Upper Portals

Hilltop Panorama

Rain is good.  It transforms dusty beds into flowing streams.  After enjoying flowing creeks last week, we wanted to visit more rock pools and waterfalls while we could.


We started at the quiet southern locality Maroon, half-way between Boonah and Rathdowney near the state border, and headed towards the mountains.


Waterfall Creek Road

Mt May

Mount May towered above us on our left as we rode through quiet farmland along gravel roads.


Waterfall Creek Camp

We soon reached the camp ground at the bottom of Waterfall Creek Road.  Several campers gave us curious looks as we rolled past their smoking fires.  I made a mental note about the camp ground – it’s large enough to give campers plenty of space, and remote enough not to attract too many visitors.  It could come in handy one day.



After the camp ground, the gradient increased drastically.  We dropped into the lowest gear and mashed the pedals as we climbed the steep hill.  My tyres skidded a few times but I persevered and made it past the steepest bit.  The grippy fat tyres on Adam and Darb’s bikes didn’t let them down, but they still had to work hard to get up the hill.


(Photo: Jason Grant)
(Photo: Jason Grant)

Waterfall Creek road slowly snaked up the hill.  We had about six hundred metres of climbing ahead of us.  We just sat back and slowly turned the pedals.

Waterfall Creek Road

The track was too steep in one or two spots, which forced us to get off and walk.  We didn’t mind – this was much more fun than watching TV 🙂


Waterfall Creek Road

As soon as the gradient became rideable we jumped back on the bikes and turned the pedals.


As we ascended the hill, we started to get some good views through the trees of Lake Maroon below us.  I suddenly realized how high we were.



Waterfall Creek Road

It’s inspiring to watch Darb ascend hills.  He’s such a strong climber.  I pushed while he muscled up the last few metres to the top.  Awesome effort, Darb!

(Photo: Tony Ryan)
(Photo: Tony Ryan)

Waterfall Creek Road is very steep.  It’s hard work on a mountain bike, but if you’re determined you’ll be able to ride most of it.


I felt a surge of relief as we reached “Cleared Ridge”.  The panorama at the top was spectacular.  We stopped for a while and chatted with some of the other people who were soaking up the views.

Hiking Family

One couple were teaching their grandchildren how to read paper maps and use a compass.  Lucky kids to have such grandparents!

(Photo: Tony Ryan)
(Photo: Tony Ryan)

Cleared Ridge is one of those places where you just have to stop and take photos.  You can see forever in all directions.  We all posed for the obligatory pictures before agreeing that it was time to get moving again.  We had only just started our ride – there was still a long way to go.

Mount Barney

Mount Barney loomed ahead.  It’s surprisingly difficult to see from Cleared Ridge.  We caught fleeting glimpses as we rolled down the other side of the hill towards the creek.



After all the recent uphill efforts, it was fun to at last be able to roll downhill.

We coasted over water bars, past bracken fern and vines.  As we descended the scrub grew thicker.


Yamahra Creek

We found ourselves in lush rainforest.  We rolled in the shadows of huge ancient trees. With little sunlight we felt the temperature drop markedly as we progressed.

Yamahra Creek

Recent rain had filled Yamahra Creek.  We tiptoed over boulders avoiding wet feet and damage to the bikes.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)
(Photo: Tony Ryan)

Pleasant mountain streams – this was what we had come for.


(Photo: Tony Ryan)
(Photo: Tony Ryan)

After a few kilometres we reached a wide crossing near a bush camp.  We all made another mental note – this remote little bush camp would be a perfect spot to spend the night with plenty of running water.

Upper Portals

It’s tricky to boulder hop over a stream with a bike.  We took care and all made it safely across.


The Upper Portals were wonderful.  These rock pools full of gurgling water are magical.  We stood and watched, jumping from boulder to boulder, trying to take it all in.


Adam set up his tripod and tried to catch some magical photos.


Upper Portals

Russel sat by the creek in the sun.

He’s a bush-walking veteran.  We’re lucky to be able to ride with someone who knows this area so well.  But even he hadn’t visited this spot before.

(Photo: Tony Ryan)
(Photo: Tony Ryan)

There’s something powerful about bubbling water.  We all stood around mesmerised by it.  It was too cold to swim, but that didn’t matter.

Upper Portals

As we headed for home we eased the tricky crossing by forming a chain and passing the bikes to each other over the rocks.  This made it easier to get the bikes over.

Hill Climb

The pleasant hills we had rolled down previously were now steep climbs as we retraced our steps.  I don’t think any of us minded.  We seem to do “hike a bike” hills quite regularly.  After a while it’s just part of the fun.


Hill Climb

The final climb up to Cleared Ridge was hard work.  Russel stayed back and chatted with me as a slowly trudged up the hill watching the other guys pull further ahead.

Hilltop Panorama

Back on the top of the Ridge we sat in the grass and enjoyed the vista.  We were on top of the world.  It was a cold day, but the bright sun warmed us as we rested and had a few snacks.


Places like this deserve time to appreciate them.

Rapid Descent

The return trip down the Waterfall Creek Road was white-knuckle fun.

We held on tightly, stuck our backsides as far back as we could, and rocketed downwards.

Rapid Descent  Rapid Descent

It was a long way down.

At one gate we caught up with a driver in a 4WD / 4X4.  He waited for us to pass him.  Going down these hills on a bike was faster than in a motor vehicle.  My brakes occasionally complained about the hard work, but they didn’t let me down.


Waterfall Creek Rock Pools

At the bottom of the hill, near the Waterfall Creek camp ground, we explored a small gorge.


Waterfall Creek Rock Pools

A small waterfall trickled over the edge of the gorge.  Ah…. so this is why it’s called “Waterfall Creek”.

Waterfall Creek Rock Pools

We jumped from rock to rock, uneasy in our cycling shoes.  This looked like the perfect spot for a swim on a hotter day.

Newman Road

Newman Road  Newman Road

We continued down the hill, back towards the cars.

Mount May stood sentinel behind us, a reminder of where we had been.


We rolled the last few kilometres back along the paved road to the cars.

Total distance: 41.14 km
Max elevation: 759 m
Min elevation: 141 m
Total climbing: 1360 m
Total descent: -1352 m
Average speed: 14.98 km/h
Total time: 06:05:17
More Info

We rode almost 40km in about 6 hours.  I burned about 3,000 kcal and we climbed about 1,200 metres in vertical ascent.

This ride rates 9 out of 10 on the tough-o-meter.  It’s a tough climb – even on a cool day.

But it’s spectacular – well worth the effort.  I’m amazed at how many wonderful places there are, so close to home.  We’ve been doing these adventures for a while now, and we never seem to run out of stunning sights.

We’re truly fortunate.

UPDATE. Here’s Darb’s video of the ride

Thanks Darb, Adam, Russel and Jason for sharing this day with me.  I enjoyed it immensely.



2 Replies to “Upper Portals”

  1. Hi! Loved your blog.

    I visit the upper portals all the time. I usually take the 4wd up to cleared ridge car park and hike the route that your rode from there but I’ve been researching alternate routes which is how I came across your blog.

    I’ve also summitted Mount May from starting walking from the campsite and what has be currious is your photos. Where is the gorge/ waterfall/ swimming hole accessed from! I had no idea that was there and I’ve passed through the campground 6 time!

    1. Hi Natasha
      Thanks for reading my blog.
      The climb up that hill would be much easier in a 4WD 🙂
      To get to the gorge, have a look at Google Streetview here: https://goo.gl/maps/uFegNVVCc6n
      You drive up Waterfall Creek Road, past the camp ground and cross the creek one final time before the steep climb. Just before the start of the hill, on the left, is a dirt track which will lead you to the gorge. It’s a perfect swimming spot.

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