Mount Cooke Walk overview

This pleasant, short on-track walk within the Monadnocks Conservation Park replaces an earlier, much more challenging WalkGPS route which remains an option. This circuit provides walkers with an easily accessible way to experience the best of Mount Cooke which is the highest of the granite monadnocks of the Darling Range. The walk includes about 3.5km on the Bibbulmun Track along the main ridge before descending to the Mt Cooke Campsite. There are some excellent views from the ridge. The 230m climb up Mt Cooke should not be too challenging for any reasonably fit walker.

  • Main features / Highlights

    This pleasant, short on-track walk within the Monadnocks Conservation Park replaces an earlier, much more challenging WalkGPS route. The previous route included off-track sections that were affected by an increasingly dense new understorey which became established following the devastating wildfire of January 2003 which swept across Mt Cooke. With time that route will likely become more open and accessible again; meanwhile this new circuit provides walkers with an easily accessible way to experience the best of Mount Cooke which is the highest of the granite monadnocks of the Darling Range with the summit at 582m above sea level (and about 240m above the surrounding plateau). The walk includes about 3.5km on the well maintained Bibbulmun Track along the main ridge before descending to the Mt Cooke Campsite. The hut there was rebuilt in mid-2004 following the 2003 bushfire. There are some excellent views from the ridge, including to Mounts Vincent and Cuthbert (7-8km NW), Geddes Rock (7km NE) and more distant Boonerring Hill (17km SSE). The 2003 fire destroyed most of the forest canopy, including some  picturesque  stands of wandoo and butter gum. The walk along the summit ridge has now returned to being a very pleasant bushwalk, but the stark burnt ‘skeletons’ of the former mature forest overstorey still remain, protruding above the new vegetation as a reminder that it will be many years before the forest grows back to anything like its previous mature state.

    The 230m climb up Mt Cooke should not be too challenging for a reasonably fit walker; but be prepared for possible cold and windy conditions along the ridge (see Alerts / Issues).

    More challenging walk option (11km):  The Route notes include additional waypoints for those keen to tackle the previous WalkGPS route which was much affected by the dense regrowth following the January 2003 wildfire. (See the Route notes for details.)

    For overnighters: For those keen to camp overnight in the area: The Mount Cooke Campsite (which includes a 3-sided shelter; at ’10-2′) on the Bibbulmun Track is located at about the halfway point on the walk route. See Nearest campsite/s below for more info.

  • Route notes

    From the start point (at waypoint ‘START’), head NE along a continuation of the vehicle track. At ‘1’ the track intersects with another old vehicle track. Continue ahead along the track close to the east bank of a stream course. At about ‘1-1’ the old vehicle track ends but continues northward up the narrowing gully through the forest as a foot-track. At ‘1-2’ cross a sloping granite outcrop and continue northward up the gully. At ‘2’ the foot-track bends sharply left to cross the stream course and then climbs initially quite steeply upslope through forest and then heathland/shrubland via ‘3’. Continue NW up the foot-track onto an extensive SE-sloping outcrop via ‘4’ then follow the occasional small cairns northward across and then up the steepish, mostly bare rock slope via ‘5’, gaining sweeping views southward, including to Boonerring Hill, 17km SSE. Meet the Bibbulmun Track at ‘5-1’. You will now follow the Bibbulmun Track NNW for 3.5km across Mount Cooke to the Mount Cooke campsite (via ‘6’ etc). At the top of the 120m climb up the outcrop explore around the large boulder located just to the right (east) of the track. The boulder conceals a sizable, low-ceilinged cave which can provide good shelter for walkers caught on the ridge during inclement winter weather. Continue up onto the narrow rocky ridge, gaining at ‘6-1’ a sweeping view east across the Darling Range and also 31km due north to Mount Dale, on the horizon. The track now follows the ridge for about 1km NNW (via ‘6-2’) and reaches the actual summit rock cairn marker at ‘7’ near the northern end.    The track then initially descends northward via ‘8’ and ‘9’. At ‘8-1’ consider taking a worthwhile very short off-track diversion to a granite slab to the left at ‘8-2opt’ from where there is an excellent view NW to Mounts Vincent and Cuthbert. The track veers sharp left (west) at ’10 and soon descends more gently. Soon after crossing a small footbridge at ’10-1’, arrive at the Mount Cooke campsite (at ’10-2’) which is a good spot to take a rest break. When leaving the campsite, don’t follow the Bibbulmun Track up the hillside behind the campsite, but instead follow the old vehicle track which heads WNW along slope from the campsite. After 300m, at ‘11’, the track meets Cooke Road (old vehicle track). Turn left to follow Cooke Road (via ’11-1′) for 2km SSE to ‘12’, then veer left onto an old vehicle track which heads initially  uphill. The track soons flattens and crosses a few small gullies over the next 500-600m. The track veers uphill again toward ‘12-2’, and then crosses two more gullies. At ‘13’ veer right (SSE) to leave the vehicle track and descend partly off-track through open forest. Cross a small stream course at ‘13-1’ to return to the start point.

    Option, for more challenging walk (11km): The following WalkGPS alternative circuit was an excellent route prior to the devastating wildfire of January 2003 but was much affected by the fire. Following the fire the off-track portion of the route became unpleasantly very scratchy/prickly and difficult in places. An increasingly dense new understorey of low shrubs (including dense patches of ‘Prickly Moses’, Acacia pulchella) became established, replacing sections of previously easier open forest walking and obliterating  previous animal tracks. One of the worst affected sections was along the northern extension of the Mount Cooke ridge (between waypoints ‘Alt-6-2’ and ‘Alt-9’). That section can be bypassed by going direct from waypoint ‘Alt 6-2′ to join the Bibbulmun Track at about ’10’ (and also bypassing the Mount Cooke campsite, reducing the walk distance to only about 8km). Gaiters, trousers, long-sleeved shirt and even gloves should be worn to protect yourself from prickles and scratches if you do want to brave this original, more challenging route:  On reaching ‘1’, instead of following the old vehicle track to ‘1-1’, veer right and head NNE up the hillside. Cross a laterite-capped ridge and meet the Bibbulmun Track (at ‘Alt 1-1’). Turn left to follow the Bibbulmun Track northward and gently uphill along  the ridge for about 400m. When the track veers left at ‘Alt-2’ continue northward along the east-sloping hillside (to ‘Alt-3’) and then continue along slope NW (gaining views through the forest of the steep eastern granite face of Mount Cooke). Soon descend to cross a steep-sided stream gully (at ‘Alt-3-1’).  Continue along slope northward  (via ‘Alt-3-2’, ‘Alt-4’ etc). Cross another gully at ‘Alt-4-1’. After ‘Alt-4-2’ veer NNW to climb along a moderately steep forested slope skirting around granite boulders and small outcrops, gaining a view NE across a side valley to a rocky ridge.  Cross the granite slab in the stream gully (at ‘Alt-5’) which is a good spot for a break. Then head NE to climb uphill behind large boulders and outcrops to  reach the spur ridge (near ‘Alt-6’). Follow the narrow ridge uphill NNW (picking a way through possibly dense ‘Prickly Moses’), gaining eastward views  across the Darling Range and to Geddes Rock 6.5km to the NE. After ‘Alt-6-1’ the slope flattens onto the northern extension of the Mount Cooke ridge.  Continue NW initially along the laterite-capped ridge top and then descend slightly on the western side near ‘Alt-6-2’ for a view south to the granite outcrops below the summit of Mount Cooke.  (Note: At this point, due to possible dense growth of ‘Prickly Moses’ along the ridge to the north, you can opt to go direct from ‘Alt-6-2′ to join the Bibbulmun Track southward at about ‘10′, then follow the described route in reverse from ‘10’ back to the start point.)  If you wish to stay on the full, alternative route, continue north and NW along the ridge through possibly quite dense understorey in places (via ‘Alt-7’, ‘Alt-7-1’). Veer WNW at ‘Alt-8’ to head along a narrowing, rocky spur ridge. Cross a dark-coloured dolerite outcrop (at ‘Alt-8-1’); now possibly hidden under a blanket of ‘Prickly Moses’) and continue along the narrow ridge to ‘Alt-9’, then turn sharp left (SW), to initially descend quite steeply and cross a low granite outcrop slab at ‘Alt-9-1’ before the slope flattens. At  ‘Alt-9-2′ veer WSW and continue gently downslope. The slope steepens again before you meet the Bibbulmun Track at ‘Alt-9-3’. Turn left to follow the track down to the Mount Cooke Campsite (at ’10-2’ on the described route above). This is about the halfway point on the walk. On leaving the campsite head eastward on the Bibbulmun Track toward ‘10-1’ and follow the described route in reverse from ‘10’ across the summit of Mount Cooke back to the start point.

  • Access / Directions

    44km SE of Armadale along Albany Highway. Continue down Albany Highway for 2km past the start of the Cooke Pine Plantation, then turn left onto a narrow dirt road at waypoint ‘RD-1’.  Follow the dirt road NE across the plantation area to reach a T-junction with another dirt road (Cooke Rd) along the NE side of the plantation.  Cross the road and park in the large cleared area at the walk start point. The narrow dirt road from ‘RD-1’ is a bit rutted, so care is needed if not in 4WD. If necessary park close to Albany Highway in a sidetrack off the dirt road. Walking to the start point from there will add 1km to the start and end of the walk.

    Google Map

  • Nearest campsite/s

    Mount Cooke Campsite: On Bibbulmun Track. This campsite, which includes a 3-sided shelter, is also on this WalkGPS walk route (waypoint ’10-2′) at about the halfway point on the walk route.

    NOTE: Bibbulmun Track sleeping shelter restrictions –  Check Overnighting on WalkGPS for info. on access to the Track shelters, especially if planning an overnight or multi-day walk for a group of 8 or more walkers.

  • Escape route/s

    In east, to Powerline Road, then due south to meet Albany Highway. In NW, to Bibbulmun Track and Mt Cooke Campsite, then NW to soon meet Cooke Road (dirt road) then SE about 3.5km to the Start point. From summit ridge area, follow Bibbulmun Track either NW to Mt Cooke Campsite, etc, or follow it SE until it meets Powerline Road,  then south to Albany Highway.

  • Other Info.

    “Bibbulmun Track, Guidebook 1, Darling Range” 2014 edition.

    “Forests on Foot (40 walks in W.A.)”, Meney & Brown, 1985, pp.38- 47 (Wescolour Press, Fremantle); Includes the Mount Cooke ridge walk (prior to development of the ‘new’ Bibbulmun Track). Can be viewed at State Library of WA (book Call Ref. # 919.412 MEN).

    “Mt Cooke Bouldering Mini Guide”, Emil Mandyczewsky and Caine Delacy (Climbers’ Association of W.A.), 2006.

    “Monadnocks Conservation Park”, DBCA – Parks and Wildlife site – Unfortunately this provides no significant information and no management plan appears to exist for the Park as yet.

    “Perth Rock Climbing Guide”, Climbers’ Association of W.A., 2010 (2nd ed.) – Includes a climbers’ perspective of Mount Cooke.

    “Wildfires can be bad for biodiversity”, Neil Burrows, DEC., Information Sheet 17/2009, Science Division. – Describes the long-term damage to the Mt Cooke area caused by the high intensity 2003 wildfire which swept through forests that hadn’t been ‘prescribed burned’ for about 20 years.

    Place name origin: Mt Cooke was named after Ernest William Cooke, the first Government Astronomer of W.A., from 1896-1911.  (This Mt Cooke is not to be confused with Mt Cooke in the east Pilbara, also named after E.W. Cooke.)

    Trivia: What is a “monadnock”? (Click on link for answer.)

    Other map availability

    South West WA 25K Scale Topo Maps”, Greg Harewood & Landgate, 2015.  – Digital raster; ECW format on 16GB USB. See tile #308-2133-II-SW for relevant map coverage.

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