Pioneering the Scenic Rim Trail

July 10, 2014 10 Comments »

hiking Queensland
Scenic Rim Trail Queensland

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 three days of hiking with two nights in canvas tents in the countryside and one 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 of 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 camelback. I took some extra layers and my camera, and that was all I needed. They transported my other bag directly to Spicers Canopy campsite.

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 flowers and fauna unique to Australia. However, we had a crazy weather day with unusual gusts of winds that howled through the trees, making it sound even more ominous than 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!

Mt. Mitchell Australia
Hiking to the Mt. Mitchell Lookout
Great Dividing Range
The view of the Great Dividing Range

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 parkland, 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 kangaroos) hop around, there were also a number of cattle. Spicers actually has 400 breeders and four bulls grazing, as well as a full-time rancher to manage the vast area.

Spicers Scenic Rim HIke
Hiking off-trail in the refuge

It was another 2 hours of hiking in the relentless wind on the Spicer’s property until we crested a hill, and I finally saw it – the cream-colored tents beautifully situated pointing toward 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.

Glamping Spicers Canopy
Glamping at Spicers Canopy

There were ten 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 by 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 four 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 a living room with a stone fireplace. It was toasty warm and comfortable – like your own living room. There were also three 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!

spicers canopy glamping

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 day’s 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.

hiking Spicers Peak
Arriving at the lodge on foot is always the best way!
Spicers Peak Lodge
Spicers Peak Lodge
Spicers Peak Lodge Queensland
A great day to lounge after a good hike.

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 I 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!

More Information:
Scenic Rim Trail Hike by Spicers –
This four-day walk experience gives you an opportunity to enjoy the Scenic Rim’s abundant natural treasures and breathtaking vistas.
Package Includes:
• 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!

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