Montserrat Lookout and Upper Portals circuit

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  • check the walk's official website to confirm if the track is open
  • turn back if it looks like the track is too busy when you get there

An awesome day out taking in these two spectacular locations, enjoying the amazing views of Mt Barney from Montserrat Lookout, and exploring the Portals. There are a couple of leg-burning climbs involved, but the rewards are worth it.

Bird Watching
4WD Required
Scrambling or Climbing
Navigation Required
Eucalypt Forest
Maximum Elevation
Total Climb

Getting there

How do you get to the start of the walk?

Start at Cleared Ridge carpark at the top of Waterfall Creek Rd (steep and rough 4WD track).  If you don't have a 4WD, it is possible to get within about 500 metres of the carpark with an AWD with high clearance, but the last section involves driving over some seriously large rocks.


Which maps cover the area?

World Wide Maps - Mt Barney

Route/Trail notes

Leaving the carpark, walk through the stile then along a wide fire trail/National Parks road for a few hundred metres before coming to a sign that points downhill to the right towards the Upper Portals.  This is a steep road (seeming steeper on the way back up!) that runs next to a gully, then eventually flattens out and comes to a T-junction in a cleared area, with a sign pointing to the Upper Portals to the left and saying "Private property - no access" pointing right.  Turn right (you will only be on private property for a few hundred metres) and cross Yamahra creek.  You will need to take your shoes off, as there are no stepping stones.  Proceed along an old road up to a disused cattle yard on the left and turn left up the hill (you can turn before or after the cattle yard as both tracks join and then proceed up the ridge).  Note: if you cross another little creek/tributary and end up at some buildings (Grace's Hut), you've gone too far.  

What is sometimes a slashed track becomes a footpad a few hundred metres along.  It follows the crest of the ridge upwards through sclerophyl forest (gaiters or long pants recommended given the risk of snakes), and although fallen trees get in the way it's easy enough to pick up the trail.  After about 45 to 60 minutes it reaches the summit, which is a large bare rock with a great views of Mt Barney to the East and some views of the Ballow Massif to the West.

Head South to find a cleared camping area, then there is another footpad (easy to find) heading East and down the mountain.  This way is quite steep, but there are no exposed sections at all.  After about 45 minutes you will see (and hear) the Yamahra/Mt Barney Creeks confluence.  The footpad seems to peter out at this point, but if you track diagonally right it isn't too steep and you will reach the bank of Mt Barney Creek.  Hop across the creek (if the level is low enough) and look for another footpad on the right bank going downstream.  A large treefall at time of writing (12/9/20) makes this difficult at first but then the path becomes much clearer.  A couple of hundred metres downstream you'll find the spectacular Upper Portals.

Backtrack upstream to the confluence and cross Barney Creek again, where you will see a very obvious track/road, which follows Yamahra Creek.  This is a pleasant and undulating couple of kilometres with creek crossings and some nice hoop pine rainforest.  It eventually returns you to the Upper Portals/Private Property sign, where you retrace your steps back up what now seems an impossibly steep track (I counted 24 pitches) to the carpark.


Do you need any permits? What's the cost?

Other References

How can I find more info? Any guide books?

Take a Walk in South East Qld by John and Lyn Daly


I got the Mazda CX9 to within about 500 metres of the carpark before I lost my nerve, parked on the side of the road and walked the rest of the way. This saved me about an hour's walk up a steep from the Waterfall Creek Campground. The tracks have been recently slashed, which makes finding the start of the track up to the lookout (near the cattleyards) much easier. The walk was a solid slog but the view of Mt Barney was fantastic - I could hardly believe I was in Qld! The track down to the creek was a bit tricky wear the dirt was loose, but my feet went out from me only once! The Upper Portals were great to see (though not the swimming holes that the Lower Portals have).

Michael D on 12 Sep, 2020


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