25 June 2023.
Mount Mitchell is one of the best day hikes in Main Range National Park and rewards visitors with epic views across the Scenic Rim and southern Queensland.
With a distinct thimble-like peak that towers above the highway, Mount Mitchell is an iconic feature of the sprawling Main Range which dominates the landscape as you approach.
While the walk itself may not be as awe-inspiring as some other trails nearby, the views from the summit are phenomenal and make the straightforward 90-minute hike up well worth it.
Along the way, you’ll pass through a stunning patch of rainforest and scraggly shrublands, encounter numerous birds and navigate some precarious switchbacks before arriving at the spectacular rocky platform that marks the summit.
Mount Mitchell is one of the best day hikes in Main Range National Park and this guide covers everything you need to know to plan your visit.
Located in the heart of Main Range National Park in southern Queensland, the Mount Mitchell 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.
The Mount Mitchell walk 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.
For keen hikers, it’s a popular option to add on Mount Cordeaux and Bare Rock which leave from the same car park. There’s also a map here directing you to a number of other Main Range National Park walks that leave from this point.
The Mt Mitchell track leads straight into a lush pocket of rainforest where columns of bird’s nest ferns cling to towering tree trunks like beads on a necklace and a sea of foliage crowds the forest floor.
The trail guides you steadily to the summit in a long three-part switchback that climbs gradually upwards. The first zig and zag will keep you on the north face of the mountain before wrapping around onto the southern side for the final leg.
Unlike the Mount Cordeaux walk though which keeps you engrossed in magical ancient rainforest for most of the way, the Mount Mitchell trail slowly gives way to drier landscapes, where eucalypts and casuarinas provide some shade from the intense sun.
As you climb higher, the trees are replaced by long grasses and scraggly bushes that will stay with you on this side of the peak.
Admittedly, during my visit there was work being done on the trail and some sections here were rather messy where bushes had been squashed or were quite overgrown. The trail has since been closed for maintenance and reopened so things may have improved somewhat.
That said, once you leave the beauty of the rainforest the vegetation here is largely weedy, scraggly and uninspiring and offers little protection from the intense sun. While the trail is easily visible the entire way, there are some stretches where the bushes are up the waist height with just a narrow channel funnelling between them.
As you approach the end of the second switch, the trail swings around the peak and guides you back into the rainforest on the southern face of the mountain.
Though not as dense as other rainforests in the Main Range National Park, this short stretch offers up a beautiful respite from the heat and you’ll immediately notice the return of bird calls echoing through the trees so don’t forget to look up.
If you’ve already climbed Mount Cordeaux, you’ll have noticed that the Mount Mitchell Summit climbs from a narrow ridgeline into a delicate peak that resembles a tilted thimble before dropping sharply into the rugged eastern face of the Main Range.
As you reach the edge of the rainforest, you’ll emerge on this narrow ridgeline and cross back onto the north face where the tiny trail straddles the sheer cliff edge and the peak rises up before you.
There’s a final series of tight switchbacks where the cliff falls away sharply from the edge of the track.
Though it’s perfectly safe, there are some more precarious sections where you can see a previously misplaced foot has flattened the bushes horizontal to the mountain, leaving a narrow tightrope of track for you to navigate.
This is only for a very short strip before you turn the corner and continue on to a series of sturdy rocky stairs.
From up here, you’ll get your first glimpse of the incredible views on offer with things set to get even better as you push on to the Mount Mitchell Summit.
Cross through the final patch of grass trees and tangled bushes punctured by friendly yellow everlastings and you’ll arrive at the rocky runway that marks the summit with cliffs tumbling away sharply on all sides.
As your hard-earned reward, you’ll be welcomed by phenomenal panoramic views across the Scenic Rim that take in Mount Cordeaux and the impressive folds of the Main Range extending out in either direction, the deep blue expanse of Lake Moogerah, the hulking mass of Mount Maroon and Mount Barney National Park in the distance and the serpentine thread of the Cunningham Highway that links it all.
While the walk up Mount Mitchell is perhaps less scenic than others in the area, the epic views from the peak more than make up for it and are what makes this one of the most popular hikes in Main Range National Park.
The flat top, while somewhat exposed, makes a great picnic spot if you’re planning on having your lunch break on the mountain.
Spend some time taking in the views before returning back the way you came. On the final switchback, the shady reprieve of the rainforest will be a welcome change from the sun beating down on the rest of the trail and guide you the rest of the way down to the car park.
If you’re keen to squeeze more hiking into your day, it’s common for visitors to hike both Mount Cordeaux and Mount Mitchell in the same day, given the trails for these twin peaks lie directly opposite each other.
Adding on the 6.8km Mount Cordeaux trail will mean you’re covering a total of 17km, or 23km if you decide to continue on to Bare Rock which I would highly recommend.
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.
Boonah makes a great base for exploring Main Range National Park and is located just 30 minutes from the Mount Mitchell 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, Spicers Peak Lodge is a spectacular option located on the edge of the Main Range National Park. For those keen to explore the area further, you can also organise an exclusive trip along the Spicers Scenic Rim Trail, an all-inclusive guided walk that takes you across the spectacular Main Range to secluded eco-retreats tucked away in nature. Check rates and availability here.
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