Karijini National Park is the 2nd largest national park in Western Australia and it would have to be the most beautiful. In fact, overall it’s the most beautiful place we’ve ever been to and we aren’t just saying that. Everyone should take the time to visit at some point in their life. The scenery is breathtakingly beautiful, from the spectacular rugged towering chasms, vibrant colours of the gorge walls, crystal clear pools and waterfalls, this park has it all, it’s really is the ultimate adventure park.
The land around Karijini started out as an ancient sea floor, 2,500 million years ago, so as you walk through the ancient tunnels and gorges you are amazed by the sheer size and age of the towering walls. The water is crystal-clear and one minute you are climbing up stairs or a rock wall and the next you can be swimming under a waterfall.
We spent 3 nights at Karijini and decided to stay in the Karijini Eco Retreat, rather than the national parks campground. It was a great campground and it had its own bar and restaurant aswell, which of course we had to try out!
The night sky in Karijini is better than we’ve ever seen, would love to have been able to photograph it, but our camera just wasn’t up to that! There were so many stars and you had a full 360 degree view of them as far as the eye could see. We saw so many shooting stars at night and the sky was so bright, you could literally spend hours sitting there looking up at the sky and still not get sick of it.
Now everything you want to see in Karijini requires bush walking and most of the walks are around 1-2 km walks, aside from a few shorter walks to lookouts. Given Shelly’s bad knees and George’s ankle problems (and our overall lack of fitness and dislike of walking!) we knew some of these walks weren’t going to be easy, but thank god we had already done the Gibb River Road and worked up our fitness levels undertaking all those walks!
Each walk is classified by one of the following:-
Class 2 – no bushwalking experience required, suitable for families
Class 3 – some bushwalking experience required, suitable for most ages and fitness levels
Class 4 – for experienced bushwalkers. A good level of fitness is recommended
Class 5 – for very experienced bushwalkers. A high level of fitness and agility is recommended
For exploring Karijini National Park, it basically has two areas where the gorges sit, the Dales Recreation Area and Weano Recreation Area.
On our first day, we arrived and set up camp and then headed straight to Weano Recreation Area to check out the gorges. We headed back here on our last day to complete a few more aswell. The Weano Recreation Area includes the following:
- Weano Gorge – these walks are separated into ‘Upper Weano Gorge’ and ‘Lower Weano Gorge’. The walk isn’t too bad but there are some steep sections. It’s marked Class 4.
- Oxer Lookout – this is located at the junction of Weano, Red, Hancock and Joffre Gorges and the view is spectacular. The huge walls of banded rock tower over a pool at the bottom of the gorge.
- Junction Pool Lookout – this is an easy walk to a lookout where you stand about 100 meters above Junction Pool.
- Handrail Pool – this walk continues on from the Weano Gorge walk and it’s a hard walk with lots of steep sections, very rough ground surfaces and climbing over slippery rocks and boulders, through water and along narrow ledges. It’s a Class 5 walk. If you can manage it though, it’s highly worth the walk, it’s so beautiful.
- Hancock Gorge & Kermits Pool – this is the one that everyone wants to see, but unfortunately we didn’t managed to get to this one. It’s a Class 5 trail and we didn’t want to push it (given our injuries and lack of fitness!, plus we ran out of time anyway).
Next day we took a drive out to Hamersley Gorge and then back to explore the Dales Recreation Area. This area includes:
- Circular Pool – this Class 4 trail is a steep, rough track that descends down into the gorge floor from the Three Ways Lookout. We didn’t walk down here as if you continue along the Gorge Rim walk you can see the pool anyway.
- Gorge Rim walk – this is a fairly easy Class 3 walk which takes you from the Fortescue Falls viewing area to the Circular Pool lookout, along the way giving great views down into Dales Gorge. It was a cooler early morning when we did this walk and it was quite a nice walk.
- Dales Gorge walk – this follows basically the same line as the Gorge Rim walk, but down on the gorge floor.
- Fortescue Falls – these falls are the only permanent waterfall in Karijini National Park and you can swim at the falls. The walk to here is Class 3, but then moves onto Class 4 if you continue on to Fern Pool.
- Fern Pool – this is a Class 4 trail and takes you along the gorge floor up to Fern Pool, which is highly recommended as this is so pretty.
Hamersley Gorge – This gorge is a bit of a drive away, but it’s a nice drive and it’s a nice walk to see the gorge. You can access the gorge easily from Tom Price or Karijini National Park. The ancient rock formations are amazing and to see the lines and texture in the rocks is like nothing else you will see. There are waterfalls that flow down into tranquil pools below. The colours from this gorge and the water are beautiful and make for some great pictures.
From the camping ground there is a walk to Joffre Lookout and down to Joffre Falls. We did this one afternoon and it was quite a good walk. Not the easiest of walks once you get down towards the falls, but well worth it.
There are quite a few gorges to explore within the park, but every gorge is different, and each one is worth a visit.
One afternoon we walked to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool and this required descending down into Dales Gorge via a steep long steel staircase and then climbing back up them, yes this was very hard on the legs!. After reaching the falls, you follow the trail along the gorge floor to reach Fern Pool. After our strenuous walk to Handrail Pool the day before, this was certainly very tiring for our legs, so much so that Shelly could barely walk for 3 days afterwards!According to the brochures ‘To explore these gorges you must be fit and prepared to submerge in near-freezing water, follow narrow paths and cling to rock ledges’ and that’s certainly true and we did just that! There were times when we were wondering if we’d make it or if it was worthwhile, but once you reached the end you were impressed and surprised every time. There was not a single place that we visited that we were disappointed with, it made all the stairs and rock climbing and sore knees and ankles and backs and legs and aching muscles totally worth it!
Visiting Karijini and its gorges is like visiting a tropical oasis in the middle of the remote Pilbara region. On first impressions you can’t imagine that something so beautiful can be hidden within the desert like surroundings. But hidden amongst the barren land are these amazing, beautiful gorges and waterfalls, it really is something to see and should be on everyone’s bucket list.