Upper Darkin – NW Walk overview

The laterite escarpments and stream courses on both sides of the narrow upper Darkin River valley provide interesting, varied terrain and lots of excellent views across and down the valley. This walk is a relatively easy circuit which mostly follows the valley rims, crossing the River course at two points 5km apart. The walking is mostly through open forest, including picturesque, open wandoo woodlands. The route can be extended for an optional  longer walk. The partly overlapping Upper Darkin – SE Walk also provides another longer walk.

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  • Main features / Highlights

    The laterite escarpments and stream courses on both sides of the narrow upper Darkin River valley provide interesting, varied terrain and lots of excellent views across and down the valley. This walk is a relatively easy circuit around both sides of a 5km section along the valley, about 12km ENE of Mount Dale. The area lies within State Forest including: Nockine Block (north of the River); Qualen Block (to the south); and Flynn Block (covering part of the alternative longer route, east of Yarra Road).

    The walking is mostly through open forest, including some picturesque, open wandoo woodlands (especially on the south side of the valley). Expect some medium slopes, uneven pebbly surfaces, and a few brief patches of possibly scratchy heath or shrubland. The route mostly avoids areas of denser dryandra scrub (parrot bush) which is common on some of the laterite-capped hill tops. The only crossings of the Darkin River course are by road bridges, via Yarra Road at the eastern end starting point, and via Topher Road at the western end.

    Longer walk options:  See the Route notes for an optional extended route of 16.5km which also visits an additional granite outcrop with a good view to the east. That outcrop is also included on the nearby Flynn Hills Walk which is immediately to the ENE. This longer route offers a slightly more challenging day’s walk

    Also see the Upper Darkin – SE Walk for another longer walk (15.5km) in this general area, mostly further  to the SE. That walk route includes a short overlap of 2.5kmwith this walk (between waypoints ’28’ & ’38’ in the SE).

  • Route notes

    From the Start point (at waypoint ‘START’), cross the Darkin River on Yarra Road and after only 50m up the road at ‘2’ veer NW to head off-track.  Soon cross a stream course, then climb gently through open wandoo woodland. (Or see Option below, for a  longer route alternative.)  Continue upslope via ‘3’, ‘3-1’, ‘4’ and ‘4-1’ into a fairly open parrot bush shrubland/understorey. After 1.5km from Yarra Road, reach (at ‘5’) wandoo woodland on a N-S ridge. Head westward via ‘6’ to the northern end of a large rock slab on the western flank of the ridge. Traverse the 200m-long slab southward to ‘7′. Then continue southward (via ‘8’) across the ridge through wandoo woodland and descend through low shrubland and a sheoak thicket to ‘9’. Continue southward around an east-sloping hillside (via ‘9-1′) and reach (at ’10’) the top of a small (40m-long) SW-sloping rock slab, with a good view southward across the main Darkin River valley to slopes 1km away that will be traversed near the end of the walk. Turn right (westward) to re-enter forest and cross a hill top via ’10-1’. Then descend gently WNW across the upper slopes of a laterite escarpment via ‘11’. Reach another small outcrop at ’12’ (with nearby view to Mt Dale, 12km WSW), and continue approx. NW down the hillside through wandoo woodland via ‘12-1’. Veer more westward down the hillside at ’12-2′ and then descend via ‘13’ to cross a stream course. Head WNW uphill and soon follow (via ’14-1′) the top of the south-sloping laterite escarpment through shrubland/open forest which is regenerating following the major 2005 wildfire. There are some good views south and SW. At ’15’ veer SW and then westward again at ’16’.  At ’17’ veer SW to return to the top edge of the escarpment at ’18’.  From here there are again good views across the valley to the walk route ahead along the laterite slopes on the south side, less than 1km away. From ’18’, veer WNW to cross a broad, low  spur ridge to ’19’. Veer left to ‘20’ downslope. Descend the gently sloping outcrop and continue SW-ward down the hillside via ’20-1’, picking an easy route through likely patches of ‘Prickly Moses’ to cross a rocky stream course and reach Topher Road (forestry vehicle track) at ’21’.  Turn left to follow Topher Road southward, crossing the Darkin River at ’21-1′. Continue on the road to ’22’, then head eastward off-track, gently uphill into wandoo woodland. Climb a laterite escarpment and cross a narrow spur ridge at ’22-1’ before descending quite steeply to cross a stream course (again picking an easy way through local patches of ‘Prickly Moses’). Veer SE at ’23’ to climb to the top of a small laterite knob (or ‘butte’). Then turn SE to cross a gentle saddle through open woodland and begin climbing quite steeply up a north-sloping laterite escarpment. At ’24’ veer NE and climb to ’24-1′, near the top of the escarpment from where there is a good view WNW down the Darkin valley, across the small butte just traversed. Continue eastward (via ’25’) through very open woodland, along the mainly bare pebbly surface of the north-sloping escarpment. After ’25-1′ veer NE and cross the ‘breakaway’ at the top of the escarpment onto the flatter terrain above, then veer ESE at ‘26’ to head gently downhill. Cross a vehicle track at ’26-1’ in a side valley. Continue around a hillside through open woodland via ’26-2’.  At ’27’ veer southward  and climb across the hillside to a viewing point at ’28’ (from where you may get a view 1.6km across the main valley to the area of the rock slab crossed at ’10’ earlier in the walk). Then descend an outcrop and eastward down the hillside via ‘29’ and  ’29-1’ to cross a stream course at ’30’. Head NE, picking an easy way through patches of denser shrubland and crossing a small gully soon after ‘31’. Then veer northward, initially along slope. After ‘32’ ascend the steepish laterite escarpment to ‘33’, located on a broad ridge, in wandoo woodland. Turn right (eastward) to cross another gully at ‘33-11’. Continue eastward up a steepish slope through a patch of shrubland, using animal trails to pick the easiest way through. Veer left at ‘34’ to climb northward to ‘35’.  Then head eastward, soon descending gently across a steepish north-sloping escarpment through wandoo woodland and heathland  via ’35-1’ and ’35-2’. At ‘36’ veer right (ESE) to cross a small gully  and then cross Yarra Road at ‘37′. Continue along the escarpment via ’37-1’ and ‘38’, then  veer NE to reach a narrow north-south latreite-capped ridge at ‘39’. Follow the western edge of the ridge northward downslope, then  continue northward  through open woodland. Veer left (NW) at  ‘40’ to return to the start point (at ‘START’).

    Option, Longer walk (16.5km):  For a slightly more challenging day’s walk; on reaching ‘1’ on Yarra Road, instead of heading NW off-track, continue 200m further northward up the road uphill to ‘2-alt’. Then veer to the right  to leave Yarra Road and and head NNE off-track (via ‘2alt-1’) to a small laterite-capped ridge. Head north along the ridge top through wandoo woodland for less than 500m via ‘2-alt2’. Then descend briefly to reach (at ‘3-alt’) a 150m-long sloping granite slab, offering a good eastward view over the ‘Flynn Hills’ area (WalkGPS informal name). Then veer WNW to cross the crest of the ridge and descend via ‘3-alt1’ to Yarra Road at ‘3-alt2’. Cross the road and head westward gently uphill and veer SW (at ‘4-alt’) after crossing a small gully. Climb uphill to ‘4-alt1’, then WSW to re-cross the same gully upstream. Then continue upslope to a small rock slab at ‘4-alt2’. Continue WSW uphill to cross a small spur ridge at ‘5’.  Then veer SSW, initially gently downhill onto a broad ridge which has/had a cover of mainly open parrrot bush. Bypass denser patches of the parrot bush via ‘5-alt1’, then veer southward to soon pass through a patch of wandoo woodland (via ‘5-alt2’) before descending to ‘6’  to rejoin and follow the ‘main’ route described above (via ‘7’, ‘8’ etc). This option adds 2km to the total walk distance.

  • Access / Directions

    66km ESE of Perth. Follow Brookton Hwy from Albany Hwy for 47km to Yarra Road on left (first road on left after Christmas Tree well on left).  After 18km north up Yarra Road (usually good condition gravel road, but watch for pot-holes) turn right into Darkin Road and then immediately left to park in open area at corner of Darkin and Yarra Roads.

    Google Map

  • Nearest campsite/s

    N/A.

  • Escape route/s

    North or south (generally less than 1km) to Darkin Road; then east (max. 5km) to Yarra Road, or west then NW (min. 18km) via Darkin, Beraking Pool and Reservoir Roads to reach SE end of Lake CY O’Connor (Helena Reservoir).

  • Other Info.

    “Wandoo National Park”, DPAW site. – Includes a downloadable, very brief Park Guide. by DEC (undated pdf).

    Other map availability

    South West WA 25K Scale Topo Maps”, Greg Harewood & Landgate,  2015.  – Digital raster; ECW format on 16GB USB. See tile #309-2133-I-NE for relevant map coverage.

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