Mount Cooke to Nerang
27th July 2019
The Hike - Continuing on from one of my favourite sections on the track, the hike between the Mount Cooke Campsite and Nerang is no less spectacular. Mount Cooke is a popular day hike in the Perth Hills and holds the distinction of being the highest point of the Darling Scarp with an elevation of 582m at the summit. Having been destroyed by fire in 2003, the old campsite at Mount Cooke was in a much better location on the edge of a small valley but the new one is just as nice and has plenty of space to wander around. I've always enjoyed a stop in at this campsite because as a day walker it is a nice place to rest before tackling the climb up to the summit and beyond.
From the campsite you head out along the wide trail towards the looming presence of Mount Cooke that is just there letting you know that some tough cardio will be ahead, even more so if you're carrying a big pack. The trail is very nice single track and in winter and spring this patch comes alive with wildflowers and sundews. Although I have visited this area plenty of times, the walk from the south side of Mount Cooke to Nerang was a section I'd not done for my sectional end to end. With this in mind I planned a lovely overnight trip from Sullivan Rock to North Bannister to tick off this section and also to get out to enjoy some hiking. With perfect weather conditions greeting me on a late July weekend, I enjoyed my walk from Sullivan Rock to the Mount Cooke Campsite (see the last post for details). After a short break I was ready to begin the ascent up Mt Cooke, which funnily enough is not the single biggest elevation change from bottom to top on the track despite looking like a pretty big gain, that honour goes to Mount Hallowell (about 240m instead of 230m for Mount Cooke). With the wildflowers out in bloom and a bit of light cloud around, I was blessed with some ideal photographic conditions for my voyage to Nerang. After crossing the bridge over the creek that runs nearby the campsite, I was greeted with the fragrant smell of Karri Hazel that is just heavenly on any hike.
I located the source pretty quickly and it turns out I wasn't the only one enjoying the aroma as there were plenty of bees buzzing about. I managed to get a pretty cool photo of one still buzzing around and about to land on the Karri Hazel, luckily showing the details of its face and body. As you walk along the 4x4 track there is plenty to see and admire with breaks in the tree cover providing occasional glimpses of the slopes of Mount Cooke. Exposed granite can be seen through the carpet of vegetation and this stretch always brings out the excitement in me as I know what great views are coming. Of course to get up there requires a bit of ascending but with so many stops to photograph flowers and different viewpoints, there is no need to rush. Some darker rocks (potentially laterite) form the basis for some steps as the trail has a couple of switchbacks to help get you up the hill. This is also the last place for a short while where there is a break in the forest and the very short flat section provides some nice views looking back down the valley towards Sullivan Rock and Mount Vincent.
Saying goodbye to the views for now, you reach a forested section that is full of grass trees and more wildflowers where you can put your head down and tackle some of the elevation gain. A nice feature as you're reaching a more open section is the pink granite that I really took notice of on my first visit because of the different colouring to most other granite around this area. It also means that you are close to the first of a few platforms that provide some nice views across the landscape, perfect for taking a short break. The first of these is a small open area where you'll get a taste of the views to the north and east but the better stopping point is right off track on a granite platform. Looking back at the sweeping vista to the north and west, the iconic trio of Mount Vincent, Cuthbert and Randall are standing proudly in the distance. This is a really cool spot to sit and take it all in, especially on a lovely day and if you're feeling energetic, a great spot to come and watch the sunset if you're staying at Mount Cooke. Moving on from there you head back into the forest where you'll come across a plethora of round granite boulders that have rolled down the slopes over the millennia and now form interesting features among the trees.
Reaching another exposed area of granite, this one extends all the way up the hill and is covered in a soggy carpet of moss and rocks. The trail goes to the left so you don't damage the moss and as you climb up, the views back become better and better. There is a final resting point near the top where I took one of my first iconic photos of me standing on an oblong shaped rock with the blue sky behind me (see my day hike Mount Cooke post for that one). From here it's small jaunt through the forest to the official summit, which is nothing more than a rock cairn, small summit sign and no views at all. It's a bit of a lacklustre moment but luckily the fun doesn't stop there as the ridge line of Mount Cooke is a wonderful place to explore and there are plenty of views later on. I noticed on my last visit that someone has built another summit cairn on top of some large boulders nearby and I suppose they are correct that this is indeed the highest point (even if they ignored Leave No Trace principles to do it).