Main Range National Park
Located on the northern side of Cunningham’s Gap, the gateway to this part of Main Range National Park (which was gazetted in 1909 as Cunningham's Gap National Park), is only a 1.5 hour drive from Brisbane along the Cunningham Highway.
The track that leads from the car park to the top of the mountain winds through stunning rainforest, and the initial section is actually part of a short, well sign-posted, rainforest circuit that meanders through the bush to the start of the gradual climb up the mountain.
The immaculately-maintained track is relatively easy and, depending on fitness levels and their penchant for bushwalking, it’s a great one for the kids, too, with the guarantee of unforgettable views across Fassifern Valley, Lake Moogerah, and the distant mountains and ranges.
Rewardingly, there’s the chance to hear and see unique and rarely-spotted birds, such as the shy Albert’s Lyrebird (Menura alberti) and the endangered eastern bristlebird (Dasyornis brachypterus), right through to a mixture of common birds, like catbirds, whip birds plus a host of friendly and curious wrens and robins.
It’s a bird-watchers paradise, with their beautiful songs echoing through the forest, teasing you to try and spot them as they flit between the branches or scurry along in the leaf litter on the forest floor.
Closer to the summit, the forest morphs into more open, eucalypt forest, and just at the base of a handful of stone stairs which lead to the top, the Bare Rock track continues around to the left.
From this point, it’s a beautiful and diversely-forested 2.8km each way that is definitely well worth the effort.
Hugging the hillside and surrounded by grass trees, the path narrows in some spots, and brings you out to an open saddleback at the western side of Mount Cordeaux, with commanding views right through to Brisbane on a clear day.
If you’ve the time to sit and take your surrounds in, keep an eye on the rugged, rocky outcrops of the mountain to your right, as it’s not uncommon to see large birds of prey, such as wedge-tailed eagles, riding the thermals as they hunt for their next meal.
As you can imagine, at an elevation of up to 1,168m above sea-level at Bare Rock, it can be a little cooler as you climb. This, coupled with the openness of some sections of the hike, are the perfect reason to pack a light jacket if you feel the cold, and to keep warm your core temperature steady when you’re resting and drinking in the views.
Just over 2km along as you gradually walk uphill, you’ll come to a fork in the track, and following the signs, it’s just a 680m walk. You’ll reach Bare Rock before you know it!
With 360 degree, panoramic views from the top, you are truly spoilt for choice of where to gaze, making it the perfect spot to sit and enjoy some trail snacks, if you've packed them. The rocky outcrop is the perfect locale for orchids, so keep an eye out for their stunning blooms when they’re in flower.
Bushfires ravaged parts of this forest a little while ago, and with the mountain top open to the elements, the vegetation is still trying to get back to its former glory. But this doesn’t detract from just how breathtaking the views are in every direction.
Being pretty much all downhill, the return walk is quicker, but make sure you take the time to soak in the beauty of being surrounded by magnificent views and immersed in the richness and contrast of both the open scrub and the sub-tropical rainforest before you get back to your car.
Nice to know – The short Rainforest Circuit includes a beautiful lookout across the Fassifern Valley and nearby mountains, and a visit is a perfect way to break up the drive if you’re heading further west to Warwick or Stanthorpe, or perhaps heading to explore another popular hike spot, Girraween National Park.
Need to know – The car park only accommodates around 30-40 vehicles and fills early, but with a number of short and long walks in the area, you will find there is a constant turnover of parking spaces. At your own risk, you can also choose to park along the narrow highway shoulder on either side of the road but exercise extreme caution when crossing this busy stretch of highway. There are toilet facilities at the western end of the car park, near the entrance to Box Forest Circuit.
Need to know – It is a national park, so its not uncommon to see a snake or two, depending on the time of year you visit.
By Danella Perrins
Main Range National Park