Ghost House Walk Trail
Start - Yanchep National Park
Length - 14km (Loop)
Rating - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 161m
Time Taken - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes
Entry Fee - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 1st June 2014
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Yanchep National Park is located off Wanneroo Rd and is well signposted. To find the start of the Ghost House Walk just park at the Lake car park and head to the south side of the lake to loop around it. The first Ghost House trail marker is on the west side of the lake.
The Hike - With Western Australia Day making this weekend a day longer the Yanchep National Park decided to celebrate by waiving the usual $12 entry fee. I decided to celebrate with them and made the hour long drive up to Yanchep to see what the park was all about. Having passed it several times driving up to the seaside town of Lancelin, I did not expect much given it was so close the highway and didn't look very special on the drive past. How I was wrong. After getting up well before the sun rose (the life of a hiker) I hopped on the freeway north and drove to the very end and then some. Once at the end of the freeway it is a short detour until you reach Wanneroo Road, which will take you all the way to the park.
Once you hit the section of Wanneroo Road that is lined with trees it isn't much further and you can't miss the turn off signs for the Yanchep National Park. The roads inside the park are almost brand new and you soon arrive at the entry gate where you would normally pay your vehicle fee and collect your map (very important). The park is very family orientated and there are ovals, various tearooms and a koala boardwalk (koalas are not native to WA) to spend the day exploring. To get to the Ghost House Walk Trail you need to take your first left and park right near the lake. Unfortunately the trails are not easy to find from the main family area so you have to use the map and guess where they start. The Ghost House Walk Trail actually starts on the opposite side of the lake so you have to take the Wetlands Walk Trail around the lake for just over 1km before you reach the start of the trail. This is not a bad thing as the Wetlands trail is very scenic and due to the heavy rains recently, it's very green.
Once you reach the start of the Ghost House Walk Trail you follow the yellow triangle markers that are well posted throughout the trail. The trail gets it's name from the remains of an old stone house (pictured right) that has been named the Ghost House. After trekking through some amazing forest and coastal scrubland you come across the crumbling frame of the Ghost House. Nature has truly taken over the ruins and what remains is a perfect opportunity to snap some great photos. Before this point though you have the opportunity to hike among some amazing forest that borders the wetlands area. Spotting a gap in the trail I wondered down to an open area and discovered a great spot to stop for a cup of tea. I had to laugh at myself here as I realised that I was having a true Australian moment.
There I was drinking a cup of tea, staring out into the wilderness while Kookaburras laughed in the trees and Kangaroos hopped off in the distance. All I needed was Great Southern Land playing in the background and I was in a tourism commercial. Continuing on you soon find yourself at the Shapcott's campsite, which serves as a resting point for hikers on the Coastal Plain Walk Trail. There I met a group of three that were just packing up their gear ready to continue on. After a quick hello they saw me taking some photos of the nearby cliff and recommended that I take a closer look via the tiny path that leads up there. With a day pack on (and being 6ft 1) I was only just able to make it through the dense bush by almost crawling on all fours. Once I was there it was worth it as there was a small cave area under the cliff with a small path leading around the side that takes you to the top of the cliff and a view over the wetlands if you are brave enough to scale the rocks. Departing the cliff/cave I rejoined the trail and as the kilometres went by the forest thinned out to the coastal scrub I was expecting.
This is no bad thing as you get a great sense of space that you don't get when trekking through a forest. With nothing but low lying scrub as far as the horizon you just happily hike away without a care in the world. As you close nearer to the end of the trail you run parallel to Wanneroo Road and the drone of passing cars spoils the natural sounds of the wilderness. To combat this I stuck the headphones in and kept going. I eventually reached the intersection of the Ghost House Walk Trail and the Caves Walk Trail (4.5km return) and decided that the 10km I had already traveled wasn't worth the two hour return trip. I left the Ghost House Walk Trail (it wasn't far from the end) and headed off on the Caves Walk Trail. This proved to be a wise move as I got to experience more than I expected after not really knowing the area before setting out.
After hiking past some old World War II bunkers and above the Dwerta Mia Walk Trail (more on that later) I eventually came to Crystal Cave. Before I ventured out to Yanchep I was unaware of the numerous limestone caves in the area so it was nice to have the chance to see one up close. I arrived at what looked like a Water Corp substation but hidden behind some trees was the gathering point for the Crystal Cave tours. It was only 10am and the next tour was at 10:30am so I wasn't planning on staying. A car pulled up as I was grabbing a drink and some trail mix and it was the tour guide getting ready for the day (tours run every hour for 45mins). We got talking and I told her I was just finishing up a hike and she asked if I wanted to go on a tour. Tickets are usually purchased at the Visitor Centre but given my car was on the other side of the park she offered to phone in and book a place for me (tours cost $11 for adults). The tour itself was aimed at tourists and kids (of which there were numerous in my group of 29 people) and you only travel about 50-100m whilst inside the cave.
Given I did not expect to take the tour I didn't have a tripod with me and the photos I took reflected that (very blurry). I did manage to get a couple of good ones (in the gallery below) but you have to take my word that it was a pretty place to be. If you picture the Caves level on Goldeneye then you are 70% there. After the tour I made the return journey back via the Caves Walk Trail and went back to my car via the Dwerta Mia Walk. This walk is a short family friendly hike (1km return) that delves into a valley above where the cave system is. Highlighted by cliffs either side and amazing greenery this is a great way to finish a hike or even to introduce the kids to nature. I exited the trail near Gloucester Lodge and headed back on the roads back to the Lakeview carpark. Given the park was empty when I arrived it was shock to see it overrun with tourists carrying their oversized cameras and families galore. I must have looked completely out of place with my muddy shoes, day pack and hiking gear on.
Final Thoughts - Yanchep National Park was not on my radar when I started hiking this winter but thanks to a chance spotting on Facebook I saw that the park was free for the Western Australia Day long weekend and decided to make the long drive up there. Not expecting much more than coastal scrub and a small patch of trees I was amazed to discover the wetlands and thick Tuart/Marri forest.
Given what I discovered at the end of my hike I imagine this national park is setup more for the casual visitor (families and tourists) but the Ghost House Walk Trail is by no means inferior to anything else I have hiked so far this winter. It may not be as hilly as the others or offer sweeping views of the Perth Coastal Plain but it makes up for it with stunning wetlands and the numerous cliffs/caves in the area.
If you live north of the city then this has to be on your must hike lists this winter and I will no doubt be returning to the area in spring for the wildflower season.
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