Ellis Brook Reserve
Start - Rushton Rd - Martin
Length - 500m to 5.8km
Grade - Green to Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 159m
Time - 1-3 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 17th October 2015
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Located south east of Perth in the foothills of the Darling Range, you take the Gosnells Rd East turnoff from Tonkin Hwy and follow the signs to Rushton Rd. There are two car parks, the first is the trail head for the Blue Wren Trail and others and the last one is the trail head for Sixty Foot Falls.
Part 1 - Hike it Baby & Blue Wren Trail (2.8km return)
During the week I was contacted by Sara from Hike it Baby providing feedback about the new website design and after a bit of back and forth we thought it was a good idea to do some collaborative work in the future. Hike it Baby is an international organisation that encourages new families to experience nature by organising walks/hikes in their local area. You can read all about them here . Sara runs the Perth branch and is doing a fantastic job at organising two walks a week and the best thing about them is they are free. If you want to contact Sara about what is involved or have any questions about the walks then please feel free to email her.
As I have been trying to visit some shorter trails to accommodate the beginner hiker, one of the places I had been meaning to visit is Ellis Brook Reserve. Sara had organised a hike on the Blue Wren Trail at Ellis Brook for the Saturday morning so I joined her group, keen to finally meet in person and to explore the area. As Ellis Brook is dog friendly (dogs must be on leash at all times), I once again had Sadie at my side as we drove out to the meeting location. Ellis Brook Reserve is just off Tonkin Hwy (use Gosnells Rd East exit) and from Gosnells Rd East just follow the signs to Rushton Rd and the entry gates. I made the mistake of using the Mills Rd Exit as it looked like the roads all connected up on Google Maps but it doesn't tell you that there is a concrete facility on Cockram Rd and only authorised vehicles are allowed.
When I arrived Sara was waiting in the first car park just beyond the gates with her husband, young son and dog. Soon we were joined by another couple, their young daughter and two dogs and Sara ran through the introductions and guide for the morning. With the dogs getting restless and after waiting for a suitable amount of time for others that might be running late we set off to find the start of the Blue Wren Trail.
Following the course of Ellis Brook, the Blue Wren Trail is a great little walk providing a mix of dense shrubbery and open Wandoo forest. On two occasions you cross Ellis Brook via bridge (the dogs enjoyed the cool off in the water) and the steep walls of the valley provide plenty of features to keep you interested. From the car park it is pretty much all uphill (63m vertical ascent) but is gradual enough that anyone should be able to tackle it. The end point for the trail is the car park at the end of Rushton Rd that serves as the starting point for the Sixty Foot Falls Trail. On most weekends there is a mobile van selling drinks, coffee & snacks and they were kind enough to offer the dogs a drink.
With the kids getting a bit tired we ventured back to the car park using Rushton Rd and the first section of the trail. By the end everyone was a happy camper and after a cooling drink we posed for a group photo. A big thank you has to go to Sara for organising the hike and if you are a new parent or have small kids then don't hesitate to check out the upcoming Hike it Baby events in Perth. They are a great way to get outdoors with the kids, meet new people and explore some places you might not have seen. I certainly plan on taking my young nieces to a few events in the future.
Part 2 - Sixty Foot Falls & Old Barrington Quarry
As Ellis Brook Reserve is a bit of a drive from my home town of Fremantle, I decided to check out Sixty Foot Falls while I was here. I had seen photos on Instagram over the winter of the falls and had marked it on my to-hike list. I was going to save it until next winter as the recent warm weather would have reduced the falls to a trickle but with the Hike it Baby visit I thought I would bite the bullet and hope there was a bit of water still flowing.
The start to the trail is located right after the information gazebo at the end of Rushton Rd and I chose to go anti-clockwise so I saw the falls first. The first section up to the falls is a bit of a climb (80m vertically in the first 500m) and I didn't do myself or the dog any favours by hiking up an old goat track from a small diversion to the brook. I should have turned back and rejoined the trail (the detour to the brook is left and the trail is meant to go right) but instead I found a steep and overgrown path that eventually spat me out under the wooden lookout.
I found the correct trail again and gave the dog a breather on the lookout while I snapped some photos of where I assumed the falls would be as it was a bit dry. Luckily the trail takes you to the top of the falls and I was able to see a small trickle that cascaded off the rock face. Sadie had a bit of a drink and we soaked in the views back down into the valley. The trail has another 20m of vertical climbing to go before descending down towards Old Barrington Quarry, the highlight of the trail. The first glimpse you get of the quarry is from behind a fence but follow the zig zag trail down a bit and you are greeted with uninterrupted views of what could be a scene from the Kimberley.
The now abandoned quarry has a man-made lake that you peer over from your viewing point with sheer granite cliffs surrounding it on three sides. From the right position you could imagine you are in the middle of nowhere sitting right above a beautiful gorge surrounded by nature. One word of caution, be careful around the edges and there is nothing stopping you from falling down into the quarry. Access to ground level of the quarry can be found by hiking down the zig zag and turning right at the 4x4 track. From a bit of research it seems the quarry was a mess until a recent clean-up turned it from a garbage dump into something more presentable. There is still a decent amount of graffiti around but whether that was there before the clean-up I have no idea.
There is a bit of space to explore (larger than Stathams Quarry) and I would love to come around sunset to photograph the faux-gorge in better light (although the reserve gates shut at 5pm). After I had seen the whole quarry and Sadie had investigated some muddy water we continued on to the end of the trail. There is one final single track section once you have found the sign from the 4x4 track directing you to the car park and its back to the information gazebo. At this point Sadie was exhausted and while I was purchasing a drink at the mobile van she was given a treat and a drink by the lovely owners. I wasn't even on Tonkin Hwy before she had fallen asleep on the passenger seat.