Discover towering forests, tranquil farmland and wild beaches on this award-winning walk through Western Australia's south-west. The gold snake signs that mark the trail stretch almost 1,000 kilometres, from the Perth hills to Albany on the south coast. Scale Mt Cooke in the Darling Range and lose yourself in the lush forest fringing the Darling River. Visit vineyards in the Blackwood Valley, walk next to waterfalls and wildflowers in Beedelup National Park and clamber over granite boulders on the Pingerup Plains. Walk through sky-scraping karri trees in the Valley of the Giants, swim from Peaceful Bay and watch migrating whales from Albany. Do the walk in sections, or mix and match day and multi-day treks according to your time, the scenery you want to see, and your energy. Keep in mind it would take around two months to follow the snake markers all the way! The track is well-equipped, with hikers' huts or camping sites situated a day's walk apart.
Kalamunda to Dwellingup
Head downhill out of Kalamunda through Kalamunda National Park. The marri, wandoo and jarrah forests are home to kangaroos, echidnas, bandicoots and a rainbow of native birds. Walk through Mann’s Gully and climb to the southern rim of the Helena River Valley. Cross Mundaring Weir, where the longest freshwater pipeline in the world begins. From here, the track descends past the Hills Forest Discovery Centre. Curve around the Helena Reservoir and head along the Darkin River to Mt Dale. Stop for a picnic or climb through jarrah and wandoo forests to the mountain’s summit. Continue across over the Brookton Highway, near the easily-accessible Brookton campsite. Weave through swamp with paperbark and banksias trees to Abyssinia Rock and into Monadnocks Conservation Park. From here you can ascend Mt Cuthbert, Mt Vincent and Mt Cooke, the highest point in the Darling Range. Walk through wandoo flats and cross the Albany Highway near the North Bannister Roadhouse. Climb the giant granite mould of Boonering Hill and the low granite peaks of White Horse Hills. Scale Mt Wells and survey the view from the firewatchers hut. From here the track hugs the old rail line through jarrah and marri forest into the small timber mining town of Dwellingup.
Dwellingup to Balingup
Head south out of Dwellingup to Lane Poole Reserve, which protects dense jarrah forest and the long, winding Murray River. Snake along the river’s east side, past rock-rimmed pools, melaleuca thickets and flooded gum woodlands. Walk over the timber Long Gully Bridge and head to the Harvey-Quindanning Road, a popular starting point for day or overnight walks. Then meander south through jarrah, marri and wandoo forest to picnic-perfect Harris River Dam. From here the trail passes through the quaint mining town of Collie and over Glen Mervyn Dam before dropping down to the tiny settlement of Mumballup. Do a bum-burning climb through farmland to the Noggerup Conservation Park, home to some of Western Australia’s most spectacular virgin jarrah forest. It’s then a scenic descent to the shady, green sanctuary of Balingup Brook. Arrive in Balingup, set in the Blackwood Valley amidst forests, rivers, rolling hills, vineyards and lush orchards. Choose from a range of accommodation or walk further to the Blackwood campsite, perched high above town.
Balingup to Pemberton
South of Balingup, the trail climbs through the Golden Valley Tree Park, home to over five thousand trees from around the world. Walk to the edge of the Blackwood Valley, for panoramic views over the green patchwork of forest and farmland. You’ll see your first karri trees at Karri Gully, just north of the Brockman Highway, between Bridgetown and Nannup. Cross the highway and roam through low-lying jarrah and karri forests before hitting the trail’s halfway point - the old mill town of Donnelly River Village. Amble alongside the tranquil Donnelly River before veering east for the waterfalls and wildflowers of Beedelup National Park. Skirt Big Brook Dam on the way in to Pemberton, in the middle of majestic karri forest. You can even scale one of these skyscrapers – like the 61-metre high Gloucester Tree - with metal spikes.
Pemberton to Walpole
Soak up the rich, fast-changing terrain and vegetation on the approach to Northcliffe. Here karri forest makes way for sandy hills, tea-tree flats and low scrubland. Explore the Northcliffe Forest Park, where the climbing plants scramble beneath a jumble of colour in late spring. Stay overnight in Northcliffe, before following the Gardner River to its source at Lake Maringup. The trail travels through part of pristine D'Entrecasteaux National Park, which between July and November may be knee-deep in floodwater. Head across the Shannon River to Dog Pool, where you can pitch your tent beneath the soaring canopy of the karri. From here you’ll see a few sudden scene changes: the stark, alien beauty of Woolbales Hills on Pingerup Plains; then wild Mandalay Beach, where the track first touches the south coast. Trek past the formidable granite cliffs of Long Point and Point Nuyt and across Nuyts Wilderness. At Mount Clare, the giant red tingle trees signal the start of your descent into Walpole. This idyllic township sits on Nornalup Inlet, where karri trees and water meet.
Walpole to Albany
Take in the Frankland River and Nornalup Inlet from Hilltop, then follow the trail through ancient karri and tingle forests to the Valley of the Giants. Here the Tree Top Walk brings you eye-level with the birds, 40 metres above the forest floor. Look down on a grove of veteran tingle trees known as the Ancient Empire. Wander past heathlands, low woodlands and the dramatic red flowering gum. Then reconnect with the windswept coast at Conspicuous Beach. Climb to Conspicuous Cliff and enjoy the invigorating views and salt air from Rame Head. Walk past heathland and grazing kangaroos to Gap Beach and aptly-named Peaceful Bay. Wander through the wildlife-wonderland of Quarram Nature Reserve on your way to the sheltered, rocky cove of Boat Harbour. Walk across Parry Inlet and along long, empty white beaches in William Bay National Park. Climb to Monkey Rock and Mt Hallowell for more sweeping views over coast and hinterland. Stop at Denmark or nearby Wilson Inlet and follow Nullaki Peninsula to Lowlands Beach. Wind through the rugged landscape of West Cape Howe National Park, drop to the beach at Cosy Corner and skip across rugged cliff-tops past Muttonbird Island. You’ll spot Albany – the track’s southernmost destination - across Princess Royal Harbour.
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