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
Traditional Custodians - Pinjarup People
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.