Mount Barney National Park hosts some of my favourite hikes near Brisbane. If you’ve already done the most popular ones (Mount Maroon, Mount Barney, the Lower Portals), then it’s time to consider Montserrat Lookout and the Upper Portals Circuit. 

The hike to Montserrat Lookout is steep and doesn’t offer extensive views before reaching the summit (1,013m above sea level). Still, it’s worth the efforts: it probably is the best and closest view you can get of Mount Barney and Mount Maroon. Plus, you get the opportunity to enjoy the calm Upper Portals.

You can do the hike in one day, but it’s also possible to do an overnight hike and spend the night at a walk-in campground at the Yamahra Creek Campsite not far from the Upper Portals. Alternatively, there are lovely places where to stay in the area to enjoy more beautiful views of the surrounding peaks. If you’ll looking for inspiration, I enjoyed my stay at The Hill Station at Barney Creek Vineyard Cottage* and Mount Barney Lodge has an excellent reputation (the views are incredible).

How to find Montserrat Lookout

1. Drive to Clear Ridge carpark or Waterfall Creek Reserve Camping Ground

The hike starts at Clear Ridge carpark. It’s only accessible by 4WD. If you don’t have a 4WD, you can walk there from Waterfall Creek Reserve Camping Ground. However, it adds 4km (8km return), and nothing is exceptional on the way – except cattle and cute rock wallabies.

I was hoping to hitchhike and get a ride, but it’s a remote area and no vehicle passed us. The start of the 4WD track is rather steep, and it took us just under 1.5hrs to reach Clear Ridge.

Start of the 4WD track at Waterfall Creek Reserve Camping Ground

2. Walk from Clear Ridge carpark to Montserrat lookout anti-clockwise

The beginning of the walking path from Clear Ridge offers nice views of the area if you don’t forget to look back. 

The track to Montserrat Lookout isn’t obvious, so stay focus. You may want to upload someone’s track on a GPS if you have one. It’s a lot easier to find your way doing the track anti-clockwise: go right at the two signs you’ll find on your way that indicate the direction to the Upper Portals. These are the only signs you will see for a long time.

You’ll go close to a private property, where you’ll have to turn on your left before the building. The track was very large and obvious when we passed there. It narrows down as you enter the forest to reach the lookout – but it’s still easy to follow. After the lookout is an entire different experience.

Responsible Travel Tip: There’s a boot cleaning station at the start of the hike. It’s important to use it properly – even if you believe your boots are already clean. It can avoid spreading pests and diseases.

View from Montserrat lookout with Mount Maroon on the left and Mount Barney on the right

3. After Montserrat lookout, go to the Upper Portals

When we walked there, the path from Montserrat lookout back to the main track was impossible to spot from far away. It’s narrow, and the vegetation is thick. I highly recommend wearing long pants and long sleeves to avoid scratches.

If you do the walk clockwise, you probably won’t find the path to go up to the lookout. It’s not marked and not obvious at all. And walking off-path isn’t the best practice for conservation purposes.

Once you reach the main track to the Upper Portals. Turn right to go to the Upper Portals. It’s a lovely place for a refreshing break.

Responsible Travel Tip: Be extra cautious with the products you use when you are close to a river or a creek. It doesn’t take much to pollute pristine waters that are crucial for endemic species like frogs or platypus. For example, don’t apply sunscreen if you plan to go in the water. If you use a spray, go a few metres away to avoid spraying it in.

You may go back to Clear Ridge via this main track, or look for another route back to the ridge, to get more views of Mount Barney. We did the latter, and it’s only interesting if you want extra steep kilometres. The views don’t get better than from Montserrat Lookout. 

How long is the Montserrat Lookout?

Waterfall Creek Reserve Camping Ground –> Clear Ridge carpark: 4km (can be done by 4WD)

Short circuit: Clear Ridge carpark –> Montserrat Lookout –> Upper Portals –> Clear Ridge carpark: 8km

Long circuit: Clear Ridge carpark –> Montserrat Lookout –> Upper Portals –> Clear Ridge –> Clear Ridge carpark: 12km

Clear Ridge carpark –> Waterfall Creek Reserve Camping Ground: 4km (can be done via 4WD)

We did the 12-kilometre circuit in 4h40, without counting our breaks. You’ll want to allow time to admire the beautiful views after the efforts to reach Montserrat Lookout, and time to relax at the Upper Portals. 

View at the start of the hike at Clear Ridge

How hard is the Montserrat Lookout hike?

It’s a steep walk (our total elevation gain was 881m), but it’s not as hard as hiking Mount Barney.  

Navigation to reach Montserrat Lookout is tricky. There are almost no signs, and because it’s not a famous walk, the paths aren’t clear. Don’t rely on other hikers: you’re likely not to meet anyone. If no one in your group has bushwalking experience, don’t risk it without a GPS.

Where is Montserrat Lookout?

The map below is not precise and is for illustration purposes only. Do not use it as a navigation tool for bushwalking.

Montserrat Lookout is in Mount Barney National Park, in the Scenic Rim. Only one hour drive away from Brisbane city, you may go to the Scenic Rim just for the day or plan a lovely getaway in the countryside. 

For Brisbane and Gold Coast residents, Mount Barney National Park is a fantastic playground for nature lovers.

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