South D'Aguilar National Park's Best Little Known Hike
Mermaid Mountain in South D'Aguilar National Park is a little known hiking destination with a great lookout overlooking Lake Manchester. This mostly unsigned walk along forest and fire trails can be reached from a number of different starting points. Below is information for the short 12 km walk.
Mermaid Mountain is a little known hiking destination on Brisbane's doorstep
Mermaid Mountain has an elevation of 481 metres, and the hike will go up 421 metres. South D'Aguilar National Park is crisscrossed with forest and fire trails, meaning you can hike to the mountain from several starting points, including Lake Manchester and Gold Creek Reservoir, both about 20 kms return, or take the shorter but steeper route described here, which is just over 12 kms return.
To get to the start of the hike, put 371 Lake Manchester Road into your GPS. This will take you to a car park on the side of the road, but go maybe 100 metres further and you will find the gate where the hike starts. To help you identify that you are in the right spot, on the opposite side of the road is another gate where you can see a couple of picnic tables and 2 water tanks.
The hike follows fire and forest trails. I have been trying to find a complete map of these, but not even the topographical maps from QTOPO properly mark these. The best guide I have found so far is using google maps. When you look at the satellite view you will be able to see both the labelled trails and the unlabeled trails. Unfortunately, Google Maps will give you the wrong location if you search for Mermaid Mountain, but it will also show you the peak clearly labelled.
South D'Aguilar National Park was previously Brisbane Forest Park, and as a forest park, it was crisscrossed by access roads and fire trails. There are is a lot of paths you can hike, but the lack of signs on the trails means that it is easy to get lost and you can end up walking for hours down the wrong track. With a large number of different trails and junctions, there is no reasonable way for me to reliably describe every twist and turn of the walk, so this is a walk for experienced and prepared walkers.
There are many unsigned intersections and junctions on the trail
However with a map, compass or even just a map downloaded on your phone, it is easy enough. Essentially you want to follow the trails until you get to Mermaid Mountain Break and then follow that to the top. The trail we followed lead us up a long steep section. This is a little challenging, and especially coming down you will want hiking poles or at least pick up a nice sturdy walking stick from the many fallen branches by the path.
As you follow Mermaid Mountain Break you will see glimpses of Lake Manchester through the trees to your left and then the break will pass on the right side of the peak. You will see a trail heading up which you can follow to the lookout.
The main view from here is Lake Manchester and the surrounding bushland areas. When following the fire and forest trails around South D'Aguilar National Park, it is very rare to find such a great view.
As said before, there are alternative routes. To return we heading along the ridge of the Mermaid Mountain roughly in the direction that we came from and returned to the trail. We decided to try an alternative route so that we could take a less steep path back. Unfortunately, while it is possible, this route ends up passing through private land. In our defence, there was no sign specifying that we were entering private land, though there was a sign saying that we were about to enter an area with cattle. When we reached the end of this trail we found a sign warning us against trespassing.
Also, this path through the farm was very open with few trees, which made hiking this path hot in the middle of the day and it ends at the road about 2 kms from where you parked your car. So it is a much better option to do this hike as a return hike even though it means making your way down the steep path.
Take the wrong route you end trespassing on exposed farmland
Overall, Mermaid Mountain is one of those little known hikes in Brisbane that can be hiked by a number of different routes. The many interconnecting trails and lack of trail markers mean that, while not difficult, it is best done by prepared bushwalkers. The view from the top of Mermaid Mountain makes any effort worth it.