Start - Mundaring Weir Hotel
Finish - Northam
Length - 76km (One Way)
Grade - Red
Terrain - Vehicle Track, Single Track, Road
Vertical Climb - 716m
Time - 4-9 Hours (Bike), 2-3 Days (Hike)
Signed - Yes, Follow the Wooden Boards
Date Biked - 14th November 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - Starting at the Mundaring Weir end, from Perth head out onto Great Eastern Highway all the way up the hill and into Mundaring. Turn right onto Mundaring Weir Road, following the sign for the No.1 Pumping Station. When you reach the roundabout at the bottom of the hill take Weir Village Road all the way to Mundaring Weir Hotel. The trail head is located in front of the Mundaring Weir Gallery building.
The Ride - The Kep Track is one of those trails that has been on my to-hike list since the start of the website but due to logistical challenges, I never managed to schedule in. I say hike because my original plans for this one was to bring my dog along and do this over two days but it would have been hard to organise and from what I'd seen of the track, not very interesting on foot. Fast forward to 2020 and after joining my podcast partner on a few sections of the Munda Biddi they served to rekindle my love of off-road cycling so we made plans to cycle the Kep Track in November.
With Donovan completing his sectional end to end of the Munda Biddi in September he was still bike fit when November came around. Me on the other hand had not ridden a bike since we did the Donnybrook to Nannup section of the Munda Biddi back in August. With 76km of undulating trail planned, I was hoping that my hiking fitness would pull through and I would be fine. Donovan's big worry for scheduling this in November was that the temperatures would be in the 30s and make for an unpleasant ride out into the drier parts near Northam. As luck would have it, not only would we get mild temperatures for this time of year but it would also be quite wet, something we both didn't mind at all. The logistics for this trip were that I would drive myself and Donovan out to the start point at Mundaring Weir Hotel and then Donovan's lovely wife Alissa would pick us both up in Northam and drop me back at my car. This saved us about an hour and a half if we had to do a car shuffle so we could start at a reasonable hour at the Mundaring Weir Hotel. I had wanted to do this as a Mundaring to Northam ride as it felt more like an adventure heading away from the built up areas of the hills so twisted Donovan's arm to do it that way.
Arriving at Mundaring Weir Hotel, it was a drizzly start to proceedings once we found the understated trail head opposite the hotel. I can highly recommend breakfast at Mundaring Weir Hotel and if we'd planned it better, I would have loved a cosy plate of toast, eggs, mushrooms and hash browns before we started. Being in the Helena River Valley, the start of the trail heads uphill for the first ten or so kilometres but this was expected given this area is very much familiar to both of us. The section leading up to Mundaring is shared with the Munda Biddi that Donovan had cycled earlier in the year and also the Kattamordo Heritage Trail that I had hiked way back in 2016. It doesn't matter which end of the trail you start at, there will be a climb at each end so we headed off and found that it was more a gradual uphill than a struggle. I had brought along my old broken and heavy Reid mountain bike while Donovan was on his much newer Polygon that was better suited to cross country cycling (not making any excuses of course). The scenery is very pleasant as we climbed up the hill with the rains providing a lush feel to the Jarrah forest that lines the track early on.
The Kep Track passes lots of colonial artefacts on the 76km journey and one of the first you'll come across is an old railway station and water tank that is surrounded by very unnatural looking pine trees. Right along the track are information boards telling you about the various points of interest if you want to learn more about the history of the railway and the water pipeline that runs between Mundaring Weir and the Eastern Goldfields. Criss-crossing Mundaring Weir Road, we made it to where the track scoots past the town centre of Mundaring and continues along the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail (RRHT) heading east. With the bulk of the early climbing over, we could relax now and settle into enjoying the relative flat of the RRHT. This is a track we've both done several times on bike and foot so knew what to expect. Right before we crossed Great Eastern Highway we came across an unfortunate sight with a lot of trees having been felled along a road. A sign next to the piles of logs read that the Mundaring Men's Shed were the owners of said trees and hopefully they replant what they cut down because the area not looks horrendous. After the Great Eastern Highway crossing there is a fun downhill section where Donovan flew off into the distance as he knew it was coming up. The forest through here is quite nice and the high walls of the rail formation provides an illusion of nature even though the green corridor through here is very narrow.
The long downhill continued all the way to Mount Helena where the Kep Track leaves the main loop of the RRHT and continues heading east. The RRHT does have an out and back section to Wooroloo that the Kep Track follows but most riders will do the RRHT as the 41km loop. Thanks to a broken front derailleur, I was limited to my bottom chainring and thus my top cruising speed was limited to about 24kmph when I was at full chat. Therefore Donovan had to wait in places for me as we both settled into our natural cycling rhythms. I joined him at the Mount Helena turnoff and we followed the Kep Track signs to do a funny little U-turn to get over the water pipeline before starting to head in the right direction. Following a section of raised rail formation, the area through to Chidlow is quite pleasant thanks to some nice forest and a granite outcrop just off the track that provided an excuse to stop for a photo. Reaching Chidlow, there are a couple of rail carriages that provide an insight into the history of the railway here and just across the road is the Chidlow Tavern if you're feeling a bit parched or the Bay Tree Café if you need a coffee. We were fine for beverages so checked out the pump track in the park here and I did the most pathetic little loop of the track thanks to my heavy bike and lack of decent gearing. Having covered about 20km, the legs were feeling okay so we soldiered on towards the next town of Wooroloo.
Unfortunately the next 11km to Wooroloo contained some of the more ho-hum sections of the trail. I've not included many photos running through here because there wasn't much to photograph past the taller trees leaving Chidlow. The wide trail did not have great forest either side of it and there was a monotony to the riding until we reached the area closer to Wooroloo. It did provide an opportunity to cover some distance at speed and while we were both riding together it gave us time to reflect on what this trail would be like to hike. At certain points you could see a long way into the distance and it wasn't very interesting scenery, the only saving grace was that we were covering this part at 24kmph instead of 4-5kmph that a fully loaded hiker would. It served as a good place to make up time and soon we had entered Wandoo country near Wooroloo that made Donovan a very happy rider. This also coincided with the clouds clearing a little and the sun making a welcome appearance. Cheering us up a little, we arrived at the little park that serves as the representation for Wooroloo where we stopped for a break. There is some old railway paraphernalia in the newish looking park/playground and I whipped out some leftover pizza to get my body fuelled up for the remaining 45km.
This marks the end of the spur section of the RRHT and there is an information board telling you about the history of Wooroloo as a train station and the rest of the RRHT. Looking at the elevation profile for the next section to Baker's Hill, it would be a steady incline to the highest point of the track and beyond over the next 17km. Baker's Hill would mark the spot where we would take our longest break of the day and Donovan had talked up the bakery so I was looking forward to that. Leaving Wooroloo the trail returned to rail formation that wasn't terribly impressive but along this stretch we found a trio of Helmeted Guineafowl on the track that looked like bush turkeys. We stopped to take a few photos and were amused at the unusual find as neither of us had seen one before. From here the landscape around the trail starts to open up a bit with the introduction of the farmland scenery that becomes more prevalent from here to Northam. Stopping again at the border of the Shire of Mundaring, we got some farm photos and were intrigued by some bees buzzing around a Grass Tree flower spike. Continuing along the trail we left the compact gravel and cycled along Werribee Road for a while because the rail formation heads into Wundowie Foundry that is privately owned land now. The road cycling was a bit of a relief as it meant faster speeds through what wasn't a terribly pretty area.
At this point my legs weren't fairing very well with the build up of lactic acid starting to make things a little challenging but with the promise of a hot pie and a break, I struggled onwards. The scenery through here wasn't fantastic but just before Baker's Hill we reached what I assumed was a clay mining area that provided a welcome distraction. The oddity of the landscape was quite striking and marked the start of the downhill stretch into Baker's Hill. Arriving at the Baker's Hill Pie Shop, it was a sight for sore legs and I was looking forward to a break where my legs could recover a little bit. Donovan rushed in to get his lunch while I stretched out my weary legs and looked after the bikes. Being a vegetarian I was a bit worried about choice but there is a fantastic range of options and I settled on a Sweet Potato and Spinach Pastie. As luck would have it, as we were enjoying lunch outside, it started to bucket down so that was fortuitous. I spent a good deal of time stretching and massaging my legs in the hope that the lactic acid would dissipate and I could finish the remaining 28km in relative comfort. With the showers now passed, we loaded up the bikes again and were excited for a mostly downhill stretch into Northam with a few hills along the way. Past Bakers Hill, I was excited to reach Clackline and a place I had not known about on my visit to the area in June.
Leaving the Pie Shop, the rail formation riding continues down the hill through some pretty cool Casuarina thickets that formed an enjoyable corridor to ride through. Coming up to a road crossing, I heard a vehicle behind us and assumed a local was on his dirt bike but was surprised to see a ute driving behind us on the narrow trail. We let the idiot bogans pass and they comforted us by saying that they weren't following us. Given the highway runs parallel to the trail only 50m away, it seemed like an odd choice but I guess they thought they were pretty smart. A few kilometres down the road we reached Clackline Refractory, an old brick works that has now been abandoned for quite a while. As I said earlier, this was a place I didn't know about when I visited the Clackline WalkGPS route back in June so was looking forward to exploring it given the photos I'd seen. The abandoned urban exploration curiosity is nothing new but there aren't many places around Perth you can visit these days given the South Fremantle Power Station is now very hard to access and the East Perth Power Station set for redevelopment. Again, it started to rain as we arrived so it was perfect for a stop and to explore the abandoned buildings of the brick works. It's a mix of really beautiful old brick kilns and decaying open warehouse buildings filled with graffiti that contained some unique philosophical musings.