How to climb 6 Sunshine Coast mountains in 1 day
With walking trails snaking up the sides of many a mountain – from the Glass House Mountains to the almighty King of the Mountain, Mount Cooroora – wannabe mountaineers have plenty of options, and exertion levels, to play with.
But if you’re up for a hardcore adventure with a time limit offering up serious physical and mental rewards, here’s how to climb six Sunshine Coast mountains in just one day with Experientia Sunshine Coast.
Mountain #1: Wild Horse Mountain
It’s early. You’ve got a big day ahead. So ease into things with a short 1.4km return stroll to the summit of Wild Horse Mountain. If you regularly drive the Bruce Highway from Brisbane to the Sunshine Coast, you’ll know the lookout we’re talking about (though you’ve likely never deviated off the highway to check it out… until now).
The lesser-known baby of the Glass House Mountains – standing 123m tall – this warm-up hike will get you well acquainted with the ‘family‘ and prepare you for what’s to come. Below you, pine forest stretches to the foothills of the mountains and commuters clog the highway on their way to the city. Breathe it in and be thankful you’re standing up here, not on your way to the office.
Turn away from the mountains and you’ll be rewarded with sweeping views of Pumicestone Passage and Bribie Island to the east.
What to expect: There’s a (steep) bitumen track the whole way to the top for this one. Take your camera for the money shot as the morning mist gathers at the base of Mt Tibrogargan, Mt Beerwah and Mt Coonorwrin.
How to get there: Take the Wild Horse Mountain summit lookout exit from the Bruce Highway, and Exit 171. Drive along Johnston Road to the lookout.
Mountain #2: Mount Beerburrum
Looks can be deceiving and when you first arrive at Mt Beerburrum, with its rounded top and bitumen pathway, you might be feeling quietly confident you’ll knock this one over in a flash. At 1.4km return, it seems simple enough but prepare your calves for the steepest incline of all the Glass House Mountains.
It’s an unrelenting climb to 280m elevation but there are chairs peppered along the path if you need a breather along the way.
What to expect: Glimpses of Mt Tibrogargan and Mt Coonowrin teasing you through the trees as you focus on keeping the momentum up the hill (walking backwards can help!). Once you’ve made it, uninterrupted vistas from the top of the fire tower will ensure forget all about your burning lungs and calves.
How to get there: Access to the walking trail is found just off Beerburrum Road in the Beerburrum township, about 500m after the railway line overpass (if you’re driving south).
Mountain #3: Mount Ngungun
Warm up’s over, it’s time to go bush! The 2.8km-return track to the summit of Mount Ngungun dishes up beautiful ferns and raw Aussie bush all the way to the rock-top finale.
About halfway up, take a breather and admire the hulking Mount Tibrogargan with macadamia orchards, pineapple and pine plantations leading to its base.
What to expect: Being able to stand in symmetry with Mt Coonowrin and Mt Beerwah, if your nerves will take you that far. Mt Ngungun is a family-friendly track and can get crowded on weekends.
How to get there: Entrance to the summit track is about 3km from Glass House Mountains township via Coonowrin and Fullertons Roads.
Mountain #4: Mount Cooroora
Steel your nerves and stretch those quads – at 446m high, presiding over the Noosa hinterland town of Pomona, Mount Cooroora is your biggest challenge for the day.
Each July, 100 human mountain goats scale the volcanic plug in the (slightly insane) King of the Mountain race, trying to break the record of 22 minutes and 43 seconds up and back. You can expect to spend around 2-3 hours safely navigating your way to the top and back down again for a well-deserved lunch break.
What to expect: Don’t let the first 550m to a lookout lull you into a false sense of security. You’ll want to be feeling fit to tackle the steep, rocky sections, multiple stairs and chain rope climb sections of this Grade 4 hike. But, beautiful blackbutt, scribbly gum, bloodwood, casuarina, and tallowwood trees, and stunning views all the way to the Cooloola sand flats, will keep you going for the last 30m to the top – a rough scramble without chains.
How to get there: Take the Pomona turnoff (Pioneer Road) from the Bruce Highway, then turn right into Reserve Street, left onto School Street and left into Mountain Street all the way to the park. You’ll find parking on the right side of the road and the walking track entrance on the opposite side.
Mountain #5: Mount Ninderry
How are you feeling? Still want more?
Take things back a gear with the more leisurely – though still fairly steep – 2.5km-return hike to the peak of Mount Ninderry.
One of the Sunshine Coast’s true hidden secrets, this recently upgraded bush track offers great photo opportunities and dishes up vistas of Maroochy River and Coolum from the lookout platform at the end.
What to expect: Since most people make a beeline for the more famous Mount Coolum nearby, you can expect to have this walking track to yourself.
How to get there: Take the Yandina exit from the Bruce Highway and head west on Yandina Coolum Road. Continue straight through the roundabouts and then right along School Road at the railway line. Turn right onto Ninderry Road, back over the highway and up the hill. Follow this till Eucalyptus Crescent and look for a cement drive up to the car park on the right.
Mountain #6: Mount Coolum
By this stage, your legs have turned to jelly, and a magnesium bath and good bottle of red are screaming in your ear, but you’ve come this far… there’s just one teeny mountain to go.
As you take each step up the switchback stairs leading up Mt Coolum on this 3.2km return journey, take the opportunity to reflect on the magnitude of what your body – and mind – has been able to achieve in just one day. Take a pause at the top – the views over Marcoola and Mudjimba Beaches is pretty sweet but nothing can compare to your inner natural high right now.
What to expect: While BabyBjorn-toting mums and teenage joggers might burn past you, you can climb slowly and surely, with the smug satisfaction that comes with being a bona fide mountaineer.
How to get there: Heading south on David Low Way towards the Sunshine Coast Airport, turn left into Tanah St West and you’ll find the car park at the junction of Jarnahill Drive.
Feeling inspired? You don’t have to do it alone
If you’re going to do something as epic as scaling six summits in one day, it pays to have the right crew to share it with.
Experientia Sunshine Coast offers a fully guided, full-day 6 Mountains in 1 Day adventure complete with transport, paleo snacks, lunch, drinks and endless motivational encouragement starting at $299 per person.