Bluff Knoll | Bular Mial
Stirling Range National Park
Directions - Getting there is pretty simple, from Albany just follow the signs north from town and get onto Chester Pass Rd. Keep driving for about 100kms until you see the sign for Bluff Knoll that are past Moingup Spring Campsite.
The Hike - This is the big one, both literally and figuratively. At 1095m above sea level, Bluff Knoll is the highest peak in the South West but thankfully still accessible for the average person. The 3km hike to the summit is a challenging but rewarding way to spend a few hours and has been attracting visitors to the area for decades. As Bluff Knoll is in the Stirling Range National Park, an entry fee does apply (unless you have already bought a day pass at Castle Rock like I did). The pay station is to the left after you turn off Chester Pass Rd and once you have paid then drive the 6-7km up to the car park.
Standing in the car park at the base of the climb, Bluff Knoll looms large as you ready your pack for the 3km hike to the summit. As a bit of a tease, the start of the trail is a downhill swoop into the scrub before the real climbing begins. At first it is steady but don't get carried away by belting up the trail as there are no flat bits until you reach the summit. When I arrived I couldn't see the false top (the summit actually winds its way behind what you can see from the car park) and the cloud cover was getting thicker as I got higher. My hopes for either a very clear day or a snowy day (very unlikely) didn't come through so the views climbing up were limited at best. This wasn't so bad when the tree cover was thick as it added a spooky atmosphere but as the trees disappeared the poor visibility wasn't as welcome. Just after the 1km marker there is a steep, rocky section that is highlighted with a small waterfall. It was only a trickle when I passed by but one of earliest childhood memories I have is visiting Bluff Knoll and waiting by this waterfall as my dad carried on and finished the climb. I swear it was bigger than it is now although it was only early winter.
Being a fully fledged adult now I wasn't about to stop here and after a quick photo stop I soldiered on. At about this point the forest starts to thin out and every now and then the edge of the trail is a sheer drop so be careful in wet or windy conditions. At this stage I would love to tell you about the amazing views across the national park but I can't so will instead comment on the amazing rock faces that spring up every now and then. These orangery/red features that jut out from the landscape are impressive to say the least and provide a great opportunity for a breather disguised as a photo stop. The interesting colour patterns founds in the rock face make for great photos, so get creative and explore different angles (but be careful around the edge of the trail). With no views to distract me it was simply a case of getting on with the climb and hoping the weather didn't turn nasty. The 1.6km to the summit marker soon appeared, although it felt like I had done a lot more than that. With very little tree cover past this point, the winds are free to batter you with their icy chill all the way to the top.