Leeuwin-Naturaliste National Park
Directions - Located east of Yallingup, to reach the start of the Wardanup Trail take Yallingup Beach Road out of town, continuing straight as it turns into Caves Road. Turn left onto Yallingup Caves Road when you see the signs for Ngilgi Cave, parking in one of the many car parks for the visitor cave. The trail head is located outside the main building, with the trail heading WNW (left) as you face the building.
The Hike - Yallingup is home to three trails that feed off the Cape to Cape Track and provide easily walked loops for those looking for something a bit easier than the week long trek. Having completed the Quenda Trail earlier in the day, I had my eyes set on the Wardanup Trail to finish off this action packed four trail day that started in Augusta. Starting at Ngilgi Cave, I arrived to find not a lot of room to park but being school holidays, this was no surprise.
Finding and studying the small trail information board, I initially set off by going past the main building for Ngilgi Cave. Heading up the hill, I ended up doing the 600m Caves Trail that loops up to near Ngilgi Cave before taking you back to the start. Having done myself a heckin bother, I looked at the map again and deduced that the trail must use the other track that heads towards the coast. Reaching a shipping container, I spotted another info board and the first red boot marker that is for the Wardanup Trail. Happy to be on the right track now, I was hoping the wildflower display was as good as I saw on the Caves Trail. The first part of the Wardanup Trail takes you up a hill to near the summit of Mount Duckworth. This means a steady climb for the first two kilometres, with most of the heavy lifting/climbing done in the first kilometre. Joining old vehicle tracks, these wide trails will be home for a while as you head up the hill and then back down to the coastline.
While not enthralling walking by any means, the wildflowers found through here more than made up for the lack of imagination on the trail building front. These trails kind of remind me of the Shire of Kalamunda walks in a way, with old vehicle track routes cobbled together with markers and usually interacting with a much better trail like the Cape to Cape or Bibbulmun Track. The difference here being that you are in a national park and if DBCA were serious about trails in WA, these would be much better than they actually are (at least we have some trails here but that's a bit of a defeatists attitude). Some early wildflower finds through here included Blue Stars, Rigid Wattle, Triggerplants, Dampiers Rose, Dunsborough Donkey Orchids, Pimeleas and Little Fairies. WA is a fantastic place to explore during spring with the quantity and variety of wildflowers found here providing a kaleidoscope of colour that brightens up any old piece of bushland. What I wasn't enjoying was seeing how extensive the Arum Lily infestation was in this part of the national park.
These introduced weeds have become a real menace on the Leeuwin-Naturaliste ridge as the seeds are easily spread by birds and the waterways. Their thick leaves and root systems end up choking up the landscape and it's a real shame to see them when you're trying to enjoy a place like this. The community is fighting back but it's such a large task to try and eradicate them from natural spaces given how easily they can spread. I would have hoped being this close to a tourist attraction and easily accessed via these vehicle tracks that DBCA would be managing them a bit better but it seems the department is understaffed these days and has other priorities they wish to invest in. With that rant about Arum Lilies over, the trail meanders around bends and turns in the vehicle track network, with each intersection well signed if you are meant to take a turn. Towards the top it flattens out and you start seeing less of the exposed limestone that was a feature earlier in the climb. The forest on the last part of the climb is really nice with mature trees fighting through the dense coastal scrub, with wildflowers poking through near ground level.
This all changes as you pop out onto a very wide vehicle track and take a left turn that leads down the hill. Immediately the ocean views hit you as the vegetation either side of the track has been cleared. I'm hoping this was something to do with stopping the bushfires that hit this area a few years ago as it would be a real shame if it was done for no reason. The walk down feels a little barren because of this but the ocean views are a good distraction and the occasional patch of bright yellow wattle lit up the nearby bush. Towards the end of the descent you get a few clearings in the scrub to your left and you are treated to views overlooking Yallingup Lagoon and Canal Rocks in the far distance. The views disappear as you reach the bottom of the hill and a wooden sign points you left as you join the world famous Cape to Cape Track. It was a coincidence here that I happen to join the tail end of an Edgewalkers tour group run by friend Erika. Although she wasn't leading this group, I recognised a familiar face in Kirra, a guide and yoga guru that works with Erika. I kept a low profile so the ladies could enjoy their walk and set off along the Cape to Cape, bringing back memories from my last visit here in 2020.