While Australia might suffer from a lack of true ‘mountains’, that doesn’t mean there’s a shortage of fantastic climbs to set your sights on. While well-known peaks like Mt Warning, Mt Kosciuszko and Cradle Mountain might demand a lot of the attention, here’s a handful you could end up having all to yourself.
1. The Castle, NSW
Most people catch nothing more than a daunting glimpse of the Castle, from the summit of its well-frequented cousin, Pigeon House Mountain, near Milton on the NSW south coast. Caught between the vast Morton National Park and the spectacular wilderness of the Budawangs, the Castle is shamefully underrated, as it’s easily one of the best walks in the entire country.
The climb begins from Long Gully Campground, about an hour’s drive inland from Milton. The 11km return walk ascends some 800m, climbing gradual ridges and skirting clifflines, before squeezing through narrow passes and tackling near-vertical climbs. From the rocky platforms and scrubby heath that dominate the summit, the views of Pigeon House and the many iconic peaks of Morton National Park are just out of this world.
2. Mt Bruce, WA
At 1,234 metres high, Mt Bruce, or Punurrunha, is Western Australia’s second highest mountain. It rises as part of the rugged Hamersley Range in the centre of the incredible Karijini National Park in the state’s north. While just about every visitor to the area drives right past it on their way in, most won’t stop to climb it.
The 10km return trek to the summit climbs gradually along spinifex-clad hills for the most part, with occasional steep and scrambly sections, as brilliant views of one of Australia’s prettiest natural areas unfolds to either side. It’s best climbed in the cooler months, as Pilbara summers can be absolutely brutal, although that can all but eliminate your chances of having the climb to yourself.
3. The Rock, NSW
This dramatic sandstone formation is now technically known as the Rock Hill, or Yerong, so not to confuse it with the small town it rises above. The Rock township can be found some 30km south-west of Wagga Wagga, and just past town you’ll find the Rock Nature Reserve, or Kengal Aboriginal Place, where the walk starts.
At 364m above the surrounding plains and farmland, it makes for one of the easier walks on this list, but still a great couple of hours of hiking. It’s 3km to the summit, where there’s views across the sprawling patchwork of farmland and receding ridgelines to the south, all the way to the distant peak of Mt Kosciuszko. From the summit, you can head back the way you came, or take the more adventurous alternate route over the northern side of the range.
4. Mt Tibrogargan, QLD
Mt Tibrogargan is one of several fantastically strange monolithic peaks that make up the Glasshouse Mountains, just north of Brisbane. Of the dozen or so hills across the volcanically-carved area, Mt Tibrogargan isn’t quite the largest, at 364m, but it is undoubtedly one of the more recognisable.
The short climb to the top is also pretty fantastic. Short, but as it’s almost vertical for pretty much the entire way up, it’s far from easy. The views from the top are pretty breathtaking in the late afternoon, with grass trees lit up in golden light, and the surrounding valley on one side and the ocean to another.
5. Mt Magog, WA
Mount Magog is part of the incredible Stirling Range in the state’s far south-west, and one of six fantastic climbs to undertake within the national park. Unlike the incredibly popular Bluff Knoll or Mount Toolbrunup though, it’s very possible to have Magog all to yourself.
The 7km return trek climbs to a summit of 856m, beginning with a long stretch through the beautiful heathy woodland that dominates the area, before climbing sharply to the top of the range. It’s one of the richest areas for flora in the world, so there’s usually wildflowers galore along the track.
6. Mt Rosea, VIC
The Grampians National Park in Victoria is a playground of rugged sandstone ranges and formations, and has enough hiking opportunities to keep anyone occupied for the better part of a month. Mt Rosea, at 1009m, is visible from a good portion of the eastern area of the park, rising above the surrounding ranges.
It’s easily accessed from Halls Gap, but the 10km trek to the top turns a lot of visitors towards the range of easier trails on offer, even if the climb isn’t particularly difficult. From light forest walking through to ascending the weathered sandstone outcrops the Grampians is known for, the views of rocky towers, great valleys and rugged slopes from the top are some of the best in the park.
7. Mt Sonder, NT
At 1280m high, Mount Sonder is the 4th highest peak in the Northern Territory. The climb is actually the final leg of the 223km Larapinta Trail that stretches across the fantastic West McDonnell Ranges, beginning in Alice Springs.
At 15.8km return, it’s a tough one, although after the initial rocky ascent the majority of the trail is a gentle climb along sprawling ridgelines. If you’re really keen, you can leave early enough to get to the summit for sunrise, a tradition practised by what seemed like the vast majority of climbers on the day I was there.
8. Mt Roland, TAS
Just a stone’s throw from Cradle Mountain in Tasmania’s north, Mt Roland stands just far enough off the beaten tourist route that it’s quite possible to spend the hours climbing it without seeing another soul.
The 15km return hike begins from the small village of Gowrie Park, some 15km from Sheffield, and ascends through dense eucalypt forest, ferny valleys, and across a heath-shrouded plateau to the rocky summit. To turn it into a loop, there’s an alternate route down, although it’s significantly steeper, and boy is it rough on the knees.