Stirling Range National Park
Directions - Located in Stirling Range National Park, Bluff Knoll is approximately 100 kilometres (one hour) north of Albany. From the centre of Albany, head north on Albany Highway, turning right at the large roundabout to continue along Chester Pass Road. This will take you all the way to the well signed Bluff Knoll turn-off. Follow Bluff Knoll Road past the cafe and ranger station, driving for eight kilometres until you reach the car park at the base of the mountain.
The Hike - The highest point in the South West of Western Australia at 1095m above sea level, Bluff Knoll (or Bular Mial) is also a popular day hike thanks to the stunning views, physical challenge, diverse flora and being one of the only places in WA to receive sporadic snowfall when the coldest of cold fronts blows in from the Antarctic. This is a hike I've done many times over the years but my previous post for this trail was a mish-mash collection of photos I'd taken on various trips and the words didn't really match.
Back in the Stirling Range on a research trip for my next book, climbing Bluff Knoll in excellent weather was a priority, so I kept a close eye on the forecast. Here for two full days and staying close by at the Stirling Range Retreat, I could be flexible with my plans depending on how clear it was. As it turned out, I had one day of excellent conditions, so started my day with a morning hike up Toolbrunup Peak, a midday jaunt up Mount Hassell, an afternoon rest, then the big one. Given the first half of the trail up Bluff Knoll faces west, I thought this was best hiked in the afternoon when the sun would be illuminating the side of the mountain. This was a good call, with the lighting providing some lovely photos for most of the journey up and down. Arriving at the car park, things were looking lovely for a clear hike up, but Bluff Knoll is a place of changing weather, so I still had a jumper and rain jacket just in case. With school holidays now over, the crowds had settled down, and I might get a relatively quiet hike in.
Being the highest point in the South West, Bluff Knoll is also one of the longest trails in the Stirling Range, with most of that on a hill of varying gradient. With that being said, the first part from the upgraded trail head is downhill, which means the last little push after descending is an uphill. Looking up at the daunting hunk of rock ahead, one could be stumped as to how a walking trail gets up there, but all is revealed in due time. After initially walking through open heath that was full of wildflowers, you enter the forest on the lower slopes to begin the long ascent that lasts for the next 3.1kms. Making use of the mind boggling amount of stairs in place, the trail was recently upgraded to add in more steps, a move I understand but am not a fan of. Given people have died up here and it's visited by a range of people, not all being experienced hikers, the need for steady footing is warranted. This being my third hike of the day, my legs were a little heavy as I plodded up the steps towards the seasonal waterfall.