Mundaring to Northam
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 Trail 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.