Start - End of Cathedral Ave
Length - 4.5km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Dog Friendly - Yes
Vertical Climb - 139m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 27 September 2015
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Located a 45 minute drive from Perth, jump on the Great Northern Hwy until you reach Cathedral Rd and follow that until it turns into the Orlov Trail. Watch for the signs and find a space in the big gravel car park.
The Hike - With the September long weekend in Western Australia bringing sunny weather, plans were made with the Gus's (Tom & Mel from my Roleystone hike) to visit the Swan Valley with the puppies (Gus the French Bulldog & Sadie). The trail they suggested was Bells Rapids, a popular location for families, especially when the Avon River is flowing like it was today. From Fremantle it's a bit of a drive but once you are off Roe Hwy the scenery is pleasant and the rolling hills make for a nice drive. When we reached the gravel car park it was rather windy but we all climbed out and with the dogs raring to go we departed towards the main bridge over the river.
Being spring, the river was flowing nicely and the rapids were churning as we slowly meandered our way over to the north side. We started off the loop by going right at the end of bridge (anti-clockwise) and this is where the climbing begins. The first of the two 50m climbs starts on a 4x4 track and is a fairly steep ascent. The views over the valley and across to the train line are worth it and if you need a breather on your way up then just pretend to be looking back at the towards the river. We stopped at the top for a bit of a drink (Gus was very thirsty) before soldiering on downhill for a short while. The short while didn't last and soon it was time to begin the second 50m climb up to the highest point (91m) of the hike.
The views from up here are amazing as you get the river valley to the east and the Swan Coastal Plain to the west, including views all the way to the city. There is a tree that has grown slightly horizontal next to the trail and it provided a nice place to have a rest. The humans had some cookies while the dogs had carrots (only after they had been manoeuvred into better lighting for photos). Just as we were about to get going, one of the long freight trains roared by and I tried to get as many shots as I could but the results weren't as cool as being there.
The descent back down to river level is a bit steep to start and with loose rocks on the trail you need to watch your step. Intrigued by a granite outcrop next to the path I climbed my way onto the formation and was soon joined by the dogs. The outcrop provided some uninterrupted views over the plains so I suggested that Tom re-enact a famous scene from a classic Disney movie with young Gus. We eventually found our way down to the river level and as we were rounding the last corner on the descent we came across a group of horse riders plodding along. We put leashes on our savage beasts as they unconvincingly barked at the giant dogs with humans on their back and let them pass. Pleased with their noisy protection, the dogs kept a vigilant watch on the horses as they climbed uphill and we tried to move them onto the picturesque river section of the hike.
The temperature had risen a little since we started so the tree canopy was a cooling relief. The trail does a 180 degree turn after a while (look for markers pointing you to the river) and you follow the river all the way back to the starting bridge. Along the way we stopped for a group photo (lighting wasn't fantastic so we had a couple of goes at it), let the dogs run around in the mud of the river and had to turn back as I left my lens cap on a wooden sign. By the time we got back to the bridge the place was packed and we had done over 5.5kms of walking. The talk shifted around the possibility of an ice cream van appearing in the car park and we all kept an eye/ear out for one. Unfortunately we weren't in luck but thanks to the modern age, Melissa Google'd nearby places for ice cream and we drove the short distance to Oggies Ice Creamery for the perfect end to a fun morning.
Final Thoughts – Bells Rapids has been on my "To-Hike" list for a long time now and the plan was always to do three small trails in the area to make the trip worth it. When Tom & Mel mentioned they were thinking of heading out there again and would we like to come, it wasn't a hard choice to say yes. In a bid to include more family/beginner friendly trails on my site, Bells Rapids fits the bill perfectly.
The kids will be entertained playing around in the river (bring spare clothes and plenty of towels), dogs are welcome to the area and will love it (Sadie and Gus certainly did) and adults can enjoy the hike, the wildflowers and the views. It certainly is a nice way to spend half a day (or full day if you bring a picnic or BBQ materials).
As far as introductory hikes go, this is a great place to start your hiking adventures or if you are more seasoned, a lovely little walk along the Swan River.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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