22 May 2023.
This detailed guide has everything you need to know to plan your hike to Mount Cordeaux and Bare Rock, an easy but spectacular trail in Main Range National Park.
Extending north in a narrow, undulating spine of mountain escarpment, the spectacular Main Range National Park forms the western frontier of the Scenic Rim.
While there are plenty of remote walking trails that crisscross these rugged landscapes, the Mount Cordeaux hike is easily accessible and reasonably short while still offering up big rewards for those who visit.
Home to a magical pocket of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia, you’ll be welcomed by lush ferns and ancient trees adorned with a colourful array of moss, fungi and lichen, and a neverending chorus of birdsong that permeates the dense forest canopy.
Emerging from the tree tops, the vistas are equally as impressive overlooking the vast valley basin and the endless peaks of the Scenic Rim from the Mount Cordeaux lookout and the dramatic folds of the range’s eastern face from Bare Rock.
The hiking trail is clearly signposted and well-maintained for the entire route making it a great option for beginner hikers who still want to be immersed in the incredible beauty of our ancient landscapes.
Here’s everything you need to know to plan your Mount Cordeaux hike and onwards along the stunning detour to Bare Rock and Morgan’s Walk.
Distance | 6.8km return for Mount Cordeaux // 12.8km return for Bare Rock
Duration | 2 to 3 hours for Mount Cordeaux // 4 to 5 hours for Bare Rock
Trailhead | Crest Carpark
Park Fees | Free entry
Located in the heart of Main Range National Park in southern Queensland, the Mount Cordeaux trailhead is easily accessible from the Crest Carpark at Cunningham Gap, right alongside the Cunningham Highway.
From Boonah (30 minutes) or Warwick (40 minutes), navigate your way to the Cunningham Highway and continue along until the road climbs steeply to the top of the mountain range.
If you’re travelling from Boonah, the Crest Carpark is on the right-hand side at the top of the hill with a turning lane to cross over the highway. A lot of trucks travel this route and struggle up the hill which means traffic is generally pretty slow moving through the saddle and crossing the single lane is reasonably easy.
Once in the car park, the Mount Cordeaux trailhead lies on the far right side and leads straight into the rainforest. There’s also a map here directing you to a number of other Main Range National Park walks that leave from this point.
For those planning to hike Mount Mitchell on the same day, the trail lies directly opposite the car park so you’ll need to cross over the highway on foot and enter the trail via the small gate.
The Mount Cordeaux hike begins along the paved Rainforest Circuit, a short standalone loop from the car park.
Although the path here is bright and open with frequent glimpses of the highway and the sounds of traffic filtering through the trees, it’s not long before you’re plunged deep into the rainforest.
Technically, you can head in either direction along the rainforest loop, they will both guide you to the same place, but the shorter way veering to the left is definitely the prettier of the two.
After a further 400m, turn left again to join the Mount Cordeaux track.
Now engulfed in what feels like the depths of the jungle and having climbed high enough to escape the sputtering of trucks battling up the hill, the sounds of the forest take over.
Countless bird calls echo across the canopy in a raucous symphony of whips, shrieks and cackles. Startled pademelons dart between the dense undergrowth and falling leaves crackle as they float to their resting place on the forest floor.
The forest itself is equally magical.
Thin trunks and spindly vines intertwine with one another to create curious latticeworks. Enormous trees soar overhead with similarly huge staghorn ferns clinging to their trunks.
Every surface sprouts tiny communities of life, dripping with delicate tendrils of teal lichen, a spongey carpet of moss or colourful fungi.
In fact, you’d be forgiven for thinking you’d wandered right into the ancient forests of Middle Earth, rather than a short jaunt off the highway in southern Queensland.
The Mt Cordeaux trail climbs gradually upwards via a long switchback before emerging at the edge of the escarpment where you’ll be greeted by the first glimpses of the spectacular Main Range through the trees.
From here, a few short zigzags back and forth and some rocky stairs will bring you to a viewpoint overlooking the rugged peaks to the south and the curve of the highway snaking up the mountain far below.
You can also peep down the shaft of an old mining tunnel built into the side of the mountain where local farmers spent years searching for gold to no avail.
After a morning spent amongst the spectacular rainforest, the trees around the summit give way to low scraggly shrubs spotted with yellow everlasting blooms.
Continue along one more switchback and you’ll finally emerge onto the large rocky platform that sits directly below the Mount Cordeaux summit and overlooks the magnificent Main Range and the vast valley basin that extends into the distance.
Across the Cunningham Gap, the distinct thimble-like peak of Mount Mitchell stands proudly before dropping sharply into the rugged eastern face of the range.
Below, the entire Scenic Rim is laid out before you, an endless patchwork of verdant farmlands and forests stretching as far as the eye can see. Moogerah Lake shimmers ahead surrounded by its stunted peaks while Mount Barney and Mount Maroon puncture the distant horizon.
It’s a spectacular reward for just an hour or so of easy walking.
If this is as far as you’re travelling along the Mount Cordeax hike, take your time to enjoy the view before returning back along the same way you came.
For those keen to extend their adventure on Mount Cordeaux, I’d highly recommend continuing on to Bare Rock and Morgan’s Walk which will add around 2 hours to your hike.
From the Mount Cordeaux summit, clamber back down to the main trail and turn right to continue along the narrow ridgeline that offers up glimpses of the basin below and the northern section of the range before plunging back into the rainforest.
Though the vegetation along this exposed stretch is a little lacklustre, once you’re back amongst the trees, it’s as magical as ever.
The Bare Rock Track has a few gradual hills along the way but is otherwise mostly flat.
After 2.2 km you’ll reach a clearly signposted intersection that marks the fork between Bare Rock to the left and Morgan’s Walk to the right.
Pushing on along the left fork, after just 10 minutes you’ll emerge from the forest once more with – and this should come as no surprise given the track’s name – a large, bare rock on your right.
After a short scramble over the rock, you’ll arrive at the spectacular Bare Rock viewpoint which is arguably even more remarkable than the one at Mount Cordeaux.
From this side, you’ll be welcomed with views across the northern section of Main Range National Park, its rugged face known as the Ramparts ripple in emerald green before plunging sharply into the valley below.
If this is the only hike you’re doing today, Bare Rock would make a perfect place for a picnic lunch.
On your way back, take the 700m return detour along Morgan’s Walk.
Just a few metres along this trail I met a very sluggish python laying directly across the path who was in no hurry to move along.
Despite making a scene stomping about from a distance to create enough vibration to shuffle him along, he merely raised his head nonchalantly in my direction and then returned to his stationary cross-path position.
It was a chilly morning in the dark shade of the forest and, even after waiting around for a while, this guy showed no signs of leaving so I relinquished the path to him and continued on my way without making it to Morgan’s Walk.
That said, if the path is clear for you, it sounds like an easy and worthwhile detour that is mostly flat until you reach the final stretch that leads you downhill.
For the return journey back to the car park, the Mount Cordeaux hike is even easier as the route is almost entirely downhill along the same way you came.
Boonah makes a great base for exploring Main Range National Park and is located just 30 minutes from the Mount Cordeaux trailhead. It’s also close to a number of other Scenic Rim attractions such as Mount Maroon, Moogerah Lake and Mount French.
Boonah Valley Motel | Just a short drive north of Boonah, I spent a lovely couple of nights at this motel which offers up spacious, modern rooms that open up onto a large field where wallabies come to drink at the small dam. With a beautifully peaceful setting, this is a great option in Boonah. Check rates and availability here.
Boonah Motel | Located at the main roundabout as you leave Boonah, this affordable and friendly motel is a great budget option with a pool and outdoor terrace on site. Check rates and availability here.
Spicers Peak Lodge | For those that prefer their hiking adventures with a side of luxury, Mount Cordeaux and Bare Rock form part of the 6-day Spicers Scenic Rim Trail. Organised exclusively through Spicers Retreats, this all-inclusive guided walk takes you across the spectacular Main Range and the variety of landscapes on offer to secluded eco-retreats tucked away in nature.
You can hike for as little as two days or tackle all six, with signature accommodations and carefully curated menus to take your hiking experience to the next level. Or you can just kick back in the luxurious lodge on either side of your day walk up Mount Cordeaux. Check rates and availability here.
It’s A Great Beginner Trail
Compared to other trails in the region, Mount Cordeaux is a reasonably straightforward and easy walk that offers up big rewards.
This makes it a perfect hike for beginners or those keen to experience the magnificent views of the Scenic Rim without having to scramble up some of the more challenging summits, like Mount Maroon or Mount Barney.
Bring Supplies For the Day
Unsurprisingly, there are no shops or cafes up here at the Gap so be sure to bring everything you’ll need for the day. You’ll find a bakery and artisanal market in Aratula, but the closest supermarket for any picnic supplies is in Boonah.
Be sure to bring a jacket for the day as the rainforest is wonderfully protected, but as soon as you emerge onto the escarpment, you’ll be very exposed to the elements.
Add On Mount Mitchell
Since the trails for these twin peaks lie directly opposite each other, it’s common for visitors to hike both Mount Cordeaux and Mount Mitchell in the same day.
Adding on the 10.2km Mount Mitchell trail will mean you’re covering a total of 17km if you hike to Mount Cordueaux, or 23km if you continue on to Bare Rock.
Neither trail is particularly challenging or steep, but if you do intend to do both, you’ll need to make an early start and bring a picnic lunch, snacks and plenty of water as there is nowhere to get supplies up here.
It’s An Epic Sunrise Spot
Offering up ridiculous panoramic views to the east, Mount Cordeaux is a fantastic place to watch the sunrise.
The trail up is reasonably short and straightforward, allowing you to get from the car park to the summit in less than an hour at a good pace. It’s also one of the easier and most accessible summit trails in the Scenic Rim that offers up such spectacular views.
Visit Mount Cordeaux as Part of the Scenic Rim Trail
For adventurous hikers eager to explore more of Main Range National Park but don’t want the price tag of the Spicers Scenic Rim Trail, it’s also possible to complete a 47km, 4-day independent hike through the region.
Beginning at Thornton View in Laidley Valley, the Scenic Rim Trail skirts along the escarpment of the Main Range, weaving around Mount Mistake and Mount Castle before reaching Bare Rock and Mount Cordeaux on its final day and finishing up at Cunningham Gap.
You’ll need to be fully self-sufficient for the duration of the hike and carry your own food, water and camping equipment, as well as arrange transport to get you to and from either end of the trail. See here for more details.
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