Somerset Lookout in D’Aguilar National Park is stunning. You can access it by foot (13km loop) or by 4WD via the 14km Western Escarpment forest drive. We prefer hiking and don’t have a 4WD, so this article is based on hiking Somerset Trail from the Gantry (accessible with 2WD) to Somerset Lookout and back.
Distance: 13 km
Time: 3-4 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.
Take the scenic route from Brisbane to D’Aguilar National Park
When you enter “The Gantry” in your GPS, it may suggest you take the motorway to Caboolture and then drive to Mount Mee. Instead, I recommend taking the scenic route via Samford, Dayboro and Ocean View. It only added 10 more minutes to our itinerary, and the views were worth it. Plus, it’s actually shorter and, according to our car GPS, it was more eco-friendly. In addition, you’ll have a few opportunities to stop at a cafe in the countryside, which is a nice add-on to the trip.
Responsible travel tip: While on the road, the fastest way isn’t always the best way. When planning your drive, look if there’s a shorter road that will take you through villages. It is sometimes more fuel-efficient, and you can spend your money in small local businesses on the way.
What to expect from the Somerset Trail and Somerset Lookout
The Somerset Trail is a 13km circuit in the forest. You only get the views once you reach the Somerset Lookout. If you’re only after nice views, I recommend driving there with a 4WD or choosing a different hike.
Plan your hike to have a long break at the lookout
It took us 3 hours to complete the Somerset Trail anti-clockwise (1.5 hr to the lookout and back) at a good pace. They recommend allowing 4 hours. If you’re likely to slow down when going up or down, you may want to allow a little bit more as you want to have enough time to enjoy the view of untouched mounts with Somerset Lake behind – the highlight of the hike.
There’s no view before or after you reach the lookout. Ideally, you will have your lunch break there to maximise your time at the lookout. However, there’s almost no shade on the exposed face, so if you’re hiking on a scorching day, you may prefer to take a break in the forest.
Understand the level of difficulty of the Somerset Trail
The 13-kilometre path is well marked and easy to follow with no real difficulties. I was happy to do it anti-clockwise as we went down a lot at the start, and you never want to finish the hike with a climb!
Don’t be too impressed by the caution sign at the start. Except when we went on rocks near the Somerset Lookout (which you can avoid and stick to the views behind the fence at the lookout if you wish), I didn’t notice the “narrow trail with steep exposed inclines”. Most of the trail is on a rather large forest track surrounded by vegetation. The “slippery loose gravel surfaces” weren’t too bad at all during our hike (in the winter dry season) and shouldn’t be a problem for visitors with proper shoes.
Enjoy the forest
If you’re not keen on spending three or four hours in the forest, the Somerset Trail isn’t for you.
To fully appreciate the Somerset Trail, you’ll need to look at the surrounding vegetation and how it changes from the Gantry to the Somerset Lookout. The rainforest with beautiful palms and ferns will suddenly stop to take you to a timberland forest. You’ll also go through a eucalyptus forest with grass trees that may have recently burnt. At the end of winter, wildflowers bloom with beautiful purple native iris, yellow egg and bacon plants and mauve happy wanderers.