Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail
Start - Jarrahdale Cemetery
Length - 15.2km (Return)
Rating - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Rocky Paths
Vertical Climb - 385m
Time - 3-5 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Green Boot
Date Hiked - 7th June 2014
Best Time - Autumn to Late Spring
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 is a large information shelter.
The Hike - You know your day is going to be great when you are greeted by a stunning magenta sunrise as you drive out to a hike. Today was such a day as I headed back to the Jarrahdale/Serpentine area to tackle the Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail. After scouring Google Maps for information on where to access this trail from I followed the advice on the Trails WA website and headed to the Jarrahdale Cemetery end of the trail. The drive out was again a pleasure just like the last time I visited the area and the cemetery is well signed so finding it is no problem. There is ample parking on the gravel and as I was the first person there I got prime position in front of the information board for the trails in the area.
With my old Nikon D50 in hand I would have been devastated if I had more memory card issues but as I headed down Stacey's Track that forms the start of the Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail, everything appeared to be alright. Update on this trail, what you are seeing is a collection of photos from my visits over the years, which is why they don't quite appear to match up in terms of water levels in Gooralong Brook or sky conditions. Immediately I encountered a fallen giant laying over the path and had the first of many photo opportunities. The first section of the trail is a gradual downhill through the Jarrah forest and down towards an old pine plantation that could be a great setting for a horror/slasher movie. The unnatural changes to the natural as you cross a 4wd track and begin the Kitty's Gorge trail in earnest. This is where the real fun begins as you snake through the landscape following the Gooralong Brook, which has plenty of water thanks to recent rains.
Made of up of very narrow trails, moss covered rocky outcrops and ancient Jarrah trees this part of the trail is a great taster for just how stunning this hike is. Around every turn I couldn't help myself and kept stopping to take as many photos as I could, the scenery is just that amazing. The first lengthy photo stop was by the old Gauging Station but this doesn't even crack the top ten for great photo ops on this trail. Just past this point the trail climbs slightly and all of a sudden you come out of the forest and get a face full of stunning vista that overlooks Kitty's Gorge. The story about how Kitty's Gorge got its name involves a cow that wandered away from her home and was found months later down by the gorge.
The path winds its way down to become parallel with Gooralong Brook again and if you are limber enough you can climb down the rocks and wonder around the waterfalls. I spent much time here just exploring, rock hopping and taking photos and if I had the time I would have spent all day there just relaxing and taking it all in. With more trail to explore I soldiered on through the dense forest until it started to open up and showcased the sweeping hills of the National Park. The next great photo stop was the historic bridge (below) near where the Gooralong Brook joins the Serpentine River. With more amazing shots in my pocket I used the modern bridge adjacent to the historic one and walked through to a vast open space that is home to Spencer's Mud Cottage. The cottage is fenced off now due to the building itself being unstable but you can get a pretty good look at what I think is a perfect place to live.
I would love to setup a tent here and spend a week exploring the surrounding hills but I think the rangers might have a problem with that. The open expanse beckons you on along generous, winding gravel roads and up to towards the giant pipeline that feeds Perth it's water supply (Serpentine Dam is due east of here). Eventually you come to the end of the road and private property, which means you take a detour back towards the Serpentine River. There were some kids playing outside their house and I was bit envious of them having this amazing bit of country at their doorstep. The trail follows the river for about a kilometre, occasionally opening up to reveal more stunning scenes to photograph and rocky waterways to traverse. The hills on the other side of the river looked inviting with their height (for Perth) but with Serpentine Falls so close I kept going on the beaten path to my destination.
Scampering up the hill you rejoin the access road that links the private houses in the park to the roads leading into the Serpentine National Park via South West Highway. After a short walk you turn off and follow the pipelines down towards the other end of the trail near the picnic/BBQ facilities within the park. Today was unusually quiet but earlier in the week it was forecast to be 24C and sunny so maybe the cold and clouds kept everyone away. I didn't mind one bit as I love an empty trail and it meant that my final destination before turning around and heading back was free for me to explore uninterrupted.
A short walk from the main car park is Serpentine Falls, a stunning piece of Australia that is a mini version of something you would find in the Kimberley or Pilbara area of WA. The rusty and charcoal walls that tower above the river are a sight to see and the trail ends with a staircase that plunges into the river. Having now visited Karijini, my initial thoughts on Serpentine Falls being like a swimming hole you'd find up there were spot on. It's no wonder that this place is very popular over the summer months with people enjoying the year round supply of water for a cooling dip. Being winter I didn't take a skinny dip but I do plan on returning to this trail often (with some new camera accessories for long exposure shots of the waterfall). The pictures I took really don't give you a sense of the scale of this place and it should a must visit for everyone in Perth (just don't all go on the times I return).
After scaling the cliff closest to the path I found a nice spot with a view of the waterfall and just soaked it all while refuelling on trail mix and lime cordial. After deleting some photos from my camera (my card was 90% full after the first 5kms), I started exploring the best places to take photos and managed to get some decent shots despite shooting into the light. If you are looking for another hiking option to explore while you are in the area (if 15km isn't enough) then check out Baldwins Bluff that takes you up a hill to the west. The trail starts at the Serpentine Falls car park and is a fantastic 6km addition to this hike if you want some cool views over the coastal plain and looking back towards the Serpentine River Valley. The whole area is an asset to the state and I hope it continues to be for many more years to come.
Reluctantly I headed off back down the path but decided to take a detour to check out a path I had spotted on my way in. This turned out to be a good choice as the path led down to the river and an extremely narrow passage that led up the steep hill next to the falls. At times I was battling through the vegetation and barely able to see where the path went but that's the fun of hiking and I was rewarded with views from well above the falls. The path joined the regular trail in an inconspicuous location and I set off back to the start. With headphones inserted I blitzed the return leg, only stopping to take a photo or two of something that I had missed on the first leg. Thankfully I returned to the cemetery and the zombie apocalypse had not arrived so I stretched out and reflected on what a great hike that was.
Final Thoughts - Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail is nothing short of spectacular and should be a must hike trail for every Perthian. Very rarely does a hike make me forget about where I am and what's going on in my life but isn't that the whole point of hiking?
It should be an escape from everyday life and into a world that is only limited by your stamina, imagination and determination.
The great variety of scenery on the trail makes for a joyous escape and if more people got out on trails like this one then everyday life wouldn't be anything like it is now.
The trail can be steep in sections but there is nothing stopping a reasonably active person from finishing the trail. It helps that the scenery is so damn distracting that you quickly forget about being short of breath or the lactic acid building on the climbs.
I encourage you to get out on this trail as it has without a doubt become one of my favourite trails in Perth after today. Even with cloudy skies drowning out the good photographic conditions it was still stunning.
Get out there and experience it!
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