Start - Lake Leschenaultia Beach
Length - 6.2km (Figure 8)
Rating - Green
Terrain - Single Path, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 97m
Time - 1-2 Hours
Signed - No
Date Hiked - 19th August 2017
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
Directions - Located about an hour east of Perth, take Great Eastern Hwy past Mundaring and turn onto Old Northam Rd. From there follow the signs to Lake Leschenaultia, which is located off Rosedale Rd on the north side of the lake.
The Hike - With a free Saturday on the cards and some decent weather forecast, it was time to consult the "to-hike" list and come up with an all-day hiking trip in the Perth Hills to visit some trails I had been meaning to hike. Plans were made, people consulted and Lake Leschenaultia was the first of four hikes for the day that Assistant Trail Expedition Leader, Aron, and I would tackle today. A later than usual start greeted us as some of the later hikes I wanted to experience at sunset (posts coming) and the drive out was as pleasant as could be expected. There are signposts everywhere once you reach the Old Northam Rd turnoff and as we drove in I started recognising places as if I had been here before.
There's a good reason for that, this has been a staple of the Oxfam Trailwalker for the past few years and if you get the timing right then you get to experience a lovely sunset as you round the lake. We passed the halfway checkpoint, then as we rounded the corner coming into the car park, the memories flooded back. This was probably the most enjoyable section of my last Oxfam Trailwalker so it was nice to return to a happy place. Despite the late start (10am arrival), the lake was almost mirror perfect and reflecting the clouds like a surface that reflects things very well. Bad analogies aside, it was a fantastic way to start the day and what would be a pleasant hike. The route we were taking today is not an official trail as I don't think there is a coherent trail network in the area for hiking so inspiration was taken from the a 2010 copy of Perth's Best Bush, Coast & City Walks by Paul Amyes. In this copy the book references two walks around the lake, a short loop that loops around the lake and a longer figure 8 that goes off into the forest on the western side of the lake. The lake loop is 3km and the forest loop is an indicated 7km so I thought I would combine them into a big figure 8 to make the most of the drive out here. Lake Leschenaultia is not a natural lake and was constructed in the late 1800s to supply water to the steam trains that worked in the area. It served this purpose until just after WWII when it was then turned into a recreational area for locals.
With no public swimming pools in the area until the 1960s, many locals learned to swim here and as such it holds heritage value for many people. Apart from the hiking, there is a beach where you can hire canoes, a camping area and a well signed mountain bike trail can be found in the western forest section. Our starting point was the gazebo overlooking the lake, the beach and the pontoon floating just off the beach. With such an amazing scene in front of us we snapped many photos and wowed at the reflections before finally starting the hike. The plan was to head over the dam wall and in a westerly direction to roughly where the bottom of the lake was before heading into the forest for a loop and then finishing the lake trail for our figure 8 configuration. With so much rain in July and August the lake was in top shape and as we came across the foot bridge at the end of the dam wall we found an overflow stream that a dad and his kids were busy playing in. Although both of us recently purchased new waterproof hiking boots, the urge to splash around in the water was overridden by a full days worth of hiking to get through and neither of us brought spare socks. Instead we continued on and found the path closest to the lake that would take us to where we would eventually leave the lake and enter the forest.
For now though it was a pleasant walk along the edge of the lake marvelling at the reflections still and spotting the various wildflowers that were in bloom at the time. Being a very popular walk with locals and visitors alike, it was long before we passed some fellow hikers enjoying the peaceful morning. It's easy to see why the area is popular, even when the lake is too cold to go swimming in, with the sounds of birds, frogs and the forest mixed with the stunning visuals. We don't have many Jarrah forested lakes in the Perth Hills where you are permitted to hike this close to the water so it's a real treat to be able to have this spot. We explored every little path leading down to the lake before deciding to head back up to the 4x4 track that runs parallel with the lakeside trail so we could find an appropriate location to head into the forest. I didn't bring my reference book but having ridden the area on mountain bike before I knew there were a few spots where you could head west into the Jarrah and Marri trees. We eventually found a 4x4 track that looked like it would be the right one and double checking on my tracking app confirmed this so we departed the lake and made our way into the open forest. Mixed in with the Jarrah and Marri trees was a smattering of Wandoo forest, always a welcome surprise, along with a very lush undergrowth of grass trees and wildflowers.
I always enjoy a good bit of forest walking and with increasing parts of the Perth Hills being frequently burnt out by either bush fires or controlled burns, it was nice to walk amongst some natural feeling bushland. Every now and then we would come across an old numbered marker that we would later find out related to the walking trail that must have existed a while back. For us though we would be blazing our old trail and when we came across a large junction of trails I took us away from the route described in my reference book and headed north towards the park border. The forest section is lovely and relaxing but doesn't blow you away as much as the lake so we just enjoyed it for what it was and eventually found the 4x4 track that leads back to the lake path. Along the way we found several wooden "Walk Trail" signs that had the same colour as the numbered markers scattered throughout the forest so figured there must have been a coherent walk trail at some point but as the first marker we came across was numbered 15 and we founds 2 & 3, we weren't heading in the right direction anyway. Given TrailsWA only has this area as a mountain bike trail and I couldn't locate anything substantial online, I assume the walk trail has been left to become a relic.
Our second trip along the lake trail was a bit déjà vu for obvious reasons but more of a good thing is never a bad experience. Eventually we came across the turnoff we made before and continued on the straight and narrow to loop back around the southern side of the lake. The water levels here were at crazy levels on both sides of the 4x4 track and made for a nice photo opportunity. While I was getting some different angles, Aron made friends up ahead with some large water birds before they rejected his company and fled into the watery edges of the lake. The southern section of the lake is home to a few different paths with single track running parallel to the main 4x4 track. We of course took the single track that runs closer to the lake until it ran out and that turned out to be a fun option. The final stretch back to the beach was full of running streams and an exploration of what I found out later was the train station for the miniature railway that used to run here. It is a shell of its former self but from the looks of what I assume is the ticket office, they may be rebuilding it as the structure looked very new. Arriving back at the beach we found that increased winds had taken away the mirror finish on the lake and it wasn't looking nearly as pretty as when we first arrived. Hike over we headed back to the car happy with the first outing of the day.
Astrophotography at Lake Leschenaultia - For those that love to photograph the Milky Way or even first timers that want to find a good spot to have a go, Lake Leschenaultia is a great spot to do it. With the lake providing a mirror like surface to create some cool effects and the area having a lot less light pollution than anywhere on the Swan Coastal Plain, this is a great location to setup for the night. The best spot is on the western banks of the lake, just over the causeway. From here you will get the core of the Milky Way rising over the horizon during winter and the subsequent reflection on the water. A popular spot for star gazing groups, if you have a DSLR, tripod and some very warm clothes then head out for a fun astrophotography adventure this winter. If you want a rough guide on how to capture the stars then go to this post or search the pages of Google for some better tips and guides.
Final Thoughts - Lake Leschenaultia has always been on my list since first hiking here as part of the 2014 Oxfam Trailwalker but I never quite got around to combining it with other hikes in the area to make the drive out worth it. I'm happy with the timing of my visit although we didn't see any of the namesake wildflower (blue leschenaultias) but that's fine, I will be back here in September after 40 odd kilometres of hiking under my belt.
It may be possible to follow the old Walk Trail signs but for this hike we blazed our own trail on the existing 4x4 tracks that dot the forest before taking in the well worn path around the lake. If you do plan on heading into the forest just beware of mountain bikers and track your hike so you know where you are.
This hike would be well suited to spring time and maybe even a balmy summer afternoon given the option to go swimming in the lake afterwards. That pontoon must look very inviting after 6km of hiking on a warm summers day.
Get out there and experience it!
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