Start - Off Carters Road
Length - 3.3km (Loop)
Rating - Green
Terrain - Single Trail, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 69m
Time - 1 Hour
Signed - Follow the Pink Boot Markers
Date Hiked - 10th August 2020
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Wardandi People
Directions - Located a five minute drive from the centre of Margaret River, take Bussell Hwy north and turn left onto Carters Rd. Follow this until you see the sign for the RAC Holiday Park and turn right at the sign. The trail head is located on the left with plenty of parking.
The Hike - With a non-hiking holiday planned for a stormy weekend in August, I genuinely didn't think about trying to fit in a walk while we were in the Margaret River area. Having previously completed the Margaret River Heritage Trail and Riverslea Run, I didn't think there were too many trail options left that weren't smaller options of what I've already done (like at Rotary Park). It was a pleasant surprise when driving out to lunch at the lovely Fair Harvest that I saw a Walk Trails sign on Carters Rd and made a mental note to Google that later.
Turns out that in 2018, Bramley National Park was re-branded to Wooditjup National Park in recognition of the local Wadandi people and I have to admit this is something that slipped under my radar. As part of the re-branding, it looks like they've put some money into upgrading the signage of the park with the mountain bike and walking trails now clearly marked at the trail head and as you go along. With our planned horse riding experience cancelled because of the weather, everything in our itinerary got shifted up and so there was some spare time on the day we were due to drive home. Having visited a few wineries and bought plenty of wine (I'm that person that once I'm tasting I feel bad if I don't buy), I didn't feel like going to more and we had checked out all the foodie places that we wanted. I made an executive call that while we were passing through town from a visit to the Berry Farm, it would be nice to check out the trail head and see what was what. With a short walk trail option (this one) looking like a good fit for the time we had available, we popped our walking shoes on and headed off into the forest. While mainly a mountain bike area (see the network of blue trails on the map above), there are a couple of walks here to satisfy those looking for a slower experience in the lovely Karri, Marri and Jarrah forest of Wooditjup National Park. The Chimney Trail follows Bramley Brook for a while and then heads off to visit the namesake of the trail, a giant chimney, before looping back through the forest.
Following the Pink Boot trail markers, you start on a very gentle trail that weaves its way along Bramley Brook. For the first part you are aware that it is there but you don't get to see it in full just yet. Being August and having a fair amount of rain fall over the past couple of days, I was intrigued as to what we would find in the forest. It didn't take long for a variety of mosses, wildflowers and ferns to show up in the undergrowth and this made me a very happy hiker. With all the bad weather we had received it was a bit funny that my big concern on this walk was having conditions that were too bright for good photos but I made do with photographing the details and occasionally shooting a bit wider to capture the enormous Karri trees that dominate this area. Moving along the trail we saw Golden Buttercups being pollinated by the local bees and a 28 parrot that was kind enough to stay still for a photo. Every now and then there was an access point down to the water so at every occasion I took the opportunity to have a look. Eventually you reach a point where there is no need for a side trail and a large fallen tree provides the best chance to see the brook up close. I had a bit of a climb onto the log (be careful as one slip and you fall into the water below) but with the sunny conditions, the photos weren't great (see later on for better ones).
As you continue along, Bramley Brook remains to your left and the trail continues to provide lovely photo opportunities thanks to a new wildflower or access point to the river. One really cool section was walking down to the water and having a large log sitting on the edge and then looking north was a bridge for the Wadandi Track (previously the Rails to Trails). Unfortunately looking north meant shooting into the sun but I made do and just enjoyed the spot in person for the most part. Not far from this spot is your first official interaction with the Wadandi Track, the bike trail that runs from Witchcliffe to Cowaramup although there are plans to extend it in the future. You follow a single trail above the much wider Wadandi Track and it's one I'd love to ride in the future given I've had a dalliance with mountain biking this year thanks to joining my podcast partner on a couple of sections of the Munda Biddi. This marks a change in environments with the Karri forest being replaced with much drier looking Jarrah and Marri forest although the yellow grasses in the area might have more to do with that feeling. It was nice to see the wattle flowering along here and it made for a spectacular sight as we made our way towards the namesake for the trail, the chimney. The chimney is the last surviving part of the Keenan's Number 1 mill that was the first pine sawmill in Margaret River.
It operated all the way until 1967 until a new mill was built not far away. It's a really interesting feature and makes for a nice stopping point on the trail. I love the curved shape of the bricks and how slowly nature is starting to claim it through little saplings growing out of the mortar. It still looks pretty sturdy for it's age and I'm sure it will stand the test of time for a while longer. Another historic site located nearby is the Margaret River School Arboretum but with only a sign to go off, I'm not sure the significance. The area looks to be mainly pines from the old plantation and it's unclear if the school site was once here or if this was a separate piece of land they used. We moved on regardless and began the only real climb of the trail. With the historic sites being somewhat open and cleared, it was nice to be straight back into the forest and on some lovely single trail that looks to have been recently constructed based off old maps that show the Chimney Trail going off in another direction. Caris was having good fun pointing and naming everything like a child would (this was intentional I think) and it provided another set of eyes for picking out new wildflowers and fungi.
While the section along Bramley Brook had been pleasant enough, this run up the hill and into the forest was something else. On single trail you feel more immersed and the variety of flora here was significantly more than the first section. A few fallen logs had some chunky fungi growing off them and it was nice to see a section where a lot of yellow Patersonias were growing. Caris was having a field day pointing out everything and was getting a little ahead of me as I stopped to take lots of photos (there are 60 photos here but I ended up editing over 100 when I went through them). A fun little area you come across is a meeting point of the mountain bike trails. Given they are all one-way trails, there is a handy information board so you choose your next adventure and see what's around. It also helps that it's in a lovely stand of forest bordering on the emergence of the Karri forest once again, well at least if you're on the Chimney Trail heading west. We found the exit marked by the pink boot and continued on our merry way. Being at the top of the hill, you started to get some amazing views looking over the forest as it descends down to the Bramley Brook valley. This was the most enjoyable section of the whole trail and is what really sticks with me when I think back to this hike.
As the undergrowth opens up, all you can see are Karri trunks spreading out into the distance and what a magical sight it is. Being so close to town and having this on your doorstep is really special and Margaret River is one of the better towns in the South West in making you feel part of the forest. I couldn't stop taking photos here as the trail snaked down the hill and the views kept changing. With a little bit of cloud cover rolling in, the lighting was much better and I could shoot much wider to get the scale of the Karri forest in view. For a spare of the moment hike this had turned out to be pretty good and I'm happy we got the right weather to come out here. Re-joining the trail that runs along Bramley Brook, we passed the fallen log over the water and with the clouds really starting to roll in, I could capture it in much more even light. Caris was keen to get back to the start so continued on back to the car park, probably not a bad thing I thought given the dark clouds approaching and not wanting to deal with a wet and grumpy Caris at the end. With more photos in the bag, I also headed back although not as quickly as I could have thanks to stopping a lot to take more photos of moss, wildflowers and the trail. I eventually caught up to Caris and we both agreed it was a very lovely walk and a nice addition to our Margaret River weekend.
Final Thoughts – Surprise trails often turn out to be pretty good experiences as there is no expectation and you go in with a clean slate.
I'm not sure why Wooditjup National Park has little to no information regarding the trails there as this is a fantastic little hike that visitors to Margaret River can enjoy with a spare hour or two. The park doesn't even have a downloadable brochure and the Chimney Trail has the barest of information about it if you search online.
That being said, this hidden gem of a trail gets a big thumbs up from me and I'd happily walk this again. With the park mostly catering to mountain bikes, it's nice that they squeezed a walk trail in there.
Add this to your Margaret River holiday and you won't be disappointed.
Get out there and experience it!
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