The Mt Coot-tha Summit Track is a bit of a Brisbane classic that follows a well-paved path from JC Slaughter Falls up to Mt Coot-tha Lookout. It’s a good little workout that’s very popular, particularly as it’s dog friendly and there are doggy water troughs the whole way up. There are also waterfalls when it’s been raining, fantastic parklands, BBQ facilities, a couple of side trails and a café at the end of your journey, making this Mt Coot-tha walk a must-do in Brisbane.
1 – JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area
This is where you’ll start your journey for the Summit Lookout, should you choose to accept it. JC Slaughter Falls Picnic area is definitely a worthwhile visit whether you’re continuing on from here or not. It’s quite a large area, full of laze-worthy meadows, forest, shelters, BBQ facilities and small rock paths. It’s an excellent spot to bring the whole family (dog included) for lunch or a celebration, and it’s got interesting little trails and attractions nearby, such as the Bush Chapel.
2 – The Bush Chapel
Accessible via a short path from JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area, the Bush Chapel dates back to WWII, as it was originally constructed for US troops who based themselves in Brisbane. Today, you’ll find pretty flora on the path there, along with a hand-built stone pulpit with artwork carved into sandstone and flat-top logs that serve as pews. It’s a quiet spot – even when the neighbouring picnic area is busy – and it’s occasionally used for small weddings. Definitely a worthy stop on your Mt Coot-tha walk.
3 – Mt Coot-tha Walk – Summit Track
This summit track was the main attraction for me and my ever-faithful cocker spaniel sidekick, Cookie. It’s definitely a nice way to spend the morning, as it takes you through Mt Coot-tha forest on well-maintained paths while throwing in some nice little diversions along the way. Basically, park at JC Slaughter Falls car park and keep walking away from the entrance until the trail starts. You’ll pass meadows, BBQ shelters and cross a creek before you gradually start to head uphill.
This Mt Coot-tha walk is, as I’ve mentioned, a popular one. It’s highly likely you’ll pass quite a few folk and perhaps even get into a conversation or two, which I’ve often done. This is a particularly nice walk to do after the rain, as the creeks and pools on the side of the track make everything look prettier and my dog loves it. Even when it’s dry there are dog drinking troughs spaced all the way up the trail and there are a few side trails that branch off the path before you reach the summit.
The Summit Track steadily becomes steeper and depending on how fit you are, it may prove taxing. I’m an active, reasonably fit middle-aged guy and I find it pretty easy. Just take your time and enjoy the scenery, and you’ll reach the top in no time. The path up is concrete most of the way and there are some stairs with railings at certain points.
The Mt Coot-tha walk Summit Track turns into a well-groomed dirt path at the top before you reach Sir Samuel Griffith Drive. Once you reach the road, cross it, turn left and walk through the car park towards Mt Coot-tha Lookout to reap the rewards of your efforts.
4 & 5 – Mt Coot-tha Lookout & Summit Cafe
If you thought JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area was busy, wait until you reach the lookout. It’s one of Brisbane’s main tourist spots for a reason, as the views are pretty, you can drive there if you wish and there’s a pleasant café handy. Here, with my Sony camera and Samsung phone getting a workout, I blended in perfectly. You could spend a whole morning at the lookout, or even half a day, as it’s most certainly a laze-worthy spot.
The Summit Café is also a very busy place, as it affords nice views over the city from its balcony. I’ve eaten here a few times, but I didn’t this morning, as it was uber-packed and I was walking through with my excitable dog Cookie. There are some decent, albeit slightly pricey lunch, snack and dessert options on the menu, but best get here early or book a table if you don’t want to wait. While it’s the end of your Mt Coot-tha walk, you can explore the gardens here too, which are small but pretty. As you can see, this area is also great for photo ops!
6 – JC Slaughter Falls
JC Slaughter Falls is located along the Hoop Pine Track, which you don’t have to do completely in order to see the falls. As this track branches off the Summit Track early on, closer to JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area, you could visit the falls before you reach the lookout or on your way back to the car park. I did it on the way back. Of course, you could just visit the falls instead of doing the Summit Track, as it’s shorter and leads you further into the bush and, if it’s been raining, to waterfalls as well.
I’ve been to the falls quite a few times and they are typically non-existent, so time your walk after rain if you want to see them in action. Nevertheless, after 600 metres, you’ll reach the falls area, which provides some nice spots to sit and enjoy the forest gully and there’s a lookout platform too. There are trails on this Mt Coot-tha walk that lead into the dry creek bed and on this occasion, Cookie took full advantage and plunged into a rock pool.
The walk to the falls is fairly flat and returns the same way if you don’t want to continue around the Hoop Pine Track. There’s also some indigenous artwork that’s located on a rock near the falls, which I found a few years ago but on this occasion, I didn’t find it. See how you go! Kids and dogs also love following the creek bed here too.
7 – Hoop Pine Track
If you’re feeling particularly energetic, like I was just last weekend, you can also do the Hoop Pine Track, which – as I’ve mentioned – is a loop track that continues after JC Slaughter Falls. The walk ascends the hill, travelling through the surrounding forest for a kilometre. This Mt Coot-tha walk was previously named the Aboriginal Art Trail, but sadly it was decommissioned in 2019 and renamed.
The walk heads through some nice forest before exiting onto a wooden bridge and back to the Summit Track. I didn’t see any artwork on the trail as the works weren’t maintained after their creation in 1993, which is most certainly a shame. Nevertheless, it’s definitely worth a wander along this little loop trail. Again, time it with a good spot of rain if you can!
Well, that’s it. If you do all of the above (like I did just last weekend), it will take up most of your morning – but what a great morning it will be!
A Few Fast Facts
- JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area is Wheelchair friendly, as is the Bush Chapel and the trail leading towards it.
- The walk from JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area to the Summit Lookout is 2150 metres long.
- The Hoop Pine Trail is 1km long.
- Dogs must be kept on a leash.
- Take care when walking on the creek beds as the ground is uneven.
- Nearby is the even prettier Eugenia Circuit (my favourite walk in inner Brisbane) which you can read about here.
- There’s water for dogs all the way to the Summit Lookout. There are no bins though, so you’ll have to carry your dog poo with you!