Start - Knox Gorge Rd
Length - 1.6km (Return)
Grade - Red
Terrain - Single Path, Steep Rocks
Vertical Climb - 36m
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 13th July 2018
Best Time - April to September
Directions - From the western entry of Banjima Dr along Karijini Dr, head north for 25km until you reach the intersection for the Weano Day Use Area. Take the right turn to continue along Banjima Dr until you see the signs for Joffre Gorge and Knox Gorge. Follow Knox Gorge Rd until you reach the car park for Joffre Gorge.
The Hike - With a fun morning spent exploring the wonderful Knox Gorge, our attentions turned to the penultimate Karijini gorge hike on our itinerary for the trip, Joffre Gorge. Having explored the area around the Eco Resort on a previous day and also checking out the lookout this morning, we were looking forward to exploring the gorge and also checking out the falls from below. With a much quieter lookout experience on our return visit we took the small walk from the car park and stood out on the metal platform suspended above the depths of the gorge.
This is a really great location to show off the steepness of the gorge walls but also gives you a look at what you will have to scale down a bit later in order to access the beautiful waterfall (which is also on display from up here). There is so much to focus on from this lookout with the gorge and the falls, the Eco Resort in the distance, a vast expanse of spinifex and Snappy Gums along with the mountain range in the background. f you're staying at the Eco Resort then this would make a great place to view the sunset from. We did not have that luxury but being able to view it at any time is still a very rewarding experience so we took some more photos and moved on to start the proper walk down into the gorge.
Beginning the proper hike requires heading back up to the car park and along the path until it just kind of disappears off the side of the hill. It's easy to miss as you stare out towards the endless horizon of spinifex, termite mounds and trees towards the mountains. Once you've located the path there is a short little descent into the spinifex and the gentle walking down towards the crossing of Joffre Creek. Before flowing down into the gorge and forming the picturesque Joffre Falls, the creek is a feature of the hike that is unique to the walks in Karijini so it was fun to see how little water up at this height was required for a decent flow in the falls below.
The crossing of the creek is not difficult with stepping stones and larger boulders providing dry footing for you to negotiate with. It was dry enough on our visit to explore the lower part of the creek as it then turns into Joffre Falls but as there the opportunity to slip and fall, be careful with where you explore. The views down towards the pool at the bottom of the falls are quite good and you can see all the way down the gorge from certain spots. We took a few photos here despite looking into the bright glare of the sun and moved on to the entrance path down to the gorge.
Hugging the cliff a little bit you then head behind some boulders and follow the Joffre Falls sign down towards where it gets a little tricky. Much like Knox Gorge, this one is rated a Class 5 because of the steepness of the descent down into the gorge (not sure why my elevation picture has it so shallow). Unlike Hancock Gorge that has a handy ladder, the descent down is a tough little scramble that requires you to lower yourself down a series of ledges and narrow platforms. We passed a family where the dad experienced vertigo so they were taking it extremely slow. He let us pass in a tricky section and we continued down to the edge of the water. Although the colour of the water could be seen from the lookout, it was still strange seeing it up close with the deep lime green really creating a weird scene.
One feature of the climb down I really enjoyed and also from seeing it from the bottom of the gorge was the lone Snappy Gum not only clinging to the cliff edge but thriving. Getting to Joffre Falls requires walking along a narrow ledge and crossing the now tame stream into the circular cavern that has been carved into the landscape over many millions of years. Given we were most likely going to have a swim we both ditched our shoes and went in bare foot. The ledge walking is fairly straight forward but if you aren't confident then take your time. The entrance to the cavern is quite spectacular and one of the scenes I was most looking forward to seeing on this trip. The rock pile in the centre looks like a beach from afar but for my sensitive feet (I'm a city slicker) it was a fun experience and I must have looked like an idiot walking across the pebbles.
We dropped our stuff off at a smoother rock surface and wanting to catch the falls in full light before the shadows descended upon them, we hurried off into the water and took some shots. We were lucky that it was fairly quiet when we arrived so took as many pictures as possible while we had the right conditions. While we both waded out into the very cold water for some shots in front of the falls, Ben was the one who risked a full dunking first and immediately regretted his decision. I have an Instagram story saved in my Karijini highlights if you want to see it but I got great amusement in watching him sprint for the warmth of land. After that we decided to lay out of the smooth rock and catch some sun as this was the last hike of the day and we really hadn't spent much time relaxing in Karijini (even though we'd been exploring quite a bit). We were soon joined by a European couple that were spending their honeymoon in the North West and this was their last day in Karijini before moving on to the Kimberley. Having done the Gibb River Road before Ben took over as their trip planner and told them everything they should do.
I was once again laughing in the background as these poor newlyweds had their entire trip reorganised by Ben (although I doubt they remembered his plans). Another family joined the area as we laid out in the warm sun relaxing and they were much braver than us with the water temperature as the mum just dove straight in and swam to the falls. The husband reluctantly joined but got a lot wetter than we managed. Sufficiently warmed and sunned after our foray into the water we packed up our stuff and headed back up the gorge. The climb up is a less challenging as you have an easier time pushing yourself up and managing the steeper parts. A larger crowd now descended on the gorge so we were very lucky to get the relatively quiet time that we did. On the way back we spotted a few lizards also sunning themselves closer to the creek crossing and again as we neared the car park. Another great experience in the memory bank and a relaxing way to finish off the gorge hikes in Karijini. We did visit Hamersley Gorge but I'm tossing up whether or not to write that one up because the falls and Spa Pool have been closed off to the public due to too many people getting injured.
Final Thoughts - Being so close to the Eco Resort means Joffre Gorge is a popular destination so it was fortunate to catch it at a relatively quiet time. While the hike offers up the chance to see a gorge and falls from the waterways that feed them, the experience was certainly a lot shorter than I expected.
The descent down into the gorge is quite challenging and fun but once there, the gorge walking itself is quite short and limited to the narrow ledge leading towards the cavern.
In terms of wow moments, Joffre Gorge certainly has quite a few from various different angles but the hike left me wanting a bit more given the bulk of it was on relatively flat ground. The area leading down Joffre Gorge is closed off to visitors so I'm not sure what else could be done in this regard.
I'm nitpicking here, this is still an amazing experience and one that is different enough to set it apart from all the other gorge hikes.
Get out there and experience it!
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