I have a new favourite day hike!
Coongara Rock is in the heart of Mt Walsh National Park (near Biggenden). I’ve hiked around the bottom of it, but hadn’t managed to arrange the hike to the top until I joined the Bundaberg Bushwalking Club on their recent hike.
A friend of mine tried to walk this in January. However, she discovered that the public information available for this is rather lacking in detail. The result? My friend and her husband bush-bashing their way to an outcrop below the top. So your Aunty Lu has a couple of tips if you are thinking of attempting this hike, so you hopefully avoid this same fate.
1. The Website is Misleading
The Queensland National Parks website says the following (my comments are in italics):
Distance: 600m return (probably correct from the sign, NOT the parking area, but most of this is literally climbing using hands as well as feet and includes some tricky sections)
Time: 30mins (lies! I went with experienced bushwalkers. Although we weren’t in a hurry, I think we would have been pushing it to make it to the top in an hour, let alone time to have a look around and then come back down).
Details: Access from Coongara Rock parking area (correct, however “parking area” is basically just a grassy clearing). The short steep 300m track heads directly up to the base of Coongara Rock (correct, although not from the parking area – see my tip below).
There is no formal track that takes you around the base of the rock or up onto the rock. (There is a formal track taking you 3/4 of the way up, around what I would call the “base of the rock”. Then you walk over open rock to the actual summit).
Only experienced walkers with good fitness levels should explore beyond this point (what point? But yes, this is a hike for experienced walkers). Extreme care should be taken when walking on the uneven rocky ground at the base of the rock.
2. You need a 4 wheel drive vehicle to get there
The map doesn’t lie – this is definitely a track for 4WDs only. Even my Dad, who has taken 2 wheel drives places they should never even dream of, agreed that he would not attempt this. The Lord’s Road entrance is rocky and has lots of “whoa-boys” (basically bush speed bumps, big dirt mounds placed along the track. I think their purpose is to stop the road being washed out in heavy rain). The road is actually quite scenic, as it takes you along a ridge looking out over the park. You appreciate it best on the drive out, where you have some great views over the country to the north.
Also, it is probably 15 to 20 minutes of 4 wheel driving to get to the “parking area”, so leave yourself plenty of time.
3. Hiking boots strongly advised
Walking over open rock to get to the summit would be very, very difficult in ordinary runners. My wonderful hiking boots walked me up fairly steep rock face. If you don’t have hiking boots, you could still give it a try but be prepared for a much longer walk while you pick out a suitable route. Don’t even think about it in wet weather without hiking boots.
4. There are no facilities
The “parking area” is just that – some open grass to park on. There is no water, toilets or picnic tables. Come prepared to pee in the bush, or wait a long time to get back to town.
There is no phone reception from the time you leave the sealed road, although you do get reception at the very top of the rock. Do not rely on you phone’s service or GPS for safety or directions.
5. The track doesn’t start from the parking area
This is probably the most difficult part to figure out. From the parking area, you need to follow the 4WD track that goes off to the left (on the eastern side). You follow this up and down 3 hills and over 2 creek crossings. If it is dry, they may not be water in the creeks. You probably walk for 10 or 20 minutes. Keep an eye out on your right for the actual walking track, and the sign that is currently falling apart. This is the start of the track to the top.
6. Unlike Mt Walsh, you get 360 degree views from the top
This was the best part! I love the Mt Walsh Bluff walk, but you only get about 180 degree views to the north there. From Coongara Rock, you get 360 degree views. Because you are virtually in the middle of the park, you can barely see any signs of civilisation, in any direction! It is fantastic.
7. Leave yourself plenty of time
As I said above, the drive in take about 20 minutes (and 20 minutes back out again). I think you should leave yourself a minimum of 2 hours for the walk, probably 3. We were taking our time, and we also took a side trip to find a cave that one of the other hikers knew about. I think we spent about 5 hours all up, including lunch at the top. You probably don’t need that long, but don’t start late in the afternoon or you may find yourself getting home in the dark. If you are looking at an entire round trip from town (Biggenden), then leave at least 3 hours, probably 4.
8. It is for experienced walkers
This is not an easy walk. It is very steep, remote, and not well marked. You should have a reasonable level of experience and fitness before attempting this. I think kids could manage it, especially if they are used to wilder walks, although you should keep an eye on them. If you are hiking on your own, please take a satellite phone and/or PLB. We didn’t see any other hikers the day we went, and as there is no phone reception it could take days for you to be found if you fell and injured yourself.
That being said, the hike is well worth the effort though and I thoroughly recommend it. As I said, this is my new favourite day hike. I intend to visit again very soon.