Adventures in Roleystone
Start - End of Stocker Rd - Roleystone
Length - 9.1km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track, Rocky Areas
Vertical Climb - 303m
Time - 2-3 hours
Signed - Yes, Some Markers in Place
Date Hiked - 29th August 2015
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - End of Stocker Rd, which comes off Brookton Hwy about 500m past Avocados Accommodation and is a 45 minute drive from Perth. Parking on the side of Stocker Rd and trail head is the gate stating "Wungong Regional Park".
The Hike - When driving along Brookton Hwy, through the hilly landscape on my way out Mt Dale a few weeks ago, I thought to myself, are there any good hiking trails in the hills near Roleystone? A quick bit of Googling spat out a very thin results page and my question was answered, No. This was surprising given the nature of the surroundings (hilly with patches of forest & the Canning River running through it) but I guessed for whatever reason that the area didn’t have any decent walking trails. Araluen is very close by but as far as I'm aware it doesn't have a long trail unless you walk all of the small paths that lead through the gardens. The only site that I found was by a man named Bill and pointed towards a section south of Brookton Hwy that he describes in mixed detail.
He also provides a hand drawn map (some bits are bit sketchy) but it was handy to use as a rough reference. With three trails (Kangaroo, Emu & Echidna) listed but not easily located on the map, it seemed a good enough reason to head out there and do some exploring of the area. Joining me today were friends from the dog park, Tom & Mel, and around sunrise we departed Fremantle and headed off towards our destination. With some stormy weather forecast for midday/afternoon I hoped to get in the entire series of trails before the rain arrived. Armed with the modern day adventurer’s best friend, a GPS tracker, we passed through the gates into Wungong Regional Park and set off in a south east direction on what is marked as the Echidna Trail (not to be confused with this Echidna Trail). The start is a flat stretch past a fantastic old farm shed (more on that later) that meanders along the Canning River.
With plenty of rain in the past two weeks and the onset of the wildflower season, there was plenty of water rushing in the river below and a splash of colour on the trail. This easy stretch continues for 1km before the real climbing begins. From the very start you are aware of the steep hills adjacent to the trail and I knew from my research that we would have to reach the top eventually. The climb is no gentle hill and over the next kilometre the gradient averages 14%. As you start the ascent there is a carpet of white flowers on the hill side that although they aren’t native still look pretty nice. These flowers follow you all the way up the trail as it narrows into a tight squeeze in some sections. Given the lack of official information on these trails I wasn’t expecting trail markers but was surprised to find orange triangles nailed to important turning points. As an added bonus there is orange tape tied to some trees so you don’t lose your way.
Even with trail markers and tape I still managed to lead the group astray although I prefer to call it taking a more direct route. I think the path was meant to turn right and then continue uphill but I could make out an old trail that led through some very tight spaces between some Karri Hazel. When the old trail met up with the new trail I had fulfilled my lifelong ambition to have salt and pepper hair like George Clooney as I was covered in white pollen. Tom & Mel surfaced from the depths of the shrubbery and we had a bit of a chuckle as we admired the proper trail. The climb was almost over and soon we came across what I had been most excited to see on this hike, a 30m solid granite rock-face. Legend has it that this was a hiding spot of Moondyne Joe and he used a cave near the base when he was on the run from the police. Tom was quite keen to find the cave and search for treasure but after exploring the area we were unable to locate anything close to a cave.
We did scale a little section that had a ledge looking over the forest before using the trail to the north to climb up to the top of the wall. The top of the cliff offers up some great views into the valley and down the cliff face. Take caution up here as one slip could mean a very painful/fatal 30m fall. With quite a bit of time exploring both the cliff top and base of the wall, we set off south and began yet another climb. This time the trail is pretty easy to follow and there are plenty of wooden steps to ease the journey. At the top of the 80m climb is a 4x4 track and a very short walk to the car park used by the rock climbers. The car park section is the beginning of a wide open expanse with green plains as far as the eye can see. This is also where you will find an orange information board with the names of all the trails (Botanical Walk Trail 2.7km, Kangaroo Walk Trail 7km & Emu Loop Walk Trail 6km) and the direction to take (they all head west). Happy that we were on the right track and keen to explore the open areas we kept moving. Bill’s map showed an abandoned airfield nearby but before we had a look at that we ventured out to the open field where we spotted a large mob of kangaroos grazing. Being very careful not to spook them, we edged closer so I could try and get them all in a decent shot and they didn’t really seem that fazed by our presence. With a few shots in the bag we headed back to the trail across another meadow that provided some sweeping views over the coastal plain.
Another mob of kangaroos were in the distance and we saw a number of joeys in the group as they bounded off into the distance. Next stop was the abandoned airfield on the other side of the gravel trail. The giant clearing in the forest would have been used for light aircraft back in the day but is now home to some of the biggest Zamia Palms I have seen (1-2m high). There are a few white information markers scattered across the place but the info written on most of them has faded beyond comprehension. After snapping a few photos we continued on our way towards the next feature point, the communications tower. Being very careful not to spook them, we edged closer so I could try and get them all in a decent shot and they didn’t really seem that fazed by our presence. With a few shots in the bag we headed back to the trail across another meadow that provided some sweeping views over the coastal plain. Another mob of kangaroos were in the distance and we saw a number of joeys in the group as they bounded off into the distance. Next stop was the abandoned airfield on the other side of the gravel trail.
The giant clearing in the forest would have been used for light aircraft back in the day but is now home to some of the biggest Zamia Palms I have seen (1-2m high). There are a few white information markers scattered across the place but the info written on most of them has faded beyond comprehension. After snapping a few photos we continued on our way towards the next feature point, the communications tower. It is just a Telstra tower soaring off into the sky but if you are on this trail then keep heading west for another treat of this area. Lining the trail on the other side of a fence is a row of pine trees and in the distance Tom & Mel spotted a couple of horses grazing next to the fence. When we got closer they didn’t move away and we discovered that there was also a friendly sheep that came over to the fence immediately to demand a scratch from the humans. I took some photos of our new friends and soon we were joined by another beautiful black horse. This one was a lot friendlier and came trotting up the fence line to where we were and seemed keen for some attention. We all said our hellos while stroking her mane and scratching her ears. It’s not often that you come across a paddock in the middle of a hike where the animals are as friendly as this lot so it was a bit special. Although the trail is not marked in this area until a bit further up, you are at the borders of the park and can only go one way (north).
This next section is fairly flat and heads back into the native forest and marks the return back to the start point of our adventure. We did take a wrong turn (went right instead of left) but this didn’t turn out to be a bad thing as it led to a spectacular lookout from some granite boulders. The journey up there was another steep section but when we stopped it was worth it. Tom went exploring for a cave/treasure (with no luck) and I snapped some photos. After consulting Bill’s map I realised we were on the way back to the abandoned airfield so we doubled back and headed to the start. It wasn’t long before we arrived back at the gates to the park but before heading off we checked out the old farming shed. Sitting there as a relic to what life used to be like in this area, I am amazed that it hasn’t been vandalised. While it isn’t in great condition due to the ravages of time, it still contains a few interesting items left over from its working days (see gallery below). At the right time of day and with some time to setup the shoot, this location could produce some stunning photos. With our curiosities subsided we headed back to the car delighted with our mornings hiking.
Final Thoughts – I was curious, and still am, as to why there has been a decent effort put into these trails with wooden staircases, trail markers and a nice looking information board yet no online info available. Whether that is by design to keep the area a secret I am not sure and if I am spoiling the party then I am sorry.
This really is a diamond in the rough for hikers in Perth. The variety of scenery, steepness of the climbs, cool areas to explore and some friendly locals puts this right up there as one of the best medium length trails in the Perth Hills. On a beautiful morning we saw the same amount of horses (three) as we did humans.
Instead of the overgrown trails and lack of direction I was expecting, this turned out to be a well marked, fun & intuitive trail.
After each kilometre this trail quickly jumped up the list of top trails I have done in Perth and is probably worthy of a spot on my 5 Best Hiking Trails in Perth list, which I will have to seriously think about reviewing.
Get out there and experience it!
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