Winding through lush rainforests and offering spectacular views all the way out to Brisbane, Mount Cordeaux is the perfect spot for a scenic hike. An easy drive from Brisbane, you can slip away from built-up areas and immerse yourself in nature to refresh and recharge. The perfect weekend activity or addition to a great getaway here’s everything you need to know to hike Mount Cordeaux.
Where is Mount Cordeaux?
You’ll find Mount Cordeaux located in the Main Range National Park, positioned 1135m above sea level. It forms the northern side of Cunninghams Gap, protecting the western part of a semicircle of mountains known as the Scenic Rim. Essentially, it sits alongside the road as you drive from Brisbane or the Gold Coast to Warwick.
What’s the history of the region?
Mount Cordeaux, called Niamboyoo by local Indigenous people, was formed by lava flowing from an active volcano around 24 million years ago. The volcano spread across the Fassifern Valley reaching all the way to Ipswich and Warwick. Erosion over the last 20 million years saw the eastern side of the volcano disappear, however, the ridges and valleys to the west remain, forming the Main Range we see today.
The Main Range National Park is home to several breathtaking mountains, ridges and escarpments all providing visitors with spectacular views over the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. What makes this place so special is how much it tells us about the landscape and plants and animals that call it home. The rainforests here are similar to those that once covered the ancient supercontinent of Gondwana, now reduced to isolated pockets located on Australia’s east coast.
How do I get there?
You’ll need to drive to the trailhead so a car is essential. The track begins at the carpark located at the top of Cunningham’s Gap (located on the right hand side of the road if you’re driving from the east). Just put ‘Crest Carpark’ into Google Maps, check to make sure you’re headed to Tregony, and it’ll take you to the right spot.
It should take around 1 hour 30 minutes to drive to the Mt Cordeaux trail head from the heart of Brisbane CBD, around 2 hours from the Gold Coast, 2 hours 40 minutes from the Sunshine Coast and 1 hour 20 minutes from Toowoomba. When we arrived, on a week day, there were about 6 other cars in the carpark. The Cunningham Highway is a busy road so we felt safe leaving our car for a few hours. Just be sure to hide your valuables and lock your car before you set off.
Where does the trail start?
When you arrive at the carpark, you’ll see a small shelter with a large sign that reads, ‘Welcome to Main Range National Park.’ The trail head starts to the right of this sign on a path gently sloping up into the rainforest. You’ll begin on the Rainforest Circuit, following this until you reach signs for the Mount Cordeaux track.
The trail is very well signed so you shouldn’t have any trouble finding your way. While following the circuit we came to a junction where we could either turn left or right and opted to choose left as it appeared to be the shortest distance to the Mount Cordeaux track.
How long does it take to hike Mt Cordeaux?
The Mount Cordeaux track is 6.8km return, taking you up and back on the same path. Everything we read said to allow 2.5 hours of walking time to complete the track. I put my Strava app on before we set off so I could track the distance and time. Strava recorded a total distance of 8.56km covered in 2 hours.
I have a feeling the distance recorded by Strava may have been slightly longer than the expected 6.8km as you follow part of the Rainforest Circuit before reaching the offical Mount Cordeaux track. We were walking at a consistent, brisk pace and stopped at the top for around 20-30 minutes. I think allowing 2.5 hours is pretty spot on.
What is the trail like?
When you’re driving up towards it, Mount Cordeaux is quite intimidating and the walk looks like it’s going to be challenging. A grade 4 walking track, it’s meant to be a longer walk that includes rough ground and steep sections. We kept an easy, consistent pace and found the walk to be really enjoyable! It wasn’t as challenging as I had anticipated.
The path is well maintained, winding up through the rainforest in a way that minimises the steepness of the incline. While being reasonably fit would be a bonus, hiking Mount Cordeaux would be appropriate for families and you certainly don’t need to be an Olympic athlete to do it.
You’ll notice at the start of the trail there’s a lot of road noise from the Cunningham Highway. As you move deeper into the rainforest the noise begins to fade and the silence is filled with bird calls and the soothing sounds of the rainforest. Keep your eyes peeled for a range of birdlife and pademelons but be sure to leave your dog at home as no pooches are allowed.
What time should I start?
We started our hike at 2pm, hoping to catch the sunset. Visiting in June, which is winter, we hadn’t quite realised the sun would set behind us and we’d be in the shadow of the mountain. We found it to be quite cold once we sat down and stopped moving. Looking back, I would have preferred to start the hike earlier in the day.
My advice would be to go earlier in the day in the cooler months so you can bask in the warm sunshine and, if you’re really keen, catch the sunrise. If you’re visiting in summer, I’d definitely look to avoid the hottest part of the day and start the walk early in the morning or in the afternoon from around 3pm onwards.
What should I wear?
Doing the hike in winter I wore Lorna Jane 3/4 leggings, regular running shoes, an activewear singlet top and a lightweight running jumper. At the last second, before we left home, I put a light Kathmandu puffer jacket in my bag and I’m so glad I did. It was much cooler in the rainforest, away from the sun, than I had anticipated. It was very cold at the top and I wish I had something warmer with me still.
Matt wore hiking boots, shorts, an activewear t-shirt and a hoodie. If I were visiting in summer I would wear activewear shorts and an activewear singlet top.
What should I bring with me?
Make sure you have plenty of water, sunscreen and any important medication like an asthma inhaler etc. The views at the top are stunning so you may like to bring a camera or you can just use your phone. We stopped in at Arthur Clive’s Bakery in Boonah to grab freshly made wraps to eat at the top and also packed a few muesli bars and bananas too. One thing I wish we had brought is a thermos full of tea! It would’ve been lovely to sit at the. top for a bit longer and enjoy a warm cuppa.
Is it safe to hike Mt Cordeaux?
We found the trail to be very well maintained and safe! Just be sure to be mindful at the top as there are sheer cliff faces and no guard rails so it would be possible to slip, which would be fatal. If doing the track with kids you’ll need to keep a close eye on them and be sure to always stay on the track, away from cliff edges and behind any signs advising you to keep back.
What else is there to do?
Hiking Mount Cordeaux would be an excellent day trip from Brisbane but, if you’re keen to explore, there’s plenty more to see, do and eat in the region. Take some time to peruse the op shops around Boonah and grab a bite at Hummingbirds Natural Pantry and Cafe (Note: they have the BEST chocolate covered goodies including nuts, freeze-dried strawberries, honeycomb and more).
Stop in at picturesque Lake Moogerah on your way out and sit by the still waters while enjoying a picnic morning tea or sip delicious wine at The Overflow Estate, overlooking spectacular Lake Wyaralong. Make a weekend getaway out of your trip by spending a night or two in Stanthorpe and the Granite Belt, Toowoomba, Binna Burra or Boonah. Read our guide to the perfect, relaxing Scenic Rim itinerary here for more inspiration.
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