Main features / Highlights
A highlight of this walk is a visit to the little known (but still intact) historic Chauncy’s Cairn erected in 1846 on the south flank of Ngangaguringguring Hill during the surveying of the early road system for the colony. The cairn’s location on a granite outcrop on the Hill above Wariin Brook, about 5km ESE of The Lakes, provides an excellent sweeping view as far as Mt Dale, 30km to the south. Of related historical interest along the way is the crossing in two places of Cobb Road (now a minor dirt vehicle track) which closely follows the original line of the earliest York Road route surveyed in by Philip Chauncy in 1846 but abandoned after 1848 (see other background historical refs. below).
The walk route is about two-thirds off-track but involves mainly easy walking through picturesque open wandoo woodlands and partly along the banks of Wariin and Emu Brooks. The area lies mostly within State Forest. There are interesting variations in terrain, up and down the often-rocky escarpments surrounding three hilltops, including a large, sloping granite slab in the east. Two clusters of fascinating giant granite boulders, sculpted by nature, are well worth taking time out to explore and are another highlight, along with the unusual ‘Prop Rock’ (informal name). The start (and end) section of the walk follows an old vehicle track around the eastern side of the reed-covered Manaring Lake which is a small but significant wetland where long-necked turtles can occasionally be sighted.
From the ‘Start’ point (waypoint ‘START) at The Lakes Roadhouse head eastward (via ‘1’) to follow the right hand, south-side verge of Great Southern Hwy and after about 400m (at ‘2’) veer right to follow an old vehicle track now much used by weekend trail bike riders. This passes through open forest (including a large Marri tree ) skirting the eastward edge of Manaring Lake wetland. The track soon forks (at ‘2-1’). Take the left fork to continue SE. Soon after crossing a branch of Emu Brook the track then joins an E-W track at ‘3’. Follow that eastward and meet a T-junction within only 50m (at ‘3-1’). Turn right to follow the vehicle track gently uphill for less than 100m to reach another side track, on the left (at ‘4’). Follow that initially eastward. It soon veers SE-ward and passes a large dammed pond (dry in summer) along Emu Brook. Immediately after the pond, turn left again (at ‘5’) to follow a side track across the downstream (dam) end of the pond. After only 50m (at ‘6’) turn right to leave the track and head off-track roughly southward through patchy heath and across small rocky outcrops for only about 100m to ‘7’ and then downslope to large granite boulders at ‘8’ on the east bank of Emu Brook. Then climb steadily SE-ward via ‘8-1’ across a steepish slope through open forest to reach flatter terrain. At ‘9’ meet a vehicle track; Follow it initially southward, then SW-ward, descending the slope again to cross (at ’10’) the rugged and deeply rutted Powerline Track (Nganguring Road; 4WD track). At ‘10-1’ follow the vehicle track which heads initially SE-ward away from the powerline route. After about 100m, at ‘10-2’ the track veers NE-ward. Leave the track to continue SE-ward, off-track through initially open wandoo woodland. Skirt patches of dryandra shrubland (may be regenerating after fire) and soon descend a short slope to reach (at ’11’) a large open area where a low granite slab has been largely blanketed and concealed by low heath and grasses. Continue SE-ward to again enter open wandoo woodland. Cross an incised gully at ’12’ before climbing a moderate, pebbly slope to reach a flat, laterite-capped hilltop area. Cross the hilltop (via ’13’; elevation 291m) and veer ESE to descend via ‘13-1’ to a gentle saddle area (at ’13-2′). Continue ESE through open woodland across a low hilltop, then through low heath and open sheoak ‘thickets’ before descending gently to an eastward-sloping granite slab (at ’14’). Veer eastward to follow the partly open and grassed, but rocky terrain (via ’14-1′) around the SW flank of a spur ridge. At ’14-2′ veer southward for about 50m to reach a small rocky knoll (at ’15’) which has a local view across the side valley and is a good spot for a short break. Then head SE-ward down the hillside via ‘15-1’ through open wandoo woodland. At ‘16’ cross Cobb Road (Chauncy’s old York Road route) and soon reach a small stream gully (at ’17’). After crossing the gully, head eastward for almost 1 km via ‘17-1’, ‘17-’ and ‘17-3’, passing close to Wariin Brook on the right (south) in a couple of places. Avoid dropping down into the incised gully of the Brook as the walking is easier on the higher ground, though in places the terrain is less open than in the earlier woodlands, and includes patches of balgas and shrublands. After reaching ’18’, veer southward and soon pick out a kangaroo trail to guide you down to an easy crossing point (near ’19’) in the Wariin Brook gully. (Avoid seeking a crossing point further upstream as the gully for 300m upstream of the crossing point becomes swampy and choked with dense reeds and ponding due to regular water flow from the nearby old Wariin Well.) After crossing Wariin Brook had eastward to meet a vehicle track at ‘20’. Follow the track eastward. Within 50m (at ’21’) it crosses a swampy water course (presumably sourced from flow from the Wariin Well). A passable muddy track conveniently skirts a large pool that forms along the dirt road after winter rains. (A newer raised embankment has beeen built across the water course immediately upstream of the track.) Continue eastward on the track for about 700m, then at 22’ veer gently off-track to the left to head ENE through very open woodland and soon follow the southern bank of Wariin Brook. At ’22-1′ re-cross the Brook (usually dry here), and soon after (at ‘23’) veer left to follow a side gully northward. Re-cross Cobb Road (at ’24’). Continue northward along the stream gully through open forest. Veer briefly to the right (NE; at ’25’) to cross a deeply incised stream gully which drains runoff from a large granite outcrop to the north. Reach the base of the main outcrop (at ’26’) and climb steadily northward up the gently sloping outcrop (via ’27’), passing through a patch of shrubland after about 400m horizontal distance. The elevation gain up the outcrop is almost 60m. At ‘28’ near the highest point on the outcrop, veer NW for a short climb up a lateritic escarpment to reach a flat hilltop area (at ’29’) in wandoo woodland. This is a pleasant spot for another break, with some views across the Wariin valley through the trees. Descend initially SW-ward from the hilltop down the laterite escarpment and across a small outcrop at ‘30’. Veer due west and pick an easy route downhill via ‘31’ through interesting rocky terrain, heath and balgas. Cross a stream gully at ’32’, and head WSW through open forest, soon crossing at ‘33’ a vehicle track (Nganguring Road, a detour off the nearby W-E powerline route). Then climb a small east-sloping granite slab. Turn left at the top of the slab at ’34’ to head SSW and along the steepish slope of the hillside, initially re-crossing Nganguring Road at ‘34-1’ and continuing via ‘34-2’ and ‘34-3’, through open grassy areas and rock slabs among sheoak trees. Reach another, larger granite slab at ’35’ which slopes SE-ward and provides views across the valley. Cross the slab and continue WSW to westward along slope via ‘35-1’ and ‘35-2’, picking a way through patches of shrubland in the mainly open forest. On reaching a large rocky promontory (at ’36’) veer right (northward) to climb up the edge of a rock slab. Veer NE at ’37. Soon cross a flatter heathland area to reach a small outcrop at ‘38’ where you will find the historic Chauncy’s Cairn on Ngan’guring Hill at 308m elevation. There is a good view south to Mt Dale (26km SSW). This is the ideal place for a rest or lunch stop. (Note: The actual top of the hill lies about 200m further north but is only a little higher, at 316m and is blanketed by scratchy parrot bush.) Head initially NW from the cairn location, initially across rocky ground and heath, then veer westward at ’39’. Reach another small outcrop (at ’39-1′) which offers a further view southward. Then head WNW via ‘39-2’, mostly along slope and through open wandoo woodland. Cross a gentle gully then veer left (SW) at ‘40’ to cross a slight spur ridge. Descend a short distance via ’40-1’ to a cluster of large boulders at ‘41’. It’s worth spending a little time exploring these interesting sculpted rocks by picking/scrambling a way through them southward to ‘41-1’. Then at ‘42’ head WNW gently down slope via ‘42-1’ where you cross a small gully. Cross another small gully to reach an unusual and impressive, tall boulder at ‘43’ which gives the illusion of being precariously propped up by an old tree trunk. After exploring ‘Prop Rock’ (informal name) head NW up to a narrow ridge crest at ‘43-1’. Continue NW via ‘43-2’ then descend to meet Nganguring Road at ‘44’. Follow the road downhill for only 100m then head off-track at ‘44-1’ to ‘45’ where another very large boulder is located , with a small cavern beneath which a small stream flows through after good rainfall. Scattered upslope from here for almost 100m are several other large boulders of various fascinating shapes and sizes. Again it is worthwhile taking some time to explore these by following a small circuit via ‘45-1’, ‘45-2’ and ‘45-3’ before coming back to ‘46’ (very close to ‘45’). Then rejoin Nganguring Road to the SW via ’45-1’ and ’45-2’. Again follow the road for only ~100m. After it crosses a gully at ’46-3′ and starts to bend to the right uphill, head off-track SSW mostly along slope and reach the northern edge of a deeply incised stream gully at ‘47’. Veer right to follow the gully SW-ward. At ‘47-1’ cross the stream course to the southern flank and continue up the gully through wandoo woodland. After reaching the head of the gully at about ‘47-2’, continue SW upslope, crossing the earlier outbound route of the walk at ‘47-3’ (same location as ‘13-1’). The slope steepens up a small escarpment to ‘47-4’ where there is a small buttress-like rock outcrop. Continue SW across the flat hill top and meet a W-E vehicle track at ‘48’. Turn right to follow the track westward. At ‘49’ it begins descending steeply into the Emu Brook valley; Veer right and head NW off-track quite steeply through shrubland and woodland. Cross a gully at ‘49-1’ and continue through open wandoo woodland. Reach Emu Brook at ‘50’ and cross to the west bank. Follow the Brook upstream ( NW-ward), picking an easy way along the bank through low shrubs and heath and re-crossing to the east side at ’50-1’. Cross back to the west side at ‘51’ then walk upslope for about 50m to meet an informal trail bike trail at ‘52’. Follow the bike trail NNW along slope and soon meet Nganguring Road and then the deeply-rutted powerline route at ‘52-1’. Cross the Powerline Track and continue along slope, off-track through forest to ‘52-2’ where you meet another vehicle track. Follow this old vehicle track along the western flank of the narrrow Emu Brook valley. After 500m you will pass the pond along Emu Brook which you also passed on the outbound part of the walk. The final 1.7km of the walk retraces the outbound route via waypoints ‘1’ to ‘5’; so now simply follow those outbound waypoints in reverse order to return to the start point at The Lakes Roadhouse.
Access / Directions
Approx. 62km east of Perth along Great Eastern Highway to The Lakes Roadhouse at the Great Southern Highway turnoff (on right). The walk starts from The Lakes Roadhouse (with parking, refreshments and toilets).
In NW, approx. 1km north to Great Southern Hwy on rough vehicle tracks. In west, approx. 1 km along Powerline Track or other rough W-E dirt tracks to Flynn Road (part unsealed) which joins Great Eastern Highway to NW. In east, approx. 1km south to Cobb Road (rough 4WD track) or Goods Road, then west to Flynn Road. Note: Powerline Track (Nganguring Road) is an extremely rough, rugged vehicle track suitable only for 4WDs.
“Field Book No.5 – Survey of Guildford to York Road, SRO” by Philip Chauncy, ca. 1846 (held at Department of Lands, Plan Room). – This includes Chauncy’s original handwritten notes of 1846 describing the Ngang’uring Hill cairn location and sketch of Mt Dale, etc.
“Mundaring – A History of the Shire” by I. Elliot, 1983. (Shire of Mundaring), ISBN 0-9592776-0-9. – Ian Elliot ‘rediscovered’ Chauncy’s cairn in 1974. His book is extensively referred to in the Heritage Council’s documentation which achieved the registration of the Cairn as a heritage site.
“Register of Heritage Places – Assessment Documentation – Chauncy’s Cairn”, Heritage Council of W.A. , 2005. – This contains an excellent summary of the pioneering surveying efforts of Philip Chauncy along the route of the old York Road, including his erection of the cairn at Ngang’uring in 1846.
“Register of Heritage Places – Permanent entry – Chauncy’s Cairn”, Heritage Council of W.A., 2006.
The Halfway House (on Australian Heritage database) – The site of the former “Halfway House” lay just west of this walk area. This was one of the earliest inns in W.A., built in 1831 as a resting place for travellers between Guildford and York. It fell into disuse after 1848 after the route of the old York Road was switched near The Lakes from south of Manaring Lake (Chauncy’s route) to north of the Lake and a new inn, “The Traveller’s Rest”, was built in 1855 immediately north of The Lakes. Nothing remains of the original “Halfway House” which stood on the site of the current Tudor Park Stud property off Flynn Road and about 1 km SW of waypoint ’38’ on this walk route. Until 2015, the ruins of “The Traveller’s Rest” could still be seen among the trees in the small area behind the former Lakes Roadhouse and homestead (on the south side of the newly aligned Great Southern Highway, about 150m before it meets Great Eastern Highway); These were finally demolished during the rebuild of the Roadhouse in 2016.
Other map availability
“South West WA 25K Scale Topo Maps”, Greg Harewood & Landgate, 2015. – Digital raster; ECW format on 16GB USB. See tiles #322-2134-II-NW, #323-2134-II-SE and #324-2134-II-SW for relevant map coverage.