Bushpeople’s Guide to Bushwalking in South-East Queensland
Second Edition 1991 (ISBN 0 646 03753 6) (out of print)
The Mistake Mountains And Environs
- Special Notes
- Road Access
- Goomburra State Forest Park
- Sylvesters Lookout To Mt Cordeaux
- Little Liverpool Range
- Laidley Valley
- Mistake Mountains National Park
- The North-West Ranges
The Mistake Mountains And Environs
This chapter describes the broad sweep of mountain terrain at the north-western end of the Scenic Rim, extending from Cunninghams Gap to the Laidley/Gatton area. It is a region of complex geography and provides an unusual mosaic of bushwalking opportunities. Several mountain systems converge here – two arms of the Great Dividing Range (the southern arm being a major topographic feature and the north-western arm being relatively minor), the Mistake Mountains (named because the range was originally mistaken for the Great Divide) and the Little Liverpool Range. In addition, there are a number of interesting peaks on the high ridges that run off the Mistake Mountains to the north-west.
The region is a mixture of state forest, national park and private lands. The major mountain systems converge just north of Sylvesters Lookout, which is a well known view spot east of the state forest camping area at Goomburra Valley. The region is described here as follows:
- The central state forest area around Goomburra Valley and Sylvesters Lookout.
- The southern arm of the Great Divide which extends down to Cunninghams Gap. This is partly state forest and partly in the Main Range national Park.
- The Little Liverpool Range (mainly private lands).
- Laidley Valley (private lands).
- Mistake Mountains National Park.
- The North-West Ranges (private lands).
Bushwalking Conditions and Hazards
General Terrain: This region has a considerable range of topography. A few areas (in particular Mt Castle) are quite rugged and require good scrambling skills. However, many other walks don’t require any scrambling abilities provided you have adequate navigation skills to stay on the correct route. As a general rule the region is slightly less rugged than other parts of the Scenic Rim, although it is advisable not to underestimate the terrain. Due to the abundance of large cliffs on the eastern scarp, some seemingly easy terrains could be quite hazardous if you ventured off the main routes.
Reasonably good fitness is required for off-track walking. The hill climbs aren’t as sleep and arduous as in the region south of Cunninghams Gap, but there are still many areas with strenuous ascents and descents.
Official Tracks at Goomburra State Forest Park and in the national park at Cunninghams Gap provide a variety of easy bushwalks. The remainder of the region is undeveloped. Old forestry and farm roads assist travel in a few areas.
Vegetation varies substantially throughout the region. The belt of mountains from Cunninghams Gap to Mt Mistake is mainly rainforest, but much of the remaining area is dry open eucalypt forest. Thick logging regrowth hinders off-track walking in many parts of the state forest. The private lands on the Little Liverpool Range and in other peripheral areas are used for grazing and are often partially cleared.
Climate and Water Availability: Walks on the official tracks are enjoyable at all times of year. However, since the region is relatively hot and dry, off-track walks are only recommended from May to September. Water would need to be carried in quantity on most throughwalking itineraries, and a few areas are almost totally devoid of surface water. In winter the nights are often very cold, but this is probably a less serious hazard than the risk of extremely hot day time conditions in the warmer seasons.
Navigation: The main navigation problems occur in the rainforest region between Cunninghams Gap and Mt Mistake, where compass skills are often required. Cliffs could also become a navigation hazard in a few areas if you ventured off the main routes.
Access on Private Lands: Many areas are on private lands or must be accessed across private lands. Bushwalkers need to make special efforts to maintain good relations with landowners since access conditions are quite sensitive in some areas.
Facilities and Camping
There are two official camp grounds, one at Goomburra State Forest Park in the west and the other in the national park at Cunninghams Gap. The latter is beside a busy highway and is not highly recommended for weekend camping, but is suitable for overnight stops while travelling. Both camp grounds have toilets, picnic tables, barbecues and walking tracks, but not showers. The only other facility in this region is a council park which can be used for camping at the southern end of the Laidley Valley. Bush camping is allowed in most national park and state forest localities away from the official camp grounds and tracks. N.B. Campers should note that dogs and other domestic animals are prohibited at Goomburra State Forest Park, just as they are in national parks.
The area is covered by good 1:50 000 and 1:25 000 topographic maps available from SUNMAP. The 1:50 000 sheets of Rosevale and Cunninghams Gap cover most of the area, although there is no 1:50 000 sheet for the north-western section around Junction View. The main 1:25 000 sheets are Glen Rock, Townson and Cunninghams Gap, with Thornton, Rosevale and Junction View necessary for certain walks in the north. In addition, the Forestry maps titled Main Range and Mount Mistake can be used for many walks. These are the only maps which show the location of the Goomburra walking tracks and the forestry roads.
The main access points are as follows:
Cunninghams Gap: Used for accessing the national park graded tracks. Directions are evident on any road map.
Goomburra Valley: This is the most common route for accessing the Mistake Mountains and nearby areas. Turn right at Gladfield 21km west of Cunninghams Gap, then hard right at the crossroads 10km further on. Follow this road for a further 25km, through various gates, grids and creek crossings (the latter section can be awkward in the wet). The camping area lies just beyond a fork in the road, at which you turn right. Follow the left hand fork if you are driving up to Sylvesters or Mt Castle Lookouts and the crest of the range. N.B. This latter road is usually closed in wet conditions by a locked gate.
Cunninghams Campsite No 6: This road is used to access the Mt Castle area via the steep south-eastern ridge of Boars Head. However, nowadays it is often difficult to obtain permission from the landowner to traverse the lands and it is very unlikely that camping would be allowed. To find the site, turn into Elizabeth Street in the centre of Aratula, just past the post office. Follow the road for 11km (passing Tarome State school on the right after 9½km), then turn left along a road signposted “Cunninghams Campsite No 6”. Pass through a gate, drive a further 2km, then turn hard right through an iron gate. From here, drive 500m along the fence to the campsite beside the creek. This last section is a dry weather road only.
Laidley Valley: This road can be used to access the Little Liverpool Range or various parts of the Mistake Mountains. Drive south from Laidley township for 2km, turn right and drive another kilometre, then turn left. From here it is about 16km to the community of Thornton (just a few houses around a road junction near Mt Beau Brummel) and another 10km to the end of the road. All access is on private lands and permission from the landowners is absolutely essential.
Main Camp Creek: This is used to reach Laidley Gap, although access is entirely on private lands. It is reached by driving west and then south-west from the road junction at Thornton (see previous description). There are several turns on the road. Refer to the topographic map for more details and ensure you obtain permission from the landowners to cross the private lands.
Junction View: This route south-west of Gatton is only used for trips on the private lands in the Mt Michael area. Drive west of Gatton for 3km and turn left into the Ma Ma Creek road, then drive 8km and turn left into the Junction View road. From this latter junction, it is about 25km to Junction View.
There is a variety of walking opportunities in the Goomburra region, including track walks of various lengths and several more rugged day trips. Alternatively Goomburra can be used as an access route for throughwalks to Cunninghams Gap or to the Mistake Mountains National park, both of which are described later in this chapter.
Official Track Walks
The official tracks in the Goomburra region are not designated as graded tracks, being somewhat rougher and steeper. The Main Range forestry map shows the locations of most tracks, although the Mount Mistake map is needed for the Winder Track.
The two longest circuit walks – the Cascades Track and the Ridge Track – each provide trips of several hours duration. They can also be combined to make a single longer circuit. Both these walks leave from the camping ground.
The other tracks leave from the Mt Castle Lookout road which branches off just downstream from the camp ground and climbs to the crest of the Great Divide. One path leads to Araucaria Falls, which takes about 1½ hours return. There are also two very short paths which branch off the top section of the road, leading to Sylvesters Lookout and Mt Castle Lookout. Both are inspiring view spots. The point where the Mt Castle Lookout track leaves from the locked gate at the end of the road is the junction of the Mistake Mountains and the Great Divide.
The other major walking path is the Winder Track. This follows an old forestry road from the end of the Mt Castle Lookout road, to the remnants of a logging winch (the winder) which lies on the crest of the Mistake Mountains to the north. The track is about 13km return. The winch is located near the state forest/national park boundary at a point where an old forestry road ascends from Laidley Valley (this latter road is now overgrown with raspberry and nettles – see page 228). A few hundred metres south of the Winder, water can be found by following a short side track on the west of the old road (not always easy to locate – see page 228).
It is intended to develop several other track walks at Goomburra in the next few years, possibly to features such as Point Pure and the Amphitheatre.
Laidley Falls: From the end of the Sylvesters Lookout track (394 050), it is possible to walk to Laidley Falls and the Mt Castle area. The trip to the falls and back takes about half a day and is a relatively easy off-track walk (grade 2½). However, the section between the falls and Mt Castle is much harder, requiring scrambling ability and considerable care. It would also require a reasonably long day for the return trip (grade 4).
A rough path leads north from Sylvesters Lookout, initially taking you to a second view spot on a rocky spur to the north-east (397 051; this is considered by many bushwalkers to be the original Sylvesters Lookout). It then ascends to a rainforest knoll (398 053). Laidley Falls can be reached from this knoll by following the ridge which descends initially south-easterly and later north-easterly. There is often a vague foot pad, although navigation can sometimes be confusing around the knoll since there may also be a track leading off north-west to Mt Castle Lookout.
There is a small campsite above Laidley Falls. The route from the falls to the Hole-in-the-Wall and Mt Castle is described later in this chapter in the subsection on Mt Castle (page 226).
Exploratory Routes: Blackfellow Falls (353 084), Point Pure (323 098) and the Amphitheatre (325 103) all provide exploratory ventures for experienced bushwalkers. The shortest routes to these features are probably from along the Winder Track, although there is thick logging regrowth in some places.
Blackfellow Falls can also be reached by a route which crosses the Great Divide downstream of the Goomburra camp ground (about grade 3½ to 4). Ascend the ridge at 340 057 (private lands) to the crest of the Divide, then descend to Blackfellow Creek via the ridge at 333 070 (national park). Follow up the creek to the junction then take the left hand fork to the falls. However, despite this being eucalypt forest, the bottom of the falls is difficult to reach due to regrowth scrub. The top of the falls can be reached from Blackfellow Creek by ascending the ridge at 340 078 until above the cliff line, then contouring around to the right above the cliffs. This version of the trip would require a long day (grade 4) but gives the best view of the falls.
Sylvesters Lookout To Mt Cordeaux
This section of the Great Divide is not of classic appeal but is definitely worth a visit. If a lengthy car shuffle is undertaken, it can be walked in a long day provided care is taken with navigation. The trip is most commonly done as a weekend throughwalk, with a car shuttle from Cunninghams Gap to either Sylvesters Lookout (a relatively easy weekend walk) or Cunninghams Campsite No 6 (somewhat harder since it includes at least part of the rugged Mt Castle area, which is described in the next section). The route can be walked equally well in either direction.
Navigation is often confusing in this section. The route is entirely rainforest with no views between Bare Rock (394 995, at the end of the graded track north of Mt Cordeaux) and Sylvesters Lookout (394 050). It is important to stay close to the eastern escarpment if problems are encountered with either scrub or navigation. Any places where thick logging regrowth is evident should definitely be avoided by keeping east (for much of the route, the national park/state forest boundary lies just west of the crest). Water is obtainable from an easterly flowing creek at 386 012, just over an hour from Bare Rock.
Little Liverpool Range
The Little Liverpool Range is an offshoot from the Great Divide, stretching from Mt Castle to Laidley. It is almost entirely private grazing lands and as such has many cleared areas among its predominant covering of open eucalypt forest. While not as rugged or pristine as many other bushwalking areas, it nevertheless displays some classic qualities. For one, it is a long range with an inspiring sharp crest which gives excellent views of the surrounding country. The vegetation allows extremely fast travelling, and in fact a fast fit party can walk virtually the entire range in a long day. There are also some special vegetation features along the range, in particular masses of giant grass trees near Mt Beau Brummel.
Four main peaks provide the main attractions to bushwalkers – Mt Beau Brummel in the far north and Grass Tree Knob, Kangaroo Mountain and Mt Castle in the south. All can be accessed from Laidley Creek valley from where they make moderate day trips. However, Mt Castle can also be accessed from Sylvesters Lookout (via Laidley Falls) and Cunninghams Campsite No 6. For this reason, and because it is distinctly more rugged than the other features, it is discussed separately.
Relations between bushwalkers and landowners are sensitive in this area, particularly in the south of the Laidley Valley where the landholders insist on permission to traverse being sought prior to entry.
The Rosevale 1:50 000 topographic map is adequate for must bushwalking in this region. Most of the range north of Kangaroo Mountain provides relatively safe walking requiring no special equipment or precautions, although there is a short razorback section which requires care, as well as plenty of cliffs in the general vicinity. Provided care is taken and the party has experienced leadership, this area should be suitable for beginners. There are a number of interesting easy day trips available, including Mt Beau Brummel (grade 2½ to 3). Alternatively, Grass Tree Knob and Kangaroo Mountain can be done as a joint day trip (grade 3). However, there is no water on the range in normal conditions and the area can be hot. If the full traverse from Beau Brummel to Kangaroo Mountain is attempted, it would be best tackled in early spring, since the winter days may be too short and summer would simply be too hot. Here is a description of the range, walking from north to south on a long day trip (grade 4 to 4½).
Mt Beau Brummel: Virtually any of the ridges north of Mt Beau Brummel can be used for approach, although problems are encountered due to cliffs in some areas just to the south. Beau Brummel would provide an easy return day trip (grade 2½ to 3) for a reasonably fit group. It is a very special mountain and there are masses of magnificent grass trees in the vicinity. Both peaks are worth visiting. The final approaches on a couple of routes are extremely steep, although there shouldn’t be any climbing difficulties. It is also possible to approach Beau Brummel from Mt Mort, just to the east.
Walking south, the initial descent is very steep, but from here to the base of Grass Tree Knob the walking is fast and invigorating. It is open and partly cleared, and on some stretches you may find yourself following an old road. However, while much is fairly flat walking, the range narrows to a razorback in several spots. While these places are the only obviously hazardous locations, they definitely require care.
If attempting the entire range in a day, you should aim to be near Grass Tree Knob by lunchtime. Approach and descent on the west is barred by cliffs in many places along this section, although if you find your progress too slow there are descent routes at Grass Tree Knob.
Grass Tree Knob is easily ascended and descended by its northern and southern ridges. If approaching the mountain from the west, either of the two obvious ridges can be used, an old road being followed on one. It provides good views. As a day trip on its own, it would be about grade 2.
Kangaroo Mountain: Moving south from Grass Tree Knob, Kangaroo Mountain can be ascended firstly by following the ridge, and later by moving across a gully on the right. There should be no major difficulties if the correct route is selected. There are few views on the top and the undulating nature of the summit plateau makes it confusing to identify the true summit. However, it is useful to ensure you have crossed the summit to ease the difficulty of finding the descent ridge. For the best views, and to ensure you have crossed the summit, walk south-easterly until you encounter the cliff line.
To descend to Laidley Valley again, it is important not to miss the ridge which starts indistinctly, at 416 104, since otherwise you may end up descending Surveyors Creek. To help pick out the ridge, stay on the western side as you cross back over the summit. The ridge starts just beyond a band of cliffs on the left. Once the start is found, it provides an easy quick route to the valley.
Mt Castle is distinctly more rugged than that section of the range to the north. While it provides several spectacular walking opportunities, the region requires care and many routes are not recommended for beginners. There are four different approach routes.
Other features of interest in the area include Boars Head, the Hole-in-the-Wall and Laidley Creek Falls. With an early start, an experienced energetic party would be able to visit all these features on a long day trip (grade 4 from Laidley Falls, and slightly harder from the Boars Head ridge).
The best views from Mt Castle are found south of the summit just before a dead end razorback. This razorback section requires considerable care.
Road Route (grade 3): The easiest ascent route is by following up Laidley Creek valley and approaching the mountain from the south-west. An old road (usually not too overgrown) zigzags up the slopes in the upper parts of the valley. It eventually ascends between the cliffs on the western side of the mountain, to a broad saddle a few hundred metres north of the summit.
Northern Route (about grade 4 to 5): If approaching from Kangaroo Mountain, Mt Castle can be climbed with considerable difficulty by a direct ascent from the ridge (there are some hazardous cliffs), or with less difficulty by traversing right into the major gully.
Boars Head Route (grade 4): Boars Head is the knoll immediately south of Mt Castle at 411 056. It is usually ascended from Cunninghams Campsite No 6 via the knoll’s very steep south-eastern ridge. You need to cross farmlands to reach this ridge and there may be difficulty obtaining the landowner’s permission for access.
The ridge connecting Boars Head and Mt Castle is partly a razorback. While it doesn’t need any technical climbing skills, it is very sheer and requires considerable care. At the northern end of the razorback, direct ascent to the summit is blocked by a cliff line. On reaching the base of this cliff, contour around on the western side and then drop down to the road described above (see “Road Route”). Alternatively, it is possible to drop down to the road from the southern end of the razorback and thereby avoid all precipitous areas, but this route is considerably longer.
Laidley Falls Route (grade 4): If approaching from Sylvesters Lookout and Laidley Falls (405 054; see page 222), you can descend to the bottom of the falls by a scramble just to the west. Once below the falls, contour across to the east to the Hole-in-the-Wall. This is a unique cavity through the cliff visible in the late afternoon light from as far away as the road east of Cunninghams Gap. From the Hole-in-the-Wall, it is only a short distance to Boars Head (see description above).
Agile scramblers sometimes descend directly down the ridge from the Laidley Falls campsite to the Hole-in-the-Wall, but this route is exposed and not generally recommended.
Laidley Valley offers day walking opportunities to the Little Liverpool Range (see previous description). In addition, it is also possible to undertake trips to two interesting features on the west of the valley.
Townsons Knob is the name of the knoll at 359 136. It is a good day walk destination (grade 2½), and also provides an excellent route to ascend the Mistake Mountains on throughwalks. Permission must be obtained to cross the private lands on the route from the landowner at the end of the Laidley Valley road.
The knoll is easily climbed by ascending the steep ridge to the west of the creek at the southern end of the road. It offers attractive views and interesting vegetation. Water can be obtained by descending to a small creek that lies west of the saddle between Townsons Knob and the crest of the Mistake Mountains. Further down this creek, there is a waterfall where it flows over the scarp (356 138). Care is required if descending directly from Townsons Knob to the waterfall.
Laidley Gap and Mt Zahel
Laidley Gap lies just west of the property at the end of the Main Camp Creek road. Permission to cross the private lands is required. The Gap can be ascended and descended by either of two routes. The preferable option is the National Trail which climbs the ridge at 340 208 and approaches the Gap on a contouring course from the south. This path is usually marked. It is also possible to take a direct route between the farm house and the Gap, although some of the slopes are extremely steep and loose. The direct route is only recommended for ascent, and only then for small experienced parties.
Mt Zahel (grade 3) is easily ascended from Laidley Gap. There are two summits, the western summit being especially attractive with an unusual combination of rainforest and dry eucalypt forest. The mountain can also be ascended by its eastern ridge, or both routes can be used to make an excellent winter day circuit (grade 3½). Permission from landowners is required on all routes. If using the eastern ridge, it is usual to ascend and descend via a spur south-west of the dam at 357 237, since it may be very difficult obtaining permission to cross the lands at the far eastern end of the ridge.
Mistake Mountains National Park
This national park is relatively difficult to access compared with most in south Queensland. It also has fewer spectacular attractions, and for these reasons does not receive heavy visitation. Despite this, it offers a range of interesting throughwalking opportunities. The main backbone of the Mistake Mountains is rainforest. Although parts of the national park were logged before the park was established, it provides pleasant walking conditions.
The main access routes are described in other sections of this chapter. They are (a) walking north from the Sylvesters Lookout forestry road; (b) ascending from Laidley Valley via Townsons Knob; and © walking south from Laidley Gap. Of these, Townsons Knob and Laidley Gap are the two most convenient access points if organising weekend throughwalk itineraries. Unfortunately, use of the Laidley Gap route may be questionable since it is currently very difficult to obtain permission to cross the private land, at Mt Lowe East (320 180 – see comments in the description of the North-West Ranges).
It would also be possible to walk to the national park from the North-West Ranges (see page 229), although carrying adequate water would be a major problem on this itinerary.
The main backbone of the Mistake Mountains provides relatively fast and easy walking conditions, since the Sylvesters Lookout forestry road extends north-west-wards through the national park, almost as far as Laidley Gap. Nowadays the national park section of the road makes a surprisingly pleasant walking track, with the rainforest canopy meeting overhead and eliminating most of the unpleasant regrowth scrub which is normally encountered on old forestry roads (the track is no longer accessible to vehicles). The route is generally evident although good observation skills are required in a few places in the north where the path becomes faint. The vegetation changes from rainforest to open eucalypt forest near the national park’s northern boundary.
The walk along the Mistake Mountains between Townsons Knob and Laidley Gap is a comfortable two day itinerary (grade 4). Note that the old Laidley Valley forestry road (marked on some maps on the ridge at 370 116) is now virtually impassable due to raspberry and nettle regrowth. The Townsons Knob route should be used to ascend the range instead. There is a water point near Townsons Knob on the upper part of the ridge (refer page 227).
There is also a water point just south of the Winder winch (see page 222), about 2km south of the top of the Townsons Knob ridge. The Winder is located at 355 109, at the point where the old Laidley Valley forestry road meets the top of the range (the top of this old road is marked incorrectly on the Rosevale 1:50 000 map but is shown in the right location on the Mount Mistake forestry map). A few hundred metres south of the Winder, try to find a rather overgrown foot track leading off to the west (not always easy to locate). It may also be possible to find water by descending westwards at several other places between the Winder and Mt Mistake, although no definite information is available. The chances of finding water probably reduce as you proceed north on the range.
Mt Mistake is a seemingly minor rainforest knoll at 343 162. It is a short side trip for parties walking along the range, but it requires some care with navigation. Allow several hours for the return journey from the knoll at 336 150. There are no views.
Exploratory Routes: Blackfellow Falls (353 084), Point Pure (323 098) and several nearby ridges and amphitheatres provide exploratory opportunities for experienced bushwalkers in this vicinity (refer to page 223). There has also been speculation whether any of the seemingly sheer north-eastern ridges from the Mistake Mountains (such as that off Mt Mistake) might provide access routes which could be used instead of Laidley Gap, but unfortunately no reliable information is to hand.
The North-West Ranges
This is the name given in this book to the series of long ridges which extend out north-west from the Mistake Mountains towards Junction View. The area offers several inspiring but little-known throughwalking opportunities. However, the region is mainly private land and most itineraries pass through several properties, so organisation of walks will usually require considerable work locating and approaching the relevant landowners. Great care would need to be taken with fire in drier seasons due to the thick grass cover.
The terrain is dry open eucalypt country, often with sharp ridge crests which provide a considerable sense of elevation. Considering that the country is private tenure and used for grazing, the extent of environmental modification and evidence of human visitation is much less than might be expected. There are many steep hills although progress is usually fast once on the crests. Campsites are reasonably common, but water must be carried in quantity. There is no water near the crests and the small creeks in the valleys are unreliable. Most throughwalks are only suitable for experienced bushwalkers with good fitness, partly for this reason.
Mt Michael to Laidley Gap: This is the main throughwalking itinerary (grade 4½). It makes a reasonably energetic weekend trip but requires a long car shuttle. Alternatively, two parties walking in opposite directions can meet midway and swap car keys.
The route proceeds via Mt Michael, Mt Haldon, Mt Lowe and Mt Lowe East to Laidley Gap. At the time of writing there is some difficulty in obtaining permission to cross the section at the eastern end of the walk at Mt Lowe East (320 180), since the landowner has constructed a residence on Mt Lowe East and seems to wish to retain total privacy. However, it is possible to bypass the residence and, if permission can be obtained, the trip is an inspiring bushwalk. Alternatively, it may be possible to bypass the entire section near Mt Lowe East, by either dropping north to the valley or, if walking towards the Mistake Mountains, crossing the small valley in the south by a route just inside the national park boundary.
Mt Michael is usually ascended starting from an old road in the west (202 244). It begins behind the community hall, about 500m north of the school in Junction View village. Between Mt Haldon and Mt Lowe, there are several rocky knolls which require some care and scrambling ability. Some parties will find a pack hauling rope necessary for descending off one of these knolls (the name “Rocky Peak” is probably intended to refer to this knoll, although the name is used for different features on the various maps). There are good campsites in several saddles to the north and south of Mt Lowe.
To descend to Laidley Gap, you can choose to go directly down the main ridge along a steep recently constructed four wheel drive road, or you can descend further west. To descend east of the Gap, refer to page 227.
|Queensland National Parks and Wildlife Service|
|Cunninghams Gap:||MS 394, Warwick. Q. 4370. Telephone: (076) 66 1133.|
|Warwick:||P.O. Box 58, Warwick. Q. 4370. (Guy Street,|
|Warwick). Telephone: (076) 61 2411.|