Start - End of Mount Pingerup Rd
Length - 5.1km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 169m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Wooden Board
Date Hiked - 26th September 2020
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - From the centre of Walpole, head west on South Western Hwy for 29km until you see the small sign for Mt Pingerup. Take a left here and follow the vehicle track until you reach the small car park on the left. The trail continues along the vehicle track after the info board.
The Hike - With my spring road trip continuing, I had a full day in Walpole to take in some hikes that were on my to-do list. Originally I had planned to do the Nuyts Wilderness Walk over two days but the forecast was for a storm to roll through and rain for most of today. Normally a bit of rain wouldn't phase me but I didn't want to rush to the campsite and sit in my tent all afternoon while it rained. The forecast had changed to show the rain arriving from 9am onwards so I changed my plans to take in a few day hikes around Walpole that were on my list or needed an update of photos. Wanting to get the new hikes in first, I headed out to a place I had previously visited on a week long hike but not done as a day walk.
Located just off South Western Highway west of Walpole, there is a tiny little street sign pointing you into the bush along a vehicle track (2WD accessible) to the car park. Having hiked in this area the previous year as I did Northcliffe to Walpole on the Bibbulmun Track, I knew you could access this spot from the highway and figured the walk in was just on the vehicle track that extends to up near the summit. Reaching the small car park and the bollards stopping you driving any further, I parked up and had a look at the new looking information board. With sunny skies above, I was keen to get going and reach the summit before this weather was meant to roll through. Vehicle track walking can sometimes be a bit monotonous but having visited during spring I was expecting a kaleidoscope of colour along the edges thanks to the fantastic biodiversity of this area. To those familiar with the Bibbulmun Track, this is the infamous Pingerup Plains area that frequently gets flooded from mid winter through spring. A vast area of open space dominated by low scrub and little islands of forest, this is a really unique part of the state that is amazing to walk through.
The start of the Mount Pingerup trail gives you a little taster of this kind of vegetation type and I was pleased to see lots of different wildflowers lining the edges from the very start. From Flame Peas to Boronia to flowering Drosera to Grevillea to Hooded Lily's, this was exactly how I imagined this place to be during spring (my last visit here was at the start of winter). Wandering along the track I was happy to see some taller trees on the edges that were very much unburnt. This whole area was set alight in 2018 as part of an over the top prescribed burn that diverted the Bibbulmun for 60km+ but I guess being next to the highway, this part survived. Hiding in the tall grasses were some lovely examples of the Kingia Australis, a tall and slender lookalike of the more familiar Grass Tree (Xanthorrhoea). All up the vehicle track lasts for about 1.3km and it took me a while to get through it as I weaved from side to side looking for different wildflowers and hunting for the elusive rare orchids that you sometimes find this time of year. While I didn't find any orchids down here, the quality of the wildflowers was a real highlight with a dozen or so varieties strewn all along the side of the track.
Arriving at the intersection with the Bibbulmun Track, I paused here to reflect on the last time I was here and how special it felt. I was on day five of my weeklong trip and it had been a bit of a disappointing morning walking through the severely burnt Pingerup Plains as I was looking forward to seeing them. Reaching this intersection and knowing that the side trip up to Mount Pingerup was finally there, I was extremely relieved. Sitting as a little island oasis in the middle of the plains, this little granite dome would have once been an island when sea levels were much higher than they are now, as evidenced by the Paperbarks you find at the summit. Just around the bend you catch sight of the Mt Pingerup and Bibbulmun Track signs as the Bibb departs to the left (the summit walk is a side trip). Here the surrounding vegetation starts to transition into a lusher state with Tassel Flowers, Bracken Ferns and the first glimpses of the towering Karri Forest. Having seen quite a few green Jewel Beetles on the Cape to Cape including interrupting an orgy of them in the Boranup Forest, my eyes picked up a lone beetle on some dried vegetation. They are a striking insect with the iridescent green looking fantastic in the dappled light coming through the canopy. The vehicle track continues to rise up the hill and it was a little sad to see that the edge of the track were still looking burnt a couple of years after the prescribed burns.
This doesn't last too long and as you take a turn to the right you enter the nicer part of the walk. It's a funny occurrence here that the higher you get on these islands, the lusher the forest gets. Usually the wetter parts of a forest are found in the lower parts of valleys but given the seasonal flooding of the plains, the taller trees and accompanying undergrowth love a slightly higher elevation. Spotting more wildflowers through here and the occasional late season fungi, what really made me stop was the bird life calling out and fluttering everywhere. It's exactly what you'd expect from the forest in the morning with a damp feeling, lots of bird calls and short glimpses as they fly from branch to branch. I stopped for a while in an attempt to focus on one area and get a good photo but they were too quick and my zoom lens not powerful enough. Reaching the wooden and stone steps leading to the summit, this is the spot I had a big smile on my face last time and it was no different on this visit. Magic is a word I throw out quite often when describing the forests of WA and this is another spot where it feels really special. Rising up the mossy steps you enter a more open section of vegetation where the exposed granite creates gaps in the canopy.
Careful not to step on the moss (it's delicate and doesn't cope well with being trampled on), I was happy to see some Pink Fairy Orchids loving life on the exposed granite section. Awkwardly placing my feet on bare bits of granite to lower myself down to take a photo, anyone witnessing this must have wondered what I was doing. With this not being a well visited walk, I had the whole place to myself so continued on to the highlight of the walk. While the official summit is in the middle of the forest, if you keep going there is a larger granite slope to explore offering up some sweeping views of the Pingerup Plains out to the Broke Inlet and further to the Indian Ocean. Like many of the granite domes that are scattered all across Western Australia, the views are pretty amazing and there are some bigger boulders to provide foreground objects for your photos. What I love about this spot apart from the views is the birds eye view you get of the Karri forest below. This raised platform allows for a greater appreciation of these amazing trees and I love admiring the bigger examples as their limbs spread out everywhere. I plonked myself down on a bare bit of granite and sat there for a while admiring the views and thinking about the weather I was meant to be getting around this time.
Figuring it was typical WA weather predicting where it arrives hours after they say, I don't regret my decision to change up my plans for the day. While I was having a break here, I heard the familiar calls of the Black Cockatoos and searched the forest below for their movements. I spotted them way off in the distance but they were so far away the photos didn't look great. It's nice they have a home here in the national park that is safe from logging and mining and it was a comfort seeing all the green stretching out towards the horizon. With my modified plans, I had plenty of time to explore so walked around the granite for a while searching for orchids and eventually noticed some right under one of the granite boulders. I initially thought these tiny Snail Orchids were just grasses but after a closer inspection I realised what they were and was really happy with the find as I haven't seen them in the wild before. Getting an in focus shot was hard because they were hidden away well and were susceptible to any little wind gust because of their size. A cool find that I was hoping was a new species but I'm sure it fits under the numerous different kinds already discovered. With a whole day of exploring still to go, I left the granite and made my way back to the car park, spotting some new wildflowers I missed on the way out.
Final Thoughts - When I first visited Mount Pingerup in 2018, I always planned to return and write it up as a day hike. Returning in 2020, for some weird reason I felt like I was intruding on the space and experience of the long distance walkers.
I imagine it would be a surprise to see someone if you were doing the stretch between Northcliffe and Walpole as it's billed a weeklong wilderness experience with not a lot of public access.
That being said, it's a lovely little walk that is yet another fantastic option to explore around Walpole. Having the whole of the Walpole Wilderness Area mostly untouched, it's great to have walks to highlight the beauty of the area.
While the trail design is pretty straightforward, the result is still enjoyable and more so in spring when the edges of the trail are littered with all different colours and shapes. Reaching the exposed granite at the end after wandering through the Karri forest is good reward for effort and I could stare at those views all day.
Don't be fooled by the very modest sign on South Western Highway, this is a walk worthy of stopping at.
Get out there and experience it!
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