Start - Just off South Western Hwy
Length - 1.2km (Loop)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 47m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes, Occasional Marker
Date Hiked - 26th September 2020
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Minang People
Directions - From the centre of Walpole, head west on South Western Hwy for 28km until you see the small sign for Mt Burnett. Take a right here and park in the rest area. The trail starts on the southern side with a new information board showing a map.
The Hike - With changed plans on a day exploring around Walpole, I was ticking off a few trails on my to-hike list. As chance would have it, as I was checking out at the Tingle All Over Backpackers I noticed a Walks Around Walpole paper brochure on the desk so had a bit of a look. The only place noted was Mount Burnett and based on the location, I wasn't sure it was going to be the best. As I passed it heading out to Mount Pingerup, it looked nothing more than a rest stop on the side of South Western Hwy but given it's close proximity to Mount Pingerup, I decided to check it out after that hike. Parking up in the rest stop area, it actually looked quite promising with wildflowers dotting all around the car park.
The limited information I had on this trail suggested it was a very short trail and I initially expected this to be a little loop to a granite outcrop. Reaching the trail head and the relatively new looking information board, I was pleasantly surprised to see that this was longer than expected and the type of terrain ahead looked very nice. The little map showed a creek crossing and a small granite hill that the trail looped around with one of the local beetles perhaps hinting that more of him could be found at the creek crossing based on his position on the map. It's always the trails where you have low expectations that impress the most and this one was shaping up to be a nice little walk. Descending the small hill, through lovely looking forest filled with Blue Squills and many other wildflowers, I reached the low lying area that you wouldn't know was there driving past. Passage through the reeds and tall grasses is provided by a section of boardwalk that also keeps your feet dry in the wetter months when the water course here is flowing (and also protects the environment). Being springtime there was an amazing display of wildflowers sprouting up everywhere and the variety was already greater than Mount Pingerup.
Standing in the middle of the boardwalk with the sound of the creek water gurgling away, it was cool to look up and down where the creek flowed and see nothing but grass. These natural flood plains are common in this part of the state and the trees really don't like growing there. Prevalent all throughout this area were some fluffy looking White Banjine, plenty of Pink Boronia and a few Acacia varieties. The chorus of frog ribbits was strong but finding one to photograph was hard so I continued along the boardwalk as it reached the edges of the forest. The quality through here continued with the trail leading to the point where the loop section starts lined with more wildflowers than you could poke a stick at. With a nice canopy overhead, these were perfect conditions for the forest floor to spring into life thanks to the shadier conditions. Reaching a fork in the trail, the walking man points you to the right to start the loop and I was in no mood to argue so headed in that direction. Finding flowering Hakea, Grannys Bonnets, Hovea, Petrophiles, Chorizema rhombeum, Yellow Flag and more Blue Squills, the variety was some of the best I've seen on a trail in terms of sheer difference within a short stretch.
Reaching a large section of the lower granite slope that makes up the bulk of Mount Burnett, the exposed rock is a nice change. Still containing the green moss that loves growing in whatever free covering of soil that it can survive in, it looked very pretty in the morning sun. Skirting the base of the granite, it isn't long before you reach the forested section again and a return to the brilliant wildflowers. I'm not joking when I say I was genuinely expecting a new variety of wildflower around every bend and the trail pretty much delivered. I don't have the space on this post to put in every wildflower that I saw but the number of different types I photographed was 28 and I'm sure I missed quite a few more. Rising up to the highest point along the trail at 82m ASL (the creek is only 36m ASL), you enter a patch of really old forest with some super thicc boi trees. I love walking through forest like this where it's been left to it's own devices over the years and can grow to this size. Passing some rogue granite boulders, there was a nice Tassel Flower growing right in front of one that provided a nice contrast of new and very old. The trail feels like it winds around a lot but that just adds to the enjoyment as you never know what you'll discover around the next corner.
What I did discover around the corner was pretty cool with a Spider Orchid catching my attention in the undergrowth. After walking the Cape to Cape the previous week, my eyes were well trained to pick up the different wildflowers and orchids in the undergrowth so when I notice something unusual, most of the time it's one of the rarer orchids. Having not seen a Spider Orchid on Mount Pingerup, this put a smile on my dial and I spent quite a bit of time here on all fours trying to get some good photos of this variety (not sure of the exact name of this one). Chuffed by the find, my mind began thinking of all the possibilities of what laid ahead. Was I going to find a super rare orchid that I could name? Most likely not as this was a defined path that I'm sure they did a very good flora study on before installing but one can dream. Starting to descend, I reached a really cool granite platform that I guess you could call the summit, even if it was below the highest point of the hill. The reason for this is you get better views from this spot over the surrounding forest and across to surrounding hills, Mount Pingerup being one of them.
The lookout area is a very short side trail to reach the little wooden seat that provides a nice spot to have a sit and enjoy the views. This area was home to some new varieties of wildflowers with a pink and white pom pom style that is not a common one I see in WA. On this granite platform I also spotted some vine drosera that looked to have some success catching prey with its sticky pads and the only Donkey Orchid I saw along the trail. I spent a bit of time here because I really didn't have anywhere to be and this place was very relaxing to walk in that I didn't want to leave. After taking in the views for a little longer, I did pry myself away and re-joined the trail as the loop continued downhill. Heading back into the comfortable surrounds of the old forest, little did I know that I would be in for one last treat before the experience was over. Reaching the edge of the granite slope that you were just at the top of, the trail takes you right along the edge of the granite wall. Here I found my second grouping of Spider Orchids growing right against the wall and there were plenty to choose from when it came to photos. All along the granite there must have been a dozen or so sprouting out of the cracks where soil has been deposited over the years.
Wedged between the forest and the granite, this was a really fun spot to explore with plenty to keep my interest. Whether that be large fungi growing on the trees or some old fallen timber that is now resting up against the granite, it was a nice place to be. Up ahead was the northern end of the granite slope I walked along earlier in the loop and with the clouds starting to roll over, the lighting was a little bit better for capturing the forest. Here I found the best of the Cowslip Orchids that were common sights along the trail but these ones turned out the best when I came to edit the photos. With the loop section ending, you re-join the path leading towards the boardwalk and head back to the car park. I still took my time here, reflecting on what a nice little surprise this was and pondering if anyone actually walked it given the lack of information and underwhelming signage from the highway. As it happened, I ran into a young couple on the other side of the boardwalk who were headed out on the trail, whether they saw my car parked up from the highway or were planning on doing this walk I am unsure but it was great to see people enjoying it. I reached my car with another small trail near Walpole in the bag, excited to be able to share this one with the world when I eventually returned home and wrote it up.
Final Thoughts - Walpole is blessed to be surrounded by some of the best forests and landscapes of the entire state and it's a shame that we don't have more trails exploring this beautiful area.
Mount Burnett is a welcome addition to the trails within a short drive of Walpole and highlights what a special area it is.
As I said earlier, this was one of the best wildflower walks I've done with the density and variety of wildflowers in spring simply amazing. Add in two lots of Spider Orchids and I was in heaven.
It's hard to describe the feeling I had when walking this one but it felt very special, as if this small pocket was hidden away and I was one of a handful of people to have ever found it. Given it's proximity to the highway and marked trail this isn't the case but it had a certain magic to it that I really enjoyed.
It may not look like much from the highway but Mount Burnett is a hidden gem of a trail that is well worth the stop.
Get out there and experience it!
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