Nancy Peak | Devils Slide
Start - Tree in the Rock Car Park
Length - 6.4km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, Granite Slab
Vertical Climb - 447m
Cost - National Park Fees Apply
Time - 2-3 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 30th September 2017
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Located in the Porongurups, the turnoff for the Tree in the Rock car park is located along Mt Barker - Porongurup Rd at the end of Bolganup Rd.
The Hike - The Porongurups, located 50km north of Albany, is home to two very nice day walks in the Castle Rock Granite Skywalk and the awkward Frankenstein mix of Nancy Peak/Devils Slide/Wansbrough Walk. The latter is one I had been wanting to do for quite a while now and had it pencilled in for around this time last year before inclement weather on my planned day of visit laid that plan to bed. I am back though for another visit to this amazing area and was fortunate enough to have the weather on my side with some dark and moody cloud scapes haunting my hike.
This was the start of a planned two week road trip taking in plenty of hikes in the South West around Albany, Denmark and Pemberton but the best laid plans... (more on that in future posts). Leaving Perth in the morning I had loaded up the phone with podcasts and enjoyed the lovely drive down to the turnoff at Mount Barker. The skies in Fremantle when I left were sunny and clear but when I hit Armadale things changed and the clouds settled in for the day. This was fine by me as I love clouds to liven up the photos, so long as the rain stayed away. I located the correct road and car park after discovering that Porongurup is actually a small hamlet with a fuel stop and cafe/art gallery instead of just the name of some ancient pieces of granite north of Albany.
Devils Slide - Being AFL Grand Final day I didn't expect there to be many people out and about but there was a smattering of holiday makers soaking up the freedom that comes with school holidays. The Tree in the Rock day use area is a typical Parks and Wildlife affair with a gazebo, BBQ facilities, information board and big gravel car park. Given I had been driving for four hours I was keen to stretch the legs before setting off so checked out the information board to see what was what. As my planned hike was actually three separate hikes all rolled into one hybrid, I had to decide how best to tackle it and eventually thought it would be better to do the planned loop in an anti-clockwise direction so the less stimulating stuff was out of the way first.
With my hiking boots on and the drink bottles topped up, I set off on the 4x4 track that is the Wansbrough Walk section of my loop. It's a nice warm-up to the hills I would eventually be tackling given the slight gradient and open nature of the trail. At certain points you can see glimpses of the formation known as Devils Slide and the sounds of a running stream had me excited for what I would find later on in the hike. For now though it was a pleasant introduction back to the Karri forest, which only survives here because of the run-off from the bubble like granite formations in the Porongurups. It wasn't long before I reached the small information board telling you where you are and providing a map of the various routes from this intersection.
The Wansbrough Walk continues on to the border of the park and wasn't something that particularly interested me so today I would be doing the Nancy Peak loop with a side trip up Devils Slide. I've always wanted to see what Devils Slide is all about because with a name like that it has to be interesting and I would love to know the history behind it as it does not sound like any other trail name in Western Australia. Perhaps it has something to do with Devil's Marbles but it would be nice to know if anyone knows the full history given DPaW and TrailsWA is a little dry. The end destination for the Devils Slide side trip is to reach Marmabup Rock and experience the awesome views of both the Porongurups and the Stirling Range to the north.
The ascent is quite steep and follows the course of a small gully that thankfully had some water in it when I visited so I was treated to areas of bare rock that has a small cascade of water falling down them. As you exit the Karri forest and climb up the granite path you get to see the formation on the other side that is the trio of Nancy Peak, Hayward Peak and Morgan's View. One noticeable feature is the abundance of dead looking trees poking through the canopy, remnants of a bushfire from over a decade ago giving off a spooky vibe to the landscape. A wooden walkway helps you over a tricky section of granite and it very much reminded me of a similar structure located at Mt Frankland, so I was brought back to that wonderful experience last summer.
At the start of the climb I had expected it to be all climbing up exposed granite but after the bridge you are thrust into a dense undergrowth that would put the Secret Garden in Perth to shame with the sheer beauty of the vine covered tunnels. This was entirely unexpected and I really enjoyed this bit as the climbing got a bit steeper as it allowed me to slow down and take more photos. This section lasts quite a while in relation to the 750m climb to the summit and near the end of it you are treated to some impressive moss covered boulders strewn in around the thickets of bush. Eventually though you reach the exposed summit area and have to pick your line up to the metal marker that is the top of Marmabup Rock. From here you are given some fantastic views back to the rest of the Porongurups and if there isn't an abundance of cloud cover, you can see the entire Stirling Range in one long vista.
I spent quite a bit of time up here just exploring and taking plenty of photos because why not. The cloudy weather actually gave me some really moody shots and I was happy that it turned out like this given the dead trees effect littered throughout the forest canopy. The hike back down was just as fun as I was facing the views more often and saw the enclosed forest section from entirely different angles so it wasn't any quicker. I ran into a group of kids that were yelling quite a lot as they had split into two groups and one group was trying to navigate up the granite on the other side of the creek. Given all the warnings about staying on trail due to dieback in the area I really wanted to yell at them but I didn't and they apologised for all the noise. All in all the Devils Slide side trip adds an extra 1.5km to the Nancy Peak loop and is a 3km return trip from the car park if you want to do it on its own.
Nancy Peak - Back at the small information board I was ready for stage three of the hike so bounded off in the direction of the forest path that was the correct way according to the map. Immediately you are walking among more Karri goodness until you reach the first of many climbs, this one up a set of rock stairs. I saw some others partaking in an enjoyable afternoon hike so said hello and moved on to the first of the viewpoints that didn't deserve getting the hike named after it, Morgan's View. It's a nice vantage point to look to the south at the land once owned by Alfred Morgan, a man who was premier for a month in 1901 (more appropriate naming from a WA trail).
At 575m, the climbing isn't done so it's off to the highest point and namesake of the walk, Nancy Peak. The views move away from farmland to more impressive things like the views back to Devils Slide and north to the Stirling Range. Nancy Peak doesn't have an information board so unfortunately I am unable to regale you with how Nancy Featherboot was the first woman to greet the Queen on her arrival in Western Australia in 1833 (don't quote me on that). The views though are worth the effort and this is one of the better spots along the hike as I think the silhouette of Devil's Slide/Marmabup Rock is the better of the two granite views to look at from he other side. From here on out there are a few granite surfaces to negotiate and if the weather has been on the moist side be careful where you step and fall gracefully if you find yourself staring at more sky than you expected.
Further down the hill, Hayward Peak contains an information board about the formation of both the Porongurups and the Stirling Range, which is an interesting read that you should stop and take a look at. The views are just as spectacular as the other peaks with a heavier emphasis on the Stirling Range, which is never a bad thing. You have to say goodbye to the views soon and head back into the lush Karri forest for the descent back down to the car park. It's a nice way to end the hike if you choose this way as the Karri forest is never a bad place to be and you finish with a spectacle that has a car park named after it, the Tree in the Rock. Due to long processes involving rain, erosion, acids and soil, a lone Karri tree has found a way to grow in the middle of a granite platform proving that if you wait for the right conditions and receive enough rainfall that anything is possible for an engine with determination.
Final Thoughts - Anytime you have a hike that is named so well then you are already ahead of the curve. "Take a trip to the Porongurups to discover why Nancy Peaked on the Devils Slide".
In all seriousness, this is well deserved of the Top Trail designation and despite the stainless steel gloss of Castle Rock, this is in my opinion the better hike of the two located in the Porongurups.
Why it is separated into three different walks is a mystery beyond my speculation but with a little planning and know-how, it doesn't take much to turn this into one big loop and see everything in one go. It is of course possible to separate them out into two different hikes if you are short on time but I highly recommend doing everything in one visit.
While the Porongurups may not offer the dizzying heights of the Stirling Range, they do offer some decent climbs and the allure of the Karri forest so if you are in the area then make a point of visiting these hikes. Hopefully the Porongurups Cafe is not out of scones so you can enjoy a proper Devonshire Tea.
Get out there and experience it!
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