Bickley Reservoir Trail
Start - Hardinge Park
Length - 4.3km (Loop)
Rating - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 184m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Markers
Date Hiked - 26th July 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - Hardinge Park is located at the base of the Perth Hills. From Tonkin Highway, take the Kelvin Rd exit heading east and follow this to White Rd. Turn right here and go down to Hardinge Rd where you turn left. The trail head is at the playground in front of the car park.
The Hike - After a very enjoyable hike at Victoria Reservoir earlier in the afternoon, I had pencilled in a visit to Bickley Reservoir afterwards but having to double back and retrieve a headphone I left below Victoria Dam put this at risk. With only a short drive to the start of this trail, I decided that I probably wouldn't be back here for a while and so here we are. Between finishing the Victoria Reservoir Trail and starting this one, the clouds had well and truly rolled over. While a bit of cloud cover is always appreciated on forest dominated hikes to improve the lighting for photography, I was aware that this one was mostly on open 4x4 track and would be looking a little gloomy.
The car park at Hardinge Park was a little busy as there were plenty of families enjoying their Sunday afternoon so with no spots available I found a park just outside the gates (which do close at sunset so be mindful of that). Being fully aware I was a strange bearded male with a camera wandering near a playground, I quickly found the path and moved on towards Bickley Reservoir. Every time I have come here it has been pretty gloomy but even in sunny weather I don't think it is the prettiest looking dam with the concrete bleeding a white substance and lot of razor wire attached to the surrounding fence. Being 6ft1, I could lift my camera over the fence to take unobstructed photos but if you're just walking along this stretch, it's not the prettiest sight. You soon exit the path and join Hardinge Road as it continues along to the Bickley Outdoor Recreation Camp (the reason for the fencing). Again this isn't a great stretch of walking but at the end of Hardinge Road you leave the paved road and briefly join the wide trail that heads to Victoria Dam. Next to the large Kattamorda Heritage Trail sign you leave the 4x4 track and head down along the fence towards Bickley Brook. I had been saving this walk for winter/spring because like so many of the Shire of Kalamunda walks, it is heavily dependant on having both water flowing and wildflowers in bloom to be a nice trail.
Arriving at the wooden bridge over Bickley Brook, I was happy to see a decent trickle of water, although it was mostly obstructed by the undergrowth. Some early wildflower finds put me in a good mood for this hike and walking along the single track on the other side of the brook, the finds kept coming. A Purple Fairy Orchid was hiding in the bushes along with some interesting looking orange and yellow flowers I don't know the name of. There is another access point to the brook further ahead and allows you to wander down to the edge of the water and have a stroll around on the granite. While it was still early season for wildflowers I was happy to see a lone flower on a Pincushion Hakea, something that will be quite common in spring as the hillside here is full of these plants. The single track section ends and you pop out onto a heavily eroded 4x4 track that takes you up the hill. From here on out you are on 4x4 tracks and this is the beginning of a sustained climb up to the hills above Bickley Reservoir. My focus turned to the edge of the trail where there were a lot of wildflowers dotting the undergrowth and I had good fun trying to find all the different varieties I could.
The western side of the Perth Hills is always the best spot for early season wildflowers with many of the hikes on the scarp full of life from mid-winter onward. To go with my Purple Fairy Orchid, I managed to spot a Pink Fairy Orchid, collecting a full set of fairies so early. Reaching a flatter section highlighted with a dark rock, I spotted a flicker of yellow that I hoped was a Donkey Orchid and sure enough there was a trio of donkeys sticking out from the rock face. Ignore what looks to be the track leading off to the left (I can confirm this leads nowhere) and keep heading up the hill to another wide 4x4 track turns off to the left. Continuing to climb, the views start to open up ever so slightly in both directions. A cool open patch of granite to your right gives you a peak up to the top of the hill and glimpses down to the valley start to appear. The forest here starts to change from the occasional Marri tree to a grove of She-Oak, a favourite of mine in the Perth Hills. Some goat tracks lead off the 4x4 track and so I followed one that led down to some granite that I thought would give better views (spoiler - it didn't). I think many assume this and when they don't eventuate, the trail ends.
The good views happen further down the 4x4 track with a cool section of granite boulders providing a foreground object for your money shot of the Bickley Reservoir. It takes a bit of climbing if you want to stand on them and get even better views but it's worth it for the clearer photos of the water below, along with a hint of the Swan Coastal Plain in the background. Moving on from the views, you continue along the 4x4 track as it starts to flatten out, winding around the top of the hill. Views to the opposite valley start to appear and from a little granite platform you can peer across to some interesting looking granite cliffs on the other side. Hoping the trail would explore those areas but very confident it would just follow the existing vehicle tracks, I was content to admire from a distance. Right before you start descending pretty steeply (a bit of a surprise looking up the hill from the start), you get the full sweeping views of the Perth Coastal Plain that was looking a bit gloomy on my visit. The descent was a pleasant surprise with thicker forest and a feeling of being far away from it compared to just a few hundred metres beforehand.
The temperature dropped as the trail headed down into the valley, running parallel with a small water course that was obstructed by the undergrowth. Another section of She-Oak provided a moody presence to your right and an exposed bit of granite provided an opportunity to photograph the She-Oaks leading up the hill. I was enjoying this little stretch and found a goat path down to the water, hoping to see another path leading towards the granite cliffs I'd seen earlier from a distance. It wasn't to be but I did find a couple of late season fungi attached to a fallen log so photographed them before rejoining the track. The trail starts to ascend once again and rising out of the valley, things became more exposed as the forest started to open up again. I could hear the familiar call of Black Cockatoos in the distance and was hoping they'd come over to investigate the strange human roaming their lands. They weren't interesting in me so I watched out for them at the point where the trail takes a right turn and continues uphill. It doesn't really feel like it but as you keep climbing, the highest point of this hike is a further 60m higher than the first hill you climbed but instead of nice views, all you get is a really lovely stand of Wandoos. In isolation this would be a great spot but it's the junction of many 4x4 tracks so doesn't feel as special as it could. The last part of this trail requires you to descend back down to Bickley Brook along a steep section of the 4x4 track you used to head up the hill.
Being heavily eroded and averaging a gradient in the negative 20s in terms of percent, it's a tough one to negotiate at times, especially if you're not confident descending on loose surfaces. It reminded me a lot of some of the descents on the Rocky Pool Walk Trail but really is the only way down the hill. Keeping my eyes on where my next step would be most of the time, I was happy to reach a shallower section where I could once again look into the undergrowth for wildflowers. Spotting some new varieties along with some more orchids made me a happy hiker and soon I was at the junction where I turned off previously. Instead of following the exact route back to the car park, the trail follows the 4x4 track all the way to the bottom of the hill where you cross Bickley Brook via a series of stepping stones and climb back up to the road leading to Victoria Dam. I stopped at the brook for a few photos before making my way up to the finishing section. As I joined the 4x4 track I heard voices and what I thought was the clip-clop of horse hoofs. Not wanting to spook any potential horses, I waited for them to pass before making an appearance. A young couple were indeed doing a spot of horse riding and I always love seeing these magnificent creatures so took a few photos from a distance. I raced back to the start as the path back isn't very interesting and set off for home, finishing what was a lovely afternoon of exploring a nice area of the Perth Hills.
Final Thoughts – This is easily a trail I could have visited to get some content for the website during the COVID-19 travel restrictions but decided not to because I wanted to show it during the peak season. While mid-winter isn't the peak of the peak, it is still a great time to be out in this area and spotting all the wildflowers.
This walk came highly recommended by my podcast partner as one of the better Shire of Kalamunda walks and I would have to concur. The gloomy weather doesn't make the open sections look very good but on the whole I had a really nice time.
Despite the restrictions of the Shire of Kalamunda walks being mostly cobbled together on 4x4 tracks, this one was made more enjoyable with the wildflowers and flowing Bickley Brook. A nice way to spend an hour or two and can be combined with a walk along the Mason and Bird Heritage Trail/Victoria Reservoir Trail.
Get out there and experience it!
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