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Stirling Ridge Walk

Stirling Ridge Walk

Stirling Range National Park

Directions - Being a one way hike, you can do it in either direction but unless you are using a shuttle service (the Stirling Range Retreat offer one), you will need to organise a car drop at either end. The Bluff Knoll end is easy with a large car park at the base with the Ellen Peak end requiring a bit more navigation. From Bluff Knoll Road, turn right onto Chester Pass Road until you reach the turn for Smith Road. Turn right and follow all the way to Sandalwood Road, turn right again and keep following until you see the sign for Gnowellen Road. Turn right and keep driving until you reach the Stirling Range National Park sign. There is plenty of room to park here or you can turn right onto the vehicle track and keep driving until you reach the gate and Leave No Trace sign for the walk.

Warning/Advice - This is not a marked trail plus it's a different physical challenge to anything else you'll get in WA and as such you will need to be an experienced hiker of good fitness with proper navigation skills. There is no source of reliable water along the trail so to be safe it is recommended you take 4-5L per day, more if the weather is warm as you're quite exposed. Check the weather closely before setting off (this site is the most accurate I've found), sign the logbook with your intended plans on the other side of Bluff Knoll Rd from the cafe and make sure you know all the exit routes. Respect the environment by keeping to the existing walk pad, pack out what you brought in and bury all human waste in a hole at least 15cm deep. The files on the Stirling Ridge Walk FB Group are very useful for preparation for this walk. Don't underestimate this walk, the terrain or the changeable weather.  

Day One

The Stirling Ridge Walk, an icon within the WA hiking community and what is fast becoming a bit of a rite of passage for the more experienced hikers/trail runners in the state. This was my return after a previous visit in 2017 ending up with our group camping overnight at Eucalyptus Col before a bigger than forecast weather front rolled in and we turned back the next day given the white out conditions and strong winds. I had meant to return not long after that but the area was hit with a couple of major bushfires that ravaged the route so I wanted to give the place some time to recover a little before getting out there to photograph it. With the trail getting more and more popular, the FaceSpace group is awash with photos from spring to autumn and it looked like the area was doing better than I thought it would post fires. This was something I had pencilled in as a nice to hike in late 2022 but when hiking friends Bronwyn and Lou leaked their plans to attempt it in autumn, I politely asked if I could join them. Plans were made for the last weekend in April and while I was excited to be heading back to finally complete the trail, part of me expected poor weather to cancel the whole thing.


Fast forward to the week leading up to our departure and things were looking like perfection so I hastily requested a day of leave and started getting serious about planning out my gear, food and travel arrangements. Bronwyn had booked a caravan at the Stirling Range Retreat for the night before so I started my work day early and finished at 3pm on the Thursday, all excited to drive the 4.5 hours down to the Stirling Range. Lou had the whole day off so was waiting there, while Bronwyn finished work late and only arrived well after 10pm. The cramped bunks didn't make for a great sleep but it didn't matter once I woke up and the excitement of doing the SRW in near perfect weather took over. It was a leisurely start to the morning with time for a coffee, prepping of rolls for dinner and packing the large quantity of water we were all carrying. I had packed 8L for the planned two days and given the cooler temperatures that were forecast, I was confident this would be sufficient. Heading off from the Stirling Range Retreat, we first headed to Bluff Knoll to drop off Bronwyn's car and also sign the walkers register at the entrance of Bluff Knoll Road.

Although it was a misty morning, I was hoping it would clear by the time we started hiking but the thick fog we drove through leading up to Bluff Knoll wasn't great to see. Luckily it cleared before we reached the car park and we were presented with stunning views looking up to Bluff Knoll and across to the western peaks of the Stirling Range. The drive to the Gnowellen Road end of the hike was full of anticipation as we skirted the farmland areas around the national park and were occasionally treated to some magical views of the side profile of the ridge. Of course we stopped for photos and to trace the routes in our minds of where we would be walking over the next two days. Eventually arriving at the edge of the national park and the vehicle track that is home for the first 6km of the route, we unloaded our bags and did our last gear checks. I decided to take a wander around to see what I could find and was excited to see plenty of wildflowers including some little Bunny Orchids right near where my car was parked. I called Bronwyn over as she is an iNatualist nerdburger like me and it was a good sign that there would be plenty to see along this first section.

As you can see from the map above, the first section is walking in a straight line along the edge of a farm and the national park. Representing a quarter of the 24km route, it's not an entirely uninteresting walk, especially for those of us that enjoy spotting a wildflower or two. Even though spring is the most magical time to be in the Stirling Range for the quantity and quality of wildflowers, there is typically a lot more to see down here in autumn than there is in the Perth Hills. Hoping to find some Leafless Orchids, both Bronwyn and I were scanning the edge of the scrub for different varieties of flowers plus searching for the early season orchids. Lou wasn't too fussed so kept a steady march on as we headed towards Moir Hill, a smaller hill that you scoot around. With the distant views of the ridgeline providing motivation and a small amount of trepidation, the sunny skies were a big positive given the forecast had the weather improving the following day. On a rest/sunscreen stop along the edge of the fence it was revealed that Brownyn and Lou had teamed up and forgot to tell me the SRW uniform of choice was red and grey day, causing flashbacks to when this last happened to me heading up Boonering Hill. After an hour and forty minutes of walking we arrived at the creek that marks the turn into the national park and the start of the proper hiking.