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A guide to Mount Moffatt (Carnarvon National Park)

{Updated: June 2019}

The first time we ventured into the Mount Moffatt section of Carnarvon National Park was in the winter of our first year on the Sunshine Coast.

The trip was incredibly rushed, we got rained out and ended up seeing only half of this stunning national park. Five years later, we went back as I still had unfinished business at Mount Moffatt. And I’m so glad we did.

High up in Queensland’s central highlands and part of the Great Dividing Range, most of the Mount Moffatt section is above 700m and known as the “Roof of Queensland”. Since I’m not exactly a beach bum, I’m much more drawn to this rugged and wild beauty of the Queensland outback.

Mount Moffatt is, hands down, one of my most favourite spots in Queensland.

Just keep in mind that being some 700 km west of Brisbane and only accessible by high-clearance 4WD, you need to make sure you’re prepared for a trip into this remote corner of Queensland.

A Guide to Mount Moffatt (Carnarvon National Park)

Mount Moffatt, like Carnarvon Gorge, lies in the Sandstone Belt and is characterised by towering sandstone formations. At Mount Moffatt, you won’t find the rising sandstone cliffs that Carnarvon Gorge is so famous for but you’ll get to enjoy sprawling valley views, fascinating Aboriginal rock art and, best of all, far fewer crowds.

Although Carnarvon Gorge and Mount Moffatt lie within hiking distance of each other, there is no longer a direct driving route from one to the other. You can still see the remnants of where bush tracks would once have been but these days, you’ll have to take an enormous detour to travel from Carnarvon Gorge to Mount Moffatt.

How much time should you plan?

The first time we camped at Mount Moffatt, we had less than 24 hours in the park. Partly because we were unprepared for how long it would take to cover the distance between the two sections, partly because someone had told us that Mount Moffatt wasn’t very exciting, and partly because we got rained out and thus sat in the tent debating what to do instead of doing it.

The second time we spent two nights camping at Mount Moffatt because I was adamant that I wanted to explore all the walks, do the scenic drive again, and not rush around like a crazy chook.

So, my recommendation would be to spend at least two nights, more if you prefer to take things leisurely and/or aren’t up for doing all the walks in a day. It’s a long way to come just for a night, and the camping areas are really nice.

The best time to visit Mount Moffatt is during winter (May onwards). It does get cold (below 0C) but the days are gorgeous. You’ll have clear blue skies and sunny weather.

Summer is simply too hot and the roads might get cut off with the wet season being in full swing. If you don’t mind warmer temperatures, shoulder season (Oct/Nov) could be ok but be prepared for hot days and bring enough water.

How to get to Mount Moffatt

Mount Moffatt is some 230km northwest of Roma.

You can approach the national park from either Injune (140km, about 4.5 hours) on the Carnarvon Highway, or Mitchell (200km, about 6 hours) on the Warrego Highway.

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The first time we came from Carnarvon Gorge, which looks so close but meant a huge detour of a few hundred kilometres (or 338 km to be exact) to get to Mount Moffatt. It seemed to take forever.

There are a couple of interesting spots if you come through this way, which might make up for all the endless driving. 🙂

From Injune

Take either Westgrove Road or Womblebank Gap Road, both will get you to Mount Moffatt Road.

In 2014, we took Westgrove Road to Mount Moffatt, and then Womblebank Gap Road on our way out. Westgrove Road has a ton of floodways and creek crossings and is slower, it takes about an hour longer but we wanted to see the scenery and turn our trip into a loop drive.

Most of Womblebank Gap Road is now paved, you’ve only got the last 50 or so kilometres on dirt, making this route a much faster trip.

Sunset over Mount Moffatt Road

Feeling very remote along Mount Moffatt Road

It was extremely dry when we went along Westgrove Road, and all I got to see was dust and no water in the creek beds. But with a bit of rain, this road probably turns into a clay pan and staying on the road would become much more of a challenge (we’ve been there!).

From Mitchell

Take Forest Vale Road just outside Mitchell, and then onto Mount Moffatt Road. It’s actually signed reasonably well so shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Last year, we came from Mitchell and came up along Forest Vale Road. I don’t remember it being particularly scenic but the drive was so incredibly fast, we could hardly believe how quickly we got to Mount Moffatt compared to our first trip.

On our way back to Injune, passing Womblebank Station

Some 10km south of the national park boundary, you’ll pass the historic Old Slab Hut on Mount Moffatt Road. We thought it made for perfect spot for lunch, which we enjoyed until we got interrupted by some not-so-friendly people on our first trip.

Second time round, we had it all to ourselves and had a bit more of a look around the old hut.

Camping at Mount Moffatt

Camping at Mount Moffatt means back to basics and being self-sufficient. The only thing you can rely on is having a drop toilet available at each campsite.

Camping, however, is fantastic here. You’ve got four camping areas to choose from, and even during winter school holidays none of them were so busy to put me off.

My favourite camp spot at Mount Moffatt is definitely Rotary Shelter Shed. It gets pretty cold up there but with seriously beautiful views over the tablelands, it’s hard to beat.

Just be aware that the 4WD track leading to this camping spot gets seriously wet and dangerous, and might even get closed if it’s too wet.

READ MORE: Camping guide to Mount Moffatt

View from our campsite at the Rotary Shelter Shed, Mount Moffatt.

 

Once we had set up camp, there was a tiny bit of time for a quick drive to the end of the track. We got to take in some fabulous views from the Top Shelter Shed and almost walked into a rotting and definitely stinky wild pig at the Head of Carnarvon Creek. Other than that, the Head of Carnvarvon Gorge is a little disappointing as there’s not much of view or anything to see.

Macrozamia Palm at Top Shelter Shed. Apparently they only grow a centimetre a year (or was that an inch?). In any case, I think they’re rather cool.

Into the Mahogany Forest. Lots of white flowers everywhere.

Once we got to the end of the track, we had to drive back in a hurry to catch the sunset over our campsite.

Driving back to the campsite…

And here’s the sunset…

Sunset over the Rotary Shelter Shed campsite, Mount Moffatt

With that sort of nice sunset, the next day was bound to be beautiful!

At around midnight heavy rain woke me up and turned our night into a somewhat sleepless one. The next morning greeted us with a rather non-existent view, a very wet tent (yay, let’s pack up a wet tent…), freezing cold, and a path that had turned into black, gooey clay wanting to swallow up your feet whole.

The “view” the next morning…

After a game of packing up the tent, checking out the track, deciding to stay rather than get stuck in the mud, setting up the tent again, talking to some ‘happily oblivious to the danger of mud tracks without having recovery gear’ young Belgians in their 4WD, checking out the track again, packing up the tent again, we decided to leave after all. By then it was 2 pm and there was no chance we’d get anywhere near as far as we had wanted to that day.

But the fog had somewhat lifted, the rain had stopped and my teeth weren’t chattering as loudly anymore.

Once more there was a view from the campsite at Mount Moffatt

Mount Moffatt Walks

Surprisingly, there are more walks to do than you might expect for such a remote spot in Queensland. You could easily spend a day or two hitting the various trails and seeing some pretty special sights at Mount Moffatt.

Walks range from short 50m tracks to half-day hikes, looping around some stunning sandstone formations. And being so remote, you’re unlikely to meet anyone and will likely have the sights all to yourself.

Short walks

Cathedral Rock, Lot’s Wife, Kookaburra Cave, and Marble Arch are all really short walks that almost anyone can do.

Cathedral Rock (380m return) is one of the first stops as you enter Mount Moffatt. It’s a massive sandstone bluff that you can get up and close with. There’s some rock art (hand stencils) on one of the ledges. Be careful not to touch it, rock art tends to be very fragile and is easily damaged (plus, you want to be respectful).

3km past the camping area at Dargonelly’s Rock Hole (along Circuit Drive) is Marlong Arch. You can see the soft sandstone arch from the road but it’s worth a stop and exploring the area a bit. You literally just have to walk around 50m to get under the arch.

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Keep going along Circuit Drive to reach Kookaburra Cave, which is a small overhang with an Aboriginal stencil that resembles a kookaburra. I really like this piece of rock art.

Aboriginal hand stencils of a kookaburra (well, and hands), Kookaburra Cave. It’s actually pretty tiny but the kookaburra is very cool. 🙂

Lot’s Wife is a giant sandstone pillar not far from Kookaburra Cave. You can walk around the entire pillar but try not to climb it since the sandstone is so soft and fragile. Pick up a broken piece from the ground, you’ll see that it’ll literally break in your hands.

The name must obviously be a reminder of the biblical story of Lot’s wife (and their daughters) being turned into a pillar of salt after she looked back to Sodom and Gomorrah (and when God told them not to turn around).

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We didn’t make it out to Marlong Plain on our first trip to Mount Moffatt but this ended up being one of our favourite spots on our last trip.

It’s only a short walk to a large grassy plain from where you can spot sandstone cliffs and ridges in the distance. But in the late afternoon, the grass gets all lit up and sun creeps over the cliffs giving them beautiful golden hues.

We didn’t see anyone else out here, and it really just felt like a serene spot.

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With Mount Moffatt being old cattle country, you can meander around some old stockyards near the information shelter. Even though they’ve been repaired to some extent, the original stockyards were first built over a hundred years ago (1902).

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Lastly, you could head out to the Kenniff Incineration Site but there isn’t much to see now beyond a plaque and a dry creek bed.

The Kenniff Brothers are believed to have murdered a police constable during a shoot-out in the early 1900s. Historical evidence suggests that the brothers then burnt the body near a creek bed at Mount Moffatt where there’s a plaque commemorating the constable today.

The brothers were wanted for cattle stealing, a crime that was rampant in the area at the time. The double murder then led to a Queensland-wide manhunt, and both brothers were eventually tried and sentenced in 1903.

Longer walks

If you’re up for bigger hikes, there are a couple of slightly longer walks at Mount Moffatt.

5.8 km circuit track, taking in three different sites: The Tombs, the Chimneys and the Looking Glass. Despite running out of time, we had to do this trail, of course! 🙂

My favourite of three sites was definitely The Tombs, an Aboriginal burial site. It felt special and sacred walking along the foot of the giant rock wall with carved out burial chambers.

READ MORE: Incredible Aboriginal Rock Art

By the time we got back to the car it was almost 5 pm so I only had time to run up to Cathedral Rock and take a photo from afar. But I’m not sure there was much more to see anyway.

On the Home Stretch

And then we were finally on the road again, making our way through clay and mud as the kangaroos and cows came out to join us on the road into the sunset. No, it was not romantic.

Back on the road, fighting with reddish, sticky clay mud… the car was absolutely covered in mud by time we hit bitumen again.

Sunset somewhere along the Mount Moffat Road

MORE INFORMATION

Queensland National Parks has information on where to camp and the various walks around the Mount Moffatt section.

If we ever make it back there, I’d like to explore the Kenniff Lookout and the sites where the murder by the Kenniff brothers’ was committed in the early 19th century. Sounds like some fascinating piece of history!

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