Jarrahdale Railway Heritage Trail
Start - Cnr Jarrahdale Rd & Nettleton Rd
Length - 8km (Return)
Rating - Green
Terrain - Railway Track, Single Track, 4x4 Track
Dog Friendly - Yes
Vertical Climb - 140m
Time - 2-3 hours
Signed - Occasionally
Date Hiked - 17th May 2014
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - From South West Hwy, take Jarrahdale Rd to the corner of Nettleton Rd and the small car park in located on the north side of the two roads. There is a large wooden information board with a map and some history of the area.
The Hike - This week I ventured south-east to the Historic Town of Jarrahdale to experience one of the many hiking trails in the area. Thanks to an abundance of forest, valleys and streams this area is perfect for outdoor activities and the Jarrahdale Railway Heritage Trail will be the first of many trips to the area this winter. Before I start with the details of my hike I must give a small history lesson because this is one of the oldest settlements of Western Australia. The railway line was built in 1872 to service the growing timber industry in the area and transport the valuable timber to the newly constructed jetty in Rockingham.
The railway was used by the timber and mining industries until 1999 and thankfully has been left alone for us hikers to explore. Waking up before the sun started to rise I made the long drive down the Kwinana Freeway until I reached the turnoff at Mundijong Road. Heading east things became a bit spooky as there was a thick fog sprawling across the vast plains at the foot of the Darling Range. The sun began to rise over the hills and the landscape changed from dark and eerie to something out of a Lord of the Rings movie (apologies for the cliche). The fog disappeared as I hit the small town of Mundijong and soon I was at the South West Highway. Turning left at the abandoned service station, it is a short drive to the information bay that acts as the start of the trail. The trail begins with a short walk through the forest until you get your first glimpse of the railway that you will follow for as long as your legs can take you.
Like a small child I immediately scaled the bank to see the old railway and the surroundings because why not? Being on a railroad still has that feeling like you are doing something wrong (even though no train has used this track in over a decade) and it does make the hike feel a little more special. Unfortunately the trail deviates from the railway and uses an access road to a holiday park and I started to wonder if the railway name in the trail title was just a tease. Eventually you spot a sign with a little man hiking and that meant it was time to turn off and head back towards the railway. The trail follows a small ridge next to the track and it was a little overgrown so it does involve a bit of guess work to find the path but that's all part of the fun of hiking.
Running parallel to the railway the trail dips and climbs through the adjacent forest and the views start to appear. Being right at the beginning of the Darling Range, Jarrahdale has sweeping views across the plains that lead all the way to the coast. The railway is built on the edge of the hill so you are never far from this amazing vista. The first reminder you get that this railway is not used anymore is the overgrown trees that have made themselves comfortable in the absence of human activity (see picture above). Before this point you could be forgiven for checking over your shoulder every now and then for an approaching locomotive. While the trail is stunning, at times you are constantly reminded that it is still very close to civilisation and it's shortcomings. While you may see the occasional piece of rubbish on a normal trail (less so in national parks), the amount of rubbish dumped on the Jarrahdale Railway Heritage Trail at times is very sad.
At one point you walk right past a large pile of mattresses and other household items that someone decided looked better in nature than at a proper disposal site. Other items I saw along the way included a muffler, discarded cans and a pile of tyres. This shouldn't distract from what is a lovely walk and one of the highlights of the morning was following a mob of kangaroos. Every now and then the sound of my shoes against the trail alerted them to my presence and they all hopped away to safer grounds. I did get a few shots of them but unfortunately the memory card in my camera was corrupted and I only salvaged about half of my shots. This isn't a long hike and you can tailor the length as you wish so I decided to make it a short 8km round trip and headed back after coming across one of the more stunning views of the hike (below). If you are making this hike a round trip then I suggest avoiding the trail and just following the railway on your way back to the start. Hopefully you don't have a Stand by Me moment.
Final Thoughts - After starting off with a challenging and beautiful trek last week, it was a nice change to be able to take my time to stop along the way and take some photos. Digging out my old Nikon D50 certainly made this a better experience and there is enough to see that you won't get bored.
The best way to describe this trail is that it is perfect for families wanting to get out of the city. Kids will love the railway, parents can enjoy the views and Jarrahdale is not too far away if you want to stop for lunch or morning tea. It is no more challenging than a walk through local bushland but provides much better views and something a bit out of the ordinary.
This will be the first of many hikes in this area and I look forward to exploring the Jarrahdale/Serpentine area much more thoroughly. The area looks amazing and I can't wait to explore the nearby Serpentine National Park.
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