Best Hikes Near Brisbane – West Canungra Creek Circuit

If you’re looking for the best hikes near Brisbane, turn your gaze towards Lamington National Park in the Gold Coast Hinterland. Lamington National Park is part of the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area. Here the forest is luminous green, there are numerous waterfalls and trees that are 1500 years old. A great way to experience this Eden-like wonderland is by hiking the West Canungra Creek Circuit, which I recently did with my 12-year-old son and his friend.

Olin, left and Ruben, right

Before I get into the enchanting details, I’ll state the West Canungra Circuit is 13.9 kilometres long and rated as a grade 4 hike. It shouldn’t pose too much of a challenge if you have a reasonable level of fitness. However, you may well be rock hopping and there’s a good chance you’ll get your feet wet. At the end of the journey, the 12-year-old boys were spent, but if you give yourself plenty of time (we didn’t) and make a day of it, know that your experience will be very fine indeed.

A typical sight if you look up in Lamington National Park

Every time I head into Lamington National Park I seem to get lost. My intention was for us to do the Box Forest Circuit, which I’ve done before and is super beautiful. It’s a slightly shorter walk, at 10.9km in length, although like many trails in Lamington National Park, it’s not so difficult to deviate off your path.

A Wrong Turn – West Canungra Creek Circuit

Best hikes near Brisbane
Taking a left when we should have gone straight ahead.

After completing the sinuous ascent up Lamington National Park Road, I parked at O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat car park. We had a quick look around before beginning our hike on The Border Track, where the Box Forest Circuit also starts. However, a lack of signage at the first junction had me lead us down the West Canungra Creek Circuit (that’s my excuse anyway).

Best hikes near Brisbane
Descending into Lamington National Park

Heading into the rainforest, past towering trees and nooks with trickling cascades, it’s not difficult to see why this is one of the best hikes near Brisbane. It wasn’t until five kilometres into our journey that we arrived at Yerralahla (blue pool) and realised we’d taken a wrong turn. It was either head back at this point, or continue nine kilometres along Canungra Creek.

Part of Yerralahla – the ‘blue pool’

Following the Creek

Here we met a hiker with a map, who we chatted with intermittently for the next five kilometres. He showed us more clearly the error of our ways and gave us encouragement to plough on. Thankfully I managed to convince the boys to continue, as here’s where our walk became more enchanting, yet more challenging. We had to boulder hop and take some pretty big steps over flowing rivers.

Best hikes near Brisbane

Everything became greener, lusher and it was as if we were steadily heading into Eden itself. It reminded me why I keep coming back to Lamington National Park and why this place offers some of the best walks I’ve had anywhere. From someone who travelled the world for years, this place reminds me how lucky I am to live in Australia.

From this point, we were travelling intermittently with another large group and when the trail appeared to end, one of us helped the other. We passed Darraboola, Kalgamahla and Goondaree Falls, which were surrounded by piccabeen palms and ancient brush box trees. It had been raining before we came, which made the walk more demanding and I kept an extra eye on the lads, who did very well.

Best hikes near Brisbane
Goondaree Falls

Best Hikes Near Brisbane – West Canungra World

Getting deeper into the walk, we ascended hillsides with narrow paths and sheer drops that plummeted 20 metres towards the river below. We passed through tree tunnels, past wild tomatoes and tree fungi that looked golden in the afternoon light.

Best hikes near Brisbane
Wild tomato?

My son kept asking me how long we had to go and I kept reminding him to focus on the now. He had been enjoying the journey immensely, as had his friend. Both of the boys are gamers and not often out in the bush, so I was super happy they’d come along today. However, I knew we still had a couple of hours to go, so I didn’t say anything.

Olin’s friend Ruben, enjoying the journey.

If you think this is a bit long for your family, we saw a family with two kids about 8-years-old who zipped past us – had taken the same route – and looked vibrant. As we plodded onward the questions became more frequent, ‘when are we getting back’? We said goodbye to the guy with the map as the trail joined the Box Forest Circuit, and he continued left, towards Box Log Falls and Elabana Falls. That way was prettier but longer and I didn’t want to risk it with the boys.

A brush box tree

The return

We ascended the last three kilometres through the bush in the fading light, stopping to admire the odd tree or two, but my thoughts were now on getting home. The boys were spent, but on a positive note, Olin’s friend had become so thirsty he told me he went into it and was beginning to feel fine. The boys were having a growing experience, powering through the final stages in a semi-meditative state. We’d been experiencing one of the best hikes near Brisbane all day, and we returned to the car at 5:30, just as the sun descended over the horizon at O’Reilly’s.

Best hikes near Brisbane
Sunset over O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat upon our return. Mt Barney in the background.

We drove the sinuous route back down Lamington National Park Road in the dark and I stopped at Yatala Pies to shout the boys for their efforts. Thankfully I didn’t get into trouble with my partner or my son’s friend’s mum. I’d pushed the boys a little, but all decided it wasn’t a bad thing at the end of the day.

We’ll be back to do the Box Forest Circuit, which was our original intention, soon.

A Few Fast Facts

  • The West Canungra Creek Circuit is accessible from O’Reilly’s Rainforest Retreat, which is a two-hour drive from Brisbane.
  • The walk takes five-and-a-half hours to complete. Leave early, give yourself plenty of time and break it up at the various creek stops (which we didn’t).
  • Take enough food and water. There are no amenities along the track.
  • Wear good footwear and make sure you are appropriately prepared. By this I mean a reasonable level of fitness and dexterity. This is a grade four hike, which you can find out more about here.
  • The drive up Lamington National Park Road is steep and winding and takes a good 45 minutes.
  • While this is a full-day trip, it’s so worth it. Honestly, I think all of the best hikes near Brisbane are in Lamington National Park.
  • If you think this might be a bit long, try the Box Forest Circuit, which is three kilometres shorter and as I’ve said, super beautiful.

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