Mount Clarence Heritage Trail
Directions - From the centre of Albany drive to Stirling Terrace and follow that until it becomes Brunswick Rd. Follow the signs to the National Anzac Centre. At the roundabout, take the first left (Apex Drive) and follow that all the way to the end.
The Hike - The tale of this hike starts off in Denmark and moves into the depths of the Stirling Range before finishing on top of the City of Albany overlooking the vast expanse of King George Sound and beyond. Having finished Mount Magog, my next destination was Denmark to meet Donovan and Alissa from The Long Way's Better before Donovan and I would tackle the Stirling Ridge Walk the next day. Alissa's parents had graciously put me up for the night but as I was locating their place my car started to play up, losing speed up hills and generally feeling like it had no power.
Hoping it was just a dodgy batch of fuel I drove to Bluff Knoll with the issue still there. When we returned to the car it was running very rough and it was a mission and a half just to limp it back to Denmark (in the fading light of sunset with emus and kangaroos running all over the roads). Long story short, I had to limp it home to Perth as the mechanic in Albany couldn't fix it and my hiking plans were shot to bits. My planned 21 hike road trip was reduced to doing what I could that didn't involve driving long distances or up and down hills. This is how I came to add this hike to my list as I needed something to do while the mechanic in Albany was looking at my car all day. So...the Mount Clarence Heritage Trail. Albany is sandwiched between two granite domes, Mount Melville to the west and Mount Clarence to the east and both provide some excellent views of the surrounding area. Mount Clarence is the best known as it is home to the National Anzac Centre (an excellent experience) and some of the best views found in Albany from several strategic lookouts (literally). The area is also home to a small network of trails that cater to both hikers and mountain bikers. As I had not brought my mountain bike and I had a whole day to explore Albany, I decided that would tackle the Mount Clarence Heritage Trail to provide yet another Albany experience to the website.
With no car I was relying on my two pins to get around so decided to grab some breakfast first before hitting the trails. Donovan recommended Gormandise & Co on Stirling Terrace and I was not disappointed with my coffee and Pain au chocolat. I took the long way up to the start point, following the road you would take if you drove and in the warm morning sunshine I was enjoying the gentle stroll past old style homes and pleasant gardens. A cruise ship was docked in the harbour so there were plenty of people being ferried up and down the road to the Anzac Centre including an old converted fire engine that is meant for hen’s parties and the like. I loved that the town felt alive that day and everyone was getting out and about to explore the beautiful locations that Albany has to offer. Apex Drive is also called the Avenue of Honour and leads all the way up to Desert Mounted Corps Memorial, the finishing point for the 3.2km loop. Like the National Anzac Centre it is a very humbling experience to read all the information boards that line the road and also the plaques under the trees that are dedicated to fallen soldiers.
The walk from town is not a short one and will add another 7km on to your day if you choose to go this way. I found out there is a shorter way of getting there by going to the end of Hill St and following the trail back up to the Desert Mounted Corps Memorial. Finally starting the trail (sorry it took so long to get to this point), I noticed that it is meant to be a dual use trail between walkers and mountain bikers but there was a sign stating that it was closed to mountain bikers. Wandering down the narrow path lined with pleasant wildflowers everywhere I couldn't help but wonder how a mountain biker would stop if a walker appeared on the trail or conversely how a walker would be able to get out of the way in time if they heard a bike coming. Luckily I didn't have those issues today but kept an ear out for any rumblings just in case. The forest section does not last too long and then you arrive at a set of stairs leading down to a 4x4 track. I met a couple of women there who looked lost and my suspicions were confirmed when they asked me if I knew how to get to the Anzac Centre.