all hikers and when they are due to return
    2. how hikers are accessing the trail e.g. parking vehicle or being dropped at trailhead
    3. how hikers are returning from the trail e.g. parked vehicle or pick up at exit
    4. who is dropping off/or picking up hikers, or registration numbers of parked vehicles
    5. the agreed time period after which the contact person will need to contact emergency services
    6. to phone Triple Zero (000) in an emergency or if hikers do not return within agreed time period.

    If no longer hiking the trail, please ensure you cancel bookings. Information on cancellations assists in emergencies such as bad weather and wildfires.

    The Scenic Rim Trail begins with a heart-pumping climb to the top of this ridge, then upwards towards the crest of the Mistake Range. Photo: Greg Carter © Qld Govt

    Scenic Rim Trail track notes

    Allow 4 days to complete the 47km Scenic Rim Trail. You must walk from north to south, commencing at the trailhead at Thornton View and ending at The Crest car park at Cunninghams Gap. The trail is marked from north to south by orange triangular trail markers at key junctions—there are no markers from the opposite direction.

    Walking quickly does not allow enough time to see the area or really enjoy the walk. Some sections are very steep and you will need to take your time. Bad weather can also make navigation difficult. Keep groups small, but do not walk alone. The maximum group size per camping permit is 4 to ensure sites are not damaged and allow a pleasant walking experience for all users.

    Prepare well, carry the relevant topographic maps, and obtain camping permits online. Camping along the Scenic Rim Trail is booked as a 3 night package including all 3 camping areas, sequentially from north to south. A 1 night maximum stay applies at each camping area. See camping along the Scenic Rim Trail for more details.

    Track conditions

    The Scenic Rim Trail is rough, steep and difficult to traverse. Although classified as a Grade 5 track overall, there are some sections of easier, well-formed walking tracks and management trails. Be aware of what to expect and how to deal with the conditions.

    Grade 5 track description

    • Unformed and unmarked track likely to be rough, very steep and difficult, with many obstacles.
    • Suitable for very experienced bushwalkers with a high level of fitness, and specialist skills in map reading, navigation and emergency first aid.

    Additional trail-specific information:

    • In places the trail is indistinct, in others it follows formed walking tracks or old forest roads.
    • Major trail junctions are signed and triangular orange trail markers show the way in some spots. Be aware that large sections of the trail may be extensively overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees, loose rocks and slippery surfaces are present.
    • Caution is needed near cliff edges and naturally occurring lookouts, at creek crossings and on slippery, muddy sections.
    • During rain, the track becomes slippery and walking more difficult, more tiring and more time consuming.
    • Walkers need to be self-reliant, and to prepare for exposure to the elements or rapid changes in weather.
    The Scenic Rim Trail leads to the tops of mountains and into the depths of lush rainforest. Photo: Robert Ashdown © Qld Govt

    Day 1: Thornton View to Mount Mistake SRT walkers camp

    Distance: 9km

    Time: Allow 5-6hr

    Elevation and difficulty: Hard. Steep uphill sections and rough surface.

    Topographic map sheet: Thornton 9342-24

    Details: Day 1 on the Scenic Rim Trail is the most arduous, with the climb up to the range crest bound to set your heart racing. But the incredible views are worth the effort!

    From the trailhead, begin the steep 3km (2-3hr) climb through the private Thornton View Nature Refuge to the crest of your first cliff-rimmed ridge. Notice how the landscape around you is recovering from the severe fires of late 2019.

    Nearing the cliff line you get your first look at one of the many giant spear lilies Doryanthes palmeri that adorn the cliffs and rocky outcrops along Main Range. Then, being extra careful, follow the very steep and potentially slippery trail around the cliff break and make your final ascent to the ridge top. Take a break at the summit to catch your breath and drink in the stunning views east across the Laidley Valley and the Little Liverpool Range towards the sky-scrapers of Brisbane.

    Panoramas both east and west get better and better as you follow the ridge south, but be careful near any cliff edge—one slip could be fatal! Climb slowly through open eucalypt forest towards the plateau, admiring hundreds-of-years-old grass trees growing almost 4m high. About 5km (3hrs) after cresting the ridge, you reach a natural lookout with vistas across Main Camp Creek to the rainforest-clad peak of Mount Mistake in the distance. This is the perfect spot to rest awhile, snapping photos and watching small forest birds or spotting larger birds of prey soaring overhead.

    A further 550m uphill is your first night’s camp, situated on a ridge-top surrounded by towering eucalypts, wattles and grass trees. You are now clearly inside Main Range National Park and have the privilege of spending the night at the very northern tip of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

    Reminders of timber-getting days can be found along the trail. Photo: Steve Finlayson © Qld Govt

    Day 2: Mount Mistake SRT walkers camp to Castle View SRT walkers camp

    Distance: 14.5km

    Time: Allow about 7-8hr

    Elevation and difficulty: Moderate-easy. Long with short uphill sections.

    Topographic map sheets: Glen Rock 9342-23; Townson 9342-22.

    Details:  Compared to the all-day uphill climb of the previous day, Day 2 on the Scenic Rim Trail is a less strenuous, albeit longer, hike. Enjoy your first taste of the magnificent, lush, subtropical rainforests of Main Range.

    The trail leads from grassy eucalypt forest into the shaded coolness beneath the rainforest canopy as you begin to climb steadily along the crest of the Mistake Range. You might notice in places that you are walking along an old road alignment. This is an old snig track used to haul timber out of the forest. In some areas, the rainforest understory is open with a ferny understorey, and the old road is very distinct. In others, the dense low growth of tangled vines and rainforest regrowth (including giant stinging trees) limits visibility.

    In places the trail skirts close to the escarpment edge with views over the valley. Be careful not to walk too close to the edge; one slip could be fatal! Continue south towards the Winder—a relic of logging in days gone by. In good seasons, water can be collected from a watercourse not far from the Winder by turning off at 152.34624oE, -27.92442oS (approximately 220m south of the Winder) and following an old (partly overgrown) logging track south west, then south, for approximately 400m to a small stream.

    From the Winder, the Scenic Rim Trail follows the distinct Grade 4 walking track towards Goomburra. Day visitors also use the Winder track, so you might meet other walkers (and even management vehicles) as you travel the 5km to your next camp site. Situated in open forest on the range crest, it has superb views east over Kangaroo Mountain and Mount Castle to valleys and peaks in the distance.

    Day 3: Castle View SRT walkers camp to Banshee SRT walkers camp

    Distance: 10.5km

    Time: Allow about 5-6hr

    Elevation and difficulty: Moderate. Steep uphill and downhill sections. Slippery creek crossings—water level may be high with dangerous, fast flowing currents after rain.

    Topographic map sheets: Glen Rock 9342-23 and Townson 9342-22

    Details: Day 3 brings lookouts, vine-filled rainforest and mountain streams.

    Wake to the morning chorus of birds thriving at the junction of open forest and rainforest. Watch the sun’s first rays paint the valleys and cliff lines in gold, or the mist roll across the range.

    The first 490m on Day 3 is easy going south along the Winder track to Lookout Road. Turn left (east) and take the well-trodden path 480m through magnificent rainforest scattered with hoop pines to Mount Castle lookout at the escarpment edge. Enjoy views over the pink-hued trachyte cliffs and beyond, then backtrack about 30m and leave the formed track at the Scenic Rim Trail marker to head south deep into the dense rainforest.

    From here on you’ll need navigation skills and a good map. Look for orange trail markers as you wind around trees, rocks and logs, as in wet or foggy conditions it is easy to become lost in the thick, vine-filled rainforest. Keep the cliffs to your left as you follow the escarpment south, and be careful not to walk too close to the edge. One slip could be fatal!

    After about 1.5hr of steep hiking uphill then down again you reach a formed track and panoramic views at Sylvesters lookout. You might meet day visitors at the lookout, snapping the picture-postcard scene across the Fassifern Valley to peaks of the Scenic Rim. In spring, giant spear lilies adorning the cliff face sprout impressive, huge, red flower spikes.

    Just west of Sylvesters lookout, leave the graded track again and follow the escarpment south through a tangle of vines and prickly rainforest. The next 2-3hr in the dense rainforest is quite slow and views are minimal, but it has some more open sections with lovely groves of piccabeen palms. About 2.5km after leaving Sylvesters lookout, the trail turns west away from the escarpment and follows a ridgeline into the headwaters of Dalrymple Creek. A series of steep zigzags bring you down into the gully, where the trail turns left (south), and joins the Cascades circuit—an easier Grade 4 track leading from the camping and picnic areas of Goomburra.

    Continue upstream enjoying the pretty creek scenery of rock pools and tumbling cascades. Take care at slippery creek crossings and exercise caution after rain—water levels may be high and the creek flowing swiftly. Take the opportunity to refill your water bottle when you can. Then 1.5km after joining The Cascades circuit, as you descend into the valley again, you reach an intersection with the Ridge track. Veer left (west) here and climb steadily up the Ridge track.

    At a track junction 350m further on continue south (uphill). Your final camp site is about 500m further along, in a small patch of introduced Chinese fir trees planted as a forestry experiment in the 1960s. There are no views and the rainforest closes in all around. Listen for Albert’s lyrebirds calling in cooler months (May to September).

    Day 4: Banshee SRT walkers camp to Cunninghams Gap

    Distance: 13.3km

    Time: Allow about 7-8hr

    Elevation and difficulty: Moderate. Undulating with steep uphill sections, followed by long descent.

    Topographic map sheets: Glen Rock 9342-23, Mount Develin 9341-14 and Cunninghams Gap 9341-11

    Details: Leave camp and head south along a wide management trail for 800m until a route marker signals the sharp left turn onto a narrow foot trail heading southeast.

    Pick your way around buttress roots and lichen-encrusted boulders as you contour west of the range crest through some of the most beautiful and least visited rainforest along the trail. Take your time negotiating steep descents and ascents, and be careful where you put your feet as obstacles are many and the rich volcanic soil can be slippery. Where the trail meets the escarpment edge take extra care—one slip could be fatal! A grove of piccabeen palms in a saddle at the head of westerly-flowing watercourse* marks the start of a slow and steady uphill climb towards your final peak.

    *In a good season, water might be found a short distance downstream (to the west).

    About 7.5km (4-5hrs) after leaving camp, you reach Bare Rock—the perfect sunlit spot to enjoy a well-deserved break and views in all directions. Gaze north across the canopy of the rainforest through which have just traversed, and admire ‘The Ramparts’ where sheer cliffs drop hundreds of metres into the valley below.

    From Bare Rock it is an easy 5.8km (2-3hr) descent to Cunninghams Gap along a well-defined track. The rainforest canopy along the ridge top gives way to eucalypt woodland and then a montane heath with emergent grasstrees, banksias and giant spear lilies hugging the impressive sides and peak of Mount Cordeaux. Pause at the lookout for sweeping views towards Brisbane and south across ‘The Gap’ to Mount Mitchell and peaks of the Scenic Rim beyond, then disappear again under the shady, green rainforest canopy for the final hour of your amazing Scenic Rim Trail journey.

    As you step closer to the track exit, the interpretive signs along the Rainforest circuit help prepare you for your return to the everyday world—refreshed in body, mind and spirit from your days fully immersed in the wonderful Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area.

    Be frog friendly! Endangered Fleay’s barred frogs live in Main Range National Park. Photo: Harry Hines © Qld Govt
    Don’t let your walk destroy the forest. Clean all camping gear and footwear of soil and seeds before leaving home, and use the footwear hygiene station at the trailhead. Photo: Robert Ashdown © Qld Govt

    Walk softly

    Help ensure everyone can enjoy their time on the trail and that the special values of Main Range and the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area are maintained for future generations.

    Camping

    • Camp only at designated walkers camps.
    • If you pack it in, pack it out! There are no bins.
    • Open fires are not permitted.
    • Use toilets where provided. There are toilets at each walkers camp and at the trail entrance and exit.
    • Check for dead limbs overhead.
    • Do not dig trenches, or flatten or break any vegetation.
    • Leave your site in the same or better condition than when you found it.
    • Check your site thoroughly before leaving to ensure nothing is left behind.

    Rubbish

    • Reduce rubbish by bringing as little packaging as possible.
    • Bring small rubbish bags for food scraps, sanitary products, wrappers, fruit stickers and cigarette butts.
    • Please help by removing any other rubbish you find.

    Use fuels stoves only

    • Carry gas or liquid spirit stoves for cooking. Test equipment before you leave home.
    • Never leave a stove unattended when lit.
    • Never cook in your tent.

    Toilets

    • Bring your own toilet paper.
    • Where there are no toilets, bury human waste and toilet paper at least 100m from tracks and waterways, and about 15 to 20cm deep.
    • Take all sanitary items with you—they do not decompose. Clip seal bags are handy storage until you can dispose of the waste responsibly.
    • Consider using a human waste disposal kit and take it out with you when you have completed your walk. Kits are available from some camping stores. Please follow manufacturer’s directions on the packet and dispose of waste responsibly.

    Be frog friendly

    Main Range is the home of Fleay’s barred frog (an endangered species) and other frogs with limited habitat. To avoid potential harm:

    • Please do not disturb, handle or remove frogs, their eggs or tadpoles.
    • Do not use or discard soap, detergent, shampoo, sunscreen, insect repellent or any other potential pollutant in creeks or along the banks.
    • Keep to the trail, and if it crosses a creek, cross directly where the track enters and exits.
    • Do not disturb or remove rocks or trample vegetation in or directly adjacent to creeks.

    Be pest and pathogen free!

    See looking after the park for tips on how to protect the park from pests, pathogens and weeds.