King Jarrah Walk Trail
Start - Nanga Mill Campsite
Length - 17.8km (Loop)
Grade - Red
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Dog Friendly - Yes
Vertical Climb - 439m
Time - 4-7 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Green Boot
Entry Fee - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 2nd August 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Take the road to Dwellingup and turn right onto Nanga Rd. Take this all the way to the Nanga Mill Campsite turn-off (past the Lane Poole Reserve entry). The trail starts at the big info sign on the edge of the forest at Nanga Mill.
The Hike - Almost six years to the day, I have returned to the King Jarrah Walk Trail to redo one of my earliest posts and give it a proper showcase. This has been long overdue as the original page that dates back to the old black background days didn't really show what the trail was like despite a couple of makeovers and re-editing of pictures over the years (you can view the last version of it here). The reason this is so late compared with other pages that have had fresh photos is mainly due to the bushfire that ripped through this area in 2015. I wanted to give the area time to recover and so here we are in 2020 with a new post from an area that is getting significant trail development over the next few years. Much has changed over the years since my last visit (bushfire aside) with my four legged family doubling with the addition of new rescue doggo, Kit.
Being dog friendly, this trail is the longest day hike in Perth that you can take your best mate on but unfortunately Kit is far from an athlete so in the interest of fairness, I left him and Sadie at home. Even if Kit could manage 18km on cronchy ground (he is a sensitive boy when it comes to walking surface), I'm not sure having two dogs tied to me would have resulted in good quality photos. As you can see by the length of this post, I had plenty of fun taking hundreds of photos (took over 950 and edited up 213 into final jpegs) and there was so much detail to explore that I wanted to be able to capture it all. This wasn't the first time in 2020 that I had planned to do this trail with a drive out here in April during the regional travel restrictions proving fruitless. Dwellingup was on the edge of the Perth/Peel region and I had read that Lane Poole Reserve was still open (it was) but unfortunately they had fenced off the Nanga Mill Campsite where this trail begins, so I ended up walking the section of the Bibbulmun Track leading south from Dwellingup. Looking back, I think this was a good thing as the visit you see here is a really good time of year for the Jarrah Forest with a crossover between fungi and wildflower season.
Let's get started then. After a sleep-in and cooked breakfast, an unusual thing for me as I love an early start on the trail, I headed out to Dwellingup and was soon at the Nanga Mill Campsite ready to begin. There were plenty of people at the campsite and I was happy to see the additions that were being built on my original visit were now complete and being used. The old wooden King Jarrah sign has been replaced with a modern information board highlighting the other walks in the area that I will have to return and complete on another day. I remember the first part of this walk being pretty brutal in terms of elevation gain straight off the bat and sure enough, the climbing started almost straight away. After initially clearing a small section of pine trees, you head into the natural Jarrah as you ascend up into the hills that this area is famous for. With my new Nikon D7500 ready to capture anything I saw, I was happy with some early finds that included a Western Yellow Robin, plenty of wattle, a Blue Squill and some late season fungi.
A smile came to my face as I saw one of the old track markers on a tree as for the longest time an image of one of these markers was the one I used to represent every page on Facebook. I think I found the original marker I used although it appears to have been moved to a different angle. For over a kilometre you are climbing and at times the gradient gets to 25% but eventually you reach the highest point of the hike at 328m ASL (you started at 190m). This part seems to have escaped the 2015 fires with a pleasant soft grey appearance to most of the Jarrah, something that fills my heart with joy as I love the texture and colour of unburnt Jarrah. A large number of Balgas line the trail as you ascend but as the hill plateaus out, they start becoming more infrequent. I noticed a lot of gum nuts falling from a nearby Marri tree and was pleasantly surprised to see a Black Cockatoo having a good munch up in the canopy. Normally you hear these cheeky birds long before you see them but this one was quite content to carry on feeding and wasn't bothered by my passing. He was well hidden in the canopy and with grey skies, the photo wasn't worth posting. As the trail flattened out and then started to descend slightly, I was thoroughly enjoying my time in the Jarrah Forest.
I think WA has been pretty lucky to have region travel allowed and with such a diverse state, you could easily spend a few years exploring different parts of the state and not get bored. I'm nowhere near through the places I'd like to visit in WA and have collected many a great adventure over the years as shown by the content on the website. The Jarrah Forest is one of my favourite places to explore as up here it really does feel like you're away from it all. With perfect lighting thanks to the cloudy conditions I slowly made my way along the trail, scanning the forest floor for anything that caught my eye. Luckily there was plenty to see thanks to a variety of fungi, mosses, lichens, wildflowers and different varieties of plants. What is shown in the galleries is about two thirds of the photos I edited up, there was so much more I wanted to include but didn't have the room for. My posts are already long winded enough so adding another few galleries would have meant a very long read (if you are one of the select few that do read everything).
Having checked the weather forecast before I left, there was a chance of rain around 3pm so it was a great surprise when a light sprinkle turned into a shower. This being the first time out with my new camera in the wet, it would be a good test of the weather proofing but just in case I kept it as hidden from the rain as I could. I am very much a Pluviophile (someone who loves the rain, who finds joy and peace of mind in rainy days) and even more so when I'm walking through the forest. The smells, the feeling of rain on my skin and the way everything glistens as the light catches it, I'm in heaven. Right around this time I came down to the first of a couple of valleys that punctuate this first section of single trail. Revelling in the thicker undergrowth as the trail descended into a lusher part of the forest, I heard voices up ahead. I had caught up to a group of ladies that were out for a hike and this would begin a game of cat and mouse where one of us would stop and then get overtaken by the other. I said a brief hello as I passed and continued back up the other side of the valley into more lovely Jarrah forest.
After a short climb, the trail once again flattened out and I was in more lovely mature forest with settled undergrowth. As far as the eye could see were trunks of the Jarrah with occasional Marri and Snottygobble trees mixed in. We experienced a few winter storms in 2020 and the debris from these had collected over the track in places but it was easy to step over the fallen branches. There were plenty of larger fallen trees in this area, the perfect habitat for all kinds of creatures, fungi and plants. I love getting down to ground level when I find a really good rotting log so I can inspect every little detail and a few along here had some fantastic finds. Old Man's Beard was scattered over some fallen Banksia branches and underneath one bigger tree I found a sundew surrounded by what looked like the early forms of a few orchids with their single green leaves poking out just above the soil. Out in the open on some exposed gravel was a more mature sundew that was sparkling in the sun, which had made an appearance for the first time.
Although this area like pretty much every square inch of the forests of WA has been previously logged, back in the olden days they had some sense to leave some habitat trees standing. These can be seen along the trail and given their sizeable girth compared with the forest around them, they are really noticeable. While the trail is named after what is called the King Jarrah a bit further on, there are plenty of other mighty trees around that really make you stop and ponder the time it took to get them that big. Another thing that made me stop was a mature Banksia that had lots of cones drooping down from it's canopy. I always love photographing Banksia's, more so when they are flowering thanks to the wonderful colours and patterns they produce but the old cones have a certain character to them as well. A bit further on I stopped to take some more photographs and heard the ladies from before catching up to me. I let them past as I was photographing some fungi on an old tree and we had a small joke about the situation.
Another couple came in from the other direction with their dog, which was very excited to be out and about (although it was off lead). While I get the instinct to want to let your dog run free, you never know what they are going to chase after or disturb in the bush, not to mention the chance they find a 1080 bait just off track. After a patch of closed in regrowth forest, you start to descend for the second of the valleys and I found myself channelling my inner Gandalf. "I have no memory of this place" kept going through my head as it did when the fellowship was heading through the Mines of Moria. The reason for this was that I was entering the dense regrowth of an area recovering from fire damage. Feeling very much like my maintenance section of the Bibbulmun Track (which unsurprisingly is just across the river from this trail), the familiar sight of overgrown Soap Bush and Prickley Moses gave me flashbacks to the many trips out there spent battling the horrible stuff. A small creek made for a cool feature to photograph at the bottom of the valley and after a brief section of open forest as I climbed back out, the regrowth appeared again.
Stopping to photograph a few bees that were flirting with a flowering shrub, I noticed some larger insects flying around. Forcing my way past a Prickly Moses to get a better angle, I tried unsuccessfully to get a good photo but the large black wasps (not able to identify them) did not want to stay still for longer than a second. I got one shot that was okay out of about a dozen that shows the full body unobstructed. The group of ladies walked past again and wondered what I was doing so I pointed out the wasps and they understood why I was purposefully buried in the undergrowth. They asked a few questions about my reason for taking so many photos and eventually it got out that I was The Life of Py. I don't like to advertise it too much as I'm a bit of an introvert and I felt a bit rude giving short answers to their questions as I was busy trying to get a shot of the wasp. They left me to it but I soon gave up, hoping I had one half decent photo in the bag. At the peak of this little hill you get some fleeting views off into the distance through the treeline and it's a nice reminder of how steep some of the valleys are that the Murray River has carved through this area. Descending down for the final time, the regrowth was once again pretty thick and I was happy to know that it wasn't just my section of the Bibbulmun that had this issue.
Sympathising with the hikers that went through my bit during it's worst times from 2018-2020, it wasn't long until I reached the big feature of the trail, both figuratively and literally. The "King Jarrah" is a very old and very big Jarrah tree that predates colonial invasion and a remnant of the giants that used to be quite frequent in the forests of WA before they were pretty much all chopped down for various uses. I'm not sure if I've grown as a person or if it's all the dense regrowth making things look smaller (fellas you know what I mean, wink wink) but it didn't seem as impressive this time around. On my first visit here you could stand further up the hill and admire it but with all the regrowth around you are limited to the trail for the most part. The group of ladies were enjoying this spot to have a break and take photos so we had a bit more of a conversation now I wasn't distracted. We chatted more about the website and the question was asked if I did this full-time, to which I had a good giggle and explained it could only ever be a hobby (although you can buy me a virtual coffee on my Ko-fi page if you want to). I stepped in to help them out with a group photo before they moved on and I had the tree all to myself to photograph.
With limited angles and the lighting not the best, I took a few wide snaps of the tree before moving in closer and admiring the details around the base. There was lots of cool looking moss and a chonky fungi that could be the remnants of a Beefsteak (not kidding). Still descending, this is the steepest part of the track but really pretty as you'd expect from the eastern slope of a hill near a water source. Plenty of fungi lurked around here, hidden in the thick undergrowth, along with moss covering everything it could from grass trees to fallen logs. The wooden bridge over the creek is a nice feature to stop at and I remember last time I was here Sadie and I stopped for a second breakfast of cold pizza. The regrowth had taken it's toll at this point with the bridge being overtaken by fallen plants and overhanging branches so there isn't much room to sit and enjoy yourself. With a lot of trail ahead and wanting to get home at a decent hour for dinner, I didn't stay and moved onto the section I wasn't really looking forward to, the long 4x4 track. You soon reach the wide road and turn left to follow it back to the start. I'm not against vehicle tracks in theory for saving costs on trail construction and at times they showcase the taller forests much better as you can appreciate the vastness of the trees.
However, this is 11km of 4x4 tracks in an area that offers so much potential that I really wish they had just put in a bit more effort in places. Last time I was here the 4x4 track was open to anyone and I was always wary of vehicles coming up behind me. I was passed by lots of them that time and we spent a fair time in the undergrowth waiting for convoys of 4x4s to pass. As I moved on this time I was happy to see gates installed at various points to stop vehicles entering. The reason for this I think was the re-opening of the Captain Fawcett Track, a 105km 4x4 trail running from Dwellingup to Quindanning that now services the demand of those looking for this type of experience. Happy that I could walk along the track without worrying about vehicles, I only had to watch out for cyclists as this is now the route that the Munda Biddi takes through Lane Poole Reserve. Unfortunately this first section is really dull with the regrowth creating a tunnel effect with the occasional Prickly Moses being a drunkard and falling over the track because it can't support it's own weight. I did follow a small goat track in the hope it would lead down to the flowing creek I could hear to the side of the track and sure enough it did with a little set of rapids providing something to interesting to look at.
You see this creek a bit further up the track when you cross it on a rather mundane looking concrete bridge and here I saw the group of ladies for the last time. They were having a blast taking photos and enjoying some trail snacks so I snapped a few photos myself and moved on to get this section over with. It's a really cool spot and if I had my full tripod and ND filter setup I would have stayed for much longer. A long stretch of straight vehicle track greeted me ahead and it very much reminded me of the eucalyptus tunnel I encountered at Munday Brook a few years ago. It actually had a cool look to it but after a while I just wanted something different, having not much else to look at apart from a cool jelly fungi I found in the undergrowth. Eventually I reached a section I remember from my last visit but only because of the horrible state it was in after years of abuse from 4x4 drivers. A small uphill section near some granite was deeply rutted and eroded but it seems some work has gone in to repairing it so that's comforting to see. Just off-track before this area was a lovely little granite slope that was a welcome relief to see and a bit further up I found another one right on the track. Unfortunately it has become one of those spots where idiots add their own rock cairn to the others and act in a very non Leave No Trace way (the rocks are habitat for the wildlife and should be left where they are).
This spot marks the start of a long but distant relationship with the Murray River as you begin to see the valley carved out by this ancient river. My biggest gripe with this trail on my first visit was the lack of opportunity to interact with the river and how a few stretches of single trail closer to the water would have improved this immensely. The Bibbulmun has the same issue where you know the river is there but don't really get to see apart from through the treeline occasionally. There are old campsites that people used to illegally use along here and these serve as ways to head off-track and see the river up close. The best of these occurs on a bend in the river and it's really quite pretty, if you ignore the blackberry bushes that have infested the area. A small set of rapids makes for a cool spot to photograph and the calm pool before them would be an excellent swimming spot, as eluded to by the rope swing into the water. With a lot of trail still to hike, I couldn't stay long so departed the waters and kept moving through the forest. With the sun now much lower in the sky, there were some lovely scenes walking north and seeing the forest back-lit by the afternoon light. The forest here really is special and despite being regrowth, it grows in the wettest part of the Darling Range so feels about as lush as Jarrah forest can feel.
Last time I was here I think I gave up hope of getting any single trail and powered on through to the end a bit disappointed (I also hiked really fast back then because I thought that was enjoyable for some reason). This time however I was happy to plod along and scan the edge of the track for hidden delights. As I've said many times in these posts and on the podcast, the devil is in the detail, and it's really something I enjoy doing. Discovering some fungi hiding away or noticing a pop of colour that usually results in a wildflower (sometimes it's rubbish) is what I live for on these objectively boring sections. I was rewarded plenty of times as I made my way to the finish as you can see in the photos posted. The trail was starting to change as I moved higher and away from the river with a lot more deep channels carved into the landscape. I'm not sure if these are old logging tracks or railway lines but the effect is quite different with exposed roots of the trees visible and the wildflowers clinging to the edge of the track now at eye level. At one point I came across a crackle of cockatoos in the trees having a feed. This time I was lucky to get blue skies behind them and a couple that were in an acceptable range for my camera lens.
With the sun now very low and a few clouds rolling in (didn't end up getting that 3pm rain), the forest was looking spectacular. It started to sprinkle again and how I love walking in this type of weather. The track seems never-ending here and sure enough whenever I would check my phone, it was much further to the end than I thought it was. This just meant more opportunities to spot cool stuff in the undergrowth and I was spoilt for choice thanks to plenty of fungi finding refuge in damp places. Soon the noises and sights of the camping areas of Lane Poole came into my awareness and the finish was near. Stringers Campsite is across the river towards the end and then you arrive on the outskirts of the quite large Nanga Mill Campsite. Thankfully instead of walking straight through the middle on the vehicle track, you are directed off into the forest on single track to finish the walk. It's actually a bit of a climb to finish and after 17 or so kilometres I can imagine people groaning about this bit. I was happy to be near the finish and was soon back at the car. It had been a long time coming but I am happy to have finally returned to the King Jarrah and do the trail justice in terms of photos.
Final Thoughts - As I mentioned a couple of times, this was always a place I meant to get back to some day but never pencilled it in. I think I've probably hiked a few thousand kilometres in-between visits and I've certainly changed as a hiker and photographer over that time.
The King Jarrah Walk Trail is a pretty unique trail being a decent length and dog friendly but I still think it's a missed opportunity. The first 7km are outstanding but after that it is just an expedient way to end proceedings without any thought for the walking experience.
With Dwellingup getting a major trails upgrade (almost entirely dedicated to monutain bikes and rightly so given the lack of options for them), I would love to see Lane Poole get some more walking trails to make it an even better nature destination. Right now the offerings are very thin and there is so much potential.
One easy solution would be to put maybe half of the last 11km of this trail onto single track and that would catapult it to one of the best walks in Perth.
As it stands now, this is still a thoroughly enjoyable trail if you can tolerate vehicle tracks with the best time to visit being mid winter to late spring.
Get out there and experience it!
Be sure to tag any King Jarrah photos with #thelifeofpy and if you enjoyed this hike then feel free to share this page on Facebook with your friends.
If you've found this page or the website helpful and you want to show your support then consider making a small donation by visiting our Ko-fi page. You can give as little as a dollar with no sign-up required and everything will be put towards the website, creating new content and promoting the trail community.