Start - Corner of Morton Rd & Anembo Rd
Length - 5.3km (Figure 8)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Path, 4x4 Track, Road
Vertical Climb - 111m
Time - 1-2 Hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Red Markers
Date Hiked - 16th June 2019
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - Driving up to the hills from Welshpool Rd East, continue to the end and turn right onto Canning Rd. Follow this until you reach the left turn for Glenisla Rd then turn right onto Union Rd and then right onto Morton Rd. The start of the trail is at the top of the hill at the intersection of Morton and Anembo Rd.
The Hike - With a free Sunday morning before meeting up with friends for a games day, I decided to get up before dawn and check out one the many Shire of Kalamunda walks I had not done already. With so many other adventures planned over the past couple of years, rarely have I made time to get out and explore a new trail close to Perth so I'd thought I would rectify that. The Carmel Walk came to mind because I wanted something of a semi-decent length, wasn't dependent on running water being a feature and didn't involve a lot of suburban/road walking. Having previously walked parts of this trail when doing the Kattamordo Heritage Trail, I knew it would be a fairly enjoyable Sunday morning stroll.
Driving out in the dark, I was hopeful of getting out there to find the forest bathed in mist like my recent adventure mapping out the Golden Helena Valley Loop. Finding the start point and parking on the side of the road (there is no gravel car park), I was happy to see the nearby valley filled with a muted mist that I was curious to see if it would stick around for the duration of my walk. Entering the forest the light levels were very low to start with as the sun was still rising over the hills and through the canopy. A feature of the first section of this walk is that it is all through fairly recently burnt Jarrah so it has that dark and moody feel to it in the low light. While I had my Shire of Kalamunda map downloaded onto my phone because sometimes these trails are missing markers at key turns or can be a bit hard to follow. I was delighted to see an array of red trail markers attached to trees at crucial points so it was nice to do one of these walks and not be constantly staring at my phone looking for the next turn. This was particularly handy in this first section as there are many goat trails leading all around the place ranging from 4x4 tracks to single track. While the Shire of Kalamunda walks do not involve creating their own trails, instead utilising existing trails, I feel like they have taken over this area that once used to be mountain bike trails.
Weaving in and around the forest, there are some nice old trees that provide a feature every now and then, along with a grove of grass trees that you have to navigate through. I spotted a familiar car wreck that I first saw on the Kattamordo HT but on reflection it turns out to be a very similar car that is located up and over the hill from the orchard. While I'm a big fan of a forest walk, the constant change of direction here makes it feel like you're going around in circles. It certainly utilises the amusingly tiny Korung National Park to its full potential and eventually you cross a 4x4 track and into some very sparse forest filled with skeletal trees. With the trail now heading east it seemed a lot nicer thanks to the morning sun in my eyes than I imagine it would in the middle of the day. A thicket of new regrowth Jarrah trees further on provided hope that this area might once be a lush forest again. As you make your way down the hill to the intersection of the figure 8 there are two giant trees that have recently fallen over. Their root systems were so intertwined that it looks like one has taken the other with it in a storm. With the first loop over head towards the big shed of Weemala Orchard and walk alongside it to connect up to the second loop. I noticed that the mist was still hanging around the lower valley when I arrived there so was excited to walk further down the hill to see what the valley floor looked like.
Spotting a red marker pointing me into the forest I was excited to get back into the cover of the tree canopy and explore a trail that I was quite familiar with, at least until I reached the orchard in the valley. The sun at this point was starting to shine brightly through the fog and the trees creating a wondrous golden hue with piercing rays of light breaking through the canopy. I was absolutely loving these conditions and this is exactly why I get up early and come to these trails. If you do decide to come then make the effort and hopefully you are rewarded with similar conditions. At one point there was a grass tree lit up perfectly with a ray of sunshine and I took many photos of it to try and capture the effect on camera (sort of got it). I was in heaven walking down the hill and about half way down I ran into an older local out for a morning stroll who told me how nice the mist was at the bottom but I'll probably miss it. Little did he know and as I kept going down the mist stuck around and was super awesome (take that grumpy old man). As expected it was getting thicker and the light show was mesmerising as I got my first glimpses of the orchard at the bottom of the valley. This is still an old mountain bike trail, something that I was reminded of as I heard the banging of a derailleur and promptly got out of the way of an incoming cyclist. As I reached the 4x4 track leading next to the orchard I was a very happy hiker. The first time I was here on the Kattamordo I really enjoyed this section as it felt like walking through rural Europe with patches of forest mixed with farms and orchards.
Turning right onto the track I spotted one of the surviving Kattamordo markers high on the tree and heard the familiar calls of the Black Cockatoos. I got closer to them to try and get them on camera and saw they were not very happy at a magpie that was picking on their juveniles. A pleasant sight to see was the cockatoos fighting back as they are not known to be aggressive to other birds and will simply give up nesting spots to invaders. Walking down the 4x4 track I took plenty of photos of the orchard, barren looking as the fruit trees go into their winter state but that made the old abandoned house look even more spooky. Keep following the 4x4 track back up the hill, passing many more orchards as you go along. This was a really nice change to the usual Shire of Kalamunda walk where you walk next to suburbs (sometimes through them) and you feel like you could be in any piece of bushland around Perth. With the sun still streaming through the valley and the last of the mist burning up it was a really idyllic part of the walk that I thoroughly enjoyed. Reaching the tarmac road of Weston Rd you don't stay on it long before a marker attached to a electricity pole points you back into the forest. While still bordering private property, the forest here is quite nice and I spotted some more Black Cockatoos squawking away in the trees. Reaching Weemala Orchard again, it's a matter of continuing along the 4x4 track and following the red markers back to the start.
Final Thoughts – The Shire of Kalamunda walks can be a bit hit and miss but their existence has added an additional 20 potential hikes to the Perth Hills so that has to be applauded.
The Carmel Walk is on the higher end of the scale as it's easy to follow, goes through some nice Jarrah forest and then has the added delight of walking next to some working orchards for something different.
While a good amount of the enjoyment on this walk came from the time of day and lighting conditions I experienced, I still believe this would be an enjoyable afternoon walk in winter through to late spring.
I didn't get the wildflowers in their great numbers and seeing the orchards with new growth would transform the last bit of the hike.
This walk will always hold a special place in my hiking memory after the great day out on the Kattamordo HT so it was nice to bring back those memories and get me thinking about another 34km epic.
Even as a short 5km walk this is certainly worthy of a weekend morning or afternoon to escape the city.
Get out there and experience it!
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