Start - Windy Harbour Rd
Length - 1.5km (Return)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Granite Slab
Vertical Climb - 57m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 9th October 2017
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - This one is very easy to access. From Northcliffe, take Windy Harbour Rd and follow this for 17km until you see the signs for Mount Chudalup. The car park is well signed and a very short drive from Windy Harbour Rd. Once there you will find BBQ & toilet facilities along with an informative trail head.
The Hike - The final destination of my planned two week road trip was just outside of Pemberton in Channybearup (the place of the Channybear but what is a Channybear?). I found a fantastically rustic cottage on a working farm through AirBnB and had three nights to relax and use it as a base to explore some day hikes in the area. My plan after my previous hike at Sheila Hill in Denmark was to stay at Shannon NP and then do two of the hikes located in the national park the next day but the advice that I received that they were still open was not the case so Shannon National Park will have to wait for another time. With a broken car that didn't maintain speed on any hill meant I had to pick my spots when I could go hiking.
I decided that the Monday would be a good time as school holidays were finished and the only traffic I would probably see were the grey nomads, which usually aren't the quickest drivers anyway. I had a full day of hiking planned around Northcliffe and Pemberton and with great weather in the morning I decided that I would head off to Northcliffe first and tackle a couple of hikes that had been on the "to-hike" list for a couple of years. Northcliffe to me has always been a place that I looked at on the map and wondered why there aren't more trails of significant length in the area. The Bibbulmun Track does pass through the town but in terms of day hikes, there isn't much on offer besides a couple of short trails. Mount Chudalup is one of these short trails and at only 1.5km, it's not long but still interesting enough to make the trip out there worth it.
The geological history of the area is quite fascinating and there are several information boards telling you the story of what it was like over the past few hundred million years. I won't spoil it for you but I will say at one point this entire area was underwater and as the water levels receded over the years this would have been an island. Keeping that in the back of my mind on the hike was certainly a fun thought and my imagination was working overtime trying to visualise what the landscape would have looked like hundreds of millions of years ago. The start of the trail takes you from the information board along a wide access track that at the time of my visit was lined with heavy regrowth Karri forest as the area is still recovering from the devastating 2015 bushfires. Hiding among the thick undergrowth was a selection of wildflowers that I took great joy in photographing.
Not far up the trail you get to see the granite formation that is Mount Chudalup as you reach a small stream and the forest subsides. The trail continues in a looping fashion as you slowly rise out of the forest and into a more open setting. The information boards are great at connecting where you are in the hike to how the landscape around you was formed. When you reach the granite section of the hike there are boardwalks to help you navigate the slippery rock and protect the area from damage. This is where I slowed down a lot as the abundance of wildflowers on show was too good just to walk straight past. A couple up ahead was doing the same thing so I let them enjoy their space so they didn't feel rushed, not that I was in a great hurry. The final scramble up to the summit can be a little tricky if the rock face is wet but there are a couple of ways you can get up so be careful and do what feels right.
The summit is a very open rocky dome that is home to 42 species of moss, 28 species of lichen and 6 species of liverwort. Please be careful where you step and try not to trample the moss as it is a very delicate structure. When you have finished marvelling at what is on the rock face, the views off into the distance aren't bad either. You are only 173m ASL at the highest point but this is more than sufficient to scope out the surrounding lands. From up here you get to appreciate the Chudalup Plains, the Meerup and Doggerup Dunes and of course out to the might of the Southern Ocean. D'Entrecasteaux National Park is one of the more unique places in WA with a much wilder existence that gives way to some extreme landscapes. Standing above it all gives you a different perspective on this prehistoric landscape that is worth the price of admission.
Final Thoughts - Despite the short length, this was always a hike I was interested in as the D'Entrecasteaux National Park is short of hikes that aren't the Bibbulmun Track. Being able to take in the views of the plains from an elevated position is always a positive so it would be hard not to like this trail.
The Northcliffe/D'Entrecasteaux National Park area is lacking a good set of day hikes but at least the ones they have showcase the area well. Mount Chudalup is a good introduction to what makes this park so different from the forest dominated national parks located further inland.
If you are visiting the area and love seeing amazing views from the top of granite peaks (who doesn't) then add Mount Chudalup to your "to-hike" list. If you can time that visit in spring then it will be at its peak (I'm here all week, try the parmigiana).
Get out there and experience it!
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