Sunday, 28 August 2016

Pinnacles Desert View Trail (Nambung National Park)

A very short but excellent walk in the Pinnacles Desert, the Desert View Trail takes walkers through one of Western Australia's most iconic and unusual landscapes. Looping through the numerous limestone formations of the Pinnacles, the walk's gentle gradient offers walkers a more immersive perspective than the Pinnacles Drive. A convenient day trip from Perth, this walk is suitable for most levels of experience .

Distance: 1.2 km (loop)
Gradient: Easy and relatively flat over its entire length
Quality of Path: No set path, but very easy to follow route over naturally well compacted sand
Quality of Signage: Well signed over its entire length, with dedicated markers providing navigational information
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: >1 Hour
Steps: A few steps leading to the desert from the car park, with a few more leading up and down from the Pinnacles View lookout
Best Time to Visit: Best to avoid in very hot weather
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees Apply
Getting There: The trail starts from the car park at the end of Pinnacles Drive, located off Indian Ocean Dr.

Here's a slightly embarrassing thing to admit as a regular explorer of Western Australia's National Parks - I'd never been to Nambung National Park before. The one time I headed up north on a family holiday nineteen years ago, my father had been keen drive to Kalbarri directly, and decided to skip Nambung to avoid the longer route and stopover.  Having finally returned to Kalbarri in August 2016 only to have to cancel our gorge walks after a road closure, Alissa and I ended up with a bit more free time than we had been expecting on our Sunday return drive to Perth, giving us the perfect opportunity to pop into Nambung National Park and check out the short walk trail through the Pinnacles Desert.

The track leading to the start of the Desert View Trail runs along a concrete path from the main car park area. An interesting aspect of the Pinnacles that is almost never mentioned is the fact that the limestone formations are not exclusive to the relatively barren desert sections, with many Pinnacles visible in the Kwongan heathlands.

The concrete path ends as it leaves the heathland to provide walkers with their first view of the Pinnacles Desert's yellow sands.

The Desert View Walk Trail's Trailhead is well signed, providing walkers with a map of the walk and as well as some safety information.

An interesting aspect of the Desert View Trail is that there is no actual trail per se; unlike the clearly delineated path of the Pinnacles Drive, walkers can choose their own course between the marker posts placed at regular intervals to provide navigational advice.

As such, walkers are given the opportunity to walk through the alien landscape of the Pinnacles with certain degree of agency, being sure that they are heading in the right direction as long as they can see the next way marker.

Some sections of the trail go right through sections of high Pinnacle density.

While at other times, the trail runs through more open sections. The trail is well thought out in this sense, as it provides for differing viewpoints and experiences in a landscape that could become quite samey very quickly.

The Pinnacles Desert is not very large, and the trail initially heads for one of its borders. As it approaches the edge of the desert, the trail veers right.

Some of the formations in this section of the walk are fairly large, and are often in the form of twin Pinnacles joined by a middle section.

The way markers lead walkers through a section of heath to the Pinnacles Desert View Lookout.

A raised, decked platform, the Desert View Lookout is the centerpiece of the trail, providing walkers (and drivers who have parked their cars) with an excellent vantage point from which to survey the land.

The Desert View Lookout provides side trip options for those who want to add a bit more to the trail's short 1.2 kilometres, and Alissa and I headed out to explore the area facing the lookout's main vantage point.

At one point, the opportunity for a quintessential Pinnacles photo was within my grasp - a Pink and Grey Galah was walking amongst the Pinnacles, and looked poised to fly up onto one of the rocks. Unfortunately a thoughtless tourist decided to run in the direction of the Galah and shoo it away, resulting in my having to settle for a photo of the Galah in a tree instead.

Back up on the Desert View Lookout, Alissa and I resumed the trail as it head back through the heath.

The track emerges again into a large open area featuring even more Pinnacles.

Although the columnar shapes dominate, the landscape features some large limestone formations that look like small mesas rising up from the otherwise flat terrain, as seen in the background of the photo above. 

After exploring this section of the desert, the trail shares a short section with the Pinnacles Drive before heading back into the heathlands.

Throughout the walk, Alissa kept goading me to take photos of the more phallic shaped formations. "Why aren't you taking a photo of this one?" she kept sayin.
As seen above, she finally got her wish right near the end, serving as a comical grand finale to the walk.

From the phallic rock, it was a very short walk back to the start of the trail. Having a bit more time, Alissa and I drove the Pinnacle self-drive tour of the park which felt somewhat more curated with it dedicated driving lane and higher tourist numbers. 

I have a strong preference for trails that are of a decent length, and at 1.2 kilometres the Pinnacles Desert View Trail is easily the shortest trail I've written up to date. I definitely could have gone for a longer version, and I have heard that there are extended, unmarked walks available if you consult the ranger (although this is not immediately obvious). Other than the short length and the fact it was at times very busy with tourists, I could not fault the scenery along the trail as the Pinnacles Desert certainly lived up to its reputation as an iconic and alien Western Australian landscape. I liked that they didn't have a set, formed path and that it was more of a route between the obvious markers, as it provides a bit of freedom to explore the area. With the walk trail significantly less busy than the drive, I would recommend the walk as a more immersive way of experiencing the Pinnacles - and one of the easiest scenic walks you're likely to encounter. 


  1. Hi Guys, I enjoyed reading of your Pinnacles Walk, it's a pity that you didn't get some blue skies...but what do you do hey. I'm super impressed with your blog too, I think mines due for a bit of a reno when I get a chance, yours looks very fresh. There use to be one stack that was very phallic indeed but last time I was there I couldn't find it....

    1. Thanks Kevin! It so hard to judge what the weather will be like, and there's not much you can do when you've booked a weekend away weeks in advance. We had so much rain over the weekend, I'm glad we got as many photos as we did!

      Thanks also regarding the blog. There are few things I want to change up in the menu system but overall very happy with the design. I look forward to seeing what you do with Goin Feral's design when you get around to it.

  2. Hmmm, yes, very interesting if nonsensical. Thanks for that.