King Jarrah Walk Trail
Start - Nanga Mill Campsite
Length - 17.5km (Loop)
Grade - Red
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Dog Friendly - Yes
Vertical Climb - 389m
Time - 3-5 hours
Signed - Yes
Entry Fee - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 16th August 2014
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Take the road to Dwellingup and then drive through the town until you reach Nanga Rd. Take this all the way to the Nanga Mill Campsite and the trail starts at the big wooden sign on the edge of the forest.
The Hike - After spending last week doing a 31.5km training hike for the Oxfam Trailwalker on the Bibbulmun Track, this week I was back discovering new trails. The destination was the King Jarrah Walk Trail, an 18km loop through world class old growth forest near the country town of Dwellingup. The added bonus of this trail is that it is dog friendly so with Sadie sitting next to me we left before the sun rose. It was a bit of a journey to get out there from Fremantle (105kms) but once you get past Pinjarra the stunning landscape makes it worth the while. Driving through the picturesque country between Pinjarra and Dwellingup was an experience in itself with the sun rising over the Darling Scarp. The sun soon disappeared under some very thick fog as I descended towards Dwellingup and the temperature dropped to 4C.
I turned off at Nanga Rd and continued towards the Nanga Mill Campsite that I would use as the start/finish point of the trail. Unfortunately the campsite is undergoing some construction and the entry off Nanga Rd was fenced off. That meant I had to double back and enter via the Lane Poole Reserve entry station near the Murray Bridge. This added a bit of time to the journey but it meant navigating my way through some amazing forests clouded in thick fog and on gravel roads (lots of fun). I finally pulled up at the very busy Nanga Mill Campsite, found a parking spot and headed towards the big sign saying "King Jarrah Walk Trail" near the construction site (west side of the campsite). I chose to go anti clockwise to start and with Sadie eager to get on the trail we started the 120m vertical climb that welcomes you to the area. If you can't make it up this hill without stopping to catch your breath then this hike might not be for you. With the thick fog still hanging around I couldn't see what the view was like at the top but with the sun breaking through the trees I managed to snap some good shots in my last trip with my soon to be retired Nikon D50.
The trail flattened out a bit and either no one had been through here in a while or the spiders were really busy the night before as I ran through a fair amount of spider webs. Over the course of the 17-18km hike the trail is marked by a green hiking boot on a white background but these are few and far between so you really have to use your hikers intuition to find the trail in the first 7kms. After initialing struggling to take photos and keep the dog from pulling me over I came up with a great solution by looping the handle of the dog lead through the bit that joins my backpack straps. The dog was happy to assume the lead a couple of metres ahead of me and I had both hands free to take photos. There was a bit of a moment when we spotted our first kangaroos of the day and she wanted to go and say hello but my system worked and she was kept at bay while I tried unsuccessfully to get a shot of them.
With the fog starting to lift it was possible to see into the distance and really take in the stunning old growth forest that the trail snakes through. The canopy is thick; the forest floor covered in fallen giants and all around the sounds of birds and wildlife fills the air. Over the next few kilometres the trail dips down slightly to a small creek and climbs straight back up but it is nothing too severe. Sadie at this point was urging me on as I stopped to take photos every now and then. I don't think she knew the King Jarrah tree was just around the corner but she was certainly in a hurry to get there. The King Jarrah tree that lends its name to the trail has to be seen in person. I can sum it up by saying it is a really big tree but that is both lazy and doesn't do it justice at all. The giant jarrah tree has been here longer than European settlers and really is the king of the forest. You don't really notice it until it is right in front of you but then you look up and realise that it has a mighty presence towering over the other trees. Getting it in one shot was impossible given the steep terrain so I decided to take a video with my iPhone.
After taking it all in for a moment it was time to head off and after a steep descent we arrived at a bridge over a larger creek. This made for a perfect spot to stop and have second breakfast (it was only 9:30) so I put down the backpack and let the dog recover for a little bit. We both sat on the bridge watching the water flow by and tucked into last night's pizza. After taking a few photos of the area we packed up, headed off again and soon came to the southern tip of the trail. Here the single track path through dense forest gives way to the shared use 4x4 track that forms part of the Munda Bindi Trail. Follow the signs and make yourself comfortable as this will be your home for the remainder of the trail. Be careful as this road is used by mountain bikers and 4x4 enthusiasts so if you have headphones in make sure you can still hear the sounds around you.
I had to spend a few minutes standing on the side of the road while a never ending convoy of 4x4s made their way past. With the road now mine I wandered on and kept a keen eye on the trail ahead looking for a marker to signal the trail would deviate back into the bush. Unfortunately no such sign existed and it was 4x4 tracks all the way back to the start. While the 4x4 track can be a little monotonous at times, it does follow the Murray River and there are opportunities to go down to its banks and gaze upon the rapids. Every now and then I heard the sounds of people that were canoeing on the river but was too high up to get a closer look. I had expected Sadie to tire on this long section of the trail but she was leading the way out front all day. I wish I had brought a towel as by the time we were finished her legs and belly were covered in the mud of the trail and now my car seats are the same colour.
Final Thoughts - The first 7kms of this trail puts it right up there with some of the best I have been on so far this winter but unfortunately 10kms of pretty flat 4x4 track means it doesn't quite leave me fulfilled. Having travelled out just for this trail means I am being a little harsh so I'm sure if I was spending the weekend camping and had more time to enjoy some of the other activities then I would have found this trail quite enjoyable.
If you love hiking and want to experience some of the old growth forest that you find in the deep south west of Western Australia then be sure to come out here for the weekend. Load up the kids, dog and camping gear and you won't be disappointed by this part of the world.
Given the lack of dog friendly hiking trails close to the Perth area it is definitely worth just coming out for the day. Your dog will thank you and the scenery on the trail is world class. If you make a day of it there are some great cafes in Dwellingup to reward yourself with after the hike.
All in all this trail gets a tick because of the fantastic jarrah forest, being dog friendly and being long enough to warrant the drive out (which itself is a great experience). I would have loved a section that snakes the landscape next to the Murray River but you can't have it all.
This is not the only trail in the area so check out the park's website for maps of the shorter walking trails.
Get out there and experience it!
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