One thing that most people who come to Brisbane are impressed by, is the amount of natural bushland that is part of Brisbane. For hikers, it means you can stay within the Brisbane municipality and still go on amazing hikes, both short and long. This is a list of the most essential hikes to do within Brisbane itself.
There is a very diverse range of short and long hikes in the Brisbane municipality
When I started to put this list together, I was going to include the Greater Brisbane Area as well, but the list already became far too long. So this list is restricted to only hikes within the Brisbane City Council Area, and excludes Logan, Ipswich, Moreton Bay and Redlands areas, even though each of those places also have many great hikes.
The most essential place to go hiking in Brisbane is Mt Coot-tha. This area combines bushland, tourist attractions and history, as well as a great view of Brisbane City. The area is very large with an increasing number of official hiking tracks and as well as a few unofficial ones.
Mt Coot-tha is the iconic tourist and hiking spot in Brisbane
The most common hike is the Summit Track. You drive or take the bus up to the lookout and then walk this short track down to the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area. You can also take the side route to JC Slaughter Falls and the Aboriginal Art Trail. To make it a circuit, you can come back via the Mahogany Trail.
More recently they have linked the summit trail up with the Powerful Owl Trail to make a summit circuit that includes the Summit Track, Pinnacle Trail, Powerful Owl Trail, Gold Mine via the Ghost Hole Track, and a trail heading back to the start. If that isn't long enough for you, you can easily also include Simpsons Falls on your hike.
Ghost Hole Track to the abandoned gold mine at Mt Coot-tha
In other words, if you have hiked once at Mt Coot-tha there are probably many other tracks to hike as well. For anyone new to Brisbane, this should be the first place you hike, and for people who have been here a while, then why not explore a few of the new tracks.
Mt Gravatt can feel like the poor cousin to Mt Coot-tha but it is also worth hiking. The best reason to hike Mt Gravatt is to view the sunset, something that you can't do on Mt Coot-tha.
Enjoying the sunset view from the Lookout on Mt Gravatt
While there are many paths up Mt Gravatt, the best one is to start at Toohey's Forest and walk through this lovely bushland. Then, of course, you have to walk through the tunnel under the highway and through the Griffith University Campus to rejoin the trail up Mt Gravatt. Once at the top there is a cafe and other facilities. In the evening, many people head up here, usually by car, to enjoy the sunset.
Tooheys Forest is a lovely place to walk and is the perfect starting point for a walk up Mt Gravatt
It is easy to argue that the walk around Enoggera Reservoir is by far the best hike within the Brisbane area. At around 12 kms with tracks that go up and down steep ridges, it is short enough for the casual hiker to enjoy and long enough for serious hikers to appreciate as well.
The walk around Enoggera Reservoir is often considered the best hike in Brisbane
The hike is best started at the Walkabout Creek Discovery Centre. Be aware that often on weekends it is hard to find parking here. You can instead park at the Gap Park'n'Ride near the bus stop and walk from there. But we normally prefer to enjoy coffee, cake and a swim at the end, so we try to park at Walkabout Creek.
The walk is along fire and forest trails and is not officially marked. The main rule is to keep the lake on your left as you make your way counterclockwise around the reservoir. If you take the wrong turn, you could end up walking through South D'Aguilar National Park for days.
Enoggera Reservoir is not only a great place to hike, but you can go for a swim afterwards
As you make your way back around the lake, you will come back to the dam wall. This is a place where many local kids swim. Now legally speaking, you should complete the walk along the suburban streets. However, what many locals do is walk over the dam wall and make their way around the outside of the fence through SEQWater property. It is not that I am encouraging this trespassing, but all the local kids do this along with most dog owners taking their four-legged friends for a walk.
Bunyaville Conservation Park
With a combination of hiking tracks, forest and fire trails, as well as mountain bike tracks, the Bunyaville Conservation Park is one of the best suburban bushland reserves within the Brisbane municipality. The best hiking tracks start at the picnic area off Old Northern Road and you can easily combine these with the fire and forest trails to make a very pleasant circuit.
The key circuit to do for those looking for more than a stroll is to head up one of the hiking tracks up to the unappealingly named Sewage Break and then head down Dam Break to the reservoir. This landmark within the reserve is what makes walking here just a little special.
From the reservoir there are more forest and fire trails further into the park and following these can more than double the distance of the hike. But for it can be easy to just head back, choosing a different walking trail to return to the picnic area.
Lake Manchester is the longest hike on this list (excluding people who try to combine all the different trails at Mt Coot-tha) and is an interesting 17 km walk around the dam at Lake Manchester. The walk is best down counterclockwise starting near the dam wall, but if you just want to do a short walk along the lake, cross the dam walk and follow the tracks beside the lake until they divert away from the water, then return.
Walking around Lake Manchester is a lovely 17 km hike
The first part of the circuit is a little confusing as you have to walk back along the road for a short distance before getting on the forest trails. It is also a fairly tough walk because of the various ridges that you have to walk over. While a great walk, this won't be something that everyone will enjoy. The pay off is at the end as you walk along the lakeshore.
The Lake Manchester trails go up and over ridges as well as along the lake shore
The Chermside Hills Reserves are a delightful combination of 3 bushland reserves, including Ravens Street Reserve, Milne Hill Reserve and Chermside Hills Reserve (singular for that one and plural for the combination of the 3 reserves). Overall, if you combine a walk between the 3 reserves, you can easily do 8 kms in total, though you can keep it shorter if you prefer.
The best place to start is at Raven Street Reserve, this includes the Downfall Creek Bushland Centre. The paths here are almost all bitumen. So this is an area you can have a casual stroll or even wheel a pram or wheelchair.
Walk up to the top of Raven Street Reserve and essentially head to the area that borders Hamilton Road. Here you will see the bridge going over the road. At first glance, this looks like an abandoned and overgrown bridge, but it is actually specifically designed that way. This green bridge is there to let animals cross busy Hamilton Road between the two reserves. I guess it was easier than teaching wallabies to use the pedestrian crossing.
The green bridge over Hamilton Road from Raven Street Reserve to the Milne Hill Reserve
Over the green bridge, you arrive at Milne Hill Reserve. The top of the hill is dominated by the water tank that supplies the area but there is a nice path around the eastern half of the hill. You can also walk up to the peak, with a little path, which signs discourage you from taking up to the very peak. Here there is a bench and great views to the west over Chermside Hills Reserve.
The path that goes around the hill also continues on down to the road, and there is a footpath that you follow around to the entrance to Chermside Hills Reserve. The next thing to discover here is a little pocket of almost rainforest around the creek before you quickly leave that and head into parts that are dominated by eucalyptus and grass trees. The next destination is Spider Hill (not making any promises, but I haven't seen any spiders on this hill). You can also walk all the way to the back of the reserve for another couple of kms, but this area is not that interesting.
Chermside Hills Reserve has grass trees, eucalyptus bushland and a little pocket of rainforest
Then it is back around the circuit and you will see a walking path that goes under Hamilton Road. You can then walk along the road for a little while until you get back to the Raven Street Reserve.
Hike around Gold Creek Reservoir
5 kms doesn't seem like much of a hike, but Gold Creek Reservoir has a hiking circuit that delivers a lot in a short distance. You obviously have the lake to walk around, but there is also riparian rainforest along with more open bushland associated with South D'Aguilar National Park.
Gold Creek Reservoir has a nice 5 km circuit around the lake
The hike starts at the end of Gold Creek Road, just past the suburb of Upper Brookfield. Near the dam, not far from the car park, are picnic and toilet facilities, as well as items of dam history to view. Visiting Gold Creek Dam without doing the hike is worth it, especially as you can walk along the dam wall, including down the unique stepped design of the spillway.
The tracks around Gold Creek Reservoir include some dense forest
The hike goes up and down ridges around the lake, and the path can be a little difficult to follow at times. The tracks over the ridges are also steep but can be done easily by anyone with even a modest amount of fitness if you are not rushing.
Bell Bird Grove on Mt Nebo
I am going to sneak this one in because while most of the hikes in Mt Nebo are located in the Moreton Bay Regional Council area, the lower slopes are actually in Brisbane. This includes McAffee's Lookout and Bellbird Grove. While Bellbird Grove only has a small walking track, you walk from here along the forest trail up to Camp Mountain Lookout.
Walk the forest trails from Bellbird Grove to Camp Mountain Lookout
With forest and fire trails crisscrossing the park, you can walk to Mermaid Mountain in several different ways. This includes 20 km walks from Lake Manchester or Gold Creek Reservoir, as well as the one I would recommend that starts off Lake Manchester Road.
Whichever route you take, the trick is to get onto Mermaid Mountain Break and from there you should see a small path heading up the very peak of the mountain, where the lookout is. Ideally, when hiking here you will need a map or GPS as it is easy to end up on the wrong path.
Mt Tempest on Moreton Island
This is the last one on my list but it is in no way the least. Moreton Island lies further out from the city centre than some other council areas. However, it belongs to the administrative area of the Brisbane city council so it has to be included here.
There is a fair amount of hiking to do on Moreton Island, including beach walks, such as the one from the ferry to Cowan Cowan and back, the 20 km return walk of the Rous Battery Walking Track or, if you are camping, walking from Blue Lagoon up to North Point. But the must-do walk on the island is up Mt Tempest.
To get here you either need to have brought your four-wheel drive, be part of a tour or take the Moreton Island Taxi. From the car park, it is a 2.5 km hike that ascends the 285 m peak, which gives you 360-degree views of the island.