Mount Warning (Wollumbin)

A steep hike to the top of a volcanic plug, and the first place on the Australian mainland to be touched by the morning sun.

The remnant of an ancient shield volcano, Mount Warning stands to the south-west of Brisbane in the Tweed Ranges. A place of cultural and traditional significance to the Bundjalung (Aboriginal) people, the mountain was officially recognised as Wollumbin in 2006. It’s a popular walk undertaken by over 60,000 people each year (Source: Wikipedia), many of them to watch the sunrise. Under traditional Aboriginal culture, Wollumbin is considered a sacred men’s site and people are discouraged from climbing the mountain (there’s signage at the start), although very few Web sites mention this and it’s a popular walk.

Today is my second time doing this hike, this time taking Luke, my (7-year old) son, with me. We set off from our hotel at Kingscliff around 7am, and we’re at the start of the trail just after 8:30am. The track immediately starts climbing up through subtropical and temperate rainforest.

It’s a well-made track; a few sections are a bit rough and there’s sometimes a bit of mud (it looks like it could get pretty muddy in places after heavy rain) and we make good progress. As the mountain gets steeper, the track zig-zags up the hill maintaining a very constant or consistent gradient. There’s occasional views out through the foliage, but most of the time there’s not a lot to see.

The fun starts at the 4km mark, when the track turns into a steep rock scramble assisted by chains. This last section is about 400m, with 150m vertical ascent.

There’s a couple of platforms and benches on the summit, which is 1,156, m above sea level. There are views in all directions, from coastal views towards the Gold Coast and Byron Bay in the east to the Border Ranges National Park to the west. The ascent’s taken a bit over two hours, and the round trip including 30min at top is just under four hours.

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The Sunrise Climb

My previous Mt Warning ascent was in May 2014; this time on my own. I stayed overnight in the area, arriving at 11pm the previous evening and staying at the Mt Warning Rainforest Park. This meant I could get a 5am start, reaching the summit in about 1:15min. It wasn’t the best weather: it rained heavily overnight and while it did clear in the morning, I didn’t actually see the sun rising.

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Hints and Warnings

  • It can get cold when you stop – bring some warm clothing.
  • There’s a chance you’ll get a leech; you can bring salt, pluck it off with fingers or wait until it falls off!
  • Don’t be on the summit (or on the section with chains) if there is a thunderstorm. [Update: a man was killed and his partner injured by lightning on the summit in December 2016. ABC News]
  • There is no mobile coverage on the trail.
Location About 2 hours from Brisbane and an hour from Gold Coast. Head towards Murwillumbah.
Distance 8.8km return (3-4 hours)
Grade Moderate. Steep climb (750m ascent).
Season/s All year round. Avoid being on the summit during thunderstorms
Map Burringbar 1:25,000 (NSW 9541-2S)
GPS Route Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.
Resources National Parks web site. Park brochure (wollumbin_mebbin_pdf)

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