Hiking the Steamers – Main Range National Park

Hiking the Steamers – Main Range National Park
November 25, 2021 Valhalla Tactical

Located in a rugged and remote area of the Main Range National Park, lies one of the most striking features of the Scenic Rim, ‘The Steamers’.

‘The Steamers’ is a series of peaks and flat-topped pinnacles, remnants of a thick trachyte lava flow from the Main Range Volcano. The four towering peaks, named the Prow, the Funnel, the Mast, and the Stern, are said to resemble an old Steamboat when viewed from the Stern lookout.

The Steamers is a 14km challenging off-track hike for experienced hikers. There is no marked trail, so it should only be attempted by hikers who are well prepared with off-track navigation experience. A good level of fitness is also required as the track features a strenuous incline and decline through dense bush and boulder scree, as well as a few scrambling sections prior to the final lookout. If you want to experience the Steamers, you should allow 7-8 hours to enjoy the spectacular view and a decent lunch break at the top. This hike is not officially graded by the Queensland parks and wildlife service, but it is considered difficult due to it remoteness and terrain. Make sure to do a lot of planning and to research the area before attempting the hike.


What to bring:

How to get there:


Brisbane to the Steamers (2.5 Hours)

Access to the Steamers is via the Cunningham Highway, 2.5 Hours South-West of Brisbane. From the town of Emu Vale, you can ascend the Steamers via Emu Creek Road or Old Mill Road. Emu Creek Road and Old Mill Road have several creek crossings; therefore you will be required to have a 4WD.

The Steamers from Old Mill Road (4WD Required)

The Steamers has long intrigued me as one of those ‘iconic’ South-East Queensland views. Old Mill Road is my preferred off-track route to the Steamers due to the lack of Gympie Gympie plants and the ‘gentler’ terrain. The first time I ascended the Steamers via Old Mill Road was in October 2020, a few months after the Main Range National Park had been decimated by bushfires in late 2019 and early 2020. It was dry, dusty, and exposed. The landscape was charred black from the fires and the lack of undergrowth caused the scree field to be difficult to navigate. This was due to the loose ash and charcoal debris that covered the steep slopes of the escarpment.

Last weekend was a completely different experience. Nearly one year later, much of the forest had now recovered. Long grass blanketed the forest floor with a sprinkling of purple wildflowers. Due to some rain the night before, the 4WD track to the trailhead was very muddy. We started our hike some time past 10am. Much of our initial ascent up the escarpment to the Steamers featured a lot of fallen trees and misleading footpads to nowhere.

We climbed up the steep slope to the base of the Funnel, taking care not to dislodge any of the rock scree. Yellow native paper daisies lined the sides of the cliffs as we skirted along the side of the Mast, passing a few of the Steamer caves until we reached the Stern. From then on, we clambered up to the top of the Stern until we reached the razorback ridge.

This final scramble to the top of the lookout is perhaps the most precarious but thrilling part the entire hike. One wrong move and falling would cause you to plummet hundreds of meters below and literally take your breath away. However, once you push past the fear, and after all the difficulty and effort put into getting to the summit, there is truly no greater reward than to sit and soak in the gorgeous view of the Steamers. This view is truly one of those places that you’ll never forget. Sitting there in the presence of the Steamers, makes you stare in awe at the magnitude of these rock formations. After catching our breath, we stopped for that classic photo opportunity and took in the breathtaking view that lay in front of us… as well as a few well-deserved sandwiches.

After an hour on the Stern enjoying the view, we decided to return. Coming down from the Steamers was just as treacherous as going up. The steep decline combined with the unstableness of the rock scree proved to be quite dangerous. However, with controlled sliding and a trusty pair of hiking poles, the decent is quite manageable. I opted for sliding down while sitting on my feet, to make life easier. Once at the bottom, we bush bashed our way yet again to the car and raced to complete the hike before sundown.

Overall, I would rate this hike as much easier than I originally thought. 1.5 years of regularly hiking, building up my fitness and confidence has made a world of difference to my ability. Compared to the first time I attempted the Steamers; the vegetation growth has given the ground a lot more stability and has made it easier to grab onto various roots and trees. However, it is still not a hike to be under-estimated and requires a certain level of navigational skill and fitness. I highly recommend it to anyone looking to challenge themselves both physically and navigationally.

It truly is one of the most iconic and rewarding views in South-East Queensland.

-Steph at Valhalla Tactical and Outdoor Online