Start - Mt Trio Rd, off Formby Rd S
Length - 3km (Return)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Rocky Path
Vertical Climb - 359m
Summit - 801m ASL
Time - 2-4 hours
Signed - Yes, Occasional Markers
Entry Fee - National Park Fees Apply
Date Hiked - 22nd October 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
The Stirling Range National Park, located 100kms north of Albany, is a real treasure of the South West and well worth a visit to scale the impressive peaks we just don't get in Perth.
My plans were to use the Stirling Range as the first leg of a week long road trip in the state's south to celebrate becoming a DPaW Park Explorer but battery charging issues forced me to cut my trip short. Thankfully I started here as I received a warm welcome (literally) by the mountains and had a great time enjoying some of the other walks not named Bluff Knoll that this area is famous for. Leaving early in the morning on a sunny Saturday I headed down Albany Highway, past Mt Cooke and four hours later I could finally see the Stirling Range. I arrived from the northern entry as Mt Trio was my first conquest of the day and I wanted to see what it looked like from the caravan park that it lends its name to. On Salt River Rd I encountered what I thought would be an abundance of wildlife on my trip when I saw a snake, a bobtail, a larger lizard and a fox (not native) all in the space of a few kilometres.
With some heavy road works going on I was treated to some gravel roads before arriving at the entrance of the Mt Trio Bush Camp and Caravan Park. This is not the location of the trail to Mt Trio but does provide a great location to base yourself out of if you want to explore the area and have the luxury of a powered campsite and a hot shower at night. I would be staying at Moingup Springs so only stopped at the entrance to take a few photos of the mountains in the distance. Itching to get stuck into the hiking I moved on and it wasn't long before I saw the signs for Mt Trio from Formby Road South and turned onto the gravel road. The mountain is framed perfectly as you drive up the incline to the car park and I was getting excited.
I deliberately chose this hike as the first one so I could find my legs again after a few weeks of non-activity. Being a Class 4 hike and one of the shorter mountains in the area (mountains for Western Australia) I could enjoy a good warm-up before tackling some of the more difficult climbs. When I arrived at the car park there was already a couple of cars there and being a Saturday I figured this would be the case. I changed into my hiking gear, filled up my water bottles and started snapping some photos in the intense midday brightness. The start of the trail is marked with an information stand and a short boardwalk section before brutally throwing you into a 33% gradient until you reach the saddle.
So much for the gentle warm-up as the steps kept getting steeper and steeper until I turned around after a short distance and was well above the car park. Noticing a large rock standing out from the tree line I tried to get a good shot in frame but the harshness of the midday sun meant I probably wasn't getting the most ideal photographic conditions on this hike. I continued on and came across the first excuse for a rest section on the climb up to the saddle, the orange bluffs that tower over the trail. In the midday sun it was easy to think I was in the Kimberley with the orange rock jutting out from the landscape but being in the low 20s and not humid at all, it was a bit of a stretch. I marvelled at the scene and used the photo stop as an excuse to catch my breath.
Not far up the trail was a group that I guessed belonged to one of the cars below. They were heading up still and looked to be having a tougher time getting up the steep gradient. I thanked them for moving off the trail (they viewed it as a good excuse to stop) and powered on to ever increasing heights. There was a little respite from the heat as the trail snaked through some overhanging trees and I enjoyed the coolness as I approached the saddle, passing another group along the way. With the legs starting to come good and the lungs finally understanding what was required of them, I made one final push to the easier saddle portion of the hike.
Once you reach the relatively flat section, the views get better and you get a glimpse of the amazing views to the south and east. After being in the shadow of the main peak for most of the hike it is nice to emerge and see some different scenery. A rocky turret to the east provides a nice photo opportunity and as you enjoy the nice flat-ish terrain, you come across more diverse plant life. What I call bonzai gum trees with their pint-sized umbrella shaped canopy dominate the saddle and livens up what is already an amazing view. Grass trees also start to appear as you make a sharp turn west and tackle the remaining 500m to the summit. Rust coloured rocks and wildflowers provide some colour to the hike and given the gradient was now flatter I could enjoy the views a lot more.
Before long I had reached the summit and the effort was worth it. Unlike some other climbs, you get full 360 degree views of the Stirling Ranges including a great look at Mount Hassell and Toolbrunup to the south-west (posts coming soon), Bluff Knoll to the east, the blank farming land to the north and the rest of the Stirling Ranges to the west. This meant I could test out the 36o degree camera I had borrowed off DPaW and share it with everyone. Unfortunately I don't have the functionality to embed it on this page but it is up on the Facebook page if you click here. Having the summit all to myself, I wandered around and soaked in the views until I was joined by the group I passed just before reaching the saddle.
I left them to enjoy the views and set off down the path ready to begin the descent back to my car. On the way down I passed several more group that had arrived after me (average age of those I passed would be north of 50) and stopped a few times to photograph wildflowers I had missed on the way up including the variety native to this area, the red mountain bells (Darwinia lejostyla). Normally I am fine on descents but this one had my legs feeling like jelly as the steep gradient meant I was stopping myself on every step. I stopped at one point when I crossed paths with a woman who looked in her 70s and we chatted for a while. She wasn't moving very fast but had a great determination to reach the top and it sounded like she really enjoyed her walking.
Eventually I reached the bottom and had one last look back at the summit, which interestingly is listed at 856m ASL in the official brochure but every topographical map I have checked has it at 801m ASL. I have since checked with DPaW and the official height according to Landgate Spot Height data they use is the peak is 817m ASL. Hike over, I shooed the flies out of my car and headed off to the next hike, happy with the first outing in the Stirling Range.
Final Thoughts - Mt Trio might not be the biggest, the most difficult or the longest climb in the Stirling Range but it still deserves recognition as a tough little hike. There is minimal warm-up as it's straight into the serious gradients until you reach the saddle section.
If you can survive the first climb then the rewards are plentiful with fantastic views of all the main peaks in the area (weather permitting). There is nothing overly dangerous about the climb and is suitable for people of all ages provided you know your limits and hike at your own pace.
This was a great starting point for my trip and it certainly blew the cobwebs out of my lungs. Given its location between key peaks and easy-going path to the summit, this hike would make for a great place to watch the sunrise or sunset. A visit in spring will deliver an assortment of wildflowers and a better chance of a clear view at the summit.
Get out there and experience it!
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