I was looking for a long hike to test my fitness when I found Gheerulla Valley Circuit in Mapleton National Park. It takes you on the Sunshine Coast Great Walk, and the descriptions of scenic changes from a creek to ridges with spectacular views were appealing.
My experience of the Gheerulla Valley Circuit was quite different.
Distance: 22 km
Time: 6 hours
Disclaimer: the hiking time and difficulty are based on our experience. We’re experienced hikers with a good level of fitness and used to hiking long distances and scrambling. We have good navigation skills and use a Garmin watch* with a GPS navigation map. Always check the park alerts and notes; trail conditions change over time which can impact the level of difficulty of the hike.
I’m not saying you shouldn’t give it a go. I had a good time hiking Gheerulla Valley National Park and the 22 kilometres did not disappoint. But it may not be your best option in the region, especially if you’re after a scenic hike. The following tips should help you make a decision.
I wouldn’t recommend hiking Gheerulla Valley Circuit on a hot day
We went to Mapleton National Park on an overcast day in the middle of August. It felt chilly whenever we stopped. Still, we were hot and sweaty during the hike! I cannot imagine how much harder the hike becomes on a hot day.
Gheerulla Valley Circuit was a great workout, but not too difficult
I picked the Gheerulla Valley Circuit hike to test my fitness and wasn’t disappointed! We did the circuit anti-clockwise, and the start along the creek was an easy warm-up. Then, just before the halfway point, we started going up Gheerulla Bluff, and our calves and glutes were burning in the many steps leading to the top. The view kept getting better and gave us an excellent excuse to stop a couple of times on the way up, so make sure you don’t race and look behind you.
The length of the walk – we walked for 22 kilometres – and the steep part is why this walk is known to be difficult. It does require a reasonable level of fitness but no technical skills at all. The path is easy to find and well maintained. There was no scrambling or difficult obstacles.
We went there in winter, which is a dry and, obviously, colder season. The river crossings were sometimes not even wet. When the water is high and on a hot day, I am sure this walk becomes more challenging.
It was all about the flowers, not the views
There are a couple of nice viewpoints during the hike, but they’re not as impressive as the views you get on most walks. The Gheerulla Valley Circuit is mainly in the forest. The walk along the creek is pleasant but not stunning. Gheerulla Waterfall was almost dry when we did the hike, and it’s a short 2-kilometre walk return from the parking so you can check it out during the wet season instead. If you’re after spectacular views on a challenging hike while visiting the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, I recommend hiking the Yul-Yal-Man track, one of my favourite walks in the Glasshouse Mountains, instead. If you’re attracted by the waterfall, the nearby Kondalilla Falls often have more water when it hasn’t rained in a while.
However, we were impressed by the amount of beautiful, colourful bush flowers all around us while hiking the Gheerulla Valley Circuit. The yellow Egg and Bacon plants, orange Banksias, purple Happy Wanderers and Native Iris made the hike special to me.
You can make it shorter (or longer!)
If you do the hike anti-clockwise, you will have a few opportunities to make it shorter. This map will help.
Once you reach Thilba Thalba Walkers’ Camp, you have the choice to follow the path through the forest back to Gheerulla Falls (8.7 km) or follow a large trail leading back to Delicia Road (about 6 km).
We started the hike late and wanted to finish it before sunset, so we opted for the road as we read it was quiet and picturesque. We also knew we’d walk faster on even terrain with no obstacles. Unfortunately, there was no view, but our step count after walking for 5.5 hours indicated we hiked for 22 km in total and we felt quite tired, so I’m glad we picked the fastest way back. If you want to shorten even more the circuit, you could park a second car near the camp, or hitchhike. We only saw four cars while walking on the gravel road.
If you want to spend more time in Mapleton National Park, you could start the hike at Leafy Lane trail head entrance and add Ubajee Viewpoint to your hike. I’d have taken this option if I could have parked one car at Leafy Lane trail head entrance and another near Thilba Thalba Walkers’ Camp.
With three campsites on the way, there are a few options to turn it into an overnight hike. Thilba Thalba Walkers’ Camp would be my pick for the views.