Start - End of Mount Frankland Rd
Length - 2.5km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Pavement, Granite Slab
Vertical Climb - 116m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 25th September 2020
Best Time - All Year Round
Traditional Custodians - Minang People
Directions - From the centre of Walpole, head north on North Walpole Road all the way to Mount Frankland Road. Take a turn here and follow the signs all the way to the car park. The trail starts from the new information structure.
The Hike - Mount Frankland was a hike I first did in Christmas 2016 and I have extremely fond memories of that day (you can view that post here). Unfortunately in the process of transferring photos between computers and hard drives, I accidently deleted all the raw images from that trip a couple of years ago. With my 2020 Spring Road Trip taking me to the Walpole area, I decided to re-visit Mount Frankland as I made my way down from Funbury via Skeleton Bridge and the Bridgetown River Walk. With the weather rolling in I was hoping to reach this lovely hike before it hit and also with enough light to be able to photograph it properly. Arriving at the car park at 4:30pm, I found I was the only one there and that the lighting was getting very dim.
Figuring I would have a wander around and if the photos didn't turn out or it started to rain heavily then it wouldn't be a big deal. First on the cards was to visit the Walpole Wilderness Lookout that I completely missed the last time I was here. I think because I still had to drive back to Fremantle that day and didn't think it was worth it at the time. Seeing photos from it afterwards I realised I was wrong so now I was finally going to rectify that mistake. Walking out on the metal boardwalk that hugs the side of a granite hill dominated by Karri forest and a mossy rock face, I was off to a good start. It's only a short journey to the edge of the hill where the metal boardwalk extends out and you reach a nice spot overlooking the vast forests below. It's a great sight to witness with nothing man made for as far as the eye can see. With Mount Mitchell and Mount Roe in the distance, it would be fantastic to see a longer walking trail running through this area given how pristine it looks. For now the weather looked to be holding off but the lookout is north facing so I wasn't aware of what was about to arrive.
Heading back to the impressive information building near the car park, it was time to enjoy the hike I had done almost four years ago. There are three official trails here, the short 500m return walk to the Walpole Wilderness Lookout, the 1.2km return trip to the summit of Mount Frankland or the 2km Caldyanup Trail that takes you around the base of the granite dome and up to the summit. The first little part to the Old Towerman's Hut is a pleasant amble on the paved trail passing through cream coloured Karri and a dense, wildflower filled undergrowth. Reaching the old hut, this area serves as a picnic spot if you have packed one on your travels. If not then have a look around at the hut that was used by the watchmen as a base to record their observations in between running up and down to the summit of Mount Frankland to look out for nearby bushfires. It would have been a pretty lonely workday but I can see the appeal of having this area all to yourself and making the climb a few times a day to stare out on this beautiful landscape.
Entry to the Caldyanup Trail from the Towerman's Hut area is a bit inconspicuous with a simple walking sign on the ground pointing you into the Karri forest. Knowing this was the correct route was previous experience made it easy and soon I was buried in the lush undergrowth of the forest, admiring the spring wildflowers. I was pleased to see the giant twin Karri trees that the trail goes right between and in the grey conditions I was having a fantastic time. I love moody walks in the forest and this was about as moody as the weather could get without needing to put my camera due to the rain. Add in the lack of people and this was turning out to be the perfect way to end a lovely day of hiking. One thing I didn't photograph nearly as much as I should have on my previous trip was the view looking down the hill with the trunks of the mighty Karri rising up as foreground objects. What makes the Caldyanup Trail so special is how close the trail takes you to the base of the granite dome and how stunning the juxtaposition is of solid rock and towering forest. These sorts of views never cease to amaze me and I was still as impressed with the scene as when I first saw it.
Skirting the base of the granite dome, I was taking a lot more photos that I originally did, interested in all the nooks and crannies carved into the granite. It's amazing to see how well the moss clings to the side of the dome considering how much force the cascading water must place on it, along with how enough soil actually got there in the first place. Switching my gaze between the granite slope and the views through the forest, I continued along the trail as it snaked its way up and down the rocky slope. At one point you get some better views looking down into the forest with a few large boulders providing an excellent focal point. With fading light and the air starting to smell very moist, I pushed on, hoping to reach the summit before the predicted rain really hit. Reaching the end of the section that sweeps around the base, there is a brief jaunt through thicker undergrowth before you reach some different views looking south towards another nearby peak. In among the forested view is the Frankland River, not quite visible through the trees but slowly winding its way down towards the coast.
After coming across a swath of Flame Peas covering the base of a large tree, I arrived at a section I had been wanting to see ever since a friend had told me about the upgrades here. Reaching the granite slope that you must cross as part of the loop, gone is the charming old wooden boardwalk and in it's place is a stainless steel replica that while probably much safer, does not have the same je ne sais quoi. Stainless Steel has become the material of choice for Parks and Wildlife and I know why, I just lament the loss of the old wooden structure. I made an attempt to recreate my favourite photo from the last time I was here to show the change but it had started to drizzle so it was a quick effort before I hurried to finish the rest of the hike. Popping out onto the paved path where the hairpin bend takes you either back to the start (right) or up to the summit (left), I started briskly walking up to the summit. Stopping occasionally to photograph something cool like the concrete staircases or the metal steps, I wish I had arrived maybe an hour earlier to get better lighting. With it being quite dark for most of the hike, I had to crank the ISO up on my camera to compensate and as a result the photos are quite grainy. It does give them a certain style but I still would have preferred a little more light.
The views as you climb up to the summit are some of the best of the whole trail with the combination of distant hills, oodles of forest and the bare granite making for some tasty scenes. Reaching the final lots of steps next to the metal fence, I could see the old watchtower that has since been modernised to replace the human that once did the job of fire lookout. The summit is quite flat but given the bare granite slopes, I can see why the fence is needed. On a wet day it would be quite easy to slip and go tumbling down the slope. Speaking of wet, it was drizzling harder now so I quickly snapped some photos of the 360 degree views and went to find some shelter next to the small watchtower. After updating Caris on my whereabouts I started my way back down the granite where I slowed up a bit more to enjoy the views. Spotting a Donkey Orchid that I had missed in my hast getting to the top, it was a cool little find. Once I was back in the forest, it wasn't long before I was at the car park and ready to head into Walpole for a hot shower and a nice meal. I couldn't resist stopping on one of the gravel roads as I left Mount Frankland to photograph the Karri forest as it just looks so good and I love any moments I get to spend admiring these giants. What a great day of hiking new trails and old favourites, finished off with a nice dinner and wine at Top Deck Cafe.
Final Thoughts - I can't believe it's been four years since my last visit here but it was nice to get back and experience the magic once again.
2020 has seen the upgrade of many pages on this website and Mount Frankland now receives the same treatment. I don't think I could have picked more opposite days to visit with my first trip being beautiful and sunny while this was moody and grey.
I love seeing places in different conditions and these were two different experiences that still had the same enjoyment. Mount Frankland is a really accessible hike that most people should be able to get through, even if the legs start to wobble on the way back down.
You cannot beat the combination of Karri, granite, wildflowers and views, something this trail has in abundance.
Get out there and experience it!
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