Start - Knox Gorge Rd
Length - 2.7km (Return)
Grade - Red
Terrain - Single Path, Steep Rock, Scree Field
Vertical Climb - 128m
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 13th July 2018
Best Time - April to September
Directions - From the western entry of Banjima Dr along Karijini Dr, head north for 25km until you reach the intersection for the Weano Day Use Area. Take the right turn to continue along Banjima Dr until you see the signs for Joffre Gorge and Knox Gorge. Follow Knox Gorge Rd all the way to the end.
The Hike - Another day of adventure beckoned as we awoke early to tackle some more excellent gorges in the unbelievably epic Karijini National Park. First up on the agenda today was the Class 5 hike down into Knox Gorge along with the short trail leading to the lookout. Driving out to the car park from our accommodation during golden hour was another fun experience and after scoping out Joffre Gorge first we decided to leave it until the sun had risen a little more and the falls were in a better light. Given Knox Gorge is just down the road this wasn't a big issue so continued on and found a small crowd in the car park also keen to explore the area.
Going in with an open mind and completely forgetting what Donovan had said about the hike when he visited (I do this on purpose), I was excited to find out why this was graded as a Class 5 hike. Before starting the real hike though we ventured off towards the lookout to take some photos and also scope out what the gorge floor looked like from above. We only stayed a short while as it was a little busy at the lookout and we wanted to get stuck into exploring the gorge while the crowds were distracted here by the awesome views. Heading back towards the car park and then onto the trail towards the descent into the gorge we were greeted with some great views along the cliff face with rolling spinifex hills, some impressive termite mounds and my favourite, the ghostly trunked Snappy Gums.
It isn't long before you begin the descent into the gorge and the reason why this is a Class 5 hike becomes obvious. The steep rocks make for a difficult time and you soon reach a feature that had me thinking back to my climb of Toolbrunup, a small scree field. Luckily you don't have to negotiate the ever changing pile of billion year old rock and instead get to admire the impressive rock formation that had me thinking I was in a Will Smith movie, specifically the 90s classic Wild Wild West. Looking like something that belonged in Arizona or Utah, the shattered monolith stands out against the deep blue sky as you stand beneath it in awe. Ben had already reached the bottom but I was too busy taking photos of everything halfway down the descent. He was so far ahead that we didn't cross paths at the bottom when he returned from the side trip to the nearby pool.
At the bottom of the descent there is the option to turn left or right. The path to the right leads to a small pool that is very relaxing and photogenic. A few overhanging trees provide something extra to photograph and would make a great place to chill out in for a few hours. Knowing Ben was way ahead of me I continued on and retraced my steps back to the main trail. It wasn't long before I got a call on the radio from Ben saying he wasn't sure the field equipment we were carrying would make it past where he was. I caught up quickly and soon came to the point where he was standing and scoping things out. There is a small ledge in front of a wall overhanging a large pool on the corner of the gorge where you must negotiate your way without falling in. With the equipment we had it was going to be a challenge but with two of us there we managed to shuffle everything to safety and avoided an expensive mistake.
With the most difficult part of the gorge floor walking done with we moved on to the bright expanse leading to the finishing point. I managed to get 100m down the gorge when I realised I'd left my radio back at the ledge so let Ben continue on while I doubled back. Not having a backpack on or carrying a camera was such a difference as I could have two arms free for balance and skip over the boulders at a much faster pace. Although I am usually attached to my camera on any hike, the experience of having nothing with me was great fun and when I return to this amazing part of the world I think I will do every hike twice, once with the camera and once without. With the radio being exactly where I'd left it, I scrambled back past the awkward ledge (much easier with no gear to worry about) and rejoined my bag and camera.
The walk through the gorge from here to the finishing point is very relaxing and much like Kalamina Gorge, presents no real challenge when it comes to scrambling or slippery rocks. The walk to the end is only 500m so a gentle stroll past streams, along boulders and finally to one of the more impressive spots in Karijini, at least with the lighting that we experienced. The gorge opens up slightly as you round a tiny corner and are presented with what I dubbed, the "Eye of Sauron". The two walls of the gorge narrow significantly and with it being back-lit by the morning sun, the result was a fiery explosion of reds, orange and gold that resembled the overseeing gaze of one of the darkest powers in middle earth. The trail hugs the left hand side of the chasm that has opened up between the walls and is where the stream you follow empties down into the steep ravine below.
The depth of this carving and the patterns that have been formed over the millennia suggest that the waters can get quite aggressive here and the thought of being stuck here when a flash flood comes through was a scary thought. At the end point was a family that we had seen before and had moved ahead when we were getting past the earlier ledge and they were busy exploring further down the gorge. There are warning signs and ropes blocking off the route going forward and you need to be part of an organised canyoning group. The reason for this is the substantial drop down that you wouldn't be able to climb back up if you went down this way. Given how tightly resources are stretched at Karijini, another rescue of a tourist ignoring the signs is not what they need so please be respectful of those looking after the park. Ben and I were quite happy exploring the finishing ledge and the stream below whilst taking a million pictures (including some panoramas that I'm becoming quite fond of).
We were soon joined by a European couple and Ben helped them out by acting as photographer in front of the Eye of Sauron. There was a crowd of people coming in so with enough pictures on the memory card we decided this was a good time to depart but not before trying to take a few handheld long exposure shots of the stream as it flowed down into the chasm. With some success we eventually moved on and back towards the tricky ledge. Having made it past once we had the move down pat and were soon on the shaded part leading back to the climb out. Having rushed through here before it was nice to take it slow and notice a few things I had missed like the extensive root system of one paperbark tree and the nice reflections in one of the pools. With the day warming up, the steep climb out of the gorge was a bit of a challenge but with the promise of a swimming spot at our next hike at Joffre Gorge, we weren't feeling too bad. We made it back to the car slightly sweaty but pleased with another fantastic gorge hike.
Final Thoughts - Knox Gorge was yet another amazing experience in Karijini that turned out to be one of the more photogenic places we visited. It helped that the "Eye of Sauron" was back-lit like it was and we also had the wild west descent in the right light.
As I remarked to Ben when we were out there, each gorge has it's own unique character and to rank them would just be silly. Even though they are essentially made of the same stuff, they remind me of different things. Knox gave off the wild west feeling while Kalamina was more Indiana Jones and Handrail Pool was the caverns of Jordan.
All in all this was a great hike and I loved the wow moment to finish with as it's just one of those places that you never forget. Even though there isn't really a great swimming spot on the hike, there is the small pool near the bottom of the descent if you want to brave the icy cold waters.
Get out there and experience it!
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