This walk offers a good sampling of the rugged scenery of the Avon Valley National Park on both sides of the Avon River. The River runs southwestward through the park, cutting deeply into the granite of the Darling Range (as it has also done about 20km further SW at Walyunga National Park, where it becomes the Swan River).
Western Australia’s most famous bushranger “Moondyne Joe” once roamed the slopes of the Avon Valley (between 1855 and 1861) and the pioneering surveyor-explorer, John Forrest (later a Premier of W.A.) and his surveying team in early 1878 placed cairns on several observation points near the hill-tops overlooking the valley. This walk captures some sense of that history by including visits to the historic sites at “Joe’s Cage” (where Moondyne Joe once captured wild horses and cattle) and at “Cairn DP” and “Cairn GR” (two of the best preserved of the John Forrest cairn sites, with marked trees nearby).
The steep slopes on both sides of the Avon River provide for some reasonably challenging uphill climbs which are rewarded with some excellent views across and along the main valley from both sides. The walk also includes two crossings of the River, one at the ford below the Valley Campsite, and the other 1km upriver from Emu Falls. The Falls, which are not on the main walk route, are unlikely to be flowing at the times of year that this walk is most feasible, but they can be visited by an extra 1km round-trip diversion along the railway service road from near the crossing point at the ford.
The Park lies at the northern limit of the jarrah forests and includes a transitional mix of wandoo woodland with jarrah and marri trees. There are some short sections of thicker shrubland. (You may prefer to wear trousers or gaiters to avoid scratches. And be aware of ticks!)
Alternative walk: Considering the fairly rugged terrain, the full walk is only for the suitably fit. Also, because the River may be unsafe to cross during much of the peak wildflower season, you may prefer to do the separate Avon Valley (South Side) Walk which doesn’t require the river crossings. That alternative walk also allows flexibility to change your plans if the River just happens to be unseasonally high when you visit.
Two-day visit: Another good option is to spend a weekend in the Park, arriving Saturday morning and leaving Sunday afternoon. Camp at the Homestead Campsite. Do this walk on Day 1 and then the Avon Valley (South Side) Walk on Day 2. There is no significant overlap between the two walks, but both start conveniently from the Homestead Campsite.
The Valley Campsite (at waypoint ‘VALL’) provides an alternative good camping option for this walk. It is much closer to the River and easily reached via waypoint ’33’, about 4km before the end of the walk route.
Other opportunities: Much of the western area of the Park, west of Joe’s Cage, is less easily accessible, and is quite rugged and challenging in places, especially between Plunkett Rd and the Avon River, with some dense, scratchy shrublands, but it also has potential for some good walking. Access is possible from Great Northern Hwy, via Chittering Rd (from Bullsbrook) and Wilson Rd, then into the Park along unsealed roads (Smith Rd and Plunkett Rd). These unsealed roads are quite rutted and rocky in places and more suited to 4WD.
However, a little further north on Chittering Road (14km from Bullsbrook) the “Peace Be Still” Guest House/Retreat provides easy access to walking at the westernmost fringes of the Park, above the Brockman River and Chittering Valley (e.g. Kyotmunga Walk Trail and ‘Out & Back’ Walk).