Start - Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary
Length - 12.5km (Loop)
Rating - Orange
Vertical Climb - 495m
Time - 3-5 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Yellow Numbat Markers
Entry Fees - $10pp
Open - May to November
Date Hiked - 23rd August 2014
Directions - From Toodyay Rd make a left turn at O'Brien Rd. After 17kms you will reach the left turn at Avon Rd (2.3km past the Ewing Rd turnoff). Make your way on the gravel track that is now signposted and soon you will be at the parking area in front of the main gate.
The Hike - With spring approaching I thought I would head out and hike one of the lesser known trails in the Perth Hills, the Numbat Trail in the Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary. Entry to the Numbat Trail requires you to email the Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary before you plan on hiking the trail as the entry gate is computer coded for protection. An entry fee of $10 per hiker also applies but this is a small price to pay for what is a very well maintained and enjoyable trail. You will also be helping the sanctuary keep up their great conservation work in the area.
The Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary has three trails for visitors to hike - The Possum Trail (2km), Quenda Trail (6.5km) and the Numbat Trail (12.5km). Being the longest I chose the Numbat Trail (an extended version of the Quenda Trail) and right from the start it shows why this is one of the best trails in Perth. This is not the first time I had been here as earlier in the winter I ventured out for the first time only to have my Nikon D50 play up on me, resulting in many lost photos. Deciding that I should do the trail justice for this blog, I vowed to return with a new camera and on this hike I was armed with my new Nikon D5300 to try and capture this place in all its magnificence. The start of the trail takes you over boardwalks and down towards one of the many creeks that feeds the nearby Avon River.
The sun was just rising over the hills when I reached an area that looked like the Dead Marshes from The Two Towers. The lingering mist blanketed the water and emerging like ghosts from the centre were grey lifeless trees. In vast contrast to the gloomy scene, several bright yellow Verticordia acerosa were flowering on the banks of the open water as a teaser of what was to follow. Leaving the Dead Marshes, the trail starts to climb and the air is fragrant with the scent of the white Trymalium flowers (see above picture). As you ascend the Wandoo slope keep an eye out for the intricate spider's webs that dot the forest floor. Eventually you reach the first of many lookouts on the trail and a chance to survey the sanctuary from an elevated position. The dark boardwalk leads you to a ring of wooden seats that provides excellent views across the landscape.
From here the trail it makes its way along the eastern border of the hills and through some open forest full of giant Jarrah and Marri trees. The sun should now be illuminating the area ahead as you reach the northern section of the trail. From here you will get amazing views of the Avon River, the railway that follows its course (also seen from the Echidna Trail) and the hills on the other side of the river. After reaching the highest point of this section you descend through a series of switchbacks all the way to the valley floor and the Paruna Gorge, a stunning little spot full of tiny waterfalls and granite cliffs (below). Make sure to stick to the path above the gorge as it can be a little slippery in sections. From the Paruna Gorge the trail climbs again and straddles the hills above the Avon River.
At this stage I interrupted a mob of kangaroos and they hopped off into the distance. One curious straggler stayed around to observe the funny man with the camera and stayed still long enough to let me get some close snaps. Further up the trail there is another bench overlooking the hills on the other side of the river and I sat down to bask in the peaceful sounds of nature. Heading off again the trail continues its loop and heads south along the western edge of the hill. A quick descent into a small valley bordered by granite outcrops marks the point where the trails splits. Take a right turn here to continue on the Numbat Trail and left if you only want to hike the Quenda Trail. Turning right means another ascent up a hill towards a 4x4 track. A little further on is a gate that limits the kangaroo population in a new re-vegetation area of the sanctuary.
Once you pass through the gate you descend back down into a lush, green valley. When you arrive at the valley floor there is a small footbridge and a picnic table to your left. I highly recommend embracing your inner child and exploring this area. There is a waterfall not far from the footbridge and when it is as green as it was this winter, you won't want to leave. When you are finished exploring, follow the trail downhill as it winds down the valley next to the creek. Watch your step as the path can be full of holes caused by foraging Quenda or Echidna.
Eventually you will reach the start of what will be the biggest climb of the trail. I spooked another mob of kangaroos and followed them all the way over the short flat section before the trail switches back and starts to build. The climb is in a very open area of the park and looking back you can see the great views emerging. Near the top there is another bench but the ants had made camp at the base so I kept moving and on towards the Bilu Lookout, an elaborate stone platform with a picnic table and plaque. Here I stopped for a while to photograph the bees that were busy collecting pollen from the wildflowers and even spotted a Splendid Fairy Wren fluttering in the bushes.
From the lookout you descend back down towards the footbridge and past a small stream marked by the sound of many Quacking Frogs (you will know it when you hike past it). When you reach the footbridge head back up the hill and towards the point mentioned earlier where the two trails split. From here cross the creek and head up the switchbacks making their way through the dense Trymalium until you reach the top. If you want to climb a little more there is a rock monument to the left (it is well marked) but if not then take a right. The final section of the trail is a mix of single track, 4x4 track and boardwalk. There is one last viewing platform complete with a trio of benches. Here is stopped for some photos and to admire the black cockatoos that were making a bit of noise nearby. From here it is a short walk along the fence line towards the start/finish area near the entry gate.