Saturday, 26 November 2016

The Devil's Slide Trail (Porongurup National Park)

A short but enjoyable walk in Porongurup National Park, the Devil's Slide Trail takes walkers up to the summit of Marmabup Rock. Featuring impressive granite formations, the trail is dominated by incredible views across the Porongurup Range. An enjoyable standalone walk in its own right, the Devil's Slide Trail can also be done as a side trip from the popular Nancy Peak Circuit - creating one of the South West's best walks. 

Distance: 4.76 km (loop)
Gradient: Almost continually uphill with some steep sections, and a steep descent.  
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and straightforward, though a section leading to Marmabup Rock is mildly overgrown
Quality of Signage: Good and informative trailhead. Signage is poor near the beginning, though it has been flagged with pink tape. Metal Waypoint markers point the direction to the summit of Marmabup Rock.
Experience Required: Previous Bushwalking Experience Recommended. 
Time: 2 Hours
Steps: Several formal and informal steps
Best Time to Visit: All Year, as long as its not overly hot or raining heavily.
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply
Getting There: Access to the the trail is via the Tree in the Rock day use area. Tree in the Rock is located at the end of Bolganup Road, with runs south off Porongurup Road. 

A month ago, Alissa and I had visited Porongurup National Park to walk the Nancy Peak Circuit. Arguably the park's best trail, the long drive home meant we had to leave a small piece of unfinished business behind - the Devil's Slide Trail. Walkable as a spur from the Nancy Peak Circuit but also doable as a short, self-contained return hike, Alissa and I decided to head back out to the Porongurups to tick the last of the park's marked mountain walks off the list after our initial plans to walk the Bibbulmun were foiled by the recent opening of the Torbay Inlet. With temperature forecast to reach the high 30s, we decided to head out as early as possible to avoid the scorching heat. 

The trail initially follows the Wansborough Walk - a glorified vehicle service track that is also the last leg of the Nancy Peak Circuit. This is a relatively pleasant walk through the Karri-filled valley between Nancy Peak and the Devil's Slide. 

After following the vehicle track for 1.65 kilometres, walkers will reach  a junction in the trail. Immediately ahead is the continuation of the Wansborough Walk to the park's southern boundary while to the left is the reverse journey of the Nancy Peak Circuit. The Devil's Slide Trail runs off to the right immediately behind the informative sign seen above. 

The trail initially follows a small tunnel of trees and shrubbery along a relatively flat section of track. 

After a surprisingly short distance, the trail opens up to an area of vast, exposed granite. Although the late November weather was already heralding the arrival of the dry, hot Summer, there were still some small remnant pools of water in the granite, however I suspect most it would have evaporated by the end of the day.

The early stages of the hike are not very well marked, however it is fairly easy to follow the trail given that it is framed by moss on either side. A month makes a whole world of difference out here as the seasons change - compare the dry, brown moss seen above with the still green moss on Nancy Peak just a month and 10 days earlier!

The slope of the Devil's Slide is reached fairly early on in the ascent. Unfortunately, the trail does not actually go up to the summit of the Slide, and instead follows a bit of boardwalk around. More confident hikers may attempt the climb of the summit, however I imagine that this slope would be treacherously slippery when wet and lives up to its devilish name. 

The Devil's Slide provides an excellent vantage point from which to see Nancy Peak, providing something of a mirror image of Morgan's View. 

Beyond the trail, small caves can be seen along the side of the Devil's Slide. Barely large enough for a human, I was nevertheless keen to have a look at these caves, however the heat and a fair bit of rustling in the bushes near the cave made me err on the side of caution as it is the time of year that snakes become very active. 

From the Devil's Slide, walkers continue along a walkway that was put in place by the Friends of the Porongurup Range, a volunteer organisation that assists in the upkeep and conservation of the park. 

Beyond the walkway, the trail enters a forested tunnel up to the summit of Marmabup Rock. As with earlier, the trail is very poorly marked, however someone has tied pink flagging tape along the trail.

Just to the left of the trail, there is a section of rock that showed signs that it flows as a stream in the Winter. As with most walks in the South West, walking in Winter and early Spring often yields the most spectacular results, and I would love to come back and see what this is like at that time of year. 

After following the tunnel of forest for about 10 minutes, Alissa and I encountered the first actual marker of the walk as the trail entered a more open area. 

This open section allowed for some excellent views to the farmland beyond the range.

Similar to the Nancy Peak Circuit, the continuous ascent provides vantage points across to the other side of the valley that become more and more spectacular the higher up you go. 

Beyond the open area, the track once again enters an area of woodlands, however large granite boulders and domes become increasingly common along the ascent. 

Leaving the tree cover one last time to the summit, the trail reaches a steep granite slope with markers indicating that walkers will need to negotiate the awkward angle to reach the summit. 

The view north from here is spectacular, with numerous exposed Granite domes visible. 

Climbing up the granite slope required a small scramble just near the top given its steepness. From there, the trail follows a narrow ledge across the top of the rock. 

After negotiating the ledge, the trail continues up to the summit of Marmabup Rock. 

The view from Marmabup Rock is pretty much a mirror image of the view of Nancy Peak as it takes in the peaks on the other side of the valley. 

From Marmabup Rock, Bates Peak is teasingly nearby, with Manvat Peak beyond another section of Karri forest. With a continuous corridor of granite linking Marmabup Rock to Bates Peak, it looks like it would not be overly difficult to make it to Bates Peak. While there might be some Dieback-related reason why this has never been extended, I can imagine such an extension would make this trail even more enjoyable. 

With such clear weather, Alissa and I were lucky to get uninterrupted views of the Stirling Range from the summit. By now it was already getting pretty warm, and after taking photos and exploring the area for a bit, we retraced our steps back to the car park with the Devil's Slide Trail ticked off our list. 

The Porongurup Range is such a beautiful place that Alissa and I love any excuse to come back. As such, the Devil's Slide Trail was definitely an enjoyable walk which featured the spectacular views and granite formations that the range is famous for. It was however a lesser trail compared to the Nancy Peak Circuit, which was more convenient thanks to its loop form and featured a lot more walking between towering boulders than the Devil's Slide and Marmabup Rock. An extension to Bates Peak would help make this walk feel a bit more substantial, especially since it is so close to Marmabup Rock. As it stands, I would definitely suggest completing this walk to the summit of Marmabup Peak as a side trip with the Nancy Peak Circuit. Together, the combined Nancy Peak-Devil's Slide Walk would easily rank as one of Western Australia's best day walks and a definitely bushwalking highlight of the Great Southern region. 


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