Start - Falls Rd Car Park, Lesmurdie
Length - 3km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Vertical Climb - N/A
Time - 1 hour
For a change of pace this week I headed out to the Perth Hills to check out the Lesmurdie Falls and what it had to offer. While the trail is only a junior version of some of the hikes I have been reviewing - it certainly warrants a look - especially if you have a family or a four legged friend.
The main reason I headed out for such a small hike is the arrival of a couple of packages from eBay full of exciting new camera gear. With a few ND filters at my disposal and an infrared remote to top it off, I wanted to test out what my relic of a DSLR could do by trying my hand at daytime long exposure shots. Seeing as I was already out of Fremantle doing some mountain biking (full feature to come soon) I thought I would finally see the falls for myself after reading about them online.
Getting to the trail is very easy. Turn on to Welshpool Rd East from Roe Highway and keep going uphill until you reach the top and take the second left onto Lesmurdie Rd. Follow the winding road until you reach St Bridgets College (a very picturesque school) and take the first left after the college, which is Falls Rd. Drive all the way to the end until you see the car park. On a nice day you will struggle to find a spot (I grabbed the last one) but I'm sure there is plenty more parking if you are willing to walk a little further. Head down the stairs and an information board will present itself to you with a map of all the trails available. These range from 400m walks to the lookouts to the full 3km loop from the top of the falls to the bottom and back.
As I wanted some practice with long exposure shots and I didn't drive all the way out here for a short stroll, I opted for the 3km loop. The first little section follows a paved path down to Lesmurdie Brook where it continues to run parallel with the trail until you reach the lookouts. All throughout you can hear the sound of gushing water and it's not long before you arrive at the main event.
All of a sudden you emerge from the trees to a vista that many of the trails in the Perth Hills offer (including some I have already visited). What makes this view unique is the sight and sounds of the nearby Lesmurdie Falls, which cascades down the rock face for 50m until it continues along its merry way as the unassuming Lesmurdie Brook. There are two lookouts here, both complete with platforms that allow you to peek into the valley below through the grated sheets of metal. The first platform overhangs the top of the falls and you get to see the quiet brook turn into a raging waterfall as the water descends into the valley below. A bit further on the second platform gives a more complete view of the falls and the Swan Coastal Plain.
This point marks the end of the shorter trails but the path continues on with a more traditional orange gravel and straddles the cliffs above the falls. With a great view in front of you and the falls behind you it is always a tough decision as to what you look at. Eventually you will look like a spectator at Wimbledon switching between views but you won't be alone. If you keep heading down this path it will take you to the lower car park and the "Foot of the Falls" part of the trail. The single track eventually gives way to a 4x4 track and although it is not very well signed, just keep heading downhill and you will soon reach the car park.
When you reach the car park turn right and follow the path towards the base of the falls. Again the trail follows the Lesmurdie Brook and there are plenty of spots to deviate off the path and explore the many rocky sections. The walk to the falls is only 300-400m long but you can hear the sound of water on rock all the way from the car park so it's hard not to rush towards your destination. The first glimpse of the falls is slightly obstructed but you can see what a special place this is and why it is always so crowded. As you continue on the view gets clearer and clearer with every step improves how much you can see. To get the best views you will have to do some rock hopping and depending on what time of year, risk getting your shoes wet.
At the very base of the falls (where most of my shots were taken) you can get really close to main waterfall. It does involve climbing over wet rocks and I saw more than a few people come close to going home wet and sore. Here I picked a spot to setup my tripod so I wasn't blocking the path and set about trying my hand at long exposure photography.
After some initial difficulty with over exposed shots (the online tutorial I watched had an exposure length of two minutes, which is a lifetime for bright sunshine) I finally saw some better results. While the shots weren't close to perfect, I managed to get a little bit of that silkiness that the technique is after (see gallery below). With more practice I think I might be able to produce some better results. I'm thinking another trip to Kitty's Gorge Trail might be in order. After watching another family climb their way to what seemed the most popular photo location I packed up my things and headed back.
Given the trail takes you from the top of the falls to the valley below, the walk back is not unexpectantly all uphill and not to be taken lightly. If you are taking kids then be prepared to provide piggy backs on the way back to the car as it's a fair effort to get back up the trail. The lack of signage on the 4x4 tracks will also make it difficult to find your way back. I missed a left turn on the 4x4 track and ended up high above the intended trail, which resulted in some better views of the city but also meant I had to create my own path back down to the trail (I'm guessing this won't be as easy with children). Once I reached the proper trail it was a short walk to the car park and the end of the trail.
Final Thoughts - You can judge this trail two ways. The first way is to think of it as a lesser trail designed for tourists with oversized cameras and families with their screaming children spoiling the atmosphere of a great location. The second way is a great snapshot of the Australian bush on the doorstep of suburban Perth that is an opportunity to introduce families to the wonders of trail walking.
There is some truth to both of those views. While I confess I love my trails empty, quiet and natural, I can understand that giving visitors the opportunity to visit such stunning places without much effort means Western Australia will continue to be a premier tourist destination.
Would this place be more special if it was at the end of a challenging 10km hike? Of course it would but we need places like this to show people what makes this state so special and you can't fault it in the way it executes this. To avoid this stunning place because you have to dodge the occasional tourist or family would be a shame.
I recommend this trail for all and for the best photo conditions make sure you check it out in the late afternoon (base of the falls) and sunset (above the falls).
Get out there and experience it!
Be sure to tag any Lesmurdie Falls photos with #thelifeofpy and if you enjoyed this hike then feel free to share this page on Facebook with your friends.