I grew up in the sleepy town of Beaudesert in Queensland’s Scenic Rim. It’s a great spot to access plenty of National Parks. Mt Barney, near the New South Wales border, remains a spot close to my heart. We camped here often when I was young, and made many treks to the Lower Portals. It was such an adventure trekking through the scrub, under the odd fallen tree, through the a couple of trickling streams, and my favourite part was climbing across, through and over boulders into the shaded sanctuary overlooking the crisp waters of the lower portals. Once there it was a quick strip off and straight into the waters to cool off after the 3-odd kilometre walk.
We always continued our lower portals adventures further up the creek line to discover more secluded waterholes and, depending on the water flow, caves where water flowed in. It really was heaven on earth. Exploring this part of Mt Barney was not for the feint hearted though. There was a small waterfall that required climbing. I recall one year Dad fashioned a rope system to help us climb up. Other years, Dad did the hard yakka by hanging on to the slippery rocks with one hand while he pushed us upwards, butt in the palm of his free hand.
While accessing the lower portals is quite easy, well it is a hard walk in parts, but it is well signposted and accessible from a designated carpark. The Upper Portals on the other hand requires a 4WD to drive into land at the rear of Mount Barney, before a short walk along the ridge line into the National Park. It is definitely a walk to do with someone who knows the track or with a good maps and navigational equipment, as much of it isn't signposted and tracks can be difficult to see. It's an 8km round-trip and for walkers with a moderate level of fitness. There are plenty of creek crossings, steep and long inclines, and boulder scrambling.
Trekking to the Upper Portals was always on the family bucket list. We attempted it once, but alas, my Mum slipped down a steep incline at the very start, hurting her ankle so we called it a day and vowed to return. Then, finally, Dad had managed to organise a guide and another trek attempt was organised some 15 years later.
The night before we did as we had always before a Lower Portals walk, we made sandwiches, packed some fruit and muesli bars and made sure we had plenty of cold water. Got our swimmers and towels ready. But this year I was being smart… The Husband was in charge of the bag carrying everything we needed! My job was to carry the DSLR camera.
You see, my fitness was severely lacking, so there was no way I was splitting the load! And I can assure you, I needed far more rest stops than I ever did walking into the Lower Portals, and, the next day I could barely move. But I am so pleased I made the effort to get there.
If you’re after seclusion in Mt Barney National Park, then the Upper Portals are your best bet. Nowadays, every man and his dog head to the Lower Portals to escape the summer heat and the hustle and bustle of the city.
Or for an overnight adventure, trek to the summit and camp at the top. This is still on my bucket list for sure! You can reach the summit and return in a day trip, but you may like to enlist a local guide to take you a back way. The summit, on a clear day, provides you with 360-degree views out as far as the Gold Coast and Brisbane. And the view of Mt Lindsey is spectacular.