Bibbulmun Track - Hewett's Hill to Ball Creek
Start - Hewett's Hill Campsite
Finish - Ball Creek Campsite
Campsite - Standard
Distance - 10.6km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 257m
Time - 2-4 hours
Date Hiked - 27th August 2017
The Hike - As the morning mist gathers in the Jarrah forest, Hewett's Hill is one of those places where it's best to be up at sunrise and catch the magical display as a shroud envelopes the rolling hills. Pry yourself from your sleeping bag, make a hot drink and find a seat to be in awe of the morning spectacle.
Once you've enjoyed a lazy morning around camp and gathered all your hiking possessions, the 10.6km walk to the next campsite at Ball Creek is ready to be tackled. Given the short distances between campsites most hikers will elect to do Kalamunda to Ball Creek in one day but for the purpose of these posts I will be doing a campsite to campsite reflection based on my time in the area. The first section out of Hewett's Hill brings you back down the hill and along the carved valleys of the nearby waterways (mostly dry throughout the year, except after heavy or continual rains). Because of the close proximity to the seasonal water supply the forest here is very lush and on a dark winters day, this section has a very "deep forest" kind of feel.
After a short walk you reach the first of many intersections of the Bibbulmun Track and Munda Biddi as both trails snake their way on different paths all the way to Albany. Take a right onto the wide gravel road and travel down the hill towards the meeting of even more trails. Throughout the years there have been numerous named trails run through here and one tree shows about 4-5 different markers for the Dell to South Ledge loop, bike trails and even signs for the Winjan Track, which has very limited information on it. Back in my younger days I would take the Munda Biddi down to a granite platform a few hundred metres from this intersection, have lunch and then walk back to Kalamunda. These days I continue on the Bibbulmun as it says goodbye to the Munda Biddi (for now) and heads up a fairly steep hill.
Recently this area has seen prescribed burns rip through it so the landscape will keep changing as the forest recovers from the burning. I've been lucky to see it either side of the burns and I know which one I prefer but hopefully they leave it alone for a while now and it can recover. You follow the wide 4x4 track up the hill and past what used to be lockout gates (the barrier has since been removed and not replaced). At the top of the hill you are treated to the expansive views over the Helena River Valley that will become home for the next few kilometres. With little tree cover along this stretch, the payoff being some great views to your left as you catch occasional glimpses of Mundaring Weir in the distance.
As you reach the forest section the track departs the wide path and heads onto single track down into the valley and then back up towards South Ledge and the Golden Lookout. Keep an eye out for wildflowers in this section as they flourish in winter/spring along here. Reaching the South Ledge car park, it can get confusing here so as soon as you see the road take a sharp left and follow the single trail as it takes you the scenic route around the contours. Some of the best views of the Helena River Valley can be found here with rolling hills of forest blanketing the landscape. Down the well manicured path is the Golden Lookout, a famous spot in the Perth Hills where you can marvel at Mundaring Weir in the distance and take in the excellent views. If you're lucky to be up here at sunrise then the sight is glorious, even more so if there is mist rolling through the valley.
Moving along from the Golden Lookout, a single track paths takes you to another 4x4 track that is redeemed by the excellent forest that surrounds it. There is a single golden trunked tree here that stands out in the middle of the track that is a good metaphor for being an individual and not caring about others perception. Leaving the 4x4 track you are directed onto some lovely single track that runs through the excellent forest that I mentioned previously. I love this section in the late afternoon or early morning as you get the light streaming through the lush canopy and it creates an amazing feeling of calm as you walk through. I've also spotted many great wildflowers and orchids on my many passages through this section so keep an eye out on the forest floor.
You soon pop out of the forest for a crossing of Mundaring Weir Rd, a popular route to and from the dam/lake so be careful of traffic popping around the corners. There is a short walk along the shoulder of the road but you are on the lake side so can let your gaze wander to the turquoise waters of Lake CY O'Connor. Reaching Mundaring Weir, it is a great privilege that tourists and hikers alike can walk across the dam wall (during opening hours). Recent upgrades have now been completed so the diversion across the bottom of the spillway valley shouldn't be necessary although you are more than welcome to take that route if you please. The weir and Lake CY O'Connor are steeped in history and if you have the time then exploring all the buildings and reading all the information boards is a very fascinating experience.
On a clear sunny day the lake looks amazing and with a few picnic spots around the place it is easy to see why this is a popular destination for day trippers. Once you've crossed the weir there is a wooden Bibbulmun Track sign pointing you in the right direction on towards the Mundaring Weir Hotel. Ascend the path up past the pipelines (and crossing over them) until you reach the famous watering hole. Over the years I've many great meals there and one of my favourite day hikes is to leave Kalamunda around sunrise and walk to the Mundaring Weir Hotel to have breakfast before returning back to my car. It has a very old world vibe to it mixed in with some modern amenities like a stage for concerts and a basketball ring for the kids (and big kids). For end to enders there is accommodation available if you want to treat yourself to a warm bed, shower and great food (along with it actually making sense distance wise to stay here).
If you've stopped off here for breakfast or lunch it's a hard task to pry yourself away and get back on the track but with Ball Creek Campsite only a few kilometres away it won't be long until you can rest up again (not that this is a punishing day). You'll need that rest as it is mostly uphill as you climb up towards the Perth Hills Discovery Centre. After using the same path as the Munda Biddi, Kattamordo Heritage Trail and Kep Track, you are pointed back into the forest and up the hill towards a great lookout over Lake CY O'Connor. With lovely views through the treeline, you can look back and appreciate where you've come from in such a short distance.
Reaching the Perth Hills Discovery Centre, a place offering a range of activities through DBCA's Nearer to Nature program encouraging kids to get outdoors. There is also a campground here if you get caught out but bookings are essential. For hikers the place is mainly used as an access point for the track as the car park here is ample in size as a relatively safe place to store your car for overnight trips to the surrounding campsites. Hikers staying at Ball Creek might be interested in seeing a movie at Kookaburra Cinemas (season runs November through to April) if you don't mind the 6km round trip from camp in the dark.
From the Discovery Centre car park you are again deposited into the forest for a mix of Jarrah and She-Oak walking. This section was once shared with the Paten's Brook Walk Trail until DBCA unfortunately removed the markers and closed it down. After such a lot of scenery changes all along this day, this extended stretch to the campsite is fairly same same, not necessarily in a bad way. If you enjoy forest walking then this will be a pleasant experience as you reach one of the more maligned campsites in the Darling Range section. Set in the relatively flat valley that the seasonal Ball Creek flows through, the campsite isn't what you'd call stunning but it does have its own character and now boasts an impressive library for you to peruse (unless it's been taken down). It's a place I've never stayed at and from what I've heard, many hikers choose to avoid it given the awkward distance from the other campsites or accommodation options.
Final Thoughts - While this is a short campsite to campsite section (a trademark of the Darling Range), there is a great deal of variety as you say goodbye to the influence of modern civilisation and begin a relatively more "wild" experience in the forest.
Beginning with wide views of the Helena River Valley, a feature of the next few days, you visit a lovely vantage point at the Golden Lookout before reaching the highlight of the day, Mundaring Weir.
Your final hot meal opportunity for quite a while comes at the Mundaring Weir Hotel and I can't speak highly enough of the wonderful experiences I've had there.
Ball Creek in comparison to the next three campsites may be a bit sub-par but as I said it has its own character and I love the open sandy space and scattered trees that surround it.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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