I waited at the edge of the road as the big truck passed by in low gear slowly climbing up Cunningham Gap otherwise known as Highway 15 in Queensland. I thought about what this pass would have looked like 186 years ago when explorer Allan Cunningham discovered it in 1828. After multiple attempts, he discovered this way through Queensland’s Great Dividing Range opening up an important route in Australia. Settlers and wagon trains have been replaced with trucks, cars and asphalt, but the beautiful views are the same.
After the trucks and cars passed we followed our guide Hanna across the highway and onto the Scenic Rim Trail (one of the many Great Dividing Range hiking trails) to begin our exploration of the area by foot. This specific trail was a part of the hiking and luxury glamping experience offered by Spicers Canopy. Spicers had just started offering this Scenic Rim Trail hike – an inventive luxury hiking and glamping experience. It includes an all inclusive 3 days of hiking with 2 nights in canvas tents in the countryside and 1 night at Spicers Peak Lodge, all while being looked after by an experienced guide and a host of other people at the campsite and lodge.
I was eager to try out this form or glamping since I love camping, but I hate hiking with camping gear. Yes – you can read this as I’m lazy – but any time I can lighten my backpack it’s a good thing. This seemed like the perfect solution for me, with an added touch of luxury at the campsite. Our guide provided 40L day packs, a packed lunch, rain gear, and a great 2L water camel back. I took some extra layers and my camera and that was all I needed. They transported my other bag to Spicers Canopy campsite directly.
We began our hike up to the peak of Mt. Mitchell. The trail was well groomed and I enjoyed seeing a number of new varieties of flower and fauna unique to Australia. However, we had a crazy weather day with unusual gust of winds that howled through the trees making it sound even more ominous that it was. As we crossed the saddle of the mountain at 3800 ft., the wind would gust through the saddle and nearly blow us off!
As we hiked up Mt. Mitchell you could see the big picture of our adventure; way off in the distance you could see the white tops of the canopy camp in the valley. You could also see Spicers Peak Lodge perched high on top of a hill across from Spicer’s Peak.
The Mt. Mitchell part of the trek was park land, but on our way down we left the nice trail and went off-trail working our way down the ridge and out of the park. It felt freeing to be off-trail – I loved it! The steep ridge was slippery from the previous day’s rain so the footing was challenging. Eventually we came to a gate where we crossed over into Spicer’s property and Nature Refuge – 6000 acres of protected land. This was Australia’s largest private wildlife refuge. In addition to seeing wallabies (small kangeroos) hop around there were also a number of cattle. Spicers actually has 400 breaders and 4 bulls grazing as well as a full time rancher to manage the vast area.
It was another 2 hours of hiking in the relentless wind on the Spicers property until we crested a hill and I finally saw it – the cream colored tents beautifully situated pointing towards Mt. Mitchell. I squinted my eyes to make out a person standing on the porch of the lodge building, with each step the person became more clear. It was Chef Ryan holding a platter of champagne for us! This is how I like to arrive at a campsite – this is glamping. In addition to the champagne, Ryan also had a plate of warm scones with jam and cream. We sunk into the comfortable couches in the main lodge of the campsite happy to have completed our challenging hiking day and even happier to be eating and drinking.
There were 10 canvas tents built on individual platforms with a lovely porch and comfortable chairs. Each tent had a big queen bed with fluffy robes and a comfortable lounge chair and ottoman. The tents were powered with solar power so each had two bedside lamps and one overhead lamp. It was 51 degrees out – a bit chilly – but the big bed was outfitted with some of the plushest bedding I had ever seen. A big fluffy duvet, blankets, and 4 feather pillows that you just melted into. After the hiking, all you wanted to do was lay down on the bed and be swallowed up.
However first we needed to get cleaned up and fed. The ‘community’ building/lodge housed the bathrooms, a big open kitchen, and living room with a stone fireplace. It was toasty warm and comfortable – like your own living room. There were also 3 hot water showers and bathrooms to be shared by the glampers. Fluffy towels and toiletries were provided. Ryan and Finely, the two Spicers Canopy chefs, were there to cook us up a feast. The night’s menu included an onion-brie tart with balsamic, Coq au vin, mashed potatoes, carrots, and sticky date pudding with ice cream for dessert. And of course all the delicious Australian wine you could drink. This was not normal camping food!
I slept incredibly soundly in my little ‘duvet cloud’ that night despite the wind and was ready to go the next day to continue our hiking. This was a shorter version of the typical Scenic Rim Trail as today we’d be hiking up to the lodge to stay there for an evening before heading back to Brisbane.
Breakfast at the campsite was just as impressive and provided a great base for the days’ hike. We took off for another day of off-trail ridge hiking and sadly left Spicers Canopy behind. My fellow hikers were all from the Brisbane area so as we hiked they eagerly gave me more advice for other places to see and go in the Southern Queensland area. Interestingly all of my fellow hikers were also solo travelers that weekend. This was a great itinerary for a solo traveler who wants to try glamping. It’s group hiking, so you have a great communal atmosphere even though you are solo.
As we finished our day and hiked towards the picture perfect Spicers Peak Lodge, it felt as if I were hiking into a Colorado mountain lodge. Big wood beams, high ceilings, and a gorgeous nature setting. The lodge definitely extended the luxury experience and if you felt like more hiking there were a number of trails around the lodge too. Or you could just relax in the spa, swim in the infinity pool, or sit by the fire and enjoy the all-inclusive bar.
Don’t let all of the pampering fool you though, the hiking on the Scenic Rim Trail is definitely serious hiking. Some of the more difficult I’ve done in parts of the world. I would recommend proper hiking boots and poles if you go. I was definitely exhausted and sore after the hikes, but knowing that you would be pampered at the end of the day was the incentive I needed to get through the trail.
I’m guessing the old explorers like Allan Cunningham couldn’t have imagined such glamorous digs in the middle of this harsh mountain range, but I’m sure he and the rest of the wagon train would have welcomed some warm scones, cream, and champagne!
Scenic Rim Trail Hike by Spicers – www.scenicrimtrail.com
This four-day walk experience gives you an opportunity to enjoy the Scenic Rim’s abundant natural treasures and breathtaking vistas.
• Two nights’ accommodation in a safari-style luxury tent
• Final night at Spicers Peak Lodge
• Three days of guided walks including the walk into Spicers Canopy and the walk up to Spicers Peak Lodge
• All food & beverage throughout your stay including gourmet breakfasts and lunches, banquet dinners, and a seven course degustation at award winning restaurant The Peak on your final night
Disclosure: I was invited to enjoy Queensland by the Queensland Tourism Board. However all the opinions expressed her are solely my own!