Mount Dale Circuit
Start - Mount Dale Summit, End of Dale Road
Length - 3km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track
Vertical Climb - 118m
Time - 1 Hour
Signed - Occasional Markers
Date Hiked - 7th June 2021
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Traditional Custodians - Wajuk People
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 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 think 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.
The wildflowers through this area were pretty cool with a Darwinia, Fox Tails and Buttercups brightening up the undergrowth (and my heart). Just past the picnic area is the popular parking spot for Bibbulmun hikers doing the sections either side of here and it was nice to see so many walkers out and about. This is also the site of a couple of oddities, one being a pair of graves and the other being a dream catcher that apparently has been around since the '90s. Crossing Dale Road, it was comforting seeing the familiar Bibbulmun Track waugul as it points you back into the forest. Following the Bibbulmun for a short while, you eventually turn right when you see the boot marker and start an uphill hike towards the eastern slopes. Again, this part of the forest was not burnt in 2015 and the undergrowth had settled down with a variety of different flora able to thrive. Aron was ahead of me and stopped to point out a dead leaf in the middle of the track that had some deep orange water droplets on it that really stood out. Continuing to climb, we lost the trail at one point as there wasn't a clear pad to follow but eventually came across the correct route. Just before we reached another granite platform, the regrowth returned and it became a scratchy battle to fight through.
We could still see the trail but at times it was comical how thick it was in places. The granite section provided some respite and also some excellent views looking back towards the north and west. Climbing up onto the high point of the eastern slopes, the stunning vistas that we enjoyed at sunrise returned, albeit with a less golden look thanks to the sun being a little higher in the sky. I was happy to see the mist had not dissipated and was still providing a picturesque blanket over the forest below. It was a nice walk along the contours of the hillside as we switched between manageable sections of the trail and thick undergrowth. As we arrived back at our sunrise spot, the trail looked to be pretty clear leading down the hill a little so we followed it. As we headed further downhill it became apparent that this was not the loop trail as it wasn't overgrown and our elevation was way too low. This is the off-track route you can follow on one of the WalkGPS walks and when we arrived back at the granite spot, it was quite amusing to see where the official loop trail was meant to go compared to the off-track section. Now back on the loop, it wasn't long before we had battled back to the summit car park where we inspected the crude graffiti on the hand rail. Being a long way to drive for a 3km loop, we parked at the Dale and Omeo Road intersection and did a return walk to the Mount Dale Campsite, adding another 5km to our morning walk.
Final Thoughts – As I said to start this post, I love this area and it's worth getting out here for sunrise if you can. The summit car park makes it easy to get in a good position but the downside of that is the rubbish and graffiti.
When I finished this hike I visited the TrailsWA website to report the overgrown sections and broken glass (didn't notice the trail closed notice even then) and the response from DBCA was along the lines of "we don't have the resources to deal with it so just closed the trail".
To not be able to spare a couple of people for an afternoon to cut back the Parrot Bush says a lot about the state of WA trails. I don't get paid to maintain trails and still manage to look after two sections of the Bibbulmun while working full-time at another job so there is no excuse here.
No money, no investment and not a lot of care for existing trails doesn't bode well for the potential of getting more trails. I encourage everyone to write to their local member of parliament and demand DBCA get funded properly and not just so they can scorch every hectare forest with prescribed burns.
Hopefully by the time you're reading this and getting out there they have fixed it but given the reviews on the TrailsWA site date back to 2019, I doubt this is anywhere near a priority for them.
Even with the regrowth, the trail is reasonably easy to follow and the previously unburnt sections combined with the excellent views are more than worth the effort. Adding in a section of the Bibbulmun Track to the Mount Dale Campsite (5km return heading south) or Beraking Campsite (20km return heading north) makes this a great half day or full day hike.
Get out there and experience it!
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