Warren River Loop Trail
Warren National Park

Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree

11.8km (Loop)

319m

3-5 hours

Directions - From the centre of Pemberton head west along Vasse Hwy until you reach Old Vasse Rd. Turn right and follow it all the way until you see signs for the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree. Turn into the car park and the trail head is located on the eastern side next to the information board.

The Hike - With a week booked off work to help my parents move into their new home and paint a few rooms, I had planned an escape for one day to see some of the best day hikes in the South West. My planning had narrowed down the location to Pemberton and after taking in the 10km Gloucester Route in the morning, it was going to be hard to top that experience. Luckily for me Pemberton is full of great hikes and I had the opportunity to explore a walk that has been rated one of TrailsWA's Top Trails. That rating isn't handed out lightly so I was looking forward to experiencing it for myself after reading about Donovan's own trip on The Long Way's Better. The drive from the Gloucester Route takes you through Pemberton town and towards the Old Vasse Hwy. Sealed roads soon give way to orange gravel but the rally driving is cut short as the entrance to the Warren National Park appears. As I had already paid for a day pass at Gloucester NP I didn't need to use the pay centre but if this is your only national park visit for the day then make sure you have correct change and fill out one of the envelopes.

I parked up the car and made my way to the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree, a 75m giant that is one of the popular climbing trees in the South West. This tree was not one of the original fire lookouts, instead being converted as part of the bicentennial celebrations in 1988 (hence the name). Dave Evans I found out on the information boards was thankfully not someone from the 1800s that had visited the place once and then left back for England but a local man who put a tremendous amount back into the community. When I arrived there was a man climbing the tree while his wife looked on so I took a stroll on the path that circles the tree to see what was what. The little loop trail was full of thick green undergrowth and its end came at the back end of the Dave Evans Bicentennial Tree platform. As I arrived at the bottom of the tree the man who was climbing it decided he was done and yelled down to his wife that he was coming down. Given the rains that had fallen overnight I don't blame him as it would have been slippery up there. Having suitably explored the picnic area it was time to move on and find the start of the much anticipated Warren River Loop Trail. The trail head is located at the large wooden information board aptly named "Walkers Information". Surprisingly for an area of this beauty, there are only two official walks in park. The very short Lorikeet Stroll (250m) and the one I was here for, the Warren River Loop Trail (11.8km).

 

Setting off from the information board you are immediately transported into something from a postcard as the wide trail is engulfed by some truly impressive Karri monsters. One example is not facing the right way and lies on its side for you to get a sense of scale of these behemoths of the forests. This wonderful little section serves the purpose of taking you down to where the loop section begins and you are left with a choice on which way to take. The trail is marked for both ways and looking at the map I decided to leave what looked like the best bit until last so I headed in an anti-clockwise direction (the theme of the day). This first section is a great introduction to the Karri forest with a wide 4x4 track snaking its way through the landscape, allowing you to soak in the sights and sounds of the forest. The calmness of the forest was interrupted by the sounds of laughing kookaburras early on but I soon escaped their judging noises and revelled in more Karri goodness. The gentle rolling hills allow you to ease into the hike and with plenty of trees, plants and flowers to look out for, the kilometres practically walk themselves. At the 3km mark you come across a little information shelter that provides an opportunity to sit down and rest. With no rain about the only noise was the sound of forest debris hitting the tin roof.

This shelter is accessible from the nearby Heartbreak Trail, a 4x4 trail that loops around the national park and provides access to the campsites located on the Warren River. Had I have done a bit more research beforehand I would have realised that the Pemberton Wine Centre is a 600m walk away and perhaps procured a bottle of vino so I could enjoy a glass or two down by the river. Given the quality of this trail I think I might return for a few more visits in the future so won't be forgetting that detour. I had a short break and enjoyed an energy bar before setting off on a southerly path towards the first of the picnic areas, Maidenbush. I'm not sure why but I expected this section down to the river to be over in a flash but the predominantly downhill terrain kept going and going (for 3km to be exact). This is perhaps because the trail dips down towards a bridge that takes you over a creek before rising up the other side of the valley. From here I thought it would be a steep downhill to the Warren River but the trail remains fairly flat for the next 1.5km until it really starts descending. The trail is by no means boring along this section as you are amongst the Karri trees and with quite a few of them strewn across the trail in places, it can be an adventure to get through them. I do love the strict adherence to the Leave No Trace principles here as hikers seem quite happy to just walk their own path over the obstacles with minimal evidence of the detours.

 

Things really get exciting when the trail starts to descend at a more rapid pace and you know what is coming up, the Warren River. Having seen photos of it before I knew what to expect but nothing prepares you for the real life experience. I was lucky today as there were no winds, a slight cloud cover and the river was very calm. The first taste of the river comes in the form of one of the many excellent boardwalks that have been constructed along the riverbank at the Maidenbush picnic area. Seemingly blending into the landscape, these welcome additions allow you to sit on the river and enjoy the peaceful scenes around you. I was lucky that I had this place all to myself and spent quite a bit of time soaking it all in and marvelling at this amazing location. The combination of the mirror like river, towering Karri trees along the bank and damp feeling really makes this one of the best places to sit and relax in Western Australia. I can imagine with a little morning fog rising from the river and a nice cup of coffee that you could easily forget about the real world. With many photos taken around the boardwalk and lookout I reluctantly moved on and found the path leading along the river bank. Rather than give you a little teaser and have you head off into the forest again, the trail meanders along with the river and you are treated to plenty of moss covered logs, glimpses of the river and some very photogenic scenes.