I am an outdoor loving, novice writer residing in the Northern Rivers, Australia.
Published September 2nd 2019
Staring at a sign that most definitely did not state that the upcoming track was for the hike we had anticipated, Mt Cougal, we scratched our heads and searched the area. After a few minutes of walking through rugged grass, we decided to drive a little more to find a reception spot and search up the actual way. 35 minutes later, we arrived at the true Mt Cougal trail, as our maps had taken us to the other side where there was, unfortunately, no known track! Walking up to the handwritten notice which assured us we were finally at the correct place, we started the incline when we came to the realisation that this was going to be a tough one.
The Mt Cougal twin peaks are nestled right on the NSW and QLD border in Springbrook National Park, a little west of the Gold Coast. This particular climb has been graded a 4 meaning it is classified as 'Hard' and should only be attempted by experienced hikers. That being said, if you are physically fit, take a lot of water with you (maybe 2 litres at least) and have the motivation then you can easily take it on, unless you have a fear of heights!
Following Garden of Eden road for roughly 5-10 minutes, we arrived at a small parking area. There is no signage bar the Mt Cougal info sign on the opposite side of a gate. We jumped out of the car, stretched our legs (much needed for the hike that lay ahead), and found a small opening next to the gate to squeeze through.
Up, up and up the small trail beginning from the left of the sign turned steep and climbed next to a barb-wired fence separating the two private properties on either side. The rule of thumb for this hike is to always stick to the fence and you won't get lost as there is some pretty rugged terrain, and I can vouch for this claim due to Caleb and I both getting lost and having to re-climb a steep hill we just wandered down. Our 'shortcut' ended up actually adding 20 minutes onto our return, so don't be like us!
After the first leg of the trek, we reached a rather extreme change in vegetation. Huge sugarcane stood high and very dry, and had been left to overgrow, pushing the natural flora aside to encompass the area. Hyping ourselves up to pass through what looked like an Eastern Brown Snake's paradise, we power walked between the sugarcane, in the small opening that looked as though it had been purposefully made for the hike.
With the likelihood of a snake bite minimising, we slowed our pace as we made it out of the overgrown sugarcane alive, to be greeted by a beautiful opening with a view of the surrounding mountains. There in the distance we could see the upcoming peak we would soon be perched upon, so with growing motivation, we explored the area and continued on our way. Also, there was a lovely place to stop for a break at this clearing, right under a big tree with a fire pit nearby (I'm guessing it's a camping spot for most), so definitely have a break and take in the views.
Now from the clearing onwards, there were a good deal of ups and down – literally. The hike went from trailing uphill to kinder paths downhill, although there was no lack of complaining about how these descending slopes would not be praised on the way back. The hike turned into a rainforest-like habitat, and following the fenceline we passed enormous ancient trees that made you wonder about the times they have lived through, as well as raised roots overlapping the path, fern, hollow logs and all things that felt like a dewy primaeval land.
After what felt like a LONG time and I had complained all that I could about my legs hurting, we peaked the rocky outcrop we were yet to find out we had to scramble up. It's probably wise to know that once you reach the end of the trail and you face the rock wall in front, it's a good idea to go right and not left, as the left of you takes you to a very unforgiving drop (although it boasts a brilliant view, not too sure it's worth losing your footing and falling from).
So we explored the area, trying to find our way up, and after a small walk an opening appeared and we began our very small but fun rock climb. Five to ten minutes onwards and through some more vegetation we made it to the top. A tiny viewpoint and trees covering the surrounds making you feel much more comfortable greeted us, and we sat our tired little butts down and had some lunch.
Many photos, silent moments and blueberries later we embarked on the descent.
Hiking down was a little tricky as it was extremely steep in numerous places, so we grabbed some sticks for support and consistently checked on one another. The way back took us just a little under the amount it took to ascend as various inclines still appeared, although not as gruelling as before.
I would say it roughly took us 4 hours for the entire hike, including the 20-30 minutes was sat at the top for lunch. We were in no rush so if you are quite a fast hiker, it would definitely shorten that time estimate for you.
All in all, an awesome trek that showed some beautiful diverse environments, challenged our physical fitness and boasted a panoramic view of the surrounding valley. I would rate it a 4 out of 5!