21 May 2023.
The Mount Maroon hike is one of the best trails in the Scenic Rim and offers up epic views across the entire region. This comprehensive hiking guide covers everything you need to know.
Rising dramatically from the lush plains that surround Mount Barney National Park, the iconic peak of Mount Maroon is unmistakable as you cruise the road between Boonah and Rathdowney.
From afar, the mountain is most often wrapped by a pillowy turban of white that swirls tirelessly around its summit, but as golden light washes over the landscapes, the lingering wisps of cloud are burned away, revealing its remarkable peak.
Those lucky enough to venture to the summit of Mt Maroon on a clear day will be rewarded with spectacular panoramic views across all of southern Queensland.
This epic hike was a definite highlight of my time in the Scenic Rim and offers up one of the best outlooks you’ll find anywhere in the region.
The steep, rocky climb up is a challenging one that may leave your thighs burning, a steady line of sweat dripping down your back and, if you’re anything like me, transform your face into a charming shade of beetroot, but the vistas you’ll be welcomed with are more than worth it.
The trail itself is also reasonably short in distance, making it manageable for anyone with a decent level of fitness and sense of adventure, provided you allow yourself enough time on the trail.
Here’s everything you need to know for the spectacular Mount Maroon hike.
The Mount Maroon Trailhead lies about 25 minutes (20km) from Rathdowney or 40 minutes (33km) from Boonah.
Whichever direction you’re travelling from, follow the imaginatively named Boonah-Rathdowney Road towards Cotswold Road.
Cotswold Road is an unpaved gravel road and though it is manageable in a 2WD, it’s pretty rough in parts with a reasonably steep hill and some definite ruts along either side that you’ll need to navigate.
While cars with a bit of clearance shouldn’t have any problems, I did see some low, small cars struggling a little in the rockier patches.
The small parking area was completely full when I arrived for my hike in the early afternoon and I only managed to snag a spot when a large group left after finishing the trail.
If you’re planning to do the hike in the morning, I’d definitely recommend arriving early, particularly if you’re visiting over the weekend or during holiday periods.
Setting off from the parking area, the trail passes through an open grassy space that skirts around a small pond and paddocks that belong to private property.
Soon enough you’ll enter the bright, open eucalypt forest and after a few hundred metres you’ll reach the start of the steep climb.
For the next kilometre, the dry, dusty trail pitches sharply upwards, zigzagging back and forth between rocks, seeking out roots that can be used as footholds and manoeuvring around sections that have been badly eroded.
Beneath a canopy of scraggly trees, you’ll be offered some shade from the relentless Aussie sun, but with the charcoal-coloured soil reflecting any heat right back at you, it won’t be long until you’ve worked up a sweat.
As you climb higher, there are few clear vantage points, but between the trees, you’ll be able to catch the occasional glimpse of the stunning valley falling away before you.
A vibrant green patchwork of farmlands punctured by rolling hills and large swathes of forest.
Approaching the top of the hill, the trail veers off downwards to the right, hugging the edge of the cliff.
After such a steep slog to reach this point, it seems like a cruel twist to make you now walk downhill, but Mount Maroon really makes you work for it.
The vegetation here is more lush and leafy and depending on the time of day, you may be completely shaded by the north face of the mountain.
This makes a good spot to take a break amongst the trees before you reach the ‘no waiting zone’ which lies just a short way further along.
The downhill stretch is just 100m or so. Keep an eye out along the way for a beautiful cleared viewpoint that overlooks the valley below.
When you reach the rocky ravine, this is where the real fun begins.
From here, the trail pitches up sharply yet again through a steep gully known as the ‘no waiting zone’ where you’re in for a rocky scramble for the next 200 to 300 metres.
As the signs suggest, it’s recommended to move quickly through this area and not wait around for any hiking buddies or linger too long for a break.
This is a high rockfall area and if you look up, you’ll notice a number of boulders balancing precariously along the cliffs overhead. Rocks may also be dislodged by hikers further up the trail which can present an additional danger.
Personally, I was the only person on this entire section of the trail and it was one of my favourite parts of the hike.
You’ll be grabbing onto twisted tree roots and hoisting yourself over large boulders, squeezing your feet into tiny crevices and scrambling over piles of rock. Though it’s close to vertical in parts, it’s great fun and feels like something of an obstacle course.
Once through the ravine, you’ll emerge on the saddle of Mount Maroon having conquered the toughest part of the hike.
Up top, Mount Maroon has two separate rocky peaks that rise up from the plateau, but the true summit lies directly ahead in the southeast corner.
As you arrive at the top of the gully, you’ll be plunged back into the cool shade of the forest, with a narrow trail and orange markers to guide you forward across the plateau for the final 500m.
You’ll pass through a small clearing where trails seem to veer off in all directions but head straight across to continue on the right path.
Soon enough, you’ll emerge from the forest onto the craggy granite rocks that mark the final stretch to the summit.
Though the orange markers are somewhat lacking here, some areas are well-worn by the thousands of feet that have walked here before, otherwise, you can always refer to your map to confirm you’re heading in the right direction.
Navigate your way across the rocks and before long you’ll reach the tall cairn that marks the main Mount Maroon summit.
Standing at the peak, mountains rise up on all fronts – the narrow, neverending ridgeline of the Main Range and Lake Moogerah to the west, the impressive folds of Mount Barney directly ahead and the iconic ‘cupcake’ form of Mount Lindsey, an everpresent point on the horizon, rising up to the east.
Gazing north, farmland and forest extend as far as the eye can see, rich in iridescent green after a year of heavy rainfall.
With the sun beating down and wind shooting up the rock face, you may also be lucky enough to witness an enormous wedge-tailed eagle soaring majestically on the thermals, its watchful eyes scanning the landscapes in search of its next meal.
At a good pace, the hiking time to the Mount Maroon summit is about 1.5 to 2 hours.
Once up top, it’s well worth taking plenty of time to enjoy the views and take a well-earned break before beginning the return journey.
Keep in mind that you won’t be able to stop once you make it back into the ‘no waiting zone’ so it’s a good idea to snack and rehydrate here before beginning your descent.
Depending on the time of day, you may also need to give way to other hikers climbing up the gully which may add a bit of time to your hike.
Aside from the short stretch where you’ll need to traverse back along the cliff face, it should come as some relief to know that the entire way back is all downhill.
Be sure to take it slow through the steep gully so as not to dislodge any rocks that may roll down to your fellow hikers.
Once through the ravine, climb the short stretch to the top of the hill and then continue back down the dusty trail that cuts back and forth through the trees until you reach the parking area.
The way down is much faster than the ascent and can be completed in about 1.5 hours.
There are just a couple of accommodation options right near Mount Maroon, but if these aren’t available during your stay, you’ll likely have to venture into Mount Barney National Park or towards Rathdowney or Boonah for accommodation. I spent a night in both towns on either side of the hike.
Mount Maroon Camping
Kingsland Camping | Nestled right at the base of Mount Maroon, you can’t really beat the location of this private campground for an early morning or late afternoon summit hike. You’ll need to be fully self-contained to camp here as there is no access to drinking water or showers, though there is a compositing toilet on site. Check rates and availability here.
Gumridge Campground | Gumridge offers up one of the best camp views around, gazing directly onto Mount Maroon from the prime camp spots. Once again, you’ll need to be fully self-contained to stay here as there is no drinking water, electricity or bathroom facilities available. Check rates and availability here.
Psst… never used Hipcamp before? It’s kinda like Airbnb for camping. Sign up here and receive a A$10 credit towards your first booking.
Mount Maroon Accommodation
Boonah Valley Motel | This lovely motel offers up spacious rooms that open up onto a large field where wallabies come to drink at the small dam. With a beautifully peaceful setting, this motel is a great option in Boonah and lies 40 minutes from the Mount Maroon trailhead. I spent a few days here and it made for an excellent base for exploring the Scenic Rim. 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.
Mount Barney Lodge | This sprawling eco-retreat is well-situated for exploring both Mount Maroon and Mount Barney and lies just 30 minutes from the trailhead. Accommodation options include camping, deluxe camper trailers, private cabins and a large, luxurious homestead. The Lodge also offers guided hikes and group expeditions. Check rates and availability here.
Have a Map on Hand
Annoyingly, this is the first hike where the normally reliable Maps.Me has not worked for me.
While the trail is clearly marked on the map and can be used to check that you’re heading in the right direction when you lose sight of the trail markers, it doesn’t seem able to detect this as a walking route so can’t offer any guidance with topography or how far you’ve got to go.
I was recommended to use All Trails as a better alternative.
Either way, it’s always important to have a map on hand while you’re out in the mountains and it may come in use when you’re crossing the plateau where trail markers are few and far between.
Bring plenty of Water
While not far in distance, the steep incline of this walk certainly makes it a challenging trail.
Add to the mix the intense Aussie sun which is unrelenting in the sparse forest at the base of Mount Maroon and across the exposed summit, and you’ll certainly be sweating up a storm on this hike.
Be sure to bring at least 2 litres of water per person – you’ll need it!
Wear Sturdy Footwear
While I tend to be of the mind that running shoes are perfectly fine for most normal hiking trails, I’d really recommend a solid pair of hiking boots with good grip as the better option for the Mount Maroon hike.
The steep hills, dusty trails, rock scrambling and rock hopping all mean having extra ankle support is a good idea.
Don’t Be Put Off By The Signs
Though it’s incredibly important to follow the national park advice and know your own abilities as a hiker, there seems to be a lot of fear-mongering that comes with these summit trails which can be rather offputting.
Yes, this is a challenging walk, but if you’re a reasonably fit and confident hiker and you come prepared, you shouldn’t have any issues completing Mount Maroon.
I met all kinds of people on the trail from families with small kids to more mature hikers and they all managed to complete the walk in their own time.
Obviously, follow the guidelines and know your own limits, but don’t let the many warning signs put you off attempting the trail altogether. Check the weather, know the sunset time, bring enough water, snacks and warm weather gear, charge your phone and you should be fine.
Unlike the Mount Barney Summit which is significantly longer in both distance and duration, Mount Maroon is reasonably short making it a far more accessible summit trail for anyone hoping to enjoy the stunning views on offer.
Reception is Reasonably Good
Unlike other parts of the region where phone reception is fairly spotty, if you’re with Telstra, you should have reasonably good reception for the entire Mount Maroon hike.
I’d still recommend downloading any maps offline before heading out, but if things do go pear-shaped, you should still have enough signal when on the mountain.
Check the Weather Before Heading Out
Given the summit is completely exposed and much of the route involves scrambling up a rocky ravine and clambering over rocks, Mount Maroon is not a trail that should be attempted in wet weather.
The summit is also prone to being wrapped in clouds and it’d be an awful shame to climb all that way only to find yourself in a whiteout.
Be sure to check the weather before setting out and turn back if conditions start to deteriorate.
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