Four Aces Walk
Donnelly River Nature Reserve
Directions - From the centre of Manjimup, head north on South Western Highway and turn left onto Graphite Road. Follow this for 20km until you reach One Tree Bridge. There is parking on the western side of the river and the trail starts from the gazebo overlooking the suspension bridge.
The Hike - One Tree Bridge is a meeting place that every Bibbulmun Track hiker and Munda Biddi rider will know thanks to the cool suspension bridge over the Donnelly River, along with being a good resting spot. Having passed through here plenty of times doing both trails, the wooden sign for the Four Aces Walk always intrigued me. I had planned to do this earlier in the year when my podcast partner and I rode from Donnybrook to Northcliffe over Easter but the weather wasn't favourable on the day we passed through here and I decided not to carry my DSLR on that trip anyway.
With a South West road trip planned for the springtime in 2023, I didn't actually have this on the itinerary but had to change my plans after a setback. Initially for this day I was planning on exploring the walk trails at Perup Guesthouse but for reasons unknown, DBCA have decided to close the area, with access forbidden even if you just want to walk the trails and not stay there. Adjusting my day in Manjimup while I enjoyed a mushroom toastie, I figured that maybe the Four Aces Walk might be worth a visit and if it wasn't then no big deal. It's a short drive from Manjimup along Graphite Road and I was soon parked up at One Tree Bridge to see what the Four Aces had in store for me. It was a great comfort gazing out over the suspension bridge that allows hikers and riders to cross the Donnelly River safely away from car traffic. Thinking back on all my previous adventures was a nice trip down memory lane and I was excited to add another one. Deciding to do the walk out to Four Aces first, I wandered out onto the suspension bridge first to enjoy the views of the river before doubling back and heading under the traffic bridge to get to the official One Tree Bridge.
The remnants of the first bridge over the Donnelly River, it was dragged up the hill after storm damage caused it to collapse into the river. Now it resides behind a wooden fence for all to see, and you can certainly understand why it was called One Tree Bridge. Heading away from the Donnelly River, the trail continues behind the remnants of One Tree Bridge, where the wooden sign for the Four Aces is located next to a Karri Tree. When I first came through here on the Bibb in 2017, it was lush paradise but between then and riding through on the Munda Biddi in 2021, there has been a fire up the hill from the river. As a result, the undergrowth looks a lot scrappier than it once did. Being spring, the regrowth that has occurred seems to include a lot of Native Wisteria and Coral Vine given the blankets of red, pink and purple flowers growing everywhere, seemingly strangling the forest floor and anything that wants to grow upward. The walk to the Four Aces is about a kilometre and although you walk pretty close to Graphite Road at times, the stunning Karri Forest you meander through more than makes up for this.
Once you pass the views of the private property on the other side of Graphite Road and get properly into the forest, the walking is really pleasant. It doesn't take much for me to have an enjoyable walk and having quality Karri Forest like this is a good start. I was a bit worried that over the hill would not be the same quality as what you get along the edge of the Donnelly River on the Bibbulmun Track but it continued to be full of thick boi trees. Karri I find to be a really photogenic tree and I was having good fun shooting a longer focal length that captured all the distant trunks in one shot. Having had some good luck with wildflowers and orchids on the road trip so far, I was scanning the edge of the trail for something special, perhaps a Karri Spider Orchid but alas, there was only the regulars including Hibbertia, Prickly Moses, Morning Iris, Old Mans Beard and plenty more Native Wisteria. The quality of the forest continued to be fantastic all the way to the Four Aces.
Reaching a wooden shelter at the Four Aces day use area, there are lots of information boards about the area, the forest and theories on how the Four Aces came to be. For those playing along at home, the Four Aces are four individual Karri Trees all lined up in close proximity and have grown to be quite large considering their closeness to each other. The main theory is that they all grew from seeds located on a fallen tree but whatever happened, it looks pretty cool. There is a small loop trail that takes you into the forest from the Four Aces and so I thought it was best to tack this onto my out and back from One Tree Bridge. Walking past a large fallen tree and getting up close to another that has been sawn in half as it was blocking the trail, you get a further appreciation about how large these giants can get. The loop is about 600m and is a pleasant saunter through the forest that can be done if you don't want to do the full Four Aces Walk I've documented here (there is parking at the Four Aces off Graphite Road).