IF you’re chasing an adrenalin rush or want to go four-wheel-driving on some of the steepest, toughest tracks, then Swan Gully Park is for you.
In the past month we made the hour-long drive from Brisbane out to Swan Gully with the single goal of driving a track I was forced to turn away from two years ago. To start this trip, we really need to dive into exactly why I’ve been so determined to drive this amazing track.
About two years ago I went out to Swan Gully with a mate who had just bought a Ford Maverick. We wanted to test out his new rig and teach him a bit about four-wheel-driving (oh yes, he was very new to the scene!). Well, wasn’t that a mistake.
I neglected to do any research on the park and when we arrived we very quickly worked out my mate was not ready for a park of this magnitude. The first track we tried was Track 3 and we were travelling OK until we came across a large, steep rock face that led to a skinny track running up the side of a hill with a very large drop off the side.
We instantly made the decision to turn around, but for future planning I made the hike along this track to check out the challenges. This scouting walk was enough to keep me anticipating my return. My mate was not comfortable turning around on such a narrow track with such a large drop off the side, so while backing down the hill, he came across a large, deep rut that resembled a V.
He tried to go around it but ended up taking the worst line possible. Yep, he dropped one side into the rut and was sitting with a wheel about a metre in the air with the car see-sawing. By the time I reached him he was a wreck, so I got him out of the car and jumped in.
Within a few minutes we were back on four wheels and on our merry way. Fast forward to last month and joining us on this trip were our mate Ben in his new rig ‘The Hulk’ as well as Dean from Lorian Automotive and his mate Jack in their Suzuki Sierras (after pulling an all-nighter to reassemble both front and rear axles specifically for this trip).
Now, looking at the initial rock face of Track 3 was daunting – both for me hoping it was as amazing as I had remembered and for the others trying to decide how to best attack it. With a range of challenging lines on the steep, off-camber rock face, we all agreed that taking a diagonal line across the face was the best bet as it was the most level and had plenty of traction.
Much to everyone’s surprise, following this line made the obstacle a breeze. Moving forward from this face, the track climbs up the side of a mountain with an easy 100m drop off the side of the track. Climbing up we came across a number of rock steps ranging in difficulty.
One of the lines that stuck out was some very large boulders to the left with a straight forward line to the right, however taking the right-hand line meant your right wheels would touch the very edge of the track. Surprisingly, the whole crew made it through all the rock-crawling sections without any hassle.
Once we all got to the top, we stopped to take in the view, and my gosh it was amazing. From here we could see over to Wyaralong Dam and right across the top of Beaudesert. Thankfully, everyone on the trip appreciated this track just as much as I did!
All amazing experiences must come to an end, and this track was no different. At the very top of the hill the track changes from 3 to 4. Those who follow our Flexible 4WD Solutions page on Facebook will have already seen footage of this next section, and for those who don’t – what are you waiting for!
The next section thankfully had two lines: the chicken track and the next-level insane rock step. Most of the group was dead keen on taking the rock step, and first up were the Sierras. Leading up to the steps you have to conquer oval-shaped boulders.
Sitting about 50cm high by 1m long, they were certainly not to be sneezed at. Once past the boulders, you had a choice of driving directly up the steps, which stood well and truly taller than Sammy, or you could become a mountain goat and follow the off-camber line and cross over the steps.
First up was Jack and he made the decision to track hard right and deal with the stupid angles caused by the camber of the track before crossing over the steps and hopping up onto them. Much to everyone’s surprise, and with minimal packing, Jack was able to crawl his way up and show everyone how this track should be conquered.
Next was Dean, who tried his hardest to follow Jack’s line, however with a slightly different centre of gravity, harder springs and a harder tyre compound, he was simply unable to get as much traction as Jack. However, Dean being Dean, he was able to get up, but not without about 15 minutes of attempts and having all four wheels off the ground a number of times.
The final contestant for this track was Ben in The Hulk 105 Series LandCruiser– now with 4” lift, 35s, sway bars sitting back at camp and front and rear lockers engaged. We truly thought Ben would make it up but sadly, Ben’s wheelbase was simply not compatible with this track and the 105 would have laid over if we tried to take him up the off-camber line.
Though Ben couldn’t make it up the steps, he sure put on a show trying. It’s always impressive when you see all four 35” tyres bellowing out smoke! Like the chicken I am, I didn’t even attempt the steps – this was one of the challenges where the high possibility of damage outweighed the ego boost that comes with successfully tackling such a challenge.
After a quick pit stop at the lookout located at the end of Track 4, we moved on to explore the rest of the park. The lookout doubles as a campsite, and for those who are confident tackling the track described above, this campsite is mint. It is definitely one we will be using the next time we get out there.
Before long (and without surprise) the group got tired of following the easier tracks on our exploration and ended up on one of the harder tracks in the park. A winches and lockers-only track – Track 35. This track raised my adrenalin more than any other I can remember driving.
Walking it was a struggle and more than one of us ended up on our butts walking up and down this beast. I have to admit I wasn’t taking anywhere near as much caution on the first section as I should have, and I messed up royally. I hadn’t been paying enough attention to my line and I slipped right into a rut at least a metre deep.
The Milk Carton was sitting on both front and rear diffs, with both driver’s-side wheels hanging freely in the breeze.
It was time to break out the winch. Those who have been following us will likely know we are still running a cheap eBay winch that was already on the rig when we bought it – simply because we haven’t got around to fitting up a Carbon 12k.
Long story short, the winch is struggling to live at the best of times, and having to dead pull three tonnes up an insane hill was, well, torture. With the winch cutting in and out and barely pulling, we hooked up a pulley block and ran a double-line pull, which helped, but I was still not going to get out of there any time soon.
Cue the skinny pedal, front locker and a fairly tight LSD. I sat there perched on my axles, smoking up all four tyres and winching at the same time. With the very real possibility of snapping a CV or hub, this was not our preferred method of recovery, however, it worked!
With what seemed to be no damage to the rig, I was able to get out and continue up the track (turns out I had damaged the hub but it hadn’t let go, thankfully). Heading up this hill resulted in some of the most fun and terrifying driving I have done in a long time.
Large steps, loose boulders and deep ruts meant I was required to use a lot of right pedal and some skilful steering to make it to the top without any further hassles. After we all conquered this amazing track we decided it was time to head back to camp.
We took the ‘fast route’ back, however in what seemed to be the theme for this park, we ended up on the wrong track and following a one-way, winches and lockers track the wrong way. To describe how insanely steep this track was, heading down I was in first gear four-low with my handbrake on to hold the car from running away and feathering the brake pedal to control our descent.
Our inability to follow a map correctly added a good hour onto the trip back to camp, but as always it was bucket loads of fun. Swan Gully Park is located among a number of mountains and consequently is scattered with extremely steep tracks.
This park is one I would highly recommend, however my recommendation is targeted at those who have significant experience, quality recovery gear and a massive set of balls. Don’t forget to jump on and like our Flexible 4WD Solutions Facebook page to follow our adventures and get the latest deals on all your 4×4 needs.
Also feel free to send through photos and videos of your trips and we will post them on our page.
Until next time, cheers!