Start - Serpentine National Park
Length - 5.8km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 180m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Black Boot
Fees - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 10th April 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Serpentine National Park is an hour's drive from Perth and is located off South Western Hwy. Follow the signs from the main road and beware of the opening/closing times for the gates.
The Hike - Baldwin's Bluff, like last week’s Dell to South Ledge hike, is another trail that had been on the "to-hike" list for a while but due to circumstances I had not had the pleasure of hiking. Located just off the South West Highway in the Serpentine National Park, this tough little hike is a no excuses trail leading right to some great views of the Perth Coastal Plain and back down the Serpentine River Valley. The starting point for the trail is on the south side of the main car park, next to the toilet block. Entry fee for the national park is the standard $12 and is open between 8:30am and 4:45pm unless otherwise stated.
Today though I elected to start all the way back at Jarrahdale Cemetery where I would tackle an old favourite, the Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail, before getting stuck into the climb up Baldwin's Bluff. After a couple of storms in the past few weeks I was keen to see what impact they had had on the trail. Before I arrived I was greeted to a fantastic drive where I first watched a lightning storm in the distance on the freeway and then one of my favourite drives, travelling east on Mundijong Rd as the sun rises. Starting the hike from the cemetery at 6:30am, I had the whole trail to myself and with the fantastic skies above I took my time exploring every little section.
This is the first time I had hiked Kitty's Gorge with my new camera and the first time I had visited with such great weather. Suffice to say I had so much fun photographing every nook and cranny that my memory card was full by the time I reached Serpentine Falls. Enjoying a cup of tea while I sat there alone, I deleted a few photos from the camera and set out for the Baldwin's Bluff trail head.
Enough of my morning, what is Baldwin's Bluff like and should you make the trip out to Serpentine to do it? Great and yes. I knew the trail provided great views of the area but was unsure based on the starting point where it went and what hilltop you eventually reached. The first 500m or so is a 4x4 track where I encountered a curious kangaroo but then the climbing really starts. You soon reach a sign pointing you to either Baldwin's Bluff or back to Kitty's Gorge so I used my smarts and followed the track leading up the hill.
For another kilometre the hill doesn't stop and as you ascend, the views back down the track get better. It's only a narrow viewpoint but in the distance you can just make out the tiny buildings of the Perth CBD. At the 1.5km mark of the hike you reach the highest point of the trail at 200m ASL (that climb you just did was 150m vertically) and there is a sign telling you to head right to the lookout. My guess had been right as to the location of the hilltop but the area to the east (or left) did look a lot more interesting.
Strangely the next 1.4km to the lookout is mostly downhill or flat but this is a welcome relief after that short climb. After a final little climb you emerge from the sparse forest and are greeted with a fantastic view east, right down the Serpentine River Valley. With the sun shining down from low in the sky, Serpentine Falls is a tiny glimmering speck off in the distance. I didn't spend much time admiring the views on this side as the wind was ferocious and just standing upright to take a photo was difficult. The views don't end there and following the path around you are soon facing west and overlooking the Perth Coastal Plain. Unlike the views you get on trails such as Eagle View or the Echidna Trail, this one is not blighted by industrial buildings or endless housing estates (although there is one out of place looking housing development).
Being shielded from the winds I took the opportunity to have a snack and rest the legs for the 10km hike back to my car, mostly uphill once I reached the end of my Baldwin's Bluff adventure. The hike back down the hill passes by in a flash but be careful on the loose rocks as it is quite easy to injure yourself when momentum takes you faster than you would usually travel. When I arrived back at the start, there was a significant increase in the number of people in the car park enjoying this lovely spot so I put my headphones back in and began my hike back to Jarrahdale.
Final Thoughts - Given its position within the Serpentine National Park, Baldwin's Bluff offers a challenging hike for those starting out or an extra climb on top of a Kitty's Gorge adventure. For anyone new to hiking, the climb is hard enough to test you but still short enough to make it enjoyable. The views are well worth the effort and are a nice reward for the sore legs.
If like me, you tack this hike onto the 14km Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail, it certainly is worth adding on the extra kilometres to get views you wouldn't ordinarily get to see. At over 21km in total, it is longer than most day hikes in Perth but for those looking for great scenery, a few climbs and a variety of locations then there isn't much better.
Get out there and experience it!
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