How to do the Glass House Mountains
The Glass House Mountains in South East Queensland are an awe-inspiring collection of 11 ranges perfect for hiking, wandering along, and gazing at. But what you might not know is that they’re related to one another in Indigenous mythology.
The father Tibrogargan, Beerwah the mother, and their many children (including eldest son Coonowrin) are situated an hour’s drive north of Brisbane. The range is made of molten lava volcanic peaks that rise from the Sunshine Coast’s patchwork of farming plains, home to the Jinibara and Gubbi Gubbi people. The Dreamtime (the beginning of time for Indigenous Australians – more than 60,000 years ago) tells the story of the Glasshouse Mountains, explaining the way the landscape was created 25 millions years ago.
So lace up, pack the trail mix and water and hit the tracks. These peaks are not to be missed when you’re next visiting the Sunshine Coast.
Mount Tibrogargan (364m)
The story: Father
Tibrogargan is the third smallest but easily recognised, and one of the most significant characters in the Dreaming. Appearing like a hunched old man with face-like features that look out to the ocean, the story goes that one day he noticed the ocean rising and started to gather all the children together to move to safety.
Especially suitable for families, Mount Tibrogargan includes the easiest of all the mountain trail options, including a 4km circuit (1.5 hours) through casuarina groves and eucalypt forest around the mountain’s base. The toilets and a number of picnic tables at the Tibrogargan trailhead are wheelchair accessible—the access surface is gravel and grass. (There are no wheelchair accessible walking tracks in the Glass House Mountains National Park, however).
There’s also a 6km circuit through open woodland linking Tibrogargan and Mount Tibberoowuccum, which is 2-3 hours along the Trachyte walking circuit.
Mount Beerwah (556m)
The story: Mother
The highest peak of all, Beerwah was said to be pregnant (and still is to this day). When Tibrogargan started to gather the children together to move, he asked the eldest son Coonowrin to look after his mother. Unaware she was pregnant and terrified of the storm, Coonowrin fled.
Beerwah has a fairly breezy 200m return walk through eucalypt forest to a grassy viewing and day-use area (perfect for relaxing with a picnic after your walk) with views of Mount Beerwah in the distance. For those who like a challenge, there’s the 2.6km summit route taking around three to four hours to complete. Don’t forget sturdy walking shoes. Beerwah packs a punch with steep exposed rock faces and occasional strong winds, so this one’s for experienced climbers. Access is via Mount Beerwah Road (off Old Gympie Road).
TIP: The Glass House Mountains are spiritually significant to the Jinibara and Gubbi Gubbi peoples and while Tibrogargan and Beerwah are open for climbing, traditional owners request visitors not to climb them. There are many ways to see the peaks from different angles – Wild Horse Mountain Lookout near the Bruce Highway and Mary Cairncross Scenic Reserve in Maleny are two of the best.
Mount Coonowrin (377m)
The story: eldest son
Rather than help his mother and siblings to safety, Coonowrin flees the impending danger on his own, which infuriates Tibrogargan. He runs after his eldest son and strikes him so hard that he dislocates Coonowrin’s neck.
Coonowrin is probably the most recognisable of all the mountains due to his broken neck which looks like a narrow peak of crooked rock at the top. You can look out to Coonowrin from Mount Ngungun.
Mount Ngungun (253m)
The story: one of the kids
The many streams flowing through the Glass House Mountains area are said to be Coonowrin’s brothers and sisters crying from shame at their brother’s selfishness. Although Coonowrin does seek forgiveness for his actions, Tibrogargan instead gazes out to sea and sits with his back to his son. Coonowrin continues to hang his head in shame and weeps for his cowardice.
The Mount Ngungun summit walking track is a 2.8 kilometre trail that begins in open forest with stunning 360 views of Mount Tibrogargan, Mount Coonowrin and Mount Beerwah from the summit. Don’t forget to pack your camera for the double-take of coast and hinterland in the one shot.
It’ll take about two hours in total and the track passes close to cliff edges so supervise children closely, wear supportive footwear and take extra care around the summit area in wet weather, as rocks can become very slippery.
Note: Visit the Glass House Mountains Visitor Information Centre in the nearby township of Glasshouse (off Steve Irwin Way) for travel info including maps, brochures and itineraries. The centre also has interactive displays on the history of the area and a selection of local products and souvenirs.
Wild Horse Mountain (123m)
The story: one of the kids
Wild Horse was said to be always running away to play by the sea. It’s the smallest of the mountains and the only one located on the east side of the Bruce Highway in Beerburrum State Forest, with views of the other mountains in the distance.
Arguably the most accessible mountain of the ranges, Wild Horse has a lookout across to her parents and siblings, perfect for getting the rest of them in one panoramic shot. It’s a 700m walk to the lookout. Stop for a pick-me-up after your hike at Glasshouse Mountains Coffee for a great local roast.
Mount Beerburrum (278m)
The story: one of the kids
Beerburrum isn’t mentioned in the legend, but is one of Tibrogargan and Beerwah’s children.
Accessible via Beerburrum Road, Mount Beerburrum has a steep 3.5km return walk, taking approximately 1.5 hours. Pack non-slip shoes: this is a very steep paved pathway that leads to a fire tower with views over the surrounding park. Set up a spread at Matthew Flinders Park after the trek for a well-deserved break, or head into the township for the rest of the day.
Note: Not only do the Glasshouse Mountains offer spectacular walking trails with views of the surrounding peaks, you can also rock climb, abseil, and walk across the shared trail linking Beerburrum and Tibrogargan for mountain bike touring, walking and running.
There are more shared trail opportunities for mountain bikers and those on foot, as well as horses in the nearby Glass House Mountains Conservation Park.