Saturday, 23 July 2016

Eagle View Walk Trail (John Forrest National Park)

A much loved Perth bushwalking classic, the Eagle View Walk Trail has long been considered one of the WA's Top Trails. Located in John Forrest National Park, this popular loop walk takes walkers to some of the less visited sections within the park, including the lovely Christmas Tree Creek. With the trail's valley views bookended by the stunning Hovea and National Park Falls, this is a particularly spectacular winter walk. 

Distance: 15 km (loop)
Gradient: Variable. Some hilly sections, with particularly steep ascents and descents near Jane Brooke and National Park Falls. 
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained - a mix of clear purpose built walking tracks and service vehicle tracks. Some erosion damage to the track - particularly bad near Jane Brook
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed in a clockwise direction, with clear directional markers. More infrequently signed in counter-clockwise direction
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Recommended. 
Time: 4-5 Hours
Steps: Several steps near Jane Brook
Best Time to Visit: Mid Winter-Early Spring
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply
Getting There: The trail starts at the main picnic area within John Forrest National Park, near John Forrest Tavern. The park can be access via Park Rd off Great Eastern Hwy. 

Given that John Forrest National Park is Western Australia's oldest National Park (and the country's second oldest), it is unsurprising that the park is home to one of the state's most well known bushwalks - the Eagle View Walk Trail. Well loved and patronised by locals due to its decent length and proximity to both Hovea and National Park Falls, it might come as a surprise to know that Eagle View is a relatively recent trail, having only been completed in 1998. It's a trail I've walked at least 5 times but never photographed, so with the recent winter rains promising the often dry Jane Brook would be flowing over National Park Falls, I decided to walk the trail once again.

The trail officially starts at the car park within the National Park, with walkers crossing the bridge over Jane Brook pictured above. In the past, I didn't have a National Parks Pass and walked into the Park from Pechey Rd via the Swan View Tunnel and the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail. This alternative access is free but less convenient and adds a few extra kilometres to the walk, however its a viable option for people on a budget.

Upon crossing the bridge over Jane Brook, information signage gives walkers information about which way to head to start the trail. The Department of Parks and Wildlife (DPaW) can't seem to make up their minds about the direction that Eagle View is meant to be walked, with the trail originally intended to be done in a clockwise direction before later deciding that counter-clockwise was just as good and putting in checkpoint markers from A to D in the counter-clockwise direction. At current, they seemed to have settled on the clockwise direction only, with the directional arrow pointing right removed from the trailhead sign above. Having walked it both ways, I actually disagree with this decision as walking clockwise means ending at the more dull end of the park, while the alternative direction leaves the best views for the final stretch. As such, I headed out to walk the trail in the counter-clockwise direction, but definitely did find it less well marked. As such, first time walkers are advised to keep to the clockwise direction, but seasoned walkers should be able follow the counter-clockwise direction without much issue.

At first, the Eagle View Walk Trail follows the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail east, before heading north along a service track. This section of the walk is shared with a bridle trail. A short way into the walk is a spur trail leading to Hovea Falls. While not part of the Eagle View Trail per se, this short side trip is recommended.

Hovea Falls is not an overly steep waterfall, with water flowing over a gentle gradient down the slope. While pretty in its own right, Hovea is arguably the lesser of the two waterfalls along this walk, however its more low key location away from the large crowds at National Park Falls does have its own idyllic charm.

Back on the Eagle View, the sun came out from behind the rain clouds, lighting the Wandoo and Powderbark-dominated landscape in the beautiful light of golden hour.

Glimpses of the Hovea Falls can be had along the Eagle View as walkers look down at the valley below.

The glorious golden glow would not last long however, and golden hour was no more than 10-15 minutes. Soon the dark rain clouds would return for an hour or so. Although a very light drizzle they didn't do much to improve the relative dullness of the first leg of the walk. Being along wide vehicle track in scrappy looking Jarrah forest, this section features fairly ordinary walking that is pleasant enough but unremarkable.

Although one would think that the trail's starting point should be the first marker, Point A occurs along the track and marks the end of the less interesting section of the walk.

From Point A, the trail is largely on purpose built walking track, some of which has mild erosion damage but is otherwise in very good condition. 

While initially dominated by Jarrah, the valley slopes in the area dependably shift to Wandoo woodlands, with many mature trees offering excellent walking. During this leg of the walk, the track reaches a high point offering walkers a view of the City of Perth naturally framed by two trees. Although the trail was initially named Eagle View because it literally allowed walkers to view a since burnt down eagle's nest, the views of the city do offer a poetic 'eagle's view'.

Although most of the valleys alongside the track between Points A and B are relatively dry and highly ephemeral, the trail crosses a small stream just before the end of the section, and serves as a precursor to the creek-dominated section after Point C.

From Point B, the Wandoo woodlands again give way to Jarrah. Burnt trees are a sign of the significant fire damage the area has experienced over the last decade, some of which has been caused by arson.

With the walk perched high over the valley, the open Jarrah woodlands offer excellent views of the valley below, with mature Jarrah and Grass Trees framing much of the scenery. 

The sections after Point C are arguably some of the most spectacular along the walk, and would be the reason I believe a counter-clockwise direction is superior.

Much of the track from between Points C and D runs alongside Christmas Tree Creek. During dryer times of the year or years of low rainfall, the creek is a dry riverbed, however with the good winter rains of July 2016, Christmas Tree Creek was a definite highlight of the walk. 

At one point, the track crosses the creek over a pipe, with a decent size pool immediately downstream. An even larger rocky pool is located within the park along Jane Brook, however the Eagle View does not pass by that section of the brook.

As well as Christmas Tree Creek, large granite boulders and more open heathland are key features of this stretch of the track.

As the track heads west, Eagle View once again offers views of Perth in the distance, and I always mistake this point as the lookout near the end of the trail.

Descending to Point D, the reedy plants always make me think that I've reached the home stretch of the walk along Jane Brook, but this low, muddy section is only a false ending.

The trail rise again, up a particularly red laterite-rich hill.

After walking through bushland, the trail finally leads walkers to the final lookout, with its large granite boulders. The view takes in the suburbia just outside of the park with Perth's cityscape in the background.

Not long after the lookout, walkers have a choice of reaching National Park Falls across the ridge or via Jane Brook. Although I'm loathe to suggest that the long way is not better, the slightly shorter path via Jane Brook is the superior option. That said, the highly eroded terrain is steep and tricky, with the steps here having been washed away. Walkers are advised to take extra care in this section.

Once reaching the end of the descent, the track runs alongside Jane Brook for the rest of its length. Being winter, the track was beyond muddy and actually ran as a minor tributary stream itself!

The view along Jane Brook is lovely, offering many glimpses of the flowing waters that only seems to get wider and wilder heading towards the falls, as the water flows over short rapids and around granite boulders.

Although spring is the best time to see wildflowers in the area, many species were already in profuse bloom in mid July, including these purple flowers along Jane Brook.

A short spur trail leads to a lookout just at the bottom of National Park Falls, however the platform is in a poor location as a tree blocks a satisfactory view of the falls. Wanting to get a closer look, I decided to scramble up some rocks to the viewpoint in the photo above.

I scrambled a bit further up and got to the top of the falls, but I still was not satisfied that I had captured the falls in all their glory.

Finally, I decided to make a detour onto the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail and descend down an informal trail leading to the south bank of Jane Brook. From this location I was able to see the beautiful National Park Falls from the perfect vantage point.

Walking back up to the top of the falls and following the track back along the north bank of the brook, I followed Jane Brook back along the Eagle View Walk Trail.

The Trail passes under an old railway bridge that is part of the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail, before returning back to the picnic area and the car park at the start of the track. This marks the end of the Eagle View Walk Trail's loop. In all, the walk took me just under 5 hours due to the amount of time I spent setting up my tripod and taking long exposure photos of the waterfalls. Realistically, 4 hours should be plenty of time and I have completed the walk in even less time that that in the past. 

There are a lot of arguments for the Eagle View Walk Trail being the best trail in Perth, with the fact the walk is bookended by two waterfalls being the most persuasive argument for its excellence. These are definitely highlights, with National Park Falls being one of the most spectacular sights along a reasonably long trail in the Perth region. As much as I enjoy Eagle View, I would however consider both Kitty's Gorge and the Numbat Track to be superior walks, as they are more consistently excellent over their entire length compared to the somewhat dull sections of the walk from the picnic area to Point A of Eagle View. Still, this a very good bushwalk, and the Eagle View Walk Trail as a whole has enough excellent sections and points of interest that it would easily rank amongst Perth's Top 5 best trails. 

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