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The New Summit Circuit at Mt Coot-tha

Home > Brisbane > Walks | Sport | Outdoor | Nature | Free
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published July 28th 2016
Enjoy Mt Coot-tha by walking the summit circuit
The one trail that everyone does on Mt Coot-tha is the Summit Track. Now, thanks to the opening of the new Mahogany Trail, you can walk a 4.5 km circuit from Mt Coot-tha Summit to the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area. This is a great walk with many scenic and interesting spots to stop at on the way.

There are plenty of trails in Mt Coot-tha to walk or run
There are plenty of trails in Mt Coot-tha to walk or run


You can walk this circuit as a casual visitor to Mt Coot-tha, or like many other people, using it as for exercise. With only a few stairs and a gentle slope, it is a great intermediate track for people who like to exercise out in nature.

The Start

You can access the summit circuit from either the Mt Coot-tha lookout or the JC Slaughter Falls car park. You can also walk up from the Brisbane Botanic Gardens on Mt Coot-tha Road. Visitors to Brisbane usually start at the Mt Coot-tha lookout. There is a bus to lookout as well as buses to the Brisbane Botanic Gardens. People exercising usually start at the JC Slaughter Falls car park and make their way to the lookout. You can also start at the base of the Honeyeater Track and walk over up Mt Coot-tha.

Enjoying the view from the Mt Coot-tha Lookout
Enjoying the view from the Mt Coot-tha Lookout


I am going to describe the walk from the Lookout as it is a much nicer walk done this way. There is plenty of parking at the Mt Coot-tha Lookout, and there is also possible to park on the verge of the road at the start of the Summit Track. The 471 bus runs from the city up to the Lookout area as well.

The Summit Track

The Summit Track is a pleasant walk that heads down from the Lookout to the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area. The first part has stairs. People looking to run the circuit usually go in the opposite direction, so that they are coming up the stairs and going down the Mahogany Trail, as this is much easier on your knees.

The Summit Track is well maintained and partly follows the creek
The Summit Track is well maintained and partly follows the creek


One of the nicest features of this track are the drink taps on the trail. So you don't even need to bring any water with you.

The Aboriginal Art Trail

A nice detour on the track is the Aboriginal Art Trail Constructed in 1988 as an Australian Bicentennial Project. The trail has several traditional aboriginal artworks on display, some which have not been well maintained, however the main gallery at JC Slaughter Falls is still worth making the detour for.

The main gallery on the Aboriginal Art Trail
The main gallery on the Aboriginal Art Trail


The Aboriginal Art Trail makes a loop up ridge, making it a worthwhile detour for people looking to exercise. However most people skip it, though I think many people are not even aware of it as the signage is not very good.

JC Slaughter Falls

JC Slaughter Falls, which lies at the apex of the Aboriginal Art Trail, is the location of the main gallery on that trail. It also has a small waterfall. Though I have rarely seen more than a trickle of water going over these falls.

JC Slaughter Falls with some water flowing over the falls
JC Slaughter Falls with some water flowing over the falls


JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area

The trail comes out at the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area. This area was originally cleared during WWII as a camp for US servicemen. Today you can still see the remains of what I believe was an ammunition storage facility and the concrete block for the kitchen/mess hall.

Barbecue and picnic shelter at the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area
Barbecue and picnic shelter at the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area


The area you arrive at from the Summit Track is referred to as the second car park. You will need to walk down the road to the first car park area to find the return Mahogany Trail.

JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area near the start of the Mahogany Trail
JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area near the start of the Mahogany Trail


The Bush Chapel

One of my favourite little bush secrets in Brisbane, the Bush Chapel lies up the top of a well-labelled bitumen path. Despite this fact, it is not often visited. If you have just walked the Summit Track, you will see the path on your right, but the sign faces the other way, so you might miss it.

The Bush Chapel
The Bush Chapel


The Bush Chapel was originally constructed in World War II when the area was a US camp. Looking at old photos, it appears that the logs that make up the pews are all new, but it is still a lovely spot to visit with some history. As far as I can tell, it is rarely used, though I have seen photos of someone holding a wedding here.

The Mahogany Trail

The new Mahogany Trail has been constructed to provide an alternative route to walk to the Mt Coot-tha Lookout. It was constructed because many tourists were walking up from the Mt Coot-tha Botanical Gardens along the verge of the road. The trail was already there as a fire trail, but it has been upgraded and there are several access points along the road to the trail.

The new Mahogany Trail means you can hike the summit in a circuit
The new Mahogany Trail means you can hike the summit in a circuit


From the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area, you can find the start of the trail at the end of the open field when you enter the picnic area from the road. When walking the circuit you will walk along the second car park road until you come to this area.

The view from the verge of the road
The view from the verge of the road


The Mahogany Trail is a pleasant, if not very exciting walk. It does make walking the Summit Track a little more interesting as you can now do it as a circuit.

Arriving Back at the Lookout

Once you have finished the walk, you arrive back at the Lookout. The Kuta Cafe has a mixed reputation. Most people enjoy the coffee, and the ice cream is very great value for money. While the service can be a little slow, the views are what matter.

The Kuta Cafe at the Mt Coot-tha Lookout is a great place to enjoy some coffee and cake after a walk
The Kuta Cafe at the Mt Coot-tha Lookout is a great place to enjoy some coffee and cake after a walk


Exercising on the circuit

Many Brisbanites use Mt Coot-tha as a place to exercise. Thanks to the new Mahogany Trail, it is now possible to walk it as a circuit. The place to start is the JC Slaughter Falls picnic area. I would recommend heading up the Lookout using the Summit Track. There are some stairs at the end of this, and personally I find it better to go up, rather than down, stairs.

The Summit Track is a popular place for exercise
The Summit Track is a popular place for exercise


Most people exercising don't bother taking the diversion along the Aboriginal Art Trail, however this trail loops up the slope and provides an extra opportunity to exercise. The Summit Track ends where the Mahogany Trail starts, so it is an easy matter to head back down this wide trail.
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Why? Go for a stroll or a run on top of Mt Coot-tha
Where: Start at either the Mt Coot-tha Lookout or the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area
Your Comment
While training for Oxfam three years ago, we traipsed all over Mt Cootha, including night walks from the Chapel Hill side over the top and down to Slaughter Falls - was quite magnificent at night, with our team coming across the 'night life' of snakes and cane toads, but with this being a new trail they've introduced, think I'll have to try it out - looks lovely, Roy.
by Elaine (score: 3|1310) 62 days ago
Looks like a great walk. Are dogs allowed on this route?
by klreenie (score: 0|8) 60 days ago
Next Mt Coot-tha visit I am definitely going to explore this walk. Sounds great!
by Jenny Rossiter (score: 3|3574) 63 days ago
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