Castle Rock Granite Skywalk
Start - Mount Barker Porongurup Road
Length - 4.4km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Metal Platform
Vertical Climb - 272m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Entry Fee - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 4th June 2015
Best Time - All Year Round
A new day rises and new hiking trails await. Today's adventures took me north of Albany to the towering peaks of the Porongurups and Stirling Range. As the sun peaked from behind grey clouds I drove across the harbour, through the Albany city centre and eventually Chester Pass Rd.
The Castle Rock Granite Skywalk is about 50km north of Albany and is part of the Porongurup National Park. Look out for the orange/brown signs on Chester Pass Rd (you can't miss them) for the left turn to the Porongurups and the entry to the trail head is a couple of kilometres down Mount Barker Porongurup Rd. As the hike is in the Porongurup National Park, entry fees do apply per vehicle - $12 per day or you can buy a yearly pass if you plan on visiting more national parks. Fees are payable at the information station before the car park and make sure you display your pass on the dash to avoid getting a fine.
Once you have parked, make your way towards the gazebos where you will find the trail head, marked by a sign telling you which way to go. This 4.37km Hobbit trail (there and back again) is a straight forward climb averaging a 12% gradient up to the spectacular Granite Skywalk, providing panoramic views from the 560m summit. The start of the trail is a switchback arrangement through the dense Karri forest that blocks the view out so you don't realise how high you are climbing. Eventually you climb above the tall timber and at about the 1.25km mark the trail briefly flattens out and you can appreciate how high you have climbed.
At this stage the trail starts to change with more exposed granite and the hard ground replaced in parts with rocky steps. The higher ground I found was also where the natives like to live when I saw something move on the trail when I approached a set of steps. As I rounded the corner where the noise had come from I found a small kangaroo grazing just off the trail. Expecting it to quickly jump off into the bush I slowly got my camera ready by my side to be able to get some quick snaps when I raised it to eye level.
Apparently this particular kangaroo had no problem with my intrusion and posed in various grazing positions at close range (2m). After we had said our goodbyes I continued up the final section of the climb, admiring the weird and wonderful granite boulder formations including the famous Balancing Rock (see gallery below). An explanation of how the almost round boulders are formed is found in the picnic area near the car park but the sight of them gets your mind racing about how round boulders stay in position like that.
Soon the grand prize is within your grasp and you sight the information board detailing where everything is and how to get there. To the left is the Karri Lookout for those who aren't comfortable with what it takes to access the Granite Skywalk. It isn't as high and the views aren't as panoramic but you still get a very lovely view over the surrounding forest from a high up position. If you are feeling game then the Granite Skywalk is a short scramble between some boulders (with help from stainless steel handles) and a ladder climb away. If you aren't fond of heights (I have to admit I'm in this category) then you might have to take your time scaling the 7m ascent up to the Skywalk, especially if the wind is howling like it was for me. Once you reach the top of the engineering masterpiece that is the Castle Rock Granite Skywalk then take a deep breath and take it all in.
Bolted directly into the granite by having workers abseil down the summit and drill into the rock before having the platform helicoptered into place. Who knew the Department of Parks & Wildlife had a James Bond villain mindset when it came to construction? The result is stunning and the half moon shaped, all stainless steel platform provides unparalleled views for the effort required. On a clear day you can see all the surrounding peaks and the Albany Township. Once you have soaked up all the views (or had enough of the cold) then climb back down and begin the descent back down to the car park.
Final Thoughts – It may not be the highest peak in the area but the extravagance and theatre of the summit makes the Castle Rock Granite Skywalk a must visit destination for an Albany visitor. Without the spectacularly mounted boardwalk at the end this is just another hike through the forest ending in some pretty views.
The addition of the Skywalk in all its stainless steel glory takes this hike to the next level. The walk up there is nothing to sneeze at but if you are fit and willing then the rewards are worth it.
If you are in the area and have a reasonable level of fitness then this hike is a must do, no matter what the weather.
Get out there and experience it!
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