Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail
Start - Jarrahdale Cemetery
Length - 17.5km (Return)
Rating - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Rocky Paths
Vertical Climb - 336m
Time - 4-7 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Green Boot
Date Hiked - 22nd August 2020
Best Time - Autumn to Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - Located just outside of Jarrahdale, take Jarrahdale Rd until you reach a right turn at Oak Way. Take Oak Way and then turn right onto Atkins Rd. Parking is opposite the cemetery and the trail head has a large information shelter.
The Hike - Kitty's Gorge is a mainstay of the Perth hiking community and often gets placed in lists of the best walks in Perth with good reason. I too have included it in my Five Best Hikes in Perth I did a while back now as it's a long and enjoyable trail that takes you through some varied landscapes with plenty of great photo opportunities. This was the fourth ever trail I posted on the website way back in 2014 and over the years I've returned to hike what is a favourite trail of mine a few times in different conditions. Unfortunately due to the desire to hike new trails and placing those experiences over a hike for fun, the last time I was here was in 2016 for a group hike I organised.
With no more Bibbulmun Track sections to complete and a few more weekends now free to explore old favourites, I found I had a blank Saturday to head out to Jarrahdale to see if Kitty's Gorge was as good as I remember, plus re-shoot it with my new camera (if you want to see the old post then it still exists here). This was on my 2020 plan with the goal to spend an entire day in spring exploring both Kitty's Gorge, Baldwin's Bluff and off-track areas around different parts of Serpentine National Park. With a month long road trip planned for September/October, that idea was shelved and instead I took the opportunity to spend the morning orchid hunting and hoping for an echidna sighting. Arriving at the start point just after sunrise, I was happy to see a few cars there, evidence that hiking in WA has really taken off as a leisure activity and from what I saw over the day, people were loving being in the outdoors. While this can be done as a one-way trail with a car at either end, I like the return journey for the fitness aspect and you also get different lighting throughout the day. Doing it as a return hike means the first half is all downhill so you can just enjoy the walk without breaking a sweat. The first section is through some lovely Jarrah forest with plenty of late winter wildflowers already on display.
Passing the large fallen tree sparked some memories (this happened a lot over the hike) and it was nice to take some photos of it in the muted light of a cloudy morning. Descending down the hill, I was stopping a lot to take photos of wildflowers, fungi and the forest scenes. Arriving at the spot where Stacey's Track departs down into the valley, I was checking out what looked like a non-native wattle when I stumbled across a Spider Orchid camouflaged on the forest floor. I'm terrible with names of wildflowers and orchids and to be honest it can be very difficult in WA with a vast number of species and varieties. There is an excellent guide to Spider Orchids that can be found here if you're interested. Pleased to have spotted one very early, I descended down towards Gooralong Campground, an old camping area that has since been abandoned. With two of the camp buildings still up, it's a little bit of an eerie place to be but at least all the piles of rubbish have been cleared. Now it's just a wide open area surrounded by pines and odd trees that needs some serious rehabilitation (a theme for this section). Continuing the unnatural theme, you arrive at the pine plantation near Gooralong Brook that people seem to be really drawn to. I agree it looks quite spooky in the right lighting but I have no idea why it hasn't been harvested yet and replaced with native vegetation.
As you walk along the 4x4 track towards the Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail sign, you have the pines on one side and Gooralong Brook on the other. Gooralong Brook will be a mainstay for a while but looks completely different as you walk along. At this point it has a very Tasmania flavour with lots of non-native Tree Ferns providing a temperate feel, although somewhat disjointed with all the other weeds in the area. Once you pass the walk trail sign it becomes more natural as you continue to descend over the first of a few wooden bridges. It feels much more pleasant here as the vegetation appears to be what you'd expect from the Perth Hills and I was having good fun scanning the thick undergrowth for wildflowers and sundews. Passing under a very large Balga that I remember being in awe of when I first visited, you soon reach a series of wooden bridges that make for a good rest spot. The view looking back down the brook is quite stunning in the morning light, more so if the sun is streaming through the canopy.
Climbing up the wooden steps you continue along with this section featuring a bevy of wildflowers hiding just off the path. Among others I spotted some Hovea, Myrtle, a Grevillea, a Couch Honeypot and some flowering Parrot Bush. Over the years I've gotten better at spotting changes of colour or identifying familiar shapes in the undergrowth as I go along so it was nice to see quite a collection along here. While the smaller details are nice, I was also appreciating the sweeping views down the valley and towards where the course of the brook runs. The trees lining the valley make for some lovely scenes and it was a case of splitting my focus between the two viewpoints. Approaching the gauging station along Gooralong Brook, you are treated to some lovely moss covered granite as it extends up the slopes of the hill. This whole section along the brook unsurprisingly has a moist feel to it, both being in a valley and somewhat sheltered from the sun in places.
Reaching the gauging station, this is one of many highlights along this stretch that warrants a rest stop for a closer look. Now in disrepair, the small dam is a cool feature to photograph from the mountings of the old bridge that used to exist when this was a loop trail. Having not ordered a set of ND filters for my new camera but still wanting to get some long exposure shots of the various rapids along the trail, I had also brought my old Nikon along for the ride complete with cheap ND filters. It's not a very good setup but with the right lighting can produce the desired results. Unfortunately while the clouds were hanging around, the direction of the water course meant I was always shooting back into the light over the morning so the results here were sub-optimal. Moving on, you ascend up a stone staircase that in winter and spring looks amazing with the moss covered granite next to it providing a visual spectacle that really makes you feel like you're well away from the hustle of urban life. Unfortunately as you rise up and start the section leading towards Gooralong Falls, the ugly weeds make an appearance again. Up until this point I was starting to wonder why I didn't rate this walk as highly as the Numbat Trail or either walk from Sullivan Rock and the answer was right in front of me, weeds.
While Sword Grass is quite common along the rivers of the South West, the thick leaved grass here did not look native but I'm happy to be corrected. Combine that with the blackberry that consumes many rivers and creeks in WA and the result is a bit of a sad looking landscape, although some that aren't aware of what the weeds are might find this attractive. Salvation arrives in the form of the first of the open sections of granite that Gooralong Brook cascades over and this is a real treat. After one smaller platform, you continue along until you are deposited above Gooralong Falls. An iconic shot from this hike, the trail takes you above the falls before descending down to give you a closer look. The tabletop appearance of the falls combined with the sharp drop means that when the water is flowing, you get a decent set of rapids that is really fun to photograph. With no one around I got out the old Nikon and was pleased with the much better results I got from the long exposure shots (although they were a little overexposed). I spent a good amount of time here shooting different angles and just enjoyed slowing down to take it all in.
With plenty of trail still to hike, a planned trip up to Baldwin's Bluff and the return leg, I reluctantly packed up and moved on. I mistakenly remembered Gooralong Falls being at the end of the gorge section of the hike so was pleasantly surprised to realise that I still had a really remarkable part still to come. After spotting more wildflowers and sundews, I popped out of the forest and was greeted by the spectacular views overlooking the main part of Kitty's Gorge. With expansive views down the valley and over to the other side of the hills, this is a real wow moment made better by the granite rocks just off trail that you can use to get a better look. Even with the grey clouds hanging about, it was still pretty special so I took a few moments to soak in the views. Continuing to descend, you switch between closed in single trail that is very pretty and spots where you can experience the views from a different angle. One particular spot I really enjoyed was a section of single trail where you are surrounded by the undergrowth but the in distance you can see the trail drop off and the view extends off to the distant hills. As you approach the bottom of the hill you are treated to one more spot of magic and a small detour down to what I consider the main part of Kitty's Gorge.
A side trail takes you off the main part and to a granite platforms on the edge of some rapids. A nice split in the granite provides a seat as you stare down the rapids towards the valley floor. The name Kitty's Gorge apparently comes from the name of a cow that just lost and was found here, not sure if that's the case but it's funny to picture a cow stuck on the granite here not knowing how it got to be in such a predicament. It was here I brought out some Lemon Myrtle Tea Cakes I had made the day before but unfortunately they weren't as nice as I was expecting (a bit doughy and lacking the lemon myrtle taste). Still, the views were excellent and I had fun experimenting with a fast shutter speed to capture the spits of water coming off the brook as it cascaded over the granite. I really enjoyed this spot the first time I came here and the effect had not changed over the six years since then. Not lingering too long here, I packed up the disappointing tea cake that was left and continued on my merry way. Another short side trip to the base of where I was sitting provided an opportunity for more long exposure shots but again, I was shooting into the sun so the results weren't the bestest.
As the trail flattens out, you enter the weed zone again with what should be really nice trail is ruined by Blackberry, Arum Lilies and Sour Grass. This is probably the worst of the blackberry and from the elevated position next to Gooralong Brook you can see the choking effect it has on the landscape. Not even a really hot burn through here would solve the issue as the "kill it with fire" approach doesn't really work from what I've read. A kangaroo or wallaby would have an issue crossing the brook here but for the Red Breasted Wren I saw, the spiky vines of the blackberry were just another landing spot. As you join a 4x4 track, the hodgepodge nature of the scenery here is a bit weird but really par for the course on this hike. Large open areas of grass on either side are havens for kangaroos although I saw none on this visit. Joining the edge of Gooralong Brook once again, you see multiple 4x4 tracks intersecting in the area including a crossing of the brook but I don't think these are in use anymore.
Up ahead is the remnants of the old timber bridge that is now just a shell of a structure and not fit for any bridge related work these days. It's an interesting feature to photograph and another of the iconic photos you often see when people post about this hike. Luckily a newer bridge has been installed just downstream, making the journey to the other side much easier, although not as characterful. After crossing the bridge you are confronted with a wide open landscape of greenery, hills and a small white cottage in the distance. Spencer's Cottage is leftover from when the surrounding land used to be an orchard but due to it's age and lack of maintenance, it is fenced off thanks to the risk of collapse. The short side trip is worth checking out as it places you in the middle of the green plain that again has not been converted back to native forest for whatever reason. This would have been an idyllic place back in the day but with the fields now empty and the cottage in disrepair, you have to wonder what value there is in leaving it like this given it is within a national park.