Bald Head Walk Trail
Start - Off Murray Rd, Torndirrup NP
Length - 12.6km (Return)
Grade - Red
Terrain - Single Track, Rocky Path, Sand
Vertical Climb - 570m
Time - 3-6 hours
Signed - Occasionally but only one trail
Date Hiked - June 5th 2014
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Take Frenchman Bay Rd until you reach Salmon Hole Rd and then take a left onto Murray Rd. The trail starts at the top of a gravel road that comes off Murray Rd (it is well signposted).
The Hike - The Bald Head Walk Trail is one of the reasons I chose to use Albany as one of my anchor points for my trip down south. What photos I could find looked amazing and the brief trail description further enticed me to the area. While the Torndirrup National Park may be more famous for the numerous natural features that dot its coastline (Blowholes, Natural Bridge & The Gap), it hides a beauty of a trail that is the Bald Head Walk Trail. This 12.54km Hobbit Trail (there and back again) is a challenging but spectacular traverse along the ridgeline of the Flinders Peninsula, finishing with a long stare into the abyss of the Southern Ocean.
Along the way you will get stunning views of King George Sound, hear the chorus of the waves crashing against the granite cliffs and smell the unforgettable scent of the peppermint trees that line the trail. My day had already started off on a good note with a morning at my accommodation watching the Golden State Warriors win Game One of the NBA Finals and with unseasonably warm winter weather it was about to get even better. The first section of the hike is all uphill as you climb to the top of Isthmus Hill (121m) where you are greeted with views of Salmon Holes Beach to the south from the bare granite surface. Soak it all in for a while and then continue on the boardwalk section down towards the turnoff for the beach.
Unless you want to take a dip in the Southern Ocean, take the path leading up the limestone ridge line. This is one of a few steep sections but the trail is exposed so the higher you get, the better the views of the surrounding area get. With the perfect conditions it was easy to convince myself that I was hiking on the Amalfi Coast. The trail was set high above the tranquil, turquoise waters of sheltered bays and it certainly didn't feel like the bottom of Australia. After reaching one of the exposed peaks the trail then dips and rises, occasionally going deep into some thick shrubbery. This is where I encountered the first of many locals that had taken up residence on the trail. I was obviously the first hiker to pass through here on the day as the spider’s webs were large and plentiful.
Hiking certainly is a lot more mentally involved when you are constantly scanning the trail ahead for the slight hint of a web dangled between trees. I stopped holding my camera out in front of me after a while as it was getting covered in the webs and what was caught in them. More than once I stopped inches from a sizeable spider before carefully moving it off the trail. When you are finished with Spider Alley, the trail opens up as you reach the highest point of the trail (222m) before you start a gentle descent on the soft sand section in between limestone formations.
Exiting the mini sand dunes you are greeted with an amazing section of pink/orange stone with the most amazing geological patterns. This exposed portion of the trail is great fun to bounce around as you can pick your own line in places and explore all the little nooks and crannies. There are some great chances to setup some interesting shots with the expanse of the ocean on three sides. When you first arrive at this section it looks like it extends all the way to end of the peninsula but things change when you emerge from a small bit of thick scrub to find yourself standing on the edge of a very steep hill.
From the edge you can see the final kilometre down into the small trees before it climbs again up to the finishing point at Bald Head. The 80m descent is fairly steep in places and keep in the back of your mind that you have to go in the opposite direction on your way back to the start. When you reach the lowest point, it is just a 40m vertical climb up to the finishing point, which is a rather large pyramid of rocks on the exposed granite. Here you will find a container filled with paper for you to write your name and a short message. If someone is headed there soon then a new container is needed along with a working pen.
After a short break for photos and a snack it was time to get going again and the climb back up to the pink/orange rock features. As it was late afternoon I enjoyed the warm sun on my face as it set over the many inlets and bays of the Albany area. Not even the bureaucratic antics of Professor Umbridge in the Harry Potter audio book I was listening to could spoil this day. The final treat was standing upon Isthmus Hill and hearing the sounds of the waves while I looked down at the people enjoying Salmon Holes Beach. This was not a hike I was going to forget soon.
Post Hike Activity - With the sun setting over Albany and putting up a great light show I stopped off at Stony Hill on the way back to my accommodation. A short detour off Frenchman Bay Rd, follow the signs all the way up the hill to the car park that also doubles as the starting point for Peak Head. At 500m it wasn't long enough to do up as a separate trail (even though I have a few of that length now) and with fading light I was more worried about getting to the good views before the sunset finished. I turned into a speedy trail runner as I sprinted off along the trail to the granite platforms that look back over Princess Harbour, the Southern Ocean, King George Sound and the City of Albany.
I arrived as the sun disappeared behind some batman shaped clouds, a little out of breath but happy with the epic vista in front of me. I sat there taking it all in and snapping away at every angle and reflecting on what had been a pretty awesome day. With the famous Albany Wind Farm a tiny spec to the left, I could also make out the main strip of town, the Vancouver Peninsula and Mistaken Island. As the sun went below the horizon I was treated to some beautiful purple and golden hues that were the perfect end to one of the best trail days of my life. If I was a local of Albany, this would be a regular spot for me.
Final Thoughts – During my research for this trip I stumbled across Bald Head and from the little information I did find, it sounded like an interesting trail. In the end I am very glad that I put this trail on my list as it is an absolute gem of hike. I was blessed with perfect weather but I think a bit of rain would actually make for a better experience.
It has so many great elements - decent length, spectacular views, varied landscapes and challenging climbs. To have something like this so close to Albany is a luxury and I encourage more people who are out in the area just visiting the popular tourist places to think long and hard about tackling this trail.
If Bald Head was within an hours drive of Perth then it would be without doubt the most popular hiking destination behind the Bibbulmun Track, it really is that good.
If you do plan on hiking this trail then take plenty of water, keep to the paths and don't even think about trying to shortcut the route home by taking the southern beach (you will see why). Most of all just enjoy the hike and savour every minute of this majestic place.
Get out there and experience it!
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