A protected area since 1908, Bunya Mountains National Park is Queensland’s second oldest national park. It was once an important place for the Aboriginal people, who used the mountains as a meeting place for the various tribes. They would feast on bunya nuts, which still grow on what’s now the largest stand of ancient bunya pines.
With more than 35km of marked trails, the national park is now heaven for hikers. The tracks weave in out of eucalyptus forests, lush grasslands, past vine scrubs and waterfalls. They range from an easy 500m stroll to a 10km hike, and are numbered and classified according to their difficulty. There are 9 marked trails across Bunya National Park, so there’s no reason not to lace up your boots and go tramping.
Eastern Side of Bunya Mountains National Park
1. Bunya Bunya Track (500m)
This is a short, but enjoyable, wander through the rainforest and across the swamp. It’s an easy 15-20 minute walk and a good introduction to the famous bunya pines.
2. Scenic Circuit Track (4km)
This is probably the most popular track in the mountains. It’s an easy walk, but the you’ll get to see some of the most dramatic scenery in the park. You’ll pass Festoon Falls, as well as the Tim Shea Falls and its surrounding rocky pools. From the Pine Gorge lookout, the views take in South Burnett, which is one of Australia’s newest wine regions. The Scenic Circuit Track takes about 1 hour 20 minutes to complete.
3. Barker Creek Circuit (10km)
This is a longer hike, but the waterfalls make it all worth it. The trail passes Paradise Falls, Little Falls and Big Falls, all of which look far more dramatic after the rain. This hike shows off the diversity of the Bunya Mountains, as it weaves through sections of rainforest, eucalyptus and grasslands. If you have the energy for more, you can take a 750m side track to the Big Falls Lookout. It takes 3-4 hours to finish the circuit, and longer if you’ve brought an extravagant picnic.
4. Barker Creek Lookout (5km)
You can shorten the previous hike by cutting out the scenic 4km and heading straight to the Barker Creek Lookout.
The Western Cliffs of Bunya Mountains National Park
1. Westcliff Trail (4.7km)
This track winds along the cliffs, giving hikers views out over the Darling Downs. The track also passes through a bald, one of the natural clearings that are dotted throughout the Bunya Mountains.
2. Westcott Plain Trail (6.8km)
Starting at the Westcott Picnic Area, this is a hike that’ll reward you with stunning views. It follows the cliffs until it joins up with a road at Cherry Tree Plain. You can either follow the track back, or walk along 1.8km of road for a shorter return journey.
3. Koondaii Circuit (2.5km)
Short but steep, this track will get your legs burning. It zig-zags down the mountain to look out over the Koondaii Valley. The walk back is a steady uphill climb, but it passes through lush rainforest. The circuit takes about an hour to complete.
4. Cherry Plain Track (8.4 km, including 2.4km of road)
The longest trail on the western cliffs, this is a good one. Experience it at its loveliest by starting at Cherry Plain and hiking up through the bunya forests to Burtons Well. It’s a gradual climb all the way to the Well, and it’ll take 3-4 hours to get back to your car.
5. Mt Kiangrow Track (2.3km )
For people who like to stand on top of mountains, this is the hike to go for. The track winds upwards to the summit of Mt Kiangrow, the highest point of the Bunya Mountains. From the top, you’ll get unrivalled views of the national park. It’s a one hour return, so you could even combine it with another trail.
Bunya Mountains Accommodation
Even if you’re not staying overnight, wandering around the residential areas is an adventure in itself. There are no bland houses in the Bunya Mountains. Most of the houses have been built in the style of Queenslanders, with timber frames and sweeping verandahs. Each one seems more interesting than the last – most are perched on wooden stilts and some are just visible between the trees. On a misty day, dark windows make the houses look almost eerie. Inside, it’s a different story. Some of the houses are small and cosy; perfect rainforest cabins. Others are huge, spacious homes for families or groups of friends. For the hardier adventurers, there are three camping areas to choose from. These range from walk-in tent sites to ones suitable for camper vans, but taking large vehicles up the mountain roads isn’t recommended.
Whether you spend a day or a week in the mountains, it’s likely that you’ll leave them feeling good. That might be a result of the thrilling wildlife, the Jurassic Park greenery, or simply from putting one foot in front of the other for 10km. It could also be an effect of the indescribable thing that’s kept the mountains special for thousands of years.
Planning a trip?
- The park is a 2.5 – 3-hour drive from Brisbane and the Sunshine Coast.
- Dogs and other pets are not allowed in the national park.
- It can get very cool in the Bunya Mountains. Heavy fog and mist appears regularly, even during the summer, so bring extra layers.
- Fuel is not available on the mountain, so make sure you have enough before you head up the narrow, winding road.
- You can find out more about accommodation and safe hiking here.
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