Monday, 3 July 2017

Knox Gorge (Karijini National Park)

A challenging but enjoyable walk in Karijini National Park, this trail explores Knox Gorge. Starting with a short walk to a lookout, the trail descends to the bottom of the gorge via one of the steepest paths in the park - including an awkward scramble near the bottom. Continually criss-crossing its way along the gorge floor, the trail ends at an unusual slot canyon formation. 

Distance: 2 km (return)
Gradient: Alternates between relatively easy, gentle gradients and sections of difficult terrain requiring a lot of scrambling
Quality of Path: Largely on uneven, rocky and unmodified terrain. Includes scrambling down a rocky descent, shuffling along ledges and dropping down off a ledge.
Quality of Signage: Generally well signed and clear
Experience Required: Bushwalking Experience Required
Time:  1.5-2 Hours
Steps: Many
Best Time to Visit: Winter
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply.
Getting There: The trail starts at the Knox Gorge car park. From the park's western entrance, follow Banjima Dr and continue right on Banjima heading towards Dale Gorge. Take the Joffre Gorge turn off - Knox Gorge is six kilometres further down the road. 

After a fantastic morning exploring Weano and Hancock Gorges, Alissa and I took a break in the middle of the day before heading out in the afternoon to tackle Knox Gorge. As we were staying at the Eco Retreat, Knox was only a short drive away - a little further down the road from Joffre Gorge

Before heading into the gorge itself, Alissa and I checked out the Knox Gorge Lookout. Although the gorge is no where near as deep as the gorge system is at Oxer Lookout, Knox is nevertheless impressively deep, having a similar appearance to the wider parts of Weano and Hancock Gorges. 

From the lookout, a linking trail lined by Spinifex and Snappy Gums leads walkers to the descent into Knox Gorge. 

The descent into Knox Gorge is not quite as steep as the clambering down required to enter Joffre or the ladder climb into Hancock Gorge, however it is one of the more challenging descents overall due to the fact that it is the least modified along the tourist walks. Whereas all the other gorges have formal steps, the path down into the Knox is much rougher. By way of comparison, the other gorges are more like the formal, well maintained steps of Bluff Knoll while Knox's has the rougher appearance of the Class 5 Stirling Range hikes like Toolbrunup and Talyuberlup Peaks. 

The Toolbrunup comparison was driven home by a large scree field just to the right of the track, bearing a close resemblance to similar landmarks along the climb of the Stirling Range's second tallest mountain. 

Although steep, the descent was relatively straightforward until a slightly awkward section just before reaching the gorge floor. This section requires a bit of a scramble to lower yourself down several rock shelves. 

This is the hardest part of the whole walk. Although it was a lot shorter than the similar scrambling down in Joffre, I felt that this was probably the most challenging descent of all the gorge walks in the park. 

Before following the official trail heading left into the gorge, Alissa and I checked out a large pool located just to the right of the gorge entrance. 

Surrounded by Paperbarks, I can imagine this pool be a popular swimming spot during the heat of the day. Although Alissa and I had considered going for a swim in Knox Gorge, we decided it would be better to go explore the gorge first and see how we felt on the way back. In the end, we didn't go for a swim and instead decided to save our swimming for Hamersley Gorge. 

Heading left along the walk trail, this initial section of Knox Gorge was filled with trees and plants growing along the watercourse, with the fig tree pictured above being the most impressive specimen along the walk. 

Continuing along the trail,the gorge flora becomes more sparse as it leads towards a hard 90° turn to the right.

Around the corner, the trail runs along a narrow ledge similar to those seen in Weano and Hancock Gorge. 

From the corner, the walk trail continually criss-crosses the gorge, utilising ledges on either side of the watercourse to keep a walker's feet dry. With the watercourse being fairly shallow, it would be possible to walk a lot of the gorge in straight line rather than following the walk trail, however Alissa and I were enjoyed hopping across stepping stones and walking along the ledges. As such, we followed the trail as marked. 

The trail continues in this criss-crossing fashion before reaching what looks like a dead end in the gorge. 

At this point, the middle of the gorge gives way to a narrower slot canyon, with large, expansive shelves on either side of the slot. This is a feature unique to Knox Gorge - in the other gorges, the narrow slot sections usually run as a slot all the way up to the top of the gorge.

Alissa was satisfied to have reached the end without having to go into the slot, however I was keen to get down and check out the view from within. There are no easy steps down into this section, however I found a suitable entry point where I could lower myself down by sitting on the edge and dropping myself in, similar to the ledge drop along the Stapylton Amphitheatre walk in the Grampians (albeit no where near as scary!). To the right in the picture above is a point with hand holds that are perfect for scrambling out. I became well acquainted with this entrance and exit combo as I kept forgetting to grab equipment and had to climb in and our repeatedly!

Post from RICOH THETA. - Spherical Image - RICOH THETA

The end result of climbing in and out was worth it however, as I was able to set up the tripod and take another 360° photo from within this narrowing of the gorge. 

Just beyond this point, the trail narrows even further before appearing to open up to a wider cavern on the other side. This is the start of the Restricted Access section of Knox Gorge and day walkers cannot continue any further without the express permission of the Parks and Wildlife Service (penalties apply). During the warmer months, West Oz Active run a tour that leads down this section, which apparently includes a natural 4 metre long waterslide!

Not having canyoning experience, equipment or the relevant permission, Alissa and I retraced our steps back to the start of the walk. Although it was basically the same scenery seen from the other direction, we were now heading towards sunset. The more favourable light rendered everything in even more beautiful colours, making for a very enjoyable return walk. 

Standing at the bottom of the ascent out of the gorge, the awkward scrambling section looked even more scary from this angle. After climbing up past the tree, I realised the trail actually runs to the left and behind the tree, and I advised Alissa to take this easier walk up.

At the end of the scramble section, the trail climbs steeply out of the gorge, having a similar relentlessness to mountain walks. This was a good primer for our next walk in Karijini; we would be waking up early the next day to tackle Mt Bruce - the second tallest mountain in Western Australia! 

Out of the gorge and back at the car, Alissa and I completed the walk in just over 1.5 hours, including all the time I spent getting in and out of the narrow section to take the 360° photo. Having been blown away by Weano and Hancock Gorges in the morning, I have to admit that Knox got a bit lost in the scheme of things for Alissa and I. Unlike Hamersley, Dales and Kalamina, Knox was very similar to Weano and Hancock, but lacked the awe inspiring wow factor of Handrail and Kermits Pools or the intrepid feel of having to wade through sections or climb along tricky ledges. As such, we immediately dismissed it as a lesser walk when compared to Weano and Hancock Gorges. While this is true, it also quite an unfair assessment - there's actually a lot to like about Knox Gorge, and I can imagine that the best parts of the gorge are probably in the canyoning section. This is something we'll have to check out next time we visit, but as it stands Knox Gorge is another stunning walk in the Karijini National Park. 


  1. Loving your Karijini work Dom, makes me want to pack up and head over. What did you guys think of the Eco Resort? It wasn't there when I last visited. I was thinking that it might be a good alternative to camping if I head up with Sam one day.

    1. Thanks Kevin! Karijini was just amazing - in its own way, I feel like the Hamersley Range is just as beautiful, unique and awe inspiring as Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair NP.

      We didn't stay in the fancy-pants glamping tents at the Eco Retreat - we just got one of the unpowered tent sites there. Even this was fantastic - they had hot showers, flushing toilets and an excellent restaurant/bar with meal options ranging from take away burgers to sit down three course meals! Being used to our ultralight hiking tent and mats, having proper pillows and a large airbed made it feel pretty luxurious in comparison.

      Even if they didn't have all the luxury extras, I would still book the Eco Retreat over Dales Campground as you can book at the Eco Retreat while Dales is first come first serve. It was absolute mayhem at Dales while we were there - Dales was full, the overflow was full and they started putting people out on the airstrip just to accommodate everyone, and there were tales of long queues of cars lining up at 7am in the morning just trying to get into Dales when someone left.

  2. Thank you for this post. Your tripod appears to be made up of walkling poles? And a very smooth motion - well done.

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