Saturday, 1 October 2016

Bibbulmun Track (WA) - Beedelup to Pemberton

The final day of an eight day hike on the Bibbulmun Track, Beedelup to Pemberton is a long but relatively easy day of walking. Departing Beedelup National Park and passing through farmland, the track follows old rail formations to Big Brook Arboretum and Dam before following the Lefroy Brook to town. Walked on a day of wildly varied weather from sunshine to hail, this was an unforgettable end to our Balingup to Pemberton adventure. 

Distance: 25.1 km (one way)
Gradient: Relatively gentle over its entire length, with some moderate inclines. 
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained, although there were some fallen trees along the track
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with the Waugal providing very clear directional information.
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 6 Hours, including lunch break
Steps: Some formal steps
Best Time to Visit: Spring-Summer
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: This section was walked from campsite to campsite. Those looking to do this as a day walk could access the track from Beedelup Falls car park. The Pemberton Trailhead is located just outside the Visitor's Centre on Vasse Hwy.

From Left: Sonya, Peter, Helle, Jerry, Alissa and I
One of the beautiful things about any long distance trail is that the experience of the trail varies day to day, year to year and person to person; no two people will have the exact same experience of the trail, because it is never quite the same every time. Wildflowers, waterfalls and bushfires are all constantly changing variables, however the people you meet along the track can play just as vital a role.

Although we didn't walk together during the day, Alissa and I spent every evening from Balingup with Jerry and Helle, with the four of us joined by Sonya and Peter from Gregory Brook onwards. We could not have asked for a nicer group of people to be sharing the campsites with us, and conversations around the campfire were a highlight of each day. With all four of them continuing on to Albany, leaving them at Beedelup was bittersweet - although we were glad to be missing out on the severely flooded Pingerup Plains and associated diversions, it was a bit sad to not be continuing on the journey with them and being there to witness reaching the ocean for the first time, their enjoyment of the Tingle forest and the beautiful walking from there on to Denmark. This was our longest stretch on the Track with the same people, and its interesting how the track brings people together - even if for a relatively brief time.

After saying goodbye to everyone, Alissa and I headed off for our longest day of walking with a mission - to get to the Pemberton bakery known as Cafe Brasil before their pies run out! Immediately after leaving Beedelup hut, the track rises up an old vehicle track surrounded by immense Karri forest. The broadness of the track was actually quite welcome as it did not have the claustrophobic quality of the most insanely dense sections we had encountered over the last few days.

The walking was quite pleasant, with the forest transitioning to Blackbutt as it reached its highest point. As had become the norm over the last few days, there were a few fallen trees across the track, though none were as challenging as the ones we encountered from Boarding House to Beavis.

After three kilometres, the Bibbulmun skirts the edge of a property boundary before crossing Channybearup Rd. Jerry, a New South Welshman, had asked what all the 'ups were about, and I explained that they mean 'place of' in the local Noongar language. He had next asked; 'what's a Channybear?', for which I had no answer except for a bit of a chuckle.

After crossing Channybearup Rd, the Bibbulmun crosses over a fence via a stile into farmland.

This brief stretch was a nice change of pace - after days surrounded by Karri forest it was kind of nice to be walking through farmland for a change.

After climbing over another stile, the Bibbulmun continues on in Karri forest once again.

The track runs along Fly Brook, and crosses the watercourse over an old sleeper bridge before reaching an old rail formation.

Rail formations dominate the next 6.5 kilometres of walking, with occasional stretches of purpose built walk trail.

There is no getting around the fact that this is a very long stretch of walking in fairly unchanging scenery, however it was no where near as bad as the walking through regrowth forest that we had to endure the day before. Even with fallen trees, the relative flatness of this section gave us such a speed boost that we really appreciated this section - those pies were getting closer and closer!

After one and a half hours of walking with little to tell us where we were, the Bibbulmun skirts some farmland. From there, the track follows purpose built walk trail as it crosses some forestry roads before reaching the vehicle access point at Stirling Rd.

The walking after Stirling Road was really superb - the Karri forest was lush without being over the top in its density and there were plenty of wildflowers for us to enjoy.

The narrow walk trails later widened as it made use of an old road. Mixed in with all the tall Karris were some introduced trees that appeared to be either pines or Sequioas. Seeing these made us excited as it meant we were approaching the Big Brook Arboretum.

Just before reaching the Arboretum, Alissa and I ran into Jerry and Helle - the first and only time we ever walked fast enough to overtake Jerry's head start! Impressed with our grim determination he looked at me and said; 'I can see a glint of pie in your eyes!'. He was not wrong.

Shortly after running into them, we finally reached Big Brook Arboretum and were lucky enough to see many interesting tree species - including a grove of Sequoias. The tallest trees in the world, these relatively young examples were far from reaching their fully mature potential and were actually much smaller than the surrounding Karris. We were probably a few hundred years early for that.

With a much stronger focus from tourists on natural attractions, the Arboretum has become a bit run down, and we had initially decided to push on to have lunch at Big Brook Dam. That is, until it started to rain.

We had noticed the sunny weather from earlier in the day changing as we entered the Arboretum, and we began to experience intensely chilly winds and rain that began to fall as a fairly heavy hailstorm! Looking for cover, Alissa and I decided to double back to the undercover picnic area at the Arboretum to seek shelter and have our lunch. At this point Jerry and Helle passed us again, and we would not see them again for the rest of the day.

Cooling down as we ate lunch, it became clear just how cold it was, and we put on our jumpers and raincoats as we sat under the shelter. After lunch, we looked up as the trees swayed wildly in the strong winds. Scared of the very real risk of tree fall, Alissa and I made our way out of the Arboretum as quickly as we could.

The weather improved somewhat as we reached Big Brook Dam. Built in 1986 to supplement the water supply of Pemberton and the trout hatchery further downstream, the dam is a very popular recreation spot with families and features a wheelchair accessible bitumen path all the way around the artificial lake.

Or at least it would be wheelchair accessible if there weren't so many fallen trees! The wild weather had obvious caused some damage to the area, and there was a good kilometre there where fallen trees were a regular obstacle.

The dam is really quite lovely, and reminded me very much of Lake Beedelup at Karri Valley Resort.

After following the Big Brook Trail for two kilometres, the Bibbulmun turns off the bitumen and back along bushwalking trail.

Big Brook Dam was overflowing as we walked past, and I would later learn that the rains had been so heavy that Big Brook Arboretum's campgrounds were closed due to flooding in the area!

The track initially rises up a moderate incline through spectacular Karri forest. Again, the understorey was not over the top in its density and it allowed us to really appreciate the forest's beauty.

The track later descends to run alongside the Lefroy Brook - the same brook that is home to the popular Cascades. The walk trail joins onto the Rainbow Trail, and makes use of another railway formation as it leads walkers to the town of Pemberton.

The views along the Lefroy Brook are quite beautiful, having a similar character to the section of the Donnelly River near One Tree Bridge between Tom Road and Boarding House.

There is even a section of rocky rapids that serve as something of a precursor for Bibbulmun Track walkers who are keen to check out the Cascades side trip on the day from Pemberton to Warren campsite.

Anticipation for the end grew as we reached the trout farm at the outskirts of town. The Bibbulmun makes use of the road bridge before veering right back into the Karri forest.

The track crosses a tributary that feeds into the Lefroy Brook, with two bridges to choose from to make the crossing (three if you included the fallen Karri to the right)!

The track runs concurrently with the Munda Biddi alongside the town's roads. At this stage, the main street is clearly visible and its only a few 100 metres to go until the end.

Along the way, the Bibbulmun passes by an old weatherboard house. Although we have the older chunky guidebook, walkers with the newer books will recognise this house as one of the featured photos for this day of walking.

Alissa and I made it to town in good time - smashing out the 25.1 kilometres in under 6 hours, including our lunch break. Which was just as well - after sitting down at Cafe Brasil, another hailstorm hit the town, covering the streets with a light dusting of hailstones.

Ever since we set out from Balingup, I'd been telling Alissa I was going to have both a sausage roll and a pie when we got to the end. As I was digging for me wallet at the bottom of my pack, a kid got in ahead of me and got the last sausage roll! Although I was disappointed, I was happy that my Steak and Shiraz Pie was as good as I'd hoped it would be.

Although it was a long day of walking, Beedelup to Pemberton was a really enjoyable day filled with some superb walking through the Karri forest, as well as the Big Brook Arboretum and Dam. The relatively easy terrain was a nice change from the needlessly difficult hills the day before, and the wildly variable weather made the day a truly memorable adventure.  While Tom Road to Boarding House was still the best of the eight day walk, this was a really good day, and I definitely felt a bit of the ol' Post Trail Depression in the days after we got home from the walk.



Our walk finished on a Saturday, which meant we had serendipitously timed being in Pemberton with Foragers Field Kitchen's weekly dinner service. Run by chef Sophie Zalokar and her husband Chris, Sophie is the author of the cookbook Food of the Southern Forests, and is a celebrated chef who apprenticed under Maggie Beer. Alissa and I had enjoyed Foragers food a couple of years ago when we were the Ministry of Gluttony, and this was every bit as good as our last visit. Easily the best restaurant in Pemberton, Sophie and Chris are unfortunately selling up to at the end of the year so we were very fortunate to have one final meal at Foragers before they close.


  1. As usual, an awesome recount of your adventures. Looking forward to the next one.

    1. Thank you! I'm kinda glad to be moving onto some posts that are not related to the Bibbulmun for a bit - I've got a bit of a backlog!

  2. Enjoyed reading your travels from Balingup to Pemberton and all the encounters along the way.