Lane Poole Falls Track
Start - Off Boorara Rd
Length - 4.75km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Path, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 118m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Markers
Date Hiked - 9th October 2017
Best Time - Autumn to Late Spring
Traditional Custodians - Bibbulman People
Directions - The road you follow to get there is called Boorara Rd and the turnoff is 100m south of Northcliffe on Windy Harbour Rd. Follow this unsealed road for 16km until you see the big sign for the Boorara Tree and Lane Poole Falls. It's easiest to enter in the Boorara Tree into Google if you are using GPS instead of Lane Poole Falls.
The Hike - With a full day of new trails planned and Mount Chudalup already under the belt, it was time to move on to the second of my planned hikes around Northcliffe, the Lane Poole Falls Track. Not to be confused with Lane Poole Reserve near Dwellingup, this 4.75km there and back trail takes you through the Karri forest to another of the South West's granite waterfalls (more like a large rapid). As I stated in my directions piece, getting there was a game of questioning my navigation and trusting my intuition but I arrived safely in the end and found I wasn't alone. Instead of the grey nomads I had for company at Mount Chudalup, a maintenance crew were busy cleaning up the entry road and car park when I arrived.
The first thing you notice when you arrive in the car park is the giant Karri tree that is left on its own in the middle. Boorara Tree is one of the famous climbing trees but unlike the other three (Gloucester, Diamond and Dave Evans) you are not allowed to climb this one as the cabin and lower pegs have been removed. Parks and Wildlife state safety reasons and I can see why as unlike the others it's not in a well visited area so if anything was to happen then it might be a while until someone notices. There is a replica cabin right next to the car park although it's not quite a replica as it is much bigger in order to accommodate more people and information boards. I had a bit of a look from the outside and for some reason assumed it was a building that was locked most of the time so didn't try to enter. The trail head is located right next to the replica cabin and it's straight into the regrowth Karri forest that will be home until you reach the titular Lane Poole Falls. The regrowth is due to the devastating 2015 bushfires that ripped through this area and burnt out a massive area of forest. More than 95,000 hectares of land was affected but the Australian bush is built to survive these natural disasters so it is interesting to see what the landscape looks like over two years after the events.
One point of reference for this hike are the photos and write-up that Donovan did for The Long Way's Better. They visited in July 2016 and already you can see that the forest is much improved after another year of rain and sunshine. The 2km hike to the falls is mostly downhill and follows an old firebreak so after a while it becomes a bit so so with both a closed in feeling thanks to the thick undergrowth and the openness of the burnt out canopy and wide trail. To make the time pass quicker I had great fun spotting all the different wildflowers scattered in the thick green mess that lined the trail. There was plenty of Old Man's Beard and one of my favourites, the Miami Vice Flame Pea (I add the Miami Vice bit). Just before you reach the final downhill to the falls, there is a forest lookout that has been rebuilt since the fires and now serves as a viewing area to fully take in the regrowth ability of the forest. Already looking back at the photos that Donovan took I can see that there has been a fair bit of growth and a good number of the Karri trees have grown themselves a green jumper (what I call it when the trunk is covered in new growth). The information boards here provide a good insight into the 2015 fires and hopefully with more time the area returns to its former glory.
All that is left from here is to start the increasingly steep downhill walk to the falls and this is made easier by a metal handrail that has been installed. The loamy soils of the Karri forest can be a bit tricky sometimes so it is nice they have made this concession to those that are not as sure footed as everyone else. Your reward for perseverance is a lovely wooden platform overlooking Lane Poole Falls, a 12m curved drop of gushing water along the Canterbury River. Visiting in spring meant there was still a good flow of H2O and this created a fair amount of cappuccino froth at the base of the falls. While I was there I thought I would have a bit of a climb around the place and explored the rocky areas in the middle of the river to try and get some better shots of the falls. Unfortunately it was a bit bright in the middle of the day so my long exposure shots were not the greatest. With a decent wander around I took one last look at the falls and began the 2.3km hike back to the car. The maintenance crews were still working away near the Boorara Tree so I couldn't get a closer look at it and left for my next destination.
Final Thoughts - I'm going to be honest here, this was not a super enjoyable trail and it has nothing to do with the area being affected by the 2015 bushfires. To me this trail is a lost opportunity and a bit of a dull affair.
It is essentially a walk down to the falls with little thought given to what might make an enjoyable hike on the bits that aren't looking at the falls. I get that it is cheaper and easier to follow the existing firebreak but there is nothing terribly enjoyable about it apart from the wildflowers to hold your interest.
You have the entire Boorara Gardner National Park to utilise and what is the only hike within the park is an uninspiring affair that could have been so much better. The wide firebreak would have been easier to swallow if the return leg followed a different route back to the car park on winding single track paths. Just a little bit of effort would have gone a long way here, especially given the lack of hiking trails in and around Northcliffe.
The falls themselves are nice but they have some stiff competition in the easier to access and much more impressive Beedelup Falls. In my opinion the falls alone aren't enough to make this a good hike but as I've said before, any walk in the Karri forest is alright with me so I was always going to do this hike.
You might have a better experience than I did and with time the forest may recover to a point where the understory is more developed and a bit more interesting.
Get out there and experience it!
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