Valley of the Giants
Start - Valley of the Giants Rd, off SW Hwy
Length - 1.3km (Combined)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Metal Walkway, Pavement
Vertical Climb - Only on Tree Top Walk
Cost - Entry Fees Apply for Tree Top Walk
Time - 1-2 hours
Signed - Yes
Date Hiked - 27th December 2016
Best Time - All Year Round
Tree Top Walk - 600m (Loop)
With the weather taking a turn for the worse on Boxing Day night, my plan was to tackle a section of the Bibbulmun in the morning but I woke up to some serious rain and this continued all the way through the morning.
I love watching the rain so was happy to chill in the holiday home drinking coffee and playing with my nieces. Part of their Christmas present was a pint sized Life of Py t-shirt each and Uma (Uncle Mark) taking them to the Valley of the Giants for the Tree Top Walk. With the weather forecast clearing up for the afternoon, the plan was to have lunch and then head out there to battle the weather/tourists. Locating the Valley of the Giants is easy, follow the signs on South West Hwy east of Walpole and it's a short drive to the main car parks. Built in 1996, this impressive structure towers above the ancient forest and allows you to get a true appreciation for the scale of the giant Karri and Tingle trees that are native to this area. The tallest platform is 40m above the forest floor and the see-through boardwalks between the towers gives you the full experience of being so high above the ground. Along with the Tree Top Walk, there is a Discovery Centre and Gift Shop and the ground based Ancient Empire Walk (see below).
When we arrived the place was full and we parked in the third tier of the car park, making me wonder if they made an effort to plant more trees somewhere else after clearing what would have been a lot of giant Karri trees. With the nieces all raring to go, we bought our tickets ($21 for adults, $15.50 for concession card holders, $10.50 for kids aged 6-15 and free for kids five and under) and set off on the 600m loop. Everyone else had the same idea but early on it wasn't too much of an issue. The platforms on the day we visited had volunteers monitoring the amount of people on each section as they are only rated for so many at a time.
Unfortunately there seemed to be one group that was holding up proceedings by taking multiple selfies, followed by group selfies, followed by different group selfies on every section of boardwalk. Seeing as how the boardwalks only allow one person (two if there is some cooperation) to pass at a time, there was soon a backlog of people waiting to go through at a normal pace. We were stuck on the highest platform for a while so took our time looking around at the forest and then to the ground, 40m below. I'm not great with heights so was being on the cautious side but my little nieces (3 & 5) were zooming around like they were on the forest floor.
Eventually though we reached a platform where we could pass the offending family and enjoyed the rest of the walk at leisurely pace. To think that some of these Karri tree can grow up to 75m tall and the highest point you reach is only 40m is quite an amazing thing. While in sections you are right in the canopy of the trees (and can actually touch them), there are other section where you can immerse yourself with the size of these giants. We reached the end and planted our feet on terra firma after spending the last 600m on steel platforms. The final section of the walk leads you past some Tingle trees on a paved path and back to the start where you can either do the walk again, visit the gift shop or continue on to the Ancient Empire Walk.
Ancient Empire Walk - 500m (Loop)
Just as we were completing the Tree Top Walk the skies opened up and the rains set in. Hoping it was only a short shower we had a look around the gift shop for a while before tackling the Ancient Empire Walk. It wasn't a short shower and pretty soon the gift shop was packed with people waiting for the rain to subside. I made the family stay as I really wanted to do the Ancient Empire Walk so we hung around, checked out the discovery centre and then finally my Dad decided to go get his weirdly large collection of umbrellas from the car so we could do the walk (thanks Dad). With most of us under dry conditions we ventured out from the gift shop and began the short 500m loop trail. Despite being late December, the rain and colder temperatures made it feel like winter as we strolled around the collection of very old and very cool Tingle trees. Each tree has boardwalk sections around it and some you can walk into the hollow like at the Giant Tingle Tree Walk. Having not been out on the Bibbulmun Track (not until the next day at least) where the Tingle forests are located, I imagine this is how it would look and feel. The thick tree trunks, overarching canopy and damp, green undergrowth made for a special scene.
We slowly made our way around the loop, ducking in and out of trees as the rain got heavier and then lighter again. The nieces were loving it and I was having a blast trying to photograph everything despite my dad’s best efforts to get his umbrella in every shot. While not very long, the walk is still quite enjoyable and is best taken at a very gentle pace. Take plenty of pictures and don’t be afraid to ask strangers to take pictures for you as my dad found out. A group of tourists asked dad to take a photo of them all inside a Tingle tree and he obliged.
Unfortunately his picture taking was not up to their high standards and he was asked to retake the photo not once but twice. With the rain still falling it was funny to see my dad leaning down to take photos while my sister assisted with an umbrella over the top. Very professional and I hope the group got the photo they wanted in the end. We then walked back to the start and as we were in the gift shop the rain stopped so we thought why not go out one more time on the Tree Top Walk. The rain had cleared everyone off so we had it all to ourselves. I have to say this was a much more enjoyable experience than the first time and we could go at our own pace.
Final Thoughts - This is obviously one of the biggest tourist attractions in the area and has all the benefits/drawbacks that entails. The experience of being amongst the trees without having to climb them is certainly a highlight and DPaW is making some famous sites around the state more accessible with the use of stainless steel (see Granite Skywalk and The Gap).
Being the summer holiday period between Christmas and New Years I didn't expect it to be quiet so to get the opportunity to experience without the crowds was an unexpected delight. Given its popularity, I wouldn't assume that you will get a good run on the Tree Top Walk but even battling the crowds, it's a nice little walk.
While $21 is quite expensive for a 600m loop, hopefully the money is put to good use by DPaW in preserving, maintaining and expanding our national parks. The Ancient Empire Walk is free if you don't want to do the Tree Top Walk but I'm assuming 99% of people drive out for the walk in the canopy and might look at the ground based walk as a bonus.
The wonders of modern engineering allow this to be possible without impacting too much on the environment so make this place a must visit if you are in the area. The kids will be entertained more than if you took them on a ground based walk and you will be helping fund important conservation work.
Get out there and experience it!
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