Weano Gorge | Handrail Pool
Karijini national park
WEano Day Use Area
Directions - Located in the western side of the gorge system within Karijini National Park, take Banjima Drive from Karijini Drive and drive north for 25km until you reach the turnoff for Weano Road. Take Weano Road north for another 12km, passing the turnoff for the Karijini Eco Retreat until you reach the Weano Day Use Area.
The Hike - With a week in Karijini to explore the park, the next hike on the agenda was the Weano Gorge/Handrail Pool loop with a side visit to the Junction Pool and Oxer Lookouts thrown in for good measure. With an excellent time spent at Hancock Gorge the previous day, we were out here early to beat the crowds and mission accomplished as there was almost no one at the car park when we arrived. Taking the opportunity we gathered up our gear and headed out to the trail head to begin another fun experience within the gorges. For no reason whatsoever we decided to do the trail in a clockwise direction and headed off along the red dirt paths leading away from the day use area.
I like the idea of walking along the gorge rim where possible as you get an appreciation for the size and depth of these formations plus the scenery along the rim is just as spectacular. Both Ben and I remarked on the beauty of the Spinifex plains on more than one occasion so to have a section of the trail pass through the golden grasses and among the Snappy Gums was a real delight. It's like having our own African Savannah but without the elephants, giraffes, zebras etc and the Eco Retreat certainly adds to that vibe too. Back to the rim walk, you also get the opportunity to pass by several impressive termite mounds, a feature of the north west thanks to the 40 odd varieties of termites that call this area home. I had fun taking plenty of photos along this 600m section before the trail takes a dip down into Weano Gorge for the loop back to the meeting point of various side trails for this loop. Initially it feels very open with a large collection of trees found lining the stream that passes through the gorge and the temperature drop was noticeable again.
Due to the morning sun just rising over the landscape, one side of the gorge was well lit and the other in shadow, a problem for the photos as the sensors don't really like those conditions. In the moment though I was happy to be casually walking along the stream and criss crossing where the round white trail markers suggested I should. While pleasant enough, I found this area in retrospect to be one of the "lesser" gorge walking parts of the park. I say lesser in relative terms because this is still an amazing place but the gorge walls weren't as high and the vegetation was a little overgrown and felt more like weeds than anything else we encountered in the park. I'm sure this isn't the case but it just felt that way to me. After a few hundred metres things pick up as you reach the main pool of Weano Gorge and a spectacular scene of rapids, green water, reeds and rocky ledges. We spent quite a bit of time here admiring the beauty and taking photos before moving on to the entrance for Handrail Pool. There is an intersection of trails here with the side trail for Handrail Pool leading you deeper into the gorge, the climb out of the gorge up the rocky path and the way we had just come.
We checked out the path down to Handrail Pool, passing by the Angkor Wat style tree that has stubbornly stuck to the rock face with exposed roots and on to the pool that you must cross in order to reach Handrail Pool. With some water sensitive equipment on the hike with us we decided to delay that part of the walk until later so headed back up the rocky path and out of the gorge. These steep ascents really get the blood pumping again but the views at the top are worth it. Looking back into the gorge showed us the green oasis we had just explored and the length of the gorge snaking its way into the distance. Given the two named lookouts are connected via the same path that forms the Weano Gorge loop we decided to keep going and check them out. Once again walking through golden Spinifex and past white trunked Snappy Gums, you don't initially get a great perspective of the gorge system but once you reach the lookouts then the wow moments take you in. Junction Pool is the first of the lookouts and gives you the full view down towards Kermits Pool, the end point of the Hancock Gorge trail.
Standing over and looking down into the gorges is impressive from this perspective and everything looks so much more rugged compared with the rim walk along Weano Gorge. The Oxer Lookout is a little further down the track and is right on the edge where three gorges merge into one and the result is very impressive. It's hard to really capture it in the photos so you'll just have to go visit yourself. With the lookouts covered off we doubled back to the start so we could drop off the equipment we were carrying and just take our cameras to Handrail Pool. With the crowds now starting to roll in we were confronted with a large crowd at the entrance to the Handrail Pool side trail. Ben took the opportunity while they were still faffing about trying to get their stuff ready to jump straight into the water and begin the wading through the first section.