Mount Cooke Circuit
Monadnocks Conservation Area

Mount Cooke Pine Plantation

16.3km (Loops)

573M

4-6 Hours

No

Free

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Wajuk people

DirectionsTake Albany Highway east from Armadale, driving for 36km until you reach Sullivan Rock. Continue along Albany Highway for another 9km until you see a small rest stop on the left hand side of the road with an unsealed road leading into the pines. Follow this to the end and turn left onto Cooke Rd, continuing on until you see a small car park on your right. It's not the easiest to find first time so the exact location is here. The trail is found by heading north, ignoring all tracks heading in any other direction.

The Hike - Mount Cooke was one of the first hikes I did up for the website way back in 2014 and is a place I try and visit every year because it is a fantastic place to explore. There are two ways to access Mount Cooke, the first being a long walk from Sullivan Rock and the second being the little car park at the base of the southern slopes that has an unofficial trail leading up to the summit. This second option is one I've not parked at before but have done the unofficial trail many times as a way to add on kilometres to a training hike or just explore the area for fun. 

With 2021 being full of mostly mountain biking adventures leading up to my Munda Biddi E2E, I didn't have much time to get out and hike some old favourites. This one I had been meaning to add to the website for quite some time as it allows for better access to the wonderful summit ridge of Mount Cooke without having to hike 9km or so along the Bibbulmun Track from Sullivan Rock (and then back again). With my Munda Biddi adventure over and a craving to get out on some hikes to enjoy the bumper wildflower season we were having in Western Australia, I scheduled in a visit here on a foggy morning in late September. With the sun rising earlier now it getting further into spring, I couldn't drag myself out of bed early enough to watch the sunrise from the summit given it was already an hours drive away. With the predicted fog hanging around for most of the morning it would have been all for nothing so I aimed for a still early 7am arrival time at the car park. Not having driven out here before, I knew roughly where the car park was but there are so many entrance points to the plantation that it can be confusing about which one to take.

 

If you pass under the powerlines then you've gone too far and most of the tracks leading into the pines end up coming to a finish at Cooke Rd, which is the road the car park is located on. I found it with relative ease and a baby blue Land Rover made life a bit easier. Having hiked here before, I knew the path from here but again, it can be confusing on your first visit. From the car park head north towards Mount Cooke and ignore all the side tracks leading off, you'll eventually reach a spot where it turns into a well formed single track as it runs along the seasonal creek. I really love hiking in foggy conditions as there is a shroud of the unknown all around you thanks to the limited visibility. It feels like you have escaped regular life and are just hiking in your immediate surrounds. From the car park I was impressed with the variety and volume of wildflowers all around, something that would cause me to take over 750 photos for the day. There were so many different types that I am trialling a new format for this post where one photo cell is split into three panels. 

With a record breaking July in terms of rainfall and a fairly wet spring, the creek running alongside the track was flowing and the surrounding forest felt very lush. I was dawdling quite a lot through here as it's a spectacular part of the walk and was full of wildflowers that I wanted to photograph. Rather than a gentle flat section then a climb like the hike in from Sullivan Rock, the ascent begins straight away on this hike but you pass through some really nice scenery while you get your heart racing. After a lovely section of forest along the creek, you pass next to a little granite waterfall (I mean little too) before climbing up onto the first of a few granite platforms. From here you'd normally start to see the small peaks up ahead but the fog was doing a great job of keeping everything hidden. After running next to the creek for a bit longer, you make a left turn and start the steeper climbing up through the thick vegetation that was popping with colour thanks to some Rose Coneflowers and plenty of flowering Parrot Bush. Reaching the edge of another granite platform with sweeping views over the lower slopes, I spotted the first of a couple of Spider Orchids that brought even more joy to my morning. 

 

I love seeing these delicate orchids and spent a bit of time getting the right photo before moving onto the trickiest spot to navigate through here (which isn't saying too much). A mix of dense bush and granite with all different paths leading off can be confusing but look for the little navigation cairns and you'll soon arrive at the base of a large granite section leading to where you join the Bibbulmun Track. It's obvious where the Bibbulmun Track goes as there are markers bolted into the granite and I chose to continue north along the ridge line towards the summit. This circuit I find to be hard to do in one loop as I enjoy both the ridge line from here and the southern section of the Bibbulmun leading down the hill. You can choose your own adventure around here but my ideal route would be and out and back hike to the Mount Cooke Group Campsite and then finish that off by heading south along the Bibb and loop back to the car park. This will become obvious later on in the post but for now I was happy to be on the moody looking slopes of the southern side of Mount Cooke. Up ahead is the famous Mount Cooke Cave, an obvious spot if you know what to look out for (two big boulders when looking east on the track just after a rocky climb heading north).

I didn't stay too long at the cave, having visited several times before so moved on to explore the ridge while the fog was still hanging around. Unlike most granite peaks in the area, Mount Cooke has a proper ridge line that is full of stunning scenery and giant boulders that you weave in and out of. It makes for a really enjoyable hike and I can see why people keep coming back for return visits (much like myself). I was enjoying the thick covering of Karri Hazel either side of the track in places, making it feel a bit wintery with the white flowers sort of looking like a dusting of snow. The smell was incredible as I continued on to my favourite spot on the entire ridge, a round granite platform with sweeping views looking east and off towards the northern section of the ridge. On a sunny day I love nothing more than to take my boots off and lie down on the warm granite and stare out over the seemingly endless forests to the east. It brings me great peace looking out over the landscape and is a big reason I enjoy hiking so much. Being early I had the whole place to myself but it was a little cold and wet to be laying on the granite, plus I couldn't see very far with the foggy conditions.

The trail from this spot heading north gets quite interesting with a dip down followed by a climb up past some truly impressive boulders. Steps help through here when the trail gets a bit steep and there are plenty of spots to stand still and take in the excellent views or marvel at the incredible size of the granite marbles. The wildflowers through here continued to be excellent with Flame Peas, Darwinnia, Snakebush and Old Mans Beard adding to the numerous varieties I had already seen so far. I was still meandering at a slow pace as I wanted to soak it all as this would likely be my last visit here for many moons. Heading up and down the various slots between boulders, I reached another favourite spot of mine, the granite bulge sticking out of the ground right before the summit. It's surrounded by forest and a really cool spot to walk along, especially if all the moss is that moist green colour it gets during the wetter months. Reaching the summit cairn, I've always thought this spot was a bit anti-climactic as there are no views to see from the official high spot. Someone has rightfully placed another cairn on top of a nearby boulder that technically is the highest point, even if it's a little difficult for the average person to get up there. 

As this was the summit, it was all downhill from here and I could enjoy the northern slopes heading down towards the Mount Cooke Campsite. This section may not have as many large granite marbles as the ridge but it makes up for this by containing some excellent forest and lookout platforms. The first platform is a short distance from the summit cairn and on a clear day you get views looking out towards Mount Vincent, Cuthbert and Randall. Heading down a trail next to the large granite slope, the wildflowers through here continued to be excellent with one variety I had never seen before. At the base of the granite you head into the forest and I found another Spider Orchid hiding behind a Grass Tree. This stretch leading down the hill is fantastic with old trees, granite boulders and plenty of Grass Trees to enjoy. Reaching another viewing platform, this one slightly off the track but very obvious, I could see that the fog was starting to lift slightly and the three mountains in the distance were starting to become more visible. Continuing down the hill I came across a couple of trail runners and then a group of scouts that had stayed at Mount Cooke the night before. 

On the lower slopes of the hill you get some more views looking down the valley that contains a stream that eventually feeds into the Canning River. Reaching more level ground, this stretch of forest leading to the campsite is lined with plenty of wildflowers from winter to late spring and today it was looking a treat. Carpets of red peas, lots of Cottonheads, droseras and Triggerplants lined the edge of the trail and made the experience just that little bit better. Reaching the Mount Cooke Campsite, I always enjoy my time here as it's nestled in a stunning part of the forest with the nearby creek a hidden feature. I had a bit of a break here, signing the log book and having a snack before continuing on towards the group campsite. The 500m linking trail is another section I enjoy with plenty of crown trees (tree stumps with many new limbs growing off it). I've never been a big fan of the group campsite as it seems a little open and cold but it's designed for large parties like scouts and school groups so there has never been a need to stay there. It's great it is there so the regular campsite don't get overcrowded so I enjoy it for that aspect.