Desert View Walk Trail
Start - Pinnacles Desert Discovery Centre
Length - 2.1km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Sandy Tracks, Pavement
Vertical Climb - 35m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes, Follow the Yellow Markers
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 16th September 2017
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Nambung NP is a 2.5 hour drive north of Perth along Wanneroo Rd and Indian Ocean Drive. The turn-off for the Pinnacles Discovery Centre is well marked and it is a short drive from Indian Ocean Dr to the park entry. The 4km Pinnacles Drive is suitable for 2WD cars and is an alternative to the walk trail.
The Hike - With a free weekend in the lead up to the Oxfam Trailwalker where hiking was meant to be kept to a minimum, the Wife of Py suggested we take a trip to the Pinnacles. Given we had both either not been before or visited as a very young child, it seemed like a good idea to check out one of Western Australia's most iconic landscapes. I convinced her to do a side trip to Yanchep NP on the way so I could re-shoot the Ghost House Walk Trail (update coming soon) so we loaded up the car with a picnic, some hiking gear and made our way north for the very long journey to Yanchep National Park and then Nambung National Park, another 140km up Indian Ocean Drive.
With a lovely morning spent hiking the Ghost House Walk Trail and enjoying a picnic by Loch McNess, we were soon on our way along the scenic Indian Ocean Drive to the Pinnacles. I had visited the area previously on a couple of family holidays as a kid but don't remember much apart from the Pinnacles being big limestone formations in the middle of a sandy landscape. A popular location for astrophotography, I have seen countless photos on Instagram over the years so was keen to check it out for myself. I knew there was a drive around the area but didn't know about the walk trail until we were there so it was a pleasant surprise to find the information board (I did zero research on the area before visiting). We arrived in the late afternoon about 15 minutes before the Discovery Centre/Gift Shop closed so after a 12km hike and a long drive feeling slightly tired (don't drive tired), we decided to check that out before attempting the walk. I would have loved to have spent more time there to learn about the history of the area, the geological processes that went into its creation and the various flora and fauna that lives in the surrounding desert but it was a bit of a rushed visit. I did get a commemorative coin though and no doubt I will return in the future for a more complete experience. With gifts purchased and a brief browse through the amazing new facilities we headed back out and on towards the walk trail.
The first section of the walk is along a boardwalk that takes you through the low scrub that is typical of this area. You get some nice views looking back towards the ocean and but it isn't long until you round a corner and get to see what you came here for, the Pinnacles. Depositing you onto the sand, this is the official start of the walk trail and you are presented with an impressive field of limestone relics scattered as far as the eye can see. This is also part of the 4km driving circuit you can do so please be careful of cars and tourists (they may bite). The trail markers are set about 50-100m apart on wooden posts so make sure you catch sight of the next one before setting off so you don't lose the trail as it won't appear like a regular trail given the amount of footprints in the sand going off in all directions. At various points along the trail you cross the vehicle track (which is well marked with rocks) so be careful not to get run over. Once you are away from the main touristy bit, you get to enjoy just walking amongst these ancient guardians of the desert and appreciate the immense time and forces that went into their creation. In the late afternoon sun you could understand why people compare this area to being on the moon (apart from the breathable air and blue sky).
The trail goes back and forth between close up views of the Pinnacles (please do not climb on them) and up through the light scrub until you reach the central lookout. This wooden structure allows you to get above the desert floor and provides some impressive views in all directions. This would be one of the better spots to take in the sunset but we were a bit early and with a 2.5 hour drive ahead of us, we decided it was best to leave it for another visit. The final kilometre takes you away from the crowds again and you can enjoy a leisurely walk through the weird and wonderful creations. We posed for some photos in front of one of the bigger specimens and lazily made our way back to the start point again where we spotted a fantastically cool old automobile that could have come straight out of that scene in The English Patient where they drive across the desert and one car rolls over, you know the one. Back at the car we decided that given we had seen old Hyundai Getz's and family cars driving around that my car was perfectly capable and so did the 4km Pinnacles Drive too. The drive was very pleasant after we finally got onto the trail thanks to an over ambitious patron who thought his massive RV could make it and then did a slow 500 point turn to back out when he realised the error of his way.
Final Thoughts – Having decided to visit the Pinnacles for a different reason, it was a nice surprise to find that there was an official trail within the national park that you could explore. While it is a long drive from Perth for just a 2km loop, this is one spot that you have to visit once in your life just to experience the stunning landscape.
Doing the walk trail as opposed to the drive means you will most likely have a more secluded experience. We found that most people just explored the first area or drove around so you will get spots where you will feel like the only people there.
One day I will return for a longer trip and some astrophotography and with a cracking drive along Indian Ocean Drive to look forward to, I cannot wait.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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