Monday, 11 July 2016

Mt Frankland Summit & Caldyanup Trails (Mt Frankland National Park)

Combining two very short trails in Mt Frankland National Park, this walk leads to the top of Mt Frankland via the bituminised Summit Trail, before looping around the mountain via the wilder Caldyanup Trail. Featuring breathtaking views of the Walpole Wilderness as well as the impressive granite dome of Mt Frankland itself, this is a superb short scenic walk - well worth its rating as one of WA's Top Trails. 

Distance: 2.2 km ('tadpole' loop - loop walk with return section)
Gradient: Steep ascent to the summit, and then fairly moderate descending terrain looping around the mountain. 
Quality of Path: Very clear and easy to follow bitumen path to the summit, followed by many concrete and metal steps. The trail around the mountain is clear and easy to follow, although uneven and filled with occasional natural obstacles. 
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with maps and info panels along the walk to the summit, though few on the Caldyanup Trail
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended - the granite can be slippery. 
Time: 1 Hour
Steps: Over 100 steps to the summit
Best Time to Visit: Autumn-Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: Access is via Mt Frankland Rd, off North Walpole Rd North of Walpole. 

It is rare for me to cover very short walks on the Long Ways Better, mainly because I have a preference for walks of a reasonable degree of either length or vertical difficulty, and because I question whether a walk of under a kilometre can truly be called a bushwalk at all, and instead is merely a path to an attraction of some description. At a little over a 1 km the walk to the summit of Mt Frankland is very slight, and even with the addition of the Caldyanup Trail only comes in at a measly 2.2 kilometres. However, with many positive appraisals of the experience online, I decided to check out this very short walk on the way from Denmark to Pemberton. 

Surprisingly for a fairly remote park, Mt Frankland has fairly good facilities, including a large shelter at the start with information about the geology and the walks in the area. To the left of the shelter is a short 600m walk to a lookout, while to the right is a concrete path leading to the Summit and a Picnic Area. 

Due to it height overlooking the Walpole Wilderness, Mt Frankland used to be a fire lookout tower, and the old fire spotter's hut is located in what is now a Picnic Area. 

Although the door is locked - presumably to discourage people from squatting - the window can be opened to have a look inside. Dominated by a large, mysterious wooden structure and not much else, its not overly exciting, but does give some insight into the cosy confines experienced by the fire spotters in days gone by. 

Surprisingly, the path up to the summit is bituminised. This is something you don't see everyday on a bushwalk, and is a clear indication that Mt Frankland is being promoted as a major tourist attraction in the area. 

On either side of the path, the Karri-dominated forest is lush and beautiful, with the track rising fairly quickly. 

As the trail rounds a corner, the massive dome of Mt Frankland can be seen. At an elevation of 384 metres, Mt Frankland is not particularly tall, however its exposed granite dome takes the form of a huge, expansive monolith. 

The bitumen path eventually ends, leading to a series of ladder constructed out of metal and concrete. Some of these are fairly steep, including a section that is more like a step ladder than a flight of stairs. Although walkers will need to take this ascent with care, I saw many children successfully doing this walk with their parents and I would not consider it as hard as the final Castle Rock section of the Granite Skywalk in Porongurup National Park. 

Although the weather was less than ideal, the view of the surrounding wilderness is expansive even from halfway up the steps.

Finally at the summit, walkers will encounter the Fire Spotters Tower, which seems to still be operation-ready with its banks of solar panels. 

A plaque attached to a pillar serves as the summit cairn, with the plaque naming all the surrounding peaks. 

The summit is very safe, with fencing protecting all walkers from falling over the edge.

It took less than 15 minutes to get to the summit, making it a bit unsatisfying on its own. Craving something a bit longer, I decided to follow the Caldyanup Trail back to the car park to extend the walk to a more respectable length. The Caldyanup Trail branches off from the Summit Trail near where the track first reaches the granite dome on the way up. Unlike the Summit Trail, the Caldyanup Trail runs on more natural surfaces instead of bitumen. 

Near the start of the Caldyanup Trail, the track skirts along Mt Frankland's granite slope view a wooden boardwalk. 

The view of the rock from here is incredible, with its ragged crag and moss-lined slopes being more impressive that the actual view from the summit. 

The track continues to follow the dome as it descends, giving walkers a sense of this monolith's sheer size from multiple vantage points. 

To add to the walk's beauty, dense Karri forest dominates the view to the left of the track. The lushness of the forest is impressive, and it is not hard to see how this area would have once been rainforest before Australia's climate dried.

As the track continues to descend, the sheer height of Mt Frankland's granite dome increases relative to the walker's point of view, to the point that it positively towers above. 

Although the Caldyanup Trail is described as being less difficult than the Summit Trail, I actually think the Caldyanup Trail is the more challenging of the two. While the Summit Trail is steep, it is so manicured in its construction that the chance of an accident seems less likely than on the natural surfaces of the Caldyanup Trail. Rocky terrain dominates the walk, with the particularly steep section pictured above being the most significant. Perhaps because I have fallen down slopes a few times recently, I was particularly conscious of the potential for a fall while doing this trail - something I didn't feel particularly worried about on the Summit Trail. 

As the trail passes through two large karri trees, this signifies that the walk is coming to its end. 

Eventually, the Caldyanup Trail loops back to join the Summit Trail at the Picnic Area, with walkers simply retracing their steps 100 metres back to the car park. All in all, combining the two walks still came in at less than an hour overall.

I must admit that I was initially slightly underwhelmed by the Summit Trail, as it was too short, too easy and not impressive enough to be worthy, in my opinion, of being called a Top Trail - especially when better walks like the Bald Head Trail and Toolbrunup Peak are not included on the list. This opinion changed however when adding the Caldyanup Trail into the mix, as the walk through lush karri forest and around the granite dome was in many ways even better and more beautiful a walk than the bitumen path to the summit. I seriously preferred walking around Mt Frankland, and it served as an example of why walking around a large rock can sometimes be considered more impressive that actually climbing it, like Uluru. Although still very short, the combined Mt Frankland Summit-Caldyanup Trails loop is a gem of a little hike, and is definitely worth checking out. 


  1. Lovely review of the trail :)
    FYI re. the Top Trails - they range from easy day walks and bike rides to long hikes to cater for a range of ages and fitness levels. To be selected the also need to be well maintained. We would love to have included the Bald Head walk - but there are sections which are not in good nick, and the Department of Parks and Wildlife did not want it promoted as a Top Trail. A couple of other longer bushwalks which are spectacular are also not included for that reason and also because they are in environmentally sensitive areas. See

    1. Hi Linda,

      Thanks for the information regarding the Top Trails criteria. I certainly think that it is good that there are some easy walks on the site - the Meelup Trail and Luke Pen Walk immediately come to mind as excellent shorter walks in easy terrain that are worthy of the Top Trails rating.

      I think there are two audiences for bush walks - casual walkers with little experience or desire to walk long trails and hardcore bushwalkers who seek trails with a Wow Factor regardless of difficulty. It is right to not encourage casual walkers from tackling more difficult and dangerous walks, but by not promoting challenging walks as Top Trails or maintaining them out of fear that people will use them is a discredit to the state's natural beauty, as it gives hardcore walkers from over east or overseas the impression that there is no good challenging bushwalking in WA - the very kind of walks such hikers are looking for.

      I would like to think WA has the terrain to sustain an outback multi-day trek like the Larapinta Trail in the Pilbara or Kimberley, or that the Stirling Ridge Walk could be promoted and managed as a very challenging 'for very experienced hikers only' wilderness walk like the West Arthur Traverse in Tasmania. Sure, there are risk factors that need to be taken into account (eg. closures in Summer like the Heysen Trail would be sensible), but these are the kind of destination hikes that bring people over specifically because they want to do a walk.

      This is certainly not an attack on Trail WA - I think it is a significantly better and easier to use site than anything Queensland, SA, New South Wales or Victoria have for their walks, and I use it fairly regularly - more a criticism of park management strategies.