The immense number of hiking options offers an experience for everyone, from the thermal springs, waterfalls and cliffs in the north, to the south, and one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots – the magnificent karri forest with its plentiful flora and fauna.
WHERE TO GO
Down South | Spring is the ideal time to take a walk down south (the wildflower season is in full swing and it’s not too hot), although during every season the landscape is still stunning. The Cape to Cape track is easily one of the most popular walks in the southwest. This 135km mostly coastal walk trail from Cape Naturaliste to Cape Leeuwin has four wild campsites on route, and along the way there are alternative forest hikes and coastal cliffs to negotiate. It’s probably the best ocean track in the state, with many unusual rock formations to break up the hiking experience. For something shorter, the Meelup Reserve Trail is also a favourite (it’s short enough for older kids who like a long walk, too). If you’re looking for native wildlife you’re likely to find it on this diverse trail. The walk weaves along stunning coastline where you can spot seals, dolphins and seaside flora. If you focus your attention inland, the list of fauna species grows to include kangaroos, snakes and birds. The track is 7.4km one way or 14.8km return, but thanks to the beautiful views and unspoiled swimming beaches you’ll barely notice the distance or time. The track is best enjoyed with a picnic stop along the way, and if you aren’t keen for the full walk there are a number of access points.
In the Great Southern, you can’t beat a climb up Bluff Knoll, which occasionally gets a sprinkling of snow in winter. The bluff is a finishing point for extended hikes through the Stirling Ranges National Park. A temperate climate makes the park
a green wonderland in winter and early spring. If heights are your thing, the Fitzgerald River National Park (between Bremer Bay and Hopetoun) contains the Barrens mountain range, rugged cliffs and wild coastline regarded as great hiking destinations. Other great options include the Cape Le Grand Coastal Trail in Cape Le Grand National Park (17km), Mount Franklin Summit Trail near Walpole (600m, but hard yakka) and the Old Timberline and Sidings Trail close to Nannup, which has an overnight hut on the bend of St John Brook (37km).
Up North | If you’ve got a few days up your sleeve, the north of the state is a breathtaking place for a hike – the coasts and forests you’ll see in the south are replaced with gigantic gorges, and red and orange landscapes peppered with colours during the wildflower season. Kalbarri National Park, in the mid-north coast, offers spectacular hiking through deep-cut red-rock gorges and coastal cliffs. Hikes include The Loop, Z Bend, Red Bluff and Hawks Head; be sure to get a photo in Nature’s Window. Take adequate water and notify others of your plans and estimated return times. An added bonus is that July to October is wildflower season. If you’re headed further north, Karijini and Millstream Chichester national parks boast breathtaking gorges, crystal-clear rock pools, waterfalls and truly stunning scenery, plus fantastic camping. In Karijini, try the Gorge Rim Walk, which encompasses the most awe-inspiring features of the park. The initial track is 2km return (90 minutes), and carves through to the Circular Pool Lookout. If you’re up for a challenge, it’s worth tackling the steep decline into the gorge, where you’ll be rewarded with the spectacular Circular Pool and the trickling waterfall. Further on, you’ll pass Fortescue Falls (great for a dip) and Fern Pool. The full loop runs for 5km, consisting of three walks joined together, and takes about four hours. The experienced hiker will love the escarpments and vast basins that dominate the Millstream Chichester National Park in the northern Pilbara region. The ancient landscape is harsh, yet a watercourse dotted with deep holes provides a point of connection through the park, and it’s awe-inspiring to reach each new waterhole teeming with lush vegetation and wildlife. The Kimberley region is littered with fantastic walks – hike up to Mitchell Falls, and take in as many gorge walks as you can. If you’ve only got a couple of days, Purnululu National Park (home of the Bungle Bungle Ranges) is a must-do; it’s open from April to mid-December, but you’ll need a 4WD with high clearance. The park has a few main walks. Be sure to take the Cathedral Gorge walk, where you mosey past the internationally acclaimed beehive formations and into the natural amphitheatre. The acoustics are unbelievable. Of the most demanding hikes in the north, the Summit Trail in Mount Augustus National Park is one of the most difficult. It might be a molehill on a world scale but Mount Augustus is a mountain of a climb. Its height belittles Uluru’s, so it’s no wonder that the 12km return climb is demanding, even for experienced hikers. The return walk to the summit takes the full day, about six to seven hours. If you’re worried you’ll be in ‘struggle town’ during the journey, admit defeat and take the easier walk trails to the lookouts, swimming holes and picnic spots.
The Bibbulmun Track
The track is WA’s finest long-distance walk; it stretches nearly 1000km from Kalamunda to Albany. To complete the journey in one hit, allow yourself about eight weeks (give or take a few days). There are 48 campsites on the track with distances between each site varying from 10km in the north and 20-25km in the south. Fires are permitted at most sites in cooler months…make sure you pack marshmallows to toast!
- Glen Mervyn Dam south of Collie
- The cold-water rapids near Dwellingup are breathtakingly refreshing
- A note in the journal at Grimwade campsite, near Balingup will direct you to head off-track and discover a lake in the middle of a pine plantation
- Giant tingle forest in the Valley of the Giants around Walpole, and the majestic karri forests of the Pemberton region
- Spectacular sunrises, the most memorable being along Mazzoletti Beach near Denmark
- Wildlife is plentiful, even in summer, including a friendly quenda at Torbay campsite, and a quokka at Warren campsite
BIBBULMUN TRACK FAMILY-FRIENDLY OPTIONS
Asher Road to Hewitt’s Hill campsite A great starter walk for youngsters. Taking a picnic lunch in a day pack, leave the car at Asher Road outside Kalamunda where it intersects the track, walk to the campsite, and return.
South Ledge picnic site to Hewitt’s Hill campsite A slightly longer walk, perhaps for older kids. Park at the South Ledge picnic site and walk to Hewett’s Hill campsite from the other direction, and return.
Overnight adventure: Sullivan Rock to Mt Cooke campsite (return) Drive out of Perth on the Albany Highway and park in the picnic area opposite Sullivan Rock. Follow the Waugal trail markers across the rock to the Bibbulmun Track, turn right and walk to the Mount Cooke campsite (about 6km). The next morning, climb to the top of Mount Cooke (the kids will probably get there first), enjoy the view, and backtrack to the car.
TIP For parents who have reservations about getting out there on their
own, but still feel a desire to participate, the Bibbulmun Track Foundation has a great range of fully guided family events. See bibbulmuntrack.org.au for more information.
HIKING CLOSER TO PERTH
Railway Reserves Heritage Trail | 41km, Perth Hills
Tip: Visit all the pubs along the way
Eagles View Walk | 15km, John Forrest National Park
The Lakes Walk | 9.2km, Rottnest
Kitty’s Gorge Walk Trail | 14km, Jarrahdale
Woylie Walk | 5.5km, Dryandra Woodland.
Tip: This one’s great for kids!
Ghost House Walk Trail | 9.2km, Yanchep National Park
More details at trailswa.com.au