Mount Dale Circuit
Helena National Park
Directions - Take Brookton Highway east from Armadale until you reach the turnoff for Ashendon Road. Follow this for 3-4km before making a right turn onto Dale Road. This takes you all the way to the summit where there is a car park. Head along the path south of the summit lookout where you will find a path leading to where the loop begins.
The Hike - Mount Dale is a place that I adore and have enjoyed every visit I've been fortunate enough to take. I first visited back in 2015 and it was one of the very early posts for the website and as such, was long overdue for a refresh of photos. Nostalgia is a big thing for me so if I was going to return then I was going to try and recreate the experience so this meant an early start in winter to get there for a misty sunrise. While I was on my own in 2015, I had extended an invitation to friends as part of a series of hiking/movie weekends we would be holding over the hiking season. Unfortunately one couple came down with illness and Aron's partner bailed on the very early start so it was just myself and Aron left to enjoy the experience.
With Mount Dale being over an hour from home, it was an early start to ensure I was there for first light and it was good timing that I caught up to Aron just as we both approached the summit car park. I have mixed feelings about the summit car park as it allows people to get some great views that may not be able to but at the same time, it's an area that is abused and disrespected by idiot bogans who go up there to drink and graffiti the place. Full disclosure here, I did not check the DBCA or TrailsWA website before visiting and didn't know the trail had been closed for however long it had been (thanks to the Bibb Track Volunteers it is now open again) due to the track being horribly overgrown (more on that later). First on the agenda was watching the sunrise as this is a fantastic spot to do it thanks to the uninterrupted views looking over the vast forests to the east. Making our way up to the communications tower, we found a path and looped back around to find a good spot to watch the sunrise. Fighting through the thick undergrowth, we found an open area of granite and climbed back up the hill to where a few boulders provided a clear view. The pretty pink and blue hues of pre-dawn that reminded me of my morning on Mount Chance in 2019 were starting to change and soon we could see the sun starting to peak above the horizon.
On my first visit here the fog and mist was a lot thicker and produced an otherworldly scene but we were still fortunate enough to get a thin blanket covering the forest. While it was cold standing there watching the sunrise, the excellent views more than made up for that and I had great fun snapping away at different angles and focal lengths. It wasn't the most stunning of light shows but a solid all-round performance. With the sun well above the horizon, we decided to head back and start the loop properly. As it turns out, we could access the spot we had chosen to watch the sunrise from by a connecting path from the communications tower so we took that back to the southern entrance of the loop (it makes more sense when you're up there). Starting the Garmin, we headed in a clockwise direction to take in the western slope first and it was a battle heading along the overgrown trail. The reason for the severe growth is that this area was affected by a bushfire in 2015 and as is typical when a fire goes through, it encourages certain species to thrive like the Parrot Bush that is found here.
When we weren't battling through the thick undergrowth, the views here were absolutely stunning. To the south is the forested expanse leading towards Mount Vincent, Mount Cuthbert and Mount Cooke and it was nice to stare out and think back to my various adventures on the Bibbulmun Track through there. The last time Aron and I were in this area we were walking between Mount Dale and Sullivan Rock on an overnighter so the views looking south covered all the area we walked that weekend. Eventually we came across an open area that was easy to navigate and this extends towards a granite platform that I had issues with last time figuring out where to go. This time it was fairly easy with a distinguishable walking pad leading over the granite where I was delighted to find an array of early season wildflowers, fungi and one of my favourite plants, the Sundew. As I stopped to photograph everything, I reflected on how much I miss just being out on a winter weekend admiring the vast array of flora that the Jarrah forests contain. A disappointing find along here was all the broken glass on the granite thanks to the bogans who camp up at the summit and then throw their beer bottles over the edge because of their simple minds.
I remember this being an issue back in 2015 so it really wasn't a surprise that it hasn't changed, even more so given DBCA haven't given a thought to maintaining this trail in the past six years. Remembering the issues I had last time, we searched around for the exit off the granite and figured the traffic cone leading up towards the lookout was more of a "don't go this way" warning and we were correct. There is a wooden marker with a blue triangle leading you into the forest and this started one of the more enjoyable sections of the loop. This area wasn't burnt in the 2015 fires and therefore is still a pleasant place to walk. Heading downhill towards the lower car park, there was a lot to photograph through here thanks to the wildflowers, lichen, grass trees and thick boi trees that live on the lower slopes. Aron was well ahead of me now as I stopped a lot to take photos and just soak in the majesty of the forest but I soon caught up as we reached the lower car park and picnic area. There were a couple of cars down here that looked to have camped the night but we gave them a wide berth as the trail heads onto a flat granite area with views looking west.