Walyunga N.P. Walk overview

This walk takes in much of the rugged scenery in Walyunga National Park on both sides of the Swan-Avon River. It offers much variety and some adventure. There are river crossings to negotiate and even a quirky scramble through a culvert. Energetic uphill climbs are well rewarded with many exceptional views up and down the valley and across the coastal plain to the city. The off-track sections also visit two historic rock cairns placed by pioneering surveyor-explorer John Forrest’s survey team in 1878.

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  • Main features / Highlights

    This walk takes in much of the rugged scenery in Walyunga National Park on both sides of the Swan-Avon River. The River runs southward through the middle of Park and has cut deeply into the western edge of the Darling Range. There are a number of large and quite deep permanent freshwater pools along the River within the Park including the Boongarup, Bungarah, and Walyunga Pools. The steep slopes on both sides of the River provide for some energetic uphill climbs but also some excellent views across and along the main valley. In the west, there is also a view across the Darling Scarp to the Swan Coastal Plain.

    The pioneering surveyor-explorer, John Forrest (later a Premier of W.A.) and his surveying team in early 1878 placed cairns on several high observation points overlooking the valley. This walk visits 1-2 of those historic cairns.

    The vegetation along the route is varied, including jarrah and marri forest, wandoo woodlands fringing the laterite-capped hill-tops, extensive heathlands between the scattered granite outcrops on the valley slopes, and Flooded Gums along the river’s edge.

    Together with the Avon Valley National Park and Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary to the NE, the Park is now an important area for native fauna conservation along the Swan-Avon Valley. Animals re-introduced by DPAW/AWC include the tammar wallaby and black-flanked rock wallaby. In recent years however, feral goats have reached damaging, plague proportions and need to be eradicated  or more seriously culled.

    Also see WalkGPS video ” Walyunga National Park” for some impressions of the walk area.

    Alternative shorter walks:  Considering the rugged terrain, the full walk is fairly long and only for the suitably fit. Also, because the River is uncrossable during much of the peak wildflower season, you may prefer to do separate walks during spring from the western and eastern sides. These shorter walks also allow flexibility to change your plans if the River just happens to be unseasonally high when you visit:

    Western side, short walk alternatives: Pleasant short walks of up to about 11km on the western side can incorporate the existing, marked Echidna Trail and/or the Kingfisher, Kangaroo, Syd’s Rapids and Aboriginal Heritage Trails. (See map) These trails were installed in 1992 by Rotary, mostly along old vehicle tracks. The area has a very long and rich aboriginal history which is highlighted on notices along the short Aboriginal Heritage Trail which passes along the river bank between the Boongarup and Walyunga Pools. 

    Eastern side alternative/s: See Route notes for another short circuit walk of around 12km, starting from Walyunga Lookout picnic area in the northeast (off Ewing Road) and bypassing the western side of the valley.

    Alternative combination with part of Wooroloo Brook walk: See Route notes.

  • Route notes

    Start from the Boongarup Pool carpark (waypoint ‘START’) and head approx. NW, past the toilet block at ‘1’ to connect with a vehicle track at ‘1-1’. Turn right to follow the track  across a small gully and arrive at a Y-junction at ‘1-2’.  Veer left to follow the track uphill via ‘2’ and ‘3’. (This track is part of the ‘Kangaroo Trail’). Veer right at another Y-junction at ‘4’ to follow the ‘Kingfisher Trail’ northward. After only 100m the track again forks. Take the fork to the left past a small dammed pond and follow the Trail uphill mainly NW via ‘6’, ‘7’ and  ‘8’.

    On reaching ‘9’ you may see on the right (if still in place) a small Survey Heritage Trail information board which includes information about a very well preserved historic cairn (Cairn PV) from the 1878 John Forrest survey. At this point, veer off-track to the right and head NNE to cross the nearby gully and climb quite steeply to a narrow ridge at ‘9-1’. Veer left to follow the crest of the ridge to reach within 50m John Forrest’s intact Cairn PV.  Then walk a few metres to ‘10-1’ to find a rocky outcrop with a great NE-ward view up the Avon River valley.  Then head NW up the ridge from the cairn through pleasant wandoo woodland. At ‘10-2’ veer left to get a good view across the Swan Coastal Plain to Perth city, about 30km to the SW. Turn right to head northward along the gently rising, laterite-capped ridge, through mostly open wandoo woodland. See a Survey Heritage Trail marker post at ‘12’. At elevation 260m this is the highest point of the walk and is also just 300m south of the Woodsome Hill Firetower. From here, veer ENE-ward across a slope to reach at ‘13’ the escarpment at the edge of the laterite surface, gaining good views eastward across the Swan River valley and NE-ward up the valley to Medikal Hill. Then turn sharply to initially descend quite steeply southward through heathland. Cross a gully and climb to a ridge at ’14’. Follow the ridge downhill to the SE via ‘14-1’, ‘14-2’ and ‘15’, using animal tracks wherever possible (large herds of feral goats frequent these slopes!) to get through the broad patches of scratchy heathland between granite outcrops. After ’15-1’’ veer eastward again following animal tracks where possible to find an easy way through tall shrubs and heathland. The route steepens after ’15-2′ before meeting a vehicle track at ’16’.  Turn left to follow the track down the hillside. Soon after ’16-1′ the track curves southward to follow the River). Leave the track and descend to the river bank at ‘16-2’ and walk about 20m southward along the bank. From here you have a view across to Syd’s Rapids above a junction of two river channels. To continue the walk you may now have a shallow wade and boulder-hop across two boulder-strewn channels of the river. If the river is suitable for crossing you may be able to get across with dry boots by boulder-hopping. (Caution: If either of the river channels is flowing strongly, which is highly likely from mid-autumn to late spring, do not attempt any river crossing but instead follow the track, Syd’s Rapids Trail, southward along the western bank back to the Start point and/or try some of the alternative western side trails). Cross the first channel directly from ‘17’ to reach  ‘17-1’ on  the ‘island’ or wander back northward along the bank to cross where the channel is broad, shallower and slow-flowing (or possibly dry in early autumn). Then cross the next channel upstream of Syd’s Rapids to reach ‘18’ on the eastern bank of the river. Then veer southward up the river bank, through a small patch of Watsonia weeds. Cross a small side gully at ‘18-1’ then veer left to follow the foot of the nearby steep railway embankment to scramble through a 40m long (twinned) culvert at ’19’ which passes under the railway embankment at the head of the small gully. The two culvert pipes are 1m diameter and clean and free of debris with ample light penetrating from the two ends. Most will find it is reasonably easy, comfortable and non-stressful to scramble or ‘waddle’ through in a low crouching gait. (Caution: Do not use this culvert route during or after heavy rain in case of flash flooding. The alternative to the culvert route is to climb the railway embankment to cross the tracks where there is good clear vision of any approaching trains. Goods trains pass frequently. If in your own independent judgment you consider it is safe for you to cross, then cross the railway lines carefully and quickly) After you emerge from the eastern upstream end of the culvert (at ’19-1′), turn left (northward) and climb up to the railway embankment and then walk about 80m southward, keeping a safe distance from the railway tracks, to locate a vehicle track on the left at ’21.’ (Caution: About 150m NE-ward of ‘20’  along the east side of the tracks an old iron stairway climbs to the main valley road. This may still be marked by an orange Survey Heritage Trail marker post, but do not use these stairs as a short-cut to the road as widening of the railway has left no safe walk space between passing trains and the nearby rock-face.) The vehicle track from ‘21’ veers sharply southward after 40m (at ‘21-1’) to connect along-slope at ‘22’ with the main vehicle track through the valley. Turn sharp left at ‘22’ to follow the vehicle track NNE for 1.2km. (Note: Alternatively at ‘21-1’, as a short-cut,  consider following an old track which heads directly upslope from the sharp bend in the road and joins the main valley track at ‘22-1’ within 100m.)  Turn right at ‘23’ to leave the main valley track and follow a sidetrack through a vehicle barrier gate and southward up a ridge to ’24’, gaining views northward up the valley. At ’24’ turn left to leave the vehicle track and walk eastward off-track across a heath-covered side valley to reach a granite outcrop at ’25’.  Then head about NE-ward via ‘25-1’ and at ‘26’ veer left (northward) to cross a stream gully at ‘26-1’ followed by a short climb to a ridge at ’27’. Follow the ridge uphill NE to reach a NW-slope at the edge of a laterite plateau.  Follow the slope via ‘27-1’ through delightful open wandoo woodland for about 600m and reach a granite outcrop at ’28’.   Veer left (NNW) to descend quite steeply to cross a stream gully at ‘28-1’ and climb to a ridge at ’29’ and find a prominent rock cairn on a nearby granite outcrop from where there are nice southward views down the valley. This previously vandalised cairn (John Forrest’s “Cairn SH”) has been restored at the site of one of the many historic cairns placed by John Forrest’s surveying team in the Swan and Avon Valleys in 1877-78.  Head eastward along the prominent ridge, soon gaining some good views NE up the valley. Join a vehicle track at about ‘30’. Cross a track at ‘30-1’ (which on the left leads down to the valley track along the railway).  At ‘30-2’ veer right (southward) to follow a sidetrack which leads up around the Walyunga Lookout carpark via ‘31’ with a further good view up th valley through the trees. (The Avon River joins the Brockman River about 5km NE of the Lookout to form the Swan River.  Walk about 100m SSE along Ewing Road from the Lookout area to ‘32’, then cross the low fence on the right hand side of the road and descend gently, southward across the hillside, crossing a vehicle track at ’33’.  Cross a stream course and after a very short climb reach a vehicle track at ’34’.  Turn right to follow the track SW across a laterite plateau. After 1km the track descends to a Y-junction at ‘35’. Take the left fork and after less than 100m, turn right (westward) at ‘36’, onto a side track. The sidetrack soon veers southward (at ‘36-1’) and descends to cross a gully after about 500m.  At ‘37’ turn right to leave the track and walk westward  via ‘38’ across the north-sloping hillside through pleasant wandoo country on the sloping edge of the laterite plateau. Reach another vehicle track at ’39’ and follow it SW-ward through wandoo woodland fringing the edge of the  laterite plateau. After 600m, at ‘40’ the track begins a steepish descent. At ‘40-1’ consider taking a rest stop under wandoo trees just to the right, from where there is an excellent view  SW-ward down the main valley to the Bungarah Pool near the southern picnic area. When the main track veers left along slope at a track junction at ‘41’, continue steeply downhill on a less-used track, flanked mostly by rocky terrain and heathlands. At ‘42’ rejoin the valley road close to the railway embankment. Turn left to follow the road (now sealed over this section) for only about 50m to ‘42-1’ where the road begins to veer left. At this point continue almost straight ahead on an old (partly concealed) track which descends quite steeply toward ‘43’on the northern bank of the Brook, close to the railway bridge above. Before reaching the Brook, locate a vague foot-track which heads NW-ward along a steepish slope and takes you under the railway bridge. Cross the Brook at ‘43-1’ in the shallows just after the bridge, then join a nearby  vehicle track at ‘44’ and follow it to the right (northward). The track crosses a minor side channel of Wooroloo Brook and soon after reaches at ‘45’ a wide, usually very shallow ford across the Swan River. If the earlier crossing above Syd’s Rapids was safe (i.e. river not flowing too strongly) then the water at the ford will be very shallow and you will probably again be able to cross without getting your boots very wet. Turn right (NE) at ‘45-1’ on the west bank to follow a footpath (part of the Aboriginal Heritage Trail), soon passing by the 1km long Boongarup Pool on your right. Then veer left to follow the footpath away from the river and to return via ‘46’ to the Start point at the carpark.

    OR,  Eastern side alternatives:

    Alternative 1: Route notes for a shorter circuit walk of around 12km, starting from Walyunga Lookout picnic area at alternative access point at the end of Ewing Road (near ’32’). Follow the eastern part of the route from ‘32’ to ‘42’ and then follow the vehicle track northward from ‘42’ to ‘22’, so bypassing the river crossing and western  area. Then complete the walk route from ‘22’ to ‘32’.

    Alternative 2, combination with part of Wooroloo Brook walk:  Eastern parts of the Walyunga NP Walk can easily be combined with eastern parts of the Wooroloo Brook walk, by starting at either:

    – Boongarup Pool carpark – then cross the Swan River via the ford and follow the vehicle track to cross the railway tracks, etc, and follow the track up the valley to link into the walk at Wooroloo Brook walk waypoint ‘23’);  or,

    – Walyunga Lookout carpark at end of Ewing Rd in the north (off O’Brien Rd) – then link into the Wooroloo Brook walk at Wooroloo Brook walk waypoints ‘26’ or ‘28A’.

    The western part of the Wooroloo Brook Walk route can then be bypassed by following a vehicle track up/down the hill between Wooroloo Brook Walk waypoints ‘19’ and ‘38’.

  • Access / Directions

    Great Eastern Hwy and bypass, then Roe Hwy, then 15km north along Great Northern Highway to Walyunga Road on right (signposted to Walyunga National Park, main entry).

    Follow the sealed road to the furthest car park, near Boongarup Pool (about. 3.5km from the Hwy) which is the Start point.  Public toilets and picnic tables nearby. A park entry fee applies (per car). The Park is open 8.00am -5.00pm daily (see DPAW site ).

    Alternative access east of the Swan River is via Toodyay Rd, then north along O’Brien Rd and left into Ewing Road (past Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary on the right) to reach the Walyunga Lookout picnic area (the northern point on this walk).

    Google Map

  • Nearest campsite/s

    Camping at sanctioned site/s by arrangement with DPaW ranger. Facilities: Pit toilet, tables and water. Camping fee applies additional to Park entry fee.

  • Escape route/s

    West of Swan River:  Via various tracks or trails south (e.g. Syd’s Rapids Trail along west bank) to main park entry road.

    East of Swan River: In NE follow vehicle track via ‘35’, ‘36’ etc to reach Ewing Road. Further south, reach (at ‘23’ or ‘42’) the vehicle track paralleling the railway line along the valley. Follow the track southward to 400m past ‘42’, then turn right onto a track that crosses the railway line, then crosses the ford at ‘45’ and reaches the main entry road.

  • Other Info.

    “Canoeing in Western Australia”, Robyn Khorshid site  – For more Avon Descent details and some entertaining “Paddlers’ Stories”.

    “Echidna Trail, Walyunga NP”, Trails WA site. – For 11km loop trail.

    “Kangaroo Trail, Walyunga NP”, Trails WA – For 4km loop walk.

    “Kingfisher Trail, Walyunga NP”, Trails WA – For 6km loop walk.

    Landscope magazine, CALM, Spring 2004 – Included article on CALM/AWC collaborative work to restore wildlife to the Swan-Avon Valley.

    “Syd’s Rapids & Aboriginal Heritage Trail, Walyunga NP”, Trails WA  – For  6.4km family walk.

    “Travellers guide to the Parks & Reserves of Western Australia”,  Simon Nevill, 4th Edn. 2011, p.43 (Simon Nevill Publications) –  Includes a brief summary of the Park, including the western trails.

    WalkGPS Bells Rapid-Mt Mambup Walk –  On this site. Includes information also on Bells Rapid, which like Syds Rapids on this walk route, is another great viewing spot for white-water excitement during the annual Avon Descent.

    WalkGPS Wooroloo Brook Walk – On this site. Explores the narrow rugged Wooroloo valley which lies eastward of the Brook’s confluence with the Swan River in Walyunga National Park.

    “Walyunga Bouldering Mini Guide”, Jason Pickett & Mike Randall (Climbers’ Association of W.A.), 2011. – For a climber’s perspective of this area, which focuses on a granite outcrop and boulders about 100m northward of waypoint ’28’ on the WalkGPS walk route.

    “Walyunga National Park”, DPaW site. – Includes a downloadable Park Guide and Flora & Fauna Guide.

    “Walyunga National Park – WalkGPS video. – Impressions of the walk area.

    “Walyunga Survey Heritage Trail: recognising the pioneering achievements of 19th century surveyor/explorer, Lord John Forrest.” – undated former Department of Land Administration, Mapping & Survey Division publication; (2 A4 pages, including map). Copy provided to me by the Park Ranger, but original also available at State Library: Battye Library Collection listing ref. PR12454/116.) A short section of the Survey Heritage Trail is followed on part of the route described on this page and you will find occasional red-orange trail markers and also small information boards at two points. At least two of John Forrest’s historic survey cairns of 1878 are located in the walk area, including “Cairn SH” in the NE near Walyunga Lookout (visited on this walk route), and “Cairn PV” in the west, south of Woodsome Hill (optional segment on the walk route).

    Other map availability

    South West WA 25K Scale Topo Maps”, Greg Harewood & Landgate,  2015.  – Digital raster; ECW format on 16GB USB. See tile #332-2134-IV-SW for relevant map coverage.

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