Start - Greenbushes Discovery Centre
Length - 16.10km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Path, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 347m
Time - 4-6 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Cockatoo
Date Hiked - 31st May 2015
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Greenbushes was a town I had never heard about before but it was mentioned a few times in my research so I decided to include it on the list. Established in 1888 after the discovery of tin, the town has seen many booms come and go as the decades passed.
Currently the town makes a living off the timber industry and mining a crucial ingredient needed in the modern world, lithium. Turn off the South West Highway when you see the signs for Greenbushes and drive straight along Blackwood Rd until you reach the Greenbushes Discovery Centre (it is well lit during the day so you can't miss it). Take a look inside the centre if you like and when you are ready to start the trail head across the road to the fantastic little park. I won't describe each turn and trail point as there is a map/description provided by town itself. When you leave the town centre and enter the proper trail (the bit with forest in it), you will feel right at home if you have hiked in Perth or the South West before.
A mix of Jarrah, scrub and iconic gravel tracks wind their way down to Greenbushes Pool, a nice little area to have a picnic or just some quiet time to yourself. Joining me on my hike today was for the first time, my lovely girlfriend, all ready to hike the full 16km. She took the lead as we headed away from the Pool and towards the haunting scenes at Schwenke's Dam (above). You get glimpses of the dam through the forest before you arrive at the dam wall (above) but the best views are saved for when you are out in the open. Unfortunately I had left my hiking backpack at home for this trip (I would be reunited with it in a few days) and I thought it contained my DLSR (it didn't). The shots on the first few hikes are from my Sony Xperia Z3 so I apologise for the quality.
Since we were visiting at the end of the dry season, the lifeless trees were at their most prominent, rising out of the disused mining dam. Thankfully there is now a project in place to convert the old dam into a wetlands area through DPAW and Talison Lithium. We took a little break on the rocks and admired the view before crossing the wall and heading off on the next section. From the dam the trail follows Dumpling Gully towards Mount Jones Dam, the town's backup water supply. About half way along the 4x4 trail to Mount Jones Dam there is a small waterfall that is accessible off the trail. Due to the lack of rain in recent weeks there was little more than a trickle to see. Moving on we soon came across the turn-off for the dam and took a left up the gravel track and followed the sight of the water until we hit the dam wall. When you cross the metal bridge leading onto the gravel bank that serves as the dam wall you will find an information board telling you all about the old Vultan Tin Mine.
Take a breather here as the next section takes you uphill and above the water before joining a trail many of you will be familiar with, the Bibbulmun Track. The two trails are one and the same for the next 4km and make for a more interesting hike through the forest than 4x4 tracks. After stopping for lunch on a spare log, we set off again and soon came across the remnants of an old loading ramp from the Vultan mine complete with another informative board. The Bibbulmun Track section is exactly what you would expect, a varied hike through mixed growth forest taking you up and down the landscape on both narrow and wide gravel paths.
While you are still on the Bibbulmun Track you will eventually come out of the forest and be met with expansive views of the farming land in the Blackwood Valley. There is a nice bench for you to rest on while you catch your breath and it's not the worst place in the world to take a break at. As it is north facing you should get the sun in your face during the winter months, something that is quite welcoming after a few kms under the forest canopy. When you have had your fill of Vitamin D (if you were lucky with the weather) then head back into the forest, following the Bibbulmun Track signs. After a creek crossing, the Bibbulmun Track no longer forms part of the Greenbushes Loop and you take a 4x4 track back towards Greenbushes (the turn-off is marked with an information board).
The final 5km is a gradual uphill hike along 4x4 tracks through the forest. Listen for the calls of birds along here as there are endangered Black Cocktoos in the area. Eventually you will come across another water supply from the Dumpling Gully and it isn't much further to go until the end. The final turn-off is when you reach Blackwood Rd. You will have seen the sign as you drove in and it's a short 500m walk back into town. Along most of the plots of land in Greenbushes are a purple sign telling you the history of the building/land. It's a fascinating look into the past at what used to be the old Greenbushes and you can trace back the former glory days of the tin mining days. The Discovery Centre marks the end of the trail and a challenging 16km hike.
Final Thoughts – Utilising a section of the world famous Bibbulmun Track to form a 16km day hike is a great idea, especially if you want to encourage tourists to your town. While the final 5km are all 4x4 tracks, the rest of the trail more than makes up for it.
If you have planned a trip down to one of the many great towns along the South West Hwy then I highly recommend taking the turn-off to Greenbushes and tackling the Greenbushes Loop. Finally I would like to congratulate my girlfriend for completing the trail without complaining at all even though I know the last few kms were hard for her.
Get out there and experience it!
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