Dell to South Ledge
Beelu National Park
Directions - The Dell is very easy to locate and well signed. Take Mundaring Weir Rd for 10km from Kalamunda and there is plenty of parking. The trail is found by heading towards the toilet block and continuing west along that track.
The Hike - Dell to South Ledge is a popular 9km loop that had been on the "to-hike" list for quite a while but for some reason had always been left on there. I had passed the area on a training ride from Kalamunda to Mundaring Weir not long ago and again when I was doing the Paten's Brook Walk Trail on Easter Monday so I decided that I would venture out there again to tackle the well liked trail. Getting out there is very easy, drive out to Kalamunda and take Mundaring Weir Rd (starts at the Bibbulmun Track Northern Terminus) until you reach the sign for the Dell picnic area. Take caution on Mundaring Weir Rd as it is narrow, twisty and steep in places and is used by both cars and cyclists.
Be patient when overtaking cyclists and enjoy the drive up and down the forested valleys. The area is a very popular starting point for mountain bikers with plenty of trails starting at both the Calamunda Camel Farm, the parking lot for the Kalamunda Circuit and The Dell. When I got there just after sunrise there were plenty of cars already there sporting bike racks. I put my hiking boots on and made my way over to the start of the trail, just in front of the toilet block. The markers you follow are baby blue (sometimes grey for the well weather ones) and I headed off west to do the trail in a clockwise direction (the trail is only marked for hiking clockwise). Given the number of different trails in the area I suggest you have a copy of the trail notes handy and track your hike via GPS so you can keep referencing where you are to where you should be. For the most part it is fairly easy to follow the trail markers but at several points you are left with a choice of two to four different paths to follow and this is where the notes come in handy. Being early, the sun was still hidden away below the forest canopy and this was fine as the start is not exactly the prettiest section. The noises that can be heard are not ones you associate with a typical Australian forest but you soon find out why that is.
Not far from the start the trail borders a small farm cut into the forest and being morning there was plenty of activity with roosters singing and cows mooing. Once you have passed the farm things return to normal and you are treated to lovely forest, granite outcrops and the noisy calls of black cockatoos. I refrained from putting the headphones in on this section as you do share some of the trail every now and then with the Munda Biddi so didn't want to get a surprise when I didn't hear a rider coming. With the sun peaking through the trees I stopped every now and then to capture the effect of golden rays shining dispersed light everywhere. There was still one dark section where you come across a small creek valley. Even though it is has been a very dry summer, it was nice to see the edges of the creek blanketed in ferns and I stayed here for a little while trying to get some good shots. Further on from the creek you find the Munda Biddi again and it isn't long before you reach the Bibbulmun Track and a spot I know very well. When I first starting hiking, my favourite training spot was the first section of the Bibbulmun and I would frequently arrive at this very spot and then follow the Munda Biddi to a granite outcrop not too far away where there was a stream at the base.
I would eat lunch, stretch out on the granite to stare at the sky and then head back to Kalamunda. This time however I followed the Bibbulmun east on the 4x4 track towards Mundaring Weir. After a small climb you are presented with amazing views of the Helena River Valley and if you time it right like I did then you will get the magical effect of the sun lighting up mist in the valley. This section is open 4x4 track and not very hilly but you won't care with the views you are presented with. I chose this moment to put the headphones in and had one of those moments where you feel nothing but joy about being in the sunshine and out in nature. I happily hiked away for a while until it came time to exit the 4x4 track and continue along the Bibbulmun on the narrow trail and up to the car park at South Ledge. At the top of the climb you will see the dirt road and car park and will have the option to walk down to the Golden Lookout for sweeping views over the river valley and Mundaring Weir. It's a 600m diversion there and back but well worth the effort. The trail to the lookout can be found on the north side of the car park and starts at the information plaque that provides the history of the area. The platform is a fairly sizeable addition to the landscape and is a nice place to stand while you stare out into the distance. Unfortunately the sun was still low in the sky so Lake CY O'Connor was just a dazzling bright spot in the distance.
Below the platform were some mountain bikers perched on a granite outcrop and they provided a better subject to photograph given the position of the sun. To re-join the trail you head back up the way you came and hike south along the gravel road. Although the trail now follows the wide gravel road leading to the car park, the views back towards the valley make it worthwhile. When you start reaching pine trees then keep a look out for the blue marker directing you back into the forest to the right (west). Once back inside, keep one eye scanning the trees for the markers where multiple paths present themselves and refer to the trail notes if you aren’t sure. If you cross the power lines again then you have taken a wrong turn so double back and find the last marker you remember seeing. Don't ask me how I know this; it wasn't because I took a wrong turn at all. The hike back to the starting spot isn't anything to write home about once the sun is above the canopy but it’s a good way to spend a morning as you trundle through the forest. I came across a few mountain bikers on one shared section and gave a friendly nod as they examined their bikes and had a drink. In no time at all I was back at my car having completed a lovely morning walk through the hills of Beelu National Park.