Schipp Road Walk
Start - End of Schipp Road
Length - 4.7km (Loop)
Grade - Orange
Terrain - Single Track, 4x4 Track
Vertical Climb - 138m
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes, Follow the Blue Markers
Date Hiked - 4th August 2019
Best Time - Autumn to Spring
Directions - Located just outside of the centre of Kalamunda, take Mundaring Weir Rd towards Mundaring and just after Jorgensen Park take the left turn onto Hummerston Rd. Follow this down the hill until you reach the intersection with Schipp Rd. Turn left onto the gravel road and follow this all the way to the end.
The Hike - With the last couple of year's adventures taking me away from exploring and hiking the Perth Hills, I make a point of trying to head out when I can to enjoy a hike in the place I call home. With a free morning on the schedule and some recent rains I decided that it was time to tackle another of the Shire of Kalamunda walks that we recently discussed on Real Trail Talk. Late July/early August usually heralds the start of the wildflower season and with a sunny week just gone, I was excited to see what was flowering along the Piesse Gully Valley and up on the hills. With a bit of overnight weather clearing up by sunrise, it was a warm and humid winters morning that greeted me as I drove into the hills.
The famous Perth Hills fog was rolling through the valley as I arrived at the start point at the end of Schipp Road and my first view of the Wandoo lined trail had me thinking this was going to be a fantastic morning. With the Schipp Road Walk utilising a part of the Bibbulmun Track I had hiked plenty of times before, I was keen to see what the linking trail that took in the Piesse Gully Valley and also the hills above looked like. With the early morning fog I decided that an anti-clockwise direction would be best with a quick side trip to Rocky Pool to finally capture some long exposure shots of the rapids that for some reason I'd never taken the time to come out and shoot.
With all my camera equipment in my bag I set off along Schipp Road, now a bike and walk friendly track, through the forest and along Piesse Gully. Immediately you are transported into a world a Wandoo, Jarrah, wildflowers and the sound of rushing water. Early on I spotted some yellow flag, purple peas, foxtail and many more that I don't yet have the knowledge to name. The fog added a moody element to the hike and the wide 4x4 track allowed me to fully appreciate what was a very mature looking forest. Along the trail you'll come across various information boards pointing out a specific reference like the trees, Piesse Gully or the granite boulders that feature quite heavily in this area.
The information boards are part of the Piesse Gully Interpretive Trail that is a more family friendly (i.e flat) option taking you along Schipp Road to Rocky Pool and back. Some day I might come back and do the hike at sunset to mix it up and write up the trail for the website but for now I was enjoying the conditions I had this morning. With the sun slowly rising, the hills to the west were beginning to light up with a golden glow. The contrast of golden hills and a still misty valley was very enjoyable and I was hoping that the sun wouldn't rise too quickly as I wanted the valley to stay this way for a while longer.
I was revelling in taking it slow here and trying to spot as many wildflowers as possible. I was especially looking forward to spotting a few orchids as I'd seen some on Instagram from Lesmurdie Falls so figured that being near that area I might get lucky and see a few. I spotted some of my favourite carnivorous drosera plants, the vine variety this time and the morning dew was still clinging to the tiny pads. Crossing Piesse Gully for the first time as it goes under Schipp Rd was a welcome feature as I thought that it would just be off the right of the track and you wouldn't get to really interact with it too much (which is a missed opportunity). Seeing Piesse Gully in full flow was fantastic and it felt like the peak hiking season had arrived, a magical time of the year where the hills come alive and it's just an amazing experience to spend as much time walking on the trails that dot the landscape along the Darling Scarp.
From the gully crossing you rise up a small hill to one of the highlights of this stretch to Rocky Pool. The Wandoo here was fantastic and being higher up you could see more of the opposite side of the valley, now bathed in more golden light from the rising sun. There is a wooden bench where you can enjoy a sit down and appreciate the views, listen to the birds or just take a moment of silence to reset yourself. With the mist slowly burning off and the sun creeping up, I was kind of keen to reach Rocky Pool before it was too bright to do some long exposure photographing. Stopping me was a plethora of new types of wildflowers that I was happy to spend time trying to capture on the camera. My macro photography needs a lot of work and unfortunately a lot of my shots were a bit blurry or the wrong things were out of focus (my camera is still broken and manually focusing is still a hit and miss affair).
Heading down the hill I was impressed with the quality of the Wandoo forest here and marvelled at what a photogenic tree they are. The golden trunks really light up a trail and with a dispersed distribution, they don't ever crowd a shot. Adding to the enjoyment were patches of granite on either side that I might come back and explore on future trip because I love my granite and this area seems to have so much potential with the natural beauty. After crossing Piesse Gully once again as it swings back east to run on the right hand side of the trail yet again, I reached the intersection of Schipp Rd and the Bibbulmun Track. Recognising this intersection where I had been deposited on so many times walking the first section of the Bibbulmun, this is technically where the Schipp Road Walk would turn left and head up the hill on the Bibbulmun. With Rocky Pool so close and a desire to get some long exposure shots, I added this to the itinerary and continued along the 4x4 track.
A group of hikers came out from the Bibbulmun and headed towards Rocky Pool, not what I wanted because I was hoping to get the place to myself and also because they were a very noisy group (I like my silence on trails). Crossing Piesse Gully once again, it's a short 250m along the 4x4 track before you reach the sign at Rocky Pool. The group I saw before were there but as they were having a look and taking selfies I setup my camera gear on the other bank and cleaned all my lenses and filters. After some test shots I had the place to myself and thankfully the clouds were rolling in and providing the ideal lighting for long exposure (some light but no harsh direct lighting). After realising my ISO setting was way too high from a previous astro shoot, I finally got it all right and was busy capturing the rapids from various angles. Overall I'm happy with the photos and can now finally put up a couple of decent photos on my Rocky Pool page that showcases the area at its peak.
With the clouds starting to deposit a light drizzle, I figured I had enough photos in the bag from Rocky Pool so packed up all my gear and headed back towards the Bibbulmun Track intersection. The drizzle set in for the morning and what was turning into a beautiful sunny day had turned quite quickly so the photos look a bit dreary for the rest of the hike. Reaching the proper route of the Schipp Road Walk, the route takes you up the hill along a tributary of Piesse Gully that I've not seen named on any map. I've always enjoyed this section as the rocky trail is a little technical and there are some cool features along the trail including a lot of wildflowers, the famous tree holding up the giant granite boulders and the fallen tree over the brook. A popular walk to do, this is where I saw quite a few groups heading down the hill enjoying the lovely winter weather we get in the hills.
At the top of the hill where the gully ends you keep following the Bibbulmun Track by turning left and continue the ascent up a rocky 4x4 track. I've always thought the end to a S-N Bibbulmun end to end is very cruel by having not one but two climbs to finish the final day but I guess by then you've travelled 1000km so what's another hill or two between friends. Climbing out of the valley you reach an intersection where the Bibbulmun heads right up some stairs, this is where the Schipp Road Walk continues straight along the 4x4 track. I've never explored this area so was keen to see what it looked like given the section of the Bibbulmun Track leading down from Jorgensen Park is of good quality. What I found was a nice trail leading you through some mixed forest of old Jarrah and Wandoo containing some new types of wildflowers (or at a later stage in their life cycle).
Some tall Kingia's caught my eye in the distance along with the unmistakable Parrot Bush, looking very nice with new yellow flowers. A really diverse area, this was above what I was expecting and when you weren't in nice forest, the views out over the valley were really cool (even if they were muted by the clouds and drizzle). I could see the granite on the other side of the valley glistening in what sunlight was available. I was nice to be able to plot where you'd walked in the morning and see the forest from a different angle. Dipping back into forest on both sides, you reach a granite feature off the trail on the right that is rather striking. It was here that I heard some weird noises ahead and thinking it was a kangaroo or wallaby in distress I walked on to investigate. As I got closer I realised it was a stupid woman struggling up the side of the hill with her two beagles making an awful racket. I gave her the evils as she caught her breath, one that said "you're in a national park, dogs aren't allowed and you've just been an idiot ripping up the vegetation on the side of the hill trying to get your dumb self to the top of where you shouldn't be". People...
With you at the top of the hill (on trail) and the finishing point in the valley below, there is some steep descending to get you down there. The descent has a 20% gradient for a few hundred metres with some sections of the 4x4 track eroded away quite severely (1.5-2m dips in places) and the track contained that slippery mud that sometimes looks like hard ground but is actually soft mud that your boot sinks in to. If you're a novice walker then take care in this section as the steepness and loose rocks can catch you out if you don't walk on terrain like this. The views looking down the hill are a nice distraction with the valley looking very pretty from this angle. Once you reach the bottom of the hill you are once again on Schipp Road and it's a right turn to take you back to the car park. There were a lot more cars there than when I started, which made me happy knowing people were out and about enjoying the area.
Final Thoughts - The Shire of Kalamunda walks are a bit hit and miss sometimes but catch them in the right conditions at the right time of year and I think they can be pretty magical.
The Schipp Road Walk is not one of those walks that require special conditions, although getting the mist, a flowing Piesse Brook through Rocky Pool and a good wildflower show just elevated it into a pretty memorable hike.
I was already pretty familiar with the area to start with but the bits I hadn't hiked before were just as amazing, if not more amazing, than the bits I'd already seen.
As I said before, this is a hike I'd come back and do outside of the regular hiking season after work as it's a really nice area that contains some beautiful forest that you expect from a visit from the Perth Hills.
Get out there and experience it!
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