Guide to hiking Girraween
There’s plenty of day and overnight hikes in Girraween National Park. You could hike for two hours or many days. Not sure if you want to go hiking in Girraween? These pictures of Girraween will convince you that this some of the best hikes near Brisbane.
Below we’ve outlined the 3 best day hikes in Girraween and trail notes from our 3 day overnight hike in Girraween.
The 3 best day hikes in Girraween
These hikes require shoes with good grip as there are steep ascents up the granite. Also take plenty of water, particularly in summer. The day hikes are well sign-posted, with signs like this near the start of the trails.
⓵ The Pyramid via Granite Arch
Start: Girraween Day Use area, off Pyramids Rd.
About: 3.6 km return, allow 1.5 to 2 hours which gives you plenty of time to enjoy the summit. This walk is well sign-posted and is popular with families.
Tips for the Pyramid hike:
- When I first saw the final steep walk up the rock I was a little hesitant, convinced I would slide straight down the rock. Some 5 year olds ran up ahead of me – and I didn’t want to be shown up! Give it a go and you’ll be amazed. The steep part isn’t long and you’ll be rewarded with “top of the world” views.
- In summer, start early to avoid hiking in the midday heat. There’s not much shade once you’re out on the rock.
- On a hot day, you can jump into Bald Rock Creek at the end. Apparently there are turtles in this creek, so keep your eyes peeled!
⓶ Castle Rock
Start: Castle Rock camping area, which is only a few hundred meters from Girraween Day Use area.
About: 2 km return, allow 2 hours. This is well-marked track with clear signs. It’s an out-and-back hike along the Castle Rock Track.
- The last 500m to the summit [just after the Castle Rock turn-off sign] are steep but well worth the huffing and puffing! You even go through an Indiana Jones-style gap in the rocks before climbing a smooth, exposed slab to the top.
- The view are amazing. If you look carefully to the south you’ll see the Sphinx and Turtle Rock. What great names for rock formations! Mt Norman is South-East and Bald Rock is to the east.
⓷ Mt Norman via Eye of the Needle
Start: Castle Rock camping area, which is only a few hundred meters from Girraween Day Use area.
About: Mt Norman is a 10.4km return from Castle Rock camping area, allow 4 or 5 hours.
- The first 2 km are along the Castle Rock Track. It’s well worth the short detour to the top of Castle Rock.
- At the base of Castle Rock, follow the Mt Norman Track.
- The hike to the base of Mt Norman is well-marked with clear signs.
- But the final climb to the summit of Mt Norman (1,267m) isn’t marked. Climbing to the top requires technical rock scrambling ability.
- There is a quicker way to Mt Norman that starts from the Mount Norman Day Use area. It’s also an out-and-back hike, and is 4km return [2km each way]. Personally, I don’t think this hike is as interesting as the hike starting from the Castle Rock camping area. Also, getting there requires driving on unsealed roads.
On the way to Girraween
Girraween is set amongst the vineyards of the New England Granite Belt. En route to Girraween we stopped in at a few wineries near Stanthorpe. We even found a winery in a castle that also sold liqueurs and fudge! The fudge made great trail mix. My favourite winery, though was a small boutique winery where the owner sat and chatted to us about hiking and shiraz. Two of my favourite topics! He had some great tales of his hikes in the nearby Sundown National Park – we’ll have to check them out next time! He also gave us his top picks for a wine to take out bush camping on New Years Eve!
Overnight multi-day hikes
There’s a few overnight hikes in Girraween National Park outlined in “Take a Walk in South-East Queensland”. We created our own by linking up some well-known trails with some hikes in the neighboring Bald Rock National Park. After leaving the day use areas, we barely saw anyone.
Trail notes from our 3 day overnight hike
The interactive map of our 3 day overnight hike is on a separate page [it’s too big for this page!]
NOTE: These trail notes would need to be used in conjunction with a map and mapping app [eg. ViewRanger or Wikiloc] with the area pre-downloaded or cached [there’s only very limited phone service in the parks]. Or otherwise a map and compass. There’s no signs once you leave the day hikes and there’s quite a few different forestry trails that head off in all sorts of directions.
Day 1 pre-hike “warm-up”: We started with the Pyramid day hike. From the top, we could see the vastness of Girraween and Bald Rock, our home for the next few days. We then put on our big packs and started the hike!
Day 1 hike: Girraween Day Use Area to South Bald Rock Bush Campsite via Castle Rock, Mt Norman and Mt Norman Day Use Area. Time: about 6.5 hours [total time including breaks], around 16.5 km.
We hiked in the middle of summer and started off carrying about 4 liters of water each, but at least we didn’t need any cold weather gear! We hiked a few hundred meters down the road to the Castle Rock track, detoured to the summit of Castle Rock, then followed the trail to Mt Norman. Neil summited Mt Norman, but I’m not great with heights so I waited under a shady tree. We continued on to the Mt Norman day use area.
From the Mt Norman day use area we walked south-west along Mt Norman Rd for about 1 km. We turned left at the stone gate and followed the trail to the Old Stone cottage, a spooky deserted cottage in the middle of nowhere. We followed the trail around West Bald Rock, towards Racecourse Creek at the base of South Bald Rock.
Night 1 – We camped at South Bald Rock Bush Campsite at the base of the rock. Water was extremely limited in summer and we resorted to filtering pond scum. We relied heavily on our water filter.
We climbed South Bald Rock before sunset and watched the sun set and stars come out.
Day 2 morning: South Bald Rock Bush Campsite to Bald Rock Campground via the summit of Bald Rock. Time: about 3.5 hours, around 11.5 km.
The next morning we headed out to Bald Rock, which is actually across the border in NSW in Bald Rock National Park.
We followed Racecourse Creek then linked up onto the Border Fire Trail. A shorter route would potentially be over the top of South Bald Rock, but we decided against this given the steepness of the rock with heavy packs.
We followed the Border Trail, via Little Bald Rock, through to Bald Rock. We ended up choosing the shorter but steeper route this time and climbed up the west face of Bald Rock. There’s no marked trail up the west face. We bush bashed for about 50 meters before getting to the granite and heading straight up the granite rock face.
The rock was steep with almost 100 meters of vertical ascent in 300 meters of hiking. I did a fair bit of zig-zagging up! Another advantage of ascending via the west face is that we avoided ‘back tracking’ after lunch.
At the summit, we ran into a few day hikers who were a little puzzled about where we’d come from!
Once we reached the top, there was a well marked trail down the east face. After descending 400m along the summit trail, there’s a choice of continuing on the summit trail for a more direct route down to the day use area, or taking the Bungoona walk. We chose the Bungoona walk, which is more scenic, passing under rock archways and beautiful forest.
At Bald Rock Camping Area we stocked up on water, a precious resource out here in summer.
Day 2 afternoon: Bald Rock Campground to Twin Peaks Summit. Time: about 3.5 hours, around 11.5 km.
We left Bald Rock picnic area along the Borderlink fire trail, which becomes the Border Fire Trail. About 5km after leaving Bald Rock picnic area, we turned left (west) onto an un-named trail that linked up with the Mt Norman Road, via Paling Yard Creek. We walked about 3km along this un-named trail, across grassy fields full of kangaroos and birds. Once we arrived at Mt Norman Road, which is a 4WD track, we headed along the road (west) towards Racecourse Creek.
At Racecourse Creek, Billy Goat Hill is to the East and Twin Peaks is to the west. There’s no water on the summit of Twin Peaks, so we stocked up on water at Racecourse Creek. Again, the creek was stagnant and muddy in the middle of summer!
There’s no trail to the summit of Twin Peaks. About 100 meters after crossing Racecourse Creek, we bush-bashed through to the rock slab of Twin Peaks, then traversed left [southerly] along the rock. After a bit of “track finding” we eventually found some rock cairns marking the way to the summit. The rock cairns lead towards the small campsite amongst some trees on the Southern Summit of Twin Peaks. It’s not an easy campsite to get to, but the sunset and sunrise views are spectacular. Allow plenty of time for finding your way to the top.
Day 3 morning: Twin Peaks Summit to Girraween Day Use area. Time: about 3.5 hours, around 10 km.
After enjoying a spectacular sun rise, we retraced our steps back to Racecourse Creek, where we restocked our water.
After Racecourse Creek, we continued along Mt Norman Road for 2km (the first 1km was retracing our steps from yesterday). We turned left onto Creek Track, then continued onto Wave Rock, then along Underground Creek Track back to Pyramids Rd.
We hiked for 3.5km along Pyramids Rd back to Girraween Day Use area, where we jumped straight into the water hole!
In additional to the usual overnight hiking gear, you’ll need:
- good grip on your shoes. Some of the granite rocks are super steep. But the granite is really grippy. You’ll be surprised by the inclines you can walk up!
- In summer, you’ll need to carry lots of water and bring a good water filter.
- In winter, you’ll need warm weather gear. It’s been known to snow out here!
Book camping areas ahead using the on-line camping booking facility at the Queensland National Parks Booking Service.
When to go: October is the best time for wild flowers. But each of the seasons has its charm.