Region: Western Australia
Duration: Minimum 2 days
Best time to visit: from July to August during the wildflower season
Outdoor activities: Hiking, canoeing, swimming, bird watching
Situated in the North-West of Western Australia, The Pillbara region is certainly very remote and difficult to access but its splendour makes you easily forget the long journey to get there.
Its gem, often cited among the places not to be missed during a stay in Australia is Karinjini National Park. The uniqueness of this park lies in its canyons and deep gorges sculpted during centuries in spectacular red cliffs.
You need several days to enjoy all the hikes in here. Indeed, some canyons are quite far from each other and some are connected only by dirt roads that may be difficult to drive if you do not have a 4×4.
Just before entering the park, you will pass Mount Bruce. You can stop for two daring hikes, one of them up to the summit; unfortunately, it was closed during our visit.
Firs stop in the park, and one of the most accessible, is Dales Gorge. Several hikes are proposed to discover the gorges on foot and enjoy the natural pools. You can swim at Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool. These three locations are superb with hot water cascades. The hike paths pass by these different pools. We advise you to make a loop and go for a swim in the pools (allow 3-4 hours and enjoy each pool).
Start on the gravel path that follows the cliffs and offers beautiful views.
On your way back come go down in the canyon and follow the river (you have some crossings but nothing too difficult).
35 km away, on a 4WD road (you can also go with a car if you have high clearance), you can reach Kalamina Gorge, one of the least visited canyons and quieter.
This beautiful two hour hike in a deep gorge along the river reaches various natural pools and ends at Rock Arch Pool.
A little further you can reach Knox Gorge, a more challenging hike because the downhill trail in the gorge is steep and the gorge much deeper, you can also swim in the gorge but the water is cooler! The views here are superb and we definitely recommend to go hiking in late morning when the sun illuminates the gorge if you want to have nice pics. Allow two hours and a half if you want to swim.
On the way back, stop at Joffre Lookout and enjoy the spectacular scenery of the waterfall and the red cliffs at sunset. (You can also go for a hike if you have the time).
The next day is a must for the Sportrotters : canyoning and level five hiking (hikes in Karinjini are rated from one to five, the latest being the most difficult). Indeed, if you want to enjoy the Hankock Wenao Gorges you must bring your bathing suit!
You can start with the top path called Upper Wenao Gorge, a short hike of about 30 minutes with no particular interest but considered it a warm up. Just after the junction with the trail which comes directly from the parking, the real fun begins: you must at least take off the shoes or have appropriate shoes and climb the cliff on the right side (be careful the walls are slippery). Otherwise you can also choose to swim because you will get wet later on 😉 the water temperature does not exceed 20 degrees in June. The trail continues to follow the gorge with some nice climbing sections. Carry on, and in about hundred meters you reach the Handrail Pool (a ramp is provided to easily access the pool, which will refresh you without a doubt.
You can stop there or continue swimming or climbing and have a wonderful view of the spectacular gorge. Do not adventure if you are not either a good swimmer or rock climber because the rocks can be very slippery and can become very dangerous. You will come back by the same hiking trail.
The Hancock Gorge is our favourite. The descent into the canyon is on a very steep path with a passage on a scale. The trail then follows the picturesque gorge and offers a mix of hiking and cliff-climbing outdoor adventure. You then arrive at an amphitheatre that will allow you to breath before the famous Spidder Walk. If you wonder why is it called the Spidder Walk, the picture bellow might give you a clue 🙂 easy if you have long legs but quite impressive. The trail ends at Kermits Pool which is also nice for a swim.
Before leaving the car park, do not miss a quick stop at Oxer Lookout, which offers beautiful views of this extraordinary wilderness.
Some kilometres away another Gorge with lush green oases and thundering waterfalls will enchant you. The Surf on a leaf team guarantees is worthed the trip especially if you chose to continue your holiday into Millstream-Chichester National Park. Hamersley Gorge at around 50k of gravel road is situated next to a free welcoming rest area (15 minutes north) where you can experience an incredible stay if you wish to enjoy the quietness of the surroundings by yourself. You can go for a deep in spring water natural pools and also swim down the river.
There is also free wifi. The quietness of the place encourages relaxation on the rocks especially in the late morning after a good swim.
To resume, for the accommodation, the park has two campgrounds: Dales and Eco retreat (which also offers luxurious tents and dorms). The campsites are located one close to the east side hikes and the other next to the west side. Dales, run by the Parks and Wildlife Department is more rudimentary, with barbecues and self-service gas stove, no showers or drinking water but nice spots and twice less expensive than the other. Showers are available at the Visitor Centre a few kilometres away for two AUD per persson. Also be aware that all the visitors are asked to take their trash with them. There is only one bin next to the visitor center where you can dump all your rubbish without endammaging the parks’s wilderness. You can also stock up on non-potable water there.
Very nice walks in the heart of a beautiful park with lots of natural swimming pools
Not very crowded, even in high season
Note that in the mining town of Tom Price to fifty kilometres away you can find everything you need at reasonable prices.
No flies during our visit (June)
The mines that have developed near the park have driven away most of the local wildlife.
Half of the park roads are unsealed and maintenance of tracks is sometimes complicated, access to certain Park gorges is complicated without a 4WD vehicle
Beware of mosquitoes that can transmit disease (Ross River Fever), remember to cover your arms and legs and bring some anti-mosquitoes lotion.
The park asks visitors to be vigilant while on a hike to avoid being bitten by snakes or spiders. We have not seen any during our stay.