Kalamunda to Hewett's Hill
Start - Northern Terminus, Kalamunda
Finish - Hewett's Hill Campsite
Campsite - Standard
Distance - 10.3km (One Way)
Vertical Climb - 240m
Time - 2-4 hours
Date Hiked - 7th September 2008
Directions - The Northern Terminus is very easy to locate, drive to the roundabout where Mead St and Railway Rd meet and find an entry to the Coles car park. The trail head is across Railway Rd, you can't miss it.
The Hike - Kalamunda marks the start of the Bibbulmun Track for those heading north to south and the location of my very first steps on the track over 10 years ago. With a planned finish date of 2019 for my sectional end to end I thought it would be best to put my most hiked section of the track up on the website to complete the full experience. As I've completed this in pieces over the years, this will be more of a guide/love letter to the Darling Range section. With more than a few trips out to the popular day hiking spots in the area I have a few photos from each trip that I've pieced together here, hence why they don't look like they're from the same day.
The starting point at the Northern Terminus has recently been upgraded to provide more spectacle and meaning for those departing the hills suburb of Kalamunda. Previously I found it to be a bit weird that a 1000km journey started opposite a Coles car park with little more than a small information shelter and a little wooden gateway. The area now feels like a quality trail head and links back to the aboriginal heritage/knowledge of the land and the seasons. For the life of me I don't know why I haven't taken photos of the new layout but I'll get there this year and update the page accordingly. When you take your first steps through the new gateway and onto the track it is right into the forest for 50m before you are faced with a tarmac road and a bit of a shock. I've said it before in my other post about this first section and also on the podcast, it's a weird start that is unavoidable given the location of the Northern Terminus in relation to the surrounding housing.
Luckily the walk down Spring Rd isn't too long and you soon see the red coloured wooden board with yellow writing that will become familiar as you walk the 1000km to Albany (or even if you are just doing a day walk). While you won't be walking in thick or natural forest straight away, this mix of open fields and tall eucalypts makes for a better start than you'd expect after leaving such a populated area. As you approach the edges of Jorgensen Park, an old golf course that has since been converted into a popular dog walking area, you get a feel for where the old fairways used to be. A fair amount of rehabilitation work is occurring in this area to clear up the streams and convert the bushland into something more natural. I kind of enjoyed the dense wattle that lit up with bright yellows in winter and spring (see gallery) but understand why they are doing what they are doing.
Walking up the hill and through some more mature forest you reach the edge of one of the bigger open spaces at Jorgensen Park and the chance to see some locals walking their dogs. Skirting around the edge or walking through the middle of the field (your option), you reach the forest on the edge of Kalamunda National Park and climb up to a lookout spot that is just magical at sunrise. With views looking over the Piesse Brook Valley, this is a spot I always stop at for at least 10 minutes just to sit in the stillness and breath it all in. From here you can trace your journey for the next few kilometres as you descend down into the valley and rise up again before reaching the power lines that are a spec on the horizon. I've spent quite a few sunrises here and it's not a bad way to start a days hiking.
This is the start of a long descent down into the valley and one of my favourite spots from late winter through the late spring. With a series of steps guiding you along the path, this area is your introduction to one of the best places to view the wildflower displays in the Perth Hills. If you are walking at the right time of year then expect scenes of whites and yellows, accompanied by individual wildflowers dotting the undergrowth. It really is a fantastic spectacle that makes you appreciate how lucky WA is to get this annual display. After a fairly steep rocky slope you reach the top of what I believe is Piesse Brook (I can't find a map that has a name for this stream). This is arguably the best stretch of hiking of the day as you descend alongside the stream (flows from mid-winter to late spring) and is full of granite boulders, slabs and plenty of interesting areas to explore.
A fallen tree over the stream provides a cool photo opportunity as you take in the impressive rock formations and little rapids. From here to the bottom of the valley is a cool mix of rocky steps, closed in single track and beautiful forest. A highlight is the granite boulders to the right that look like they are being supported by a single tree. This section ends when you are thrown out onto a wide gravel track that is a bridle trail along with being used by mountain bikers. It's a short stroll to the bridge over Piesse Brook and the option for the nice little side trail to Rocky Pool. This tragically unmarked trip takes you along further along the wide gravel track for about 150m to a popular swimming spot that used to be the local swimming hole before a purpose built pool was built close by. During winter to spring it is full of water and a nice place to cool off after a long hike but it's also fun just to explore the surrounding area and take photos.
Heading back to the Piesse Brook bridge, the Bibbulmun heads uphill from here for the next 4km, gaining 180m of height. While not a huge climb it does feel like you're always heading uphill (which you are). Luckily the views of the surrounding area are worth it and away from the potential crowds of Piesse Brook and Rocky Pool, you start to feel like you're away from it all and can get into a good rhythm. One of my favourite rock formations on the entire track is located at the top of the first steep hill and I think you can guess which one from the pictures. The infamous "Cock Rock" stands proud out of the ground and I thank whoever had the sense of humour to direct the track right past this monument to male virility. From Cock Rock you rise again on a rocky path before a steep descent takes you down into another little valley. With granite ridges on either side and a healthy Wandoo forest all throughout the valley I enjoy walking up this enclosed space, even more so in spring with all the wildflowers and karri hazel around.
Rising up to the top of the hill you are greeted with a great big power line that feeds Perth it's power all the way from Collie (you'll see it a few times on your way to the second track town). Thankfully the track doesn't follow these buzzing metal giants and you are put back into the forest for the run up to the farm properties on Fern Rd. Even though it is a disruption to the natural forest walking, I like these properties, especially when there is a mist hanging around over the fields. In season there used to be an honesty box for fresh fruit, a nice little touch for thru hikers. Entering the forest once again you see more parrot bush and she-oak as the higher elevation means drier vegetation.
Be careful in this area as there are lots of intersecting mountain bike trails that are quite easy to turn down. Reaching the highest point of the day and the end of the climbing (sort of), you descend down towards the Calamunnda Camel Farm (yes that is the spelling) where you can have a break and enjoy a coffee and snack. The Camel Farm is more popular now as a mountain biking hub with the car park usually full on most weekends and a hive of activity as people enjoy the outdoors. Walkers can escape the madness by walking straight through the car park and into the dark forest at the end as the track heads uphill before the final stretch on to Hewett's Hill Campsite. This is home to a lovely stretch of Jarrah forest and with the rest of the hike to the campsite being downhill you can slow down and enjoy the easy hiking.
There are plenty of steps in this section (I'm not a fan) to help you out and as you reach the carved routes of the ephemeral streams and get a glimpse of the campsite up on the hill. One final climb up the path and you reach the first shelter on the Bibbulmun Track, named after Peter Hewett, a man that was vital in getting the Bibbulmun Track built in the early days. Set up on the hill, the views are fantastic and a picnic table provides open air access to enjoy your afternoon snack or morning coffee. If you are planning on staying here then always bring a tent as this is a very popular campsite given it's easy access and short distance from various access points. While I don't enjoy the Standard style huts when it comes to their darkness and poor use of space, I do love the little benches at the end of each bunk and these ones make you want to sit there forever staring out at the view drinking a warm beverage.