Wave Rock Walks
Start - Wave Rock Road
Length - 2.7km (Figure 8)
Grade - Green
Terrain - Single Track, Rock Walking
Vertical Climb - 49m
Time - 1 hour
Signed - Yes
Cost - $12 Parking Fee Applies
Date Hiked - 3rd April 2018
Best Time - All Year Round
Directions - Wave Rock is located near the wheatbelt town of Hyden, a three hour drive east of Perth. From the centre of town, travel east on Hyden-Lake King Rd until you see the signs for Wave Rock and turn onto Lovering Rd and then Wave Rock Rd. The car park for the Wave Rock walks is past the cafe/wildlife park/caravan park.
The Hike - With our adventures around Esperance coming to an end, there was just the matter of the 9 hour drive back home to deal with and as everyone will know who has done the trip, it's not easily done in one long stretch. A great way to break it up is to stop in at Hyden and visit a famous Western Australian landmark in Wave Rock. This unique natural formation has drawn visitors for decades and a thriving little hub has built up around the area to service the tourists. Luckily one of those services is a few walk trails that make stretching the legs a pleasure and allow you to see a bit more than just the curling barrel of rock shaped like a wave.
With the farming season not quite underway our drive to Hyden consisted of lots of open sky and limitless yellow expanses mixed in with the occasional nature reserve as if to prove to the travelling public that not all of Western Australia was cleared for farming or mining. Arriving at Wave Rock we were amazed at all the cars and buses lining the parking lot (for which payment is required) given it was a weekday outside of school holidays. As I paid for our ticket I saw a family leaving the walkway to Wave Rock grumbling about not paying for the experience and how it wasn't worth it. Having visited as a kid and seeing lots of photos I'm not sure what he was expecting but as soon as we made it to the main tourist spot I think I know what he wasn't happy at. Hoping to get in some fairly uncluttered shots of Wave Rock we quickly discovered that the place was overrun with Chinese tourists taking a million selfies from all different angles.
We walked through the chaos trying not to get in the way and eventually decided that we would come back later after our walk to see if things had improved. With the trail head lacking any maps we followed the sign that pointed us to Hippos Yawn, knowing this was a proper trail with markers and we disappeared along the rock face to the east. Things were remarkably quiet compared to the main attraction as we weaved in-between the rock face and the unexpected she-oak forest that obviously benefits from the rainwater run-off. Finding she-oak forest was a very pleasant surprise and even in mid autumn there were still green patches around to enjoy. The Hippos Lawn Loop is just under 2km of the figure 8 trail I did and half way through you get to see the titular feature. A few seats are located in front of the rock that resembles a hippo yawning (hence the name) and at the time of our arrival there was a family enjoying said seats and the views so my photos were only from one side.
I did think the rock formation near the cave of Frenchman Peak looked a lot more like a hippo yawning but I won't argue with the naming of this one as it could have been named "King George Rock" or "Elizabeth’s Cave" following the typical WA naming policy. Given it was fairly sunny out and we hadn't put any sunscreen on (our mistake) we moved on pretty quickly and located a path that I assumed formed the rest of the Hippos Yawn Loop. Spotting a sign for the 6km Wave Rock Loop, we unfortunately didn't have enough time to check it out but I made a note for next time. The walk back to Wave Rock takes you through some fantastic Salmon Gum forest, a real delight after driving past a few scrappy patches on the drives to and from Esperance. These golden barked trees are reminiscent of Wandoo but with a much more pronounced hue and they contrasted well against the deep blue sky making for a truly amazing sight. It's a real shame that there isn't an entire expanse of these trees with a longer walk located in WA (please let me know if you know of one).
Arriving back at Wave Rock we were hoping that the crowds had dispersed but they were just as strong as before so we tried to snap a few photos in clear space without much luck. Caris headed back to the car and I continued on the loop as I wanted to check out the views from the top of the rock formation. Heading west from the main event I came across some the set of stairs leading up to the top and once there I was surprised to see a large body of water in front of me. Hyden's water supply has been created by building a wall at the base of the slope, which makes sense in this dry part of the state. There are a few routes you can take up here but there are markers to guide your way as you admire the warm toned slopes contrasted against the blue sky. Several boulder groupings up here provide islands for life to cling to and are kind of cool to photograph. After exploring the top of Wave Rock for a little bit I climbed back down to where the figure 8 crosses (don't try this in the wet) and found Caris back at the car park enjoying some shade. We were both keen to have another break after the walk so headed to the cafe and had some Devonshire Tea before tackling the final drive back to Fremantle.
Final Thoughts - I get the appeal of Wave Rock as a tourist destination and if you're travelling by car in this region then having a feature like this breaks up the fairly flat farming landscape. Most people that visit are passing through from visiting other places so to have a place like this to stop at and stretch the legs is very important.
I like the addition of the walk trails to provide an extra option for the visit and I was surprised to find the variety of tree life in the area extending to she-oak forest. Add in the charm of the Salmon Gums and this is no token walk tacked on to a popular tourist spot.
If you're planning an Esperance or Fitzgerald River National Park road trip then make sure you include one leg of the trip to visit Hyden and Wave Rock just to combat fatigue and enjoy a different type of nature that WA has.
Get out there and experience it!!!
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