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Mt Coot-Tha's Best & Steepest Exercise Tracks

Home > Brisbane > Health and Fitness | Lists | Nature | Outdoor | Walks
by Roy Chambers (subscribe)
Lover of all things interesting and new
Published November 26th 2022
Get fit on Mt Coot-tha's hardest & steepest trails
Mt Coot-tha is a popular place for exercise with options ranging from casual strolls along easy paths through to steep and difficult paths that people run or walk carrying a full pack. There is some debate about which are the steepest or most difficult paths. Having walked all of them in one day, I can let you know my opinion on which are the hardest and steepest.

Mt Coot-tha is a popular spot for exercise but which are the toughest tracks?
Mt Coot-tha is a popular spot for exercise but which are the toughest tracks?


Linking them together

Over the years, the Brisbane City Council has constructed an increasing number of official tracks on Mt Coot-tha so that all the trails listed here are linked together. It is possible to do each trail on its own, often heading up one way and down another less steep trail to where you started. But you can push on to the start of the next trail as well.

Working out how all the trails link together on Mt Coot-tha
Working out how all the trails link together on Mt Coot-tha


I think that the total length of the walk linking all these steep trails together would be over 20 kms. For people looking to get fit and build up hiking or trail running fitness, this is a great option. Other people might drive between different trail starts or just do a limited section.

Lookout Trail: The steep path up to the summit

One of the best places to start is the Lookout Trail. This is a 1.5 km track that runs up to the Summit. There are lots of ways to access this trail but I like to start at the end of Caladenia St which gives you a short walk on flatter paths to warm up and stretch your legs. You can also walk from the Brisbane Botanic Gardens following the left fork of the Citriodora Trail until you get to the start of the Lookout Trail.

The official of the Lookout Trail is an easy pleasant walk
The official of the Lookout Trail is an easy pleasant walk


This track rises up steeply and averaged over the distance is probably the steepest track in Mt Coot-tha. It is also not covered in loose gravel like some other paths, making it more pleasant to walk up.

The steep way up to Mt Coot-tha's Summit is Lookout Trail
The steep way up to Mt Coot-tha's Summit is Lookout Trail


You used to be able to keep going up the track all the way but the top section has suffered from erosion and has been permanently closed off. There is now a diversion onto a less steep path to get to the top.

As the top of the Lookout Trail is closed, you have to divert onto an easier path to arrive at Mt Coott-tha's Summit
As the top of the Lookout Trail is closed, you have to divert onto an easier path to arrive at Mt Coott-tha's Summit


Returning to your starting point, should you not wish to go down the Lookout Trail, is either by the Spotted Gum Trail or you follow the Mahogany Trail halfway, then cross the road and follow the Citriodora Trail. If you started at the Botanic Gardens, you have the option of several buses from the summit to take you back down.

Scorpion Trail: Long uphill path that few people do

The newest track on the list, it is one of the less well-known. If you are just doing this track on its own, you can get to the start from either the Honeyeater Track, then diverting onto the Reservoir Trail and the Kamala Trail to the turn off to the Scorpion Trail. Or you can start at the trailhead on Greenford Street, turning right onto the Kamala Trail. If you have just completed the Lookout Trail, then head get there by heading down the Honeyeater Trail and turning off onto the Reservoir Trail.

The start of the Scorpion Trail up Mt Coot-tha
The start of the Scorpion Trail up Mt Coot-tha


This is a reasonably steep track that starts off with a medium slope and gets steeper are you get near the top. I would argue that it is not as steep as the Lookout Trail but the track undulates. This means you go up a steep section and then it dips or levels out. All the newer tracks are designed this way to capture divert water runoff to prevent erosion in the rain.

Pushing up the Scorpion Trail at Mt Coot-tha
Pushing up the Scorpion Trail at Mt Coot-tha


When you get to the top of the track you are at the road, and to your left across the road is the Gold Mine Picnic area. There are seats, shelters, water taps and barbecues here.

The Gold Mine Picnic Area is a nice place to chill after walking up the Scorpion Trail
The Gold Mine Picnic Area is a nice place to chill after walking up the Scorpion Trail


To get back to where you started from, you either turn right and follow the Litchfield Trail to The Summit and down the Honeyeater Track or turn left and follow the leftmost track till you get to the Powerful Owl Trail and across the road you will see the start of the Jacksonia Track, which takes you down to the Bellbird Trail and then back to Greenford Street.

Kokoda Trail: It starts off easy & gets steeper & steeper

The most well-known steep track at Mt Coot-tha is the Kokoda Trail, and yes, the last part of this track is indeed the steepest on the mountain. Most people will just park at Greenford Street and walk straight up from there. If you have just completed the Scorpion Trail, then walk back down the Jacksonia Track, then follow the Bellbird Track to the start of Kokoda.

The start of the Kokoda Trail on Mt Coot-tha
The start of the Kokoda Trail on Mt Coot-tha


This trail starts off easy getting progressively steeper. Luckily only the last part is very steep. Like a lot of other steep tails, it undulates, meaning your get steep parts followed by flat areas or dips. Even worse it is covered in gravel, making it slippery.

Mt Coot-Tha's Kokoda Trail gets increasingly steeper as it goes up
Mt Coot-Tha's Kokoda Trail gets increasingly steeper as it goes up


As you approach the end of the trail, you will see several side tracks that are less gravelly and a little easier to walk. By a little easier, I don't mean easy, I just mean, not quite as hard as the main trail.

Side trails make it easier but not easy to scramble up Mt Coot-Tha's Kokoda Trail
Side trails make it easier but not easy to scramble up Mt Coot-Tha's Kokoda Trail


Kokoda ends up at opposite the Channel Nine building and the start of the Powerful Owl Trail. Just to the left of the top of the Trail is the start of the Jacksonia Track, which takes you back down to the Bellbird Trail and then back to the start of the walk.

Powerful Owl Trail: The easiest of the steep trails leads to the Pinnacle

The most popular steep walk, the Powerful Owl Trail, is probably one of the oldest, and many older locals still refer to it as the Telegraph Track. If you just want to walk this track then there is parking at the Silky Oak Picnic Area and near the entrance to the Simpsons Falls Picnic area. If you have just completed the Kokoda or Scorpion Trails, then you start down the Powerful Owl Trail from the far end but divert onto the Eugenia Circuit down to Simpsons Falls, walk down to the picnic area, and out to the start of Powerful Owl.

The Powerful Owl Trail is a popular path on Mt Coot-tha for people looking to exercise
The Powerful Owl Trail is a popular path on Mt Coot-tha for people looking to exercise


When it comes to steep tracks, Powerful Owl is not that steep. I mean, it is still a great workout but is easier than the trails listed above. In fact, it is just the right level of steepness to give you a good workout.

While steep, Powerful Owl Trail is the least steep of the trails on this list
While steep, Powerful Owl Trail is the least steep of the trails on this list


You don't need to walk the entire track. Most of the steep uphill section is over when you get to the start of the Pinnacle Track that leads down to the left. This is the quickest way back, especially if you follow the left branch of this trail. Alternatively you can keep going, and there are still further areas of steep track until you get to the tracks on the right leading to the Eugenia Circuit and down to Simpsons Falls. You can keep going to the end of the trail and follow the Super Summit Circuit around back to the start of the walk.

The are a number of tracks leading from Powerful Owl Trail
The are a number of tracks leading from Powerful Owl Trail


If you had started at the Lookout Trail, you would need to walk to the end of the Powerful Owl Trail, walk the Ghost Hole Track (or the alternative one if that is closed), then the Litchfield Track back to the Summit. Then it is a matter of choosing which track you want to follow down to the start of the Lookout Trail.

Maculata Track & Spotted Gum Tracks: Honourable Mentions

Maybe you have read the trail descriptions and busy stretching ready to tackle a trail or two. Or maybe you want to try something but these sound a little too hard. That is okay, here are 2 honourable mention tracks that are suitable for anyone with a reasonable level of fitness to get started on.

The Spotted Gum Track has been constructed from the Brisbane Botanic Gardens up to The Summit. It is really not that hard for most people because even though there are lots of steps, there are lots of flat parts as well. Definitely one of the most popular walks up the mountain.

Just some of the many stairs on the Spotted Gum Track that leads from Brisbane Botanic Gardens to The Summit
Just some of the many stairs on the Spotted Gum Track that leads from Brisbane Botanic Gardens to The Summit


The lesser known Maculata Track runs from the far side of the Mountain up to Simpsons Falls. Well strictly speaking, it takes you up to the road, and on the other side there is the Stringybark Track that leads to Simpsons Falls. There are lots of steps coming up the far side and gives you a nice workout without being too hard.

The Maculata Track is a lovely walk up to Simpson's Falls and has a few steps on the way
The Maculata Track is a lovely walk up to Simpson's Falls and has a few steps on the way


Overall

Mt Coot-tha is a great place for people who are trying to build up fitness, especially hiking fitness, to go. Many people knock out a quick 10 kms in the morning before work or in the evening after work with headlamps . Fitness freaks do 20 kms across multiple trails on a weekend before the weather gets too hot. Others just do a quick run up and down the mountain using one of these trails.

But whatever your fitness level and time constraints, Mt Coot-tha is the right spot to find a short or long, easy or steep track to work on your fitness. Plus you can get coffee, cake and ice cream afterwards at The Summit, the Botanic Gardens or at the caravan near the entrance to the JC Slaughter Falls Picnic Area.

Ice cream is best enjoyed after a day of exercise
Ice cream is best enjoyed after a day of exercise
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Why? These are the hardest tracks & trails up Mt Coot-tha for people looking to get fit
When: All tracks are open 24 hours but some car parks close at night
Your Comment
Great article. The Chapel Hill Road Trail is just as steep and testing as Kokoda and always tests me well. And it makes a good circuit with the Summit trail. Also a few good ones starting near Channel 7 and going down into the Gap.
by motch (score: 2|148) 23 days ago
This is another reason to visit Mt Cootha beyond the lookout
by Gillian Ching (score: 3|6212) 72 days ago
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