If you’re after a bit of exercise and may consider a dip to cool down, the Lower Portals at the base of Mount Barney will be just what you need. Unlike at Northbrook Gorge, you don’t have to get wet at the Lower Portals to see the gorge, but it’s a lovely swimming spot. It is undoubtedly one of the best rock pools near Brisbane.
Distance: 7 km
Time: 2.5 hours
Disclaimer: The hiking time and difficulty are based on our experience. We are experienced hikers with a good level of fitness, used to hiking long distances and scrambling. We possess good navigation skills and use a Garmin watch* with a GPS navigation map. Always check the park alerts and notes, as trail conditions change over time, which may affect the hike’s level of difficulty.
The hike to Mount Barney’s Lower Portals starts in the forest, where you’ll go up and down until you reach the river. It’s not really scenic until then unless you’re a eucalyptus and grass tree lover. After crossing the river, the views only get better. Don’t stop at the warning sign when you think the track ends. You’ll get the beautiful views of the gorge a bit further after you push up yourself through the rocks. Enjoy the swim and go back the same way.
It’s a 3.5km hike to reach the Lower Portals which took us just above one hour. The walk is mainly about reaching the place. You want to allow time to enjoy the nice spot before heading back. It’s not a hard walk if you’re used to hiking uneven and steep trails. Only the climb at the end can look quite challenging.
Responsible travel tip: Human waste pollutes rivers. If you need to go to the toilets, use the ones in the car park. If you cannot wait, try to go far away from the water (and dig if possible).
Although rock wallabies inhabit this area, we didn’t spot any wildlife during our hike except a few lizards and a big eel. However, cute wallabies (but not rock wallabies) were waiting for us on the dirt road a few kilometres from the car park. Be careful while you’re driving!
You can stay overnight at the Lower Portals campground. It’s a great way to have this remote place just for yourself. But we were disappointed to see the campground has been relocated further down the river in a spot not suitable for really enjoying the water. The former campgrounds, closer to the gorge – are closed for vegetation regeneration.
Responsible travel tip: Did you know your sunscreen can pollute the water and harm animals? The best way to protect your body from the sun is to cover it with long sleeves and pants. If you do have to use sunscreen, choose a mineral one (like zinc) to avoid harmful substances (see the full list here) and apply it at least 20 minutes before entering the water.
If you want to spend the night in the area, we had a lovely stay at the Barney Creek Cottage*, with excellent views of Mount Barney and a private spa where we could relax at the end of a hiking day. Mt Barney Lodge is also very reputed.
If you want to walk more than just the Lower Portals…
The Lower Portals Walk can be a good one to combine with the Mount Maroon hike as they both take around three hours each and provide a very different experience. If you’re after a more challenging hike in this area, you’ll be pleased with the summit of Mount Barney. To escape the crowd, you can also head to the Upper Portal. We stopped there on our way to Montserrat Lookout. If you’re after the best views of Mount Barney, check out the Yellow Pinch lookout.
Have you been to the Lower Portals? Leave a comment below to share your experience!
Where are the Lower Portals and Mount Barney National Park?
It takes 1.5 hours to drive from Brisbane to the Lower Portals car park and goes through the beautiful Scenic Rim region.
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