Start - End of Mt Frankland Rd
Length - 2.4km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Pavement, Granite Slab
Vertical Climb - 102m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 29th December 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
The Hike - With the Christmas holidays drawing to a close I still had one hike I wanted to do and that was the scenic Mt Frankland. Having seen many photos of the trail from various places, I was happy the sun had finally made an appearance after several days of gloomy weather.
With an epic hike at Deep River in the early morning, I spent the remainder of the morning with the family until it was time to depart for Mt Frankland and the 4.5 hour drive back to Fremantle after that. Before I tackled the hike and long drive home I needed some sustenance so stopped in at Thurlby Herb Farm for lunch. We had visited there after a trip to Swarbrick but only had afternoon tea and there were several things on the menu that tickled my fancy. I really enjoyed the tranquil surroundings and charming gardens at Thurlby’s (hence why I returned) and settled on the Pomegranate Lamb Burger and a Rose Syrup Soda. The service was excellent by the young workers and when you are finished with the great food there is a shop to wander around. Taking influence from Indian, Moroccan and Oriental styles, there are a variety of wares for sale to accompany their extensive soap range (all made in house).
It was an enjoyable place to be and was up for sale at the time of my visit but unfortunately I didn't win the New Years Eve lotto so there goes that dream. With a full belly I departed Thurlby's with a few gift items and headed to the car park at Mt Frankland. Located 28km north of Walpole, the last few kilometres are along gravel roads so be careful during the busy periods as you may get surprised coming over one of the crests. I arrived to a few cars in the car park but when I had sunscreened up and changed into more appropriate clothing, the information building was empty and I could wander around in silence. The area has four walks ranging from 200m to 2.4km but today I would be combining the 1.5km Caldyanup Trail that takes you around the base of the large granite dome of the summit with the remaining distance up to the summit and back. The shortest trail takes you from the information building to the old Towerman's Hut along paved walkways. The hut is no longer in use but was where the towerman based himself in between doing the runs up to the summit fire tower (several times a day).
The hut is closed off to visitors but you can peer in or use the modern BBQ facilities located nearby. I had a poke about before going about trying to locate the start of the Caldyanup Trail that starts close to the hut. With the trail to the summit being paved, I searched the nearby area for a traditional bush path and eventually found the wooden marker with that magical little hiker symbol letting you know that something special is located in the forest. I departed the paved trail much to the bemusement of the family passing by and disappeared into the greenery. Immediately you are rewarded with stunningly tall Karri trees mixed with some bright green undergrowth and mossy rock paths.
The beauty of this trail is you get to skirt the outside of the impressive granite dome that is one of the biggest and steepest in the state. It isn't long before you get a glimpse of the rock wall and the true sense of scale of Mt Frankland becomes apparent. The Karri forest grows all the way up to the granite so you get to compare these giants against the almost sheer wall of grey to your left. With perfect blue skies I was happy to get some different shots from my visit to Walpole that didn't involve grey skies. The trail doesn't stick close by the granite all the time and constantly dips back into the forest where you get to experience the pristine Karri forest a bit closer. Amongst the forest are some excellent examples of wide based Karri trees that contrast well against the green undergrowth.
Occasionally you will get far enough from the granite slope that the views out to the west can be seen through the canopy. While not as impressive as some of the views later on in the hike, it's a good reminder that while you are at the base of the climb to the summit, the slopes going down are a lot bigger than you first realise. About 800m in (it felt longer), the trail takes a turn to the east and into a thicket of forest undergrowth. It was here that I heard plenty of noise as a large family appeared out of the greenery and realised they weren't alone. As the long group passed they nodded at me and I continued on my way and towards the openness of the eastern slope.
The Karri forest is not as prevalent on this side of the mountain given it is the leeward side so this means spectacular and wide views out over the national park. I took a fair few photos here before moving on to an even better spot not far down the trail. While everything else around Walpole had predominantly looked like it was still winter, the large patches of moss covering the slopes of the granite were showing the signs of the warmer temperatures. The familiar greens were replaced with orange, giving the area a very dry feeling but the addition of a boardwalk to negotiate what would be slippery granite in winter added another element to photograph.
This was the view I remembered from many photographs so it was nice to experience it in person. While I had the long drive back to Perth, I wasn't rushing and spent plenty of time trying to get different angles. With plenty of shots to have fun with later I moved back into the green undergrowth and was soon popped out onto the paved road leading up to the summit. Coming out at a hairpin, the path I had just come from looks very inviting from this view with a mossy rock entrance leading away from the regular bitumen path. The road up to the stair section of the summit trail passes by another steep-ish granite rock face and soon you arrive at a cul-de-sac marking the end of the paved walking.
From here the walk up to the summit is a mix of concrete steps and a double stage stainless steel step ladder. If you aren't a regular hiker then you probably won't enjoy the stairs but any shortness of breath is quickly forgotten when you reach the last set of stairs that leads up to the open summit. I arrived with no one else on the summit so spent some time photographing the fire tower and the amazing 360 degree views. On a clear day you can see all the way to the Southern Ocean and can make out the Nornalup Inlet. Other smaller mountains are visible from up here and you can see why it was a great location for spotting bushfires and directing the fire crews to exact locations. I was soon joined by a crowd of people, one being a photographer setting up a tripod so I decided to get out of his shots and headed back down the hill and departed back to Fremantle.
Final Thoughts - Mt Frankland was one of the first things I pencilled in to do when I found out where the Christmas holidays were being spent and with my family having already paid it a visit before I arrived, it was going to be a solo hike. Being on the way home I left it to last and the timing couldn't have been better given the sunny weather.
While most tourists will only do the paved walk up to the summit, the extra effort required to do the Caldyanup Trail was more than worth it. Getting to see the size of this granite dome from the bottom along with the quality of the trail is something that most people don't know they are missing. If you are reading this and aren't sure if you can do it, you can.
In my rush to get home, I didn't check out the last walk that goes off in the other direction from the information building. Looking at the DPaW website, the lookout provides some great photo opportunities so I'm disappointed I didn't include it in my walk.
The popularity of this walk is well deserved and even with very modest levels of fitness you should be able to complete this walk. I rated it orange because the steps up to the summit add in a bit of a challenge and the Caldyanup Trail is a bit overgrown/rocky in places.
Get out there and experience it!
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