Wednesday, 30 August 2017

10 Ways The Bibbulmun Track is the Best Beginners Trail

One of the criteria of walk trails on the Australian Walking Track Grading System is prior experience, with many trails suggesting that 'previous bushwalking experience [is] recommended'. In Western Australia, we are very fortunate to have the Bibbulmun Track; besides being one of the premier long distance walk trails in Australia, it also has many features that makes it a perfect trail to gain bushwalking experience and develop the skills to tackle harder walks in Australia and the rest of the world. 

Here's a list of 10 reasons why the Bibbulmun Track is the best beginner's trail:

An organised group walking the track from Dale Rd to Perth Hills Discovery Centre

1. It's free

At a time when iconic trails like the Overland Track, Three Capes and New Zealand's Great Walks are becoming increasingly expensive, the Bibbulmun Track offers a long distance walking experience that is free. For those trying hiking for the first time, free access allows walkers to develop their skills without a need for heavy investment, making hiking an attractive and affordable recreational activity.

The three-sided shelter at Yourdamung north of Collie

2. The facilities are World Class

Trails like the Overland and Three Capes Track in Tasmania and the Green Gully Track in New South Wales may have better huts and facilities than the Bibbulmun Track, but very few long distance trails in the world have facilities that are the equal of the Bibbulmun Track. Each campsite features a sleeping shelter, water tank and composting toilet, making it a more attractive proposition for beginners and experienced hikers alike who might be daunted by setting up and taking down a tent in the rain, sourcing water from streams or having to dig a hole whenever they need to go to the toilet!

Clear directional signage in the Karri forests

3. It is (relatively) well marked

With the exception of some confusing directions that have occurred during diversions and some anecdotal reports of poor signage heading in the northbound direction through recently burnt sections of the track, the Bibbulmun is a well marked by the iconic yellow Waugal. While the Bibbulmun makes use of old vehicle tracks and crisscrosses it way over many more of them, turns are usually well signed enough as to make navigation fairly easy. While all walkers should be familiar with how to read a map and compass in case they miss a trail junction, the fact that you won't have to constantly be checking for directions makes it a very user friendly trail.

Well maintained walk trail in the Karri forest

4. The track is well maintained

Considering the sheer length of the trail and the fact most of the maintenance work is undertaken by volunteers, the Bibbulmun is maintained to a very high standard. It's not always perfect - we walked a very overgrown Pingerup Plains and there will inevitably always be a tree fallen across the track somewhere - however the vast majority of the trail is clear of obstacles, with most streams and creeks bridged.

Relatively flat and easy terrain walking through the Pingerup Plains

5. The terrain is (mostly) not difficult

Although walkers of the track often complain about the 'big hills', the tiring beach walking and the occasionally daunting inlets, the terrain of an average day of walking on Bibbulmun Track is considerably easier than many other walks in Australia and the rest of the world. Although some of the hills can be steep, there are no truly difficult mountains along the track and scrambling is virtually non-existent. Likewise, while the beach walking can be tiring, there are longer stretches of beach walking along many coastal trails throughout Australia, including WA's Cape to Cape Track. Finally, most inlet crossings only require an easy wade most of the year, making tides less of a consideration than on trails like the South Coast Track in Tasmania and the Thorsborne Trail in Queensland. Nevertheless, walkers should always check ahead before undertaking any of the inlet crossings as many are intentionally breached by Water Corp and can become impassable for weeks.

The Bibbulmun passes through the magical Donnelly River Village

6. It passes through towns

Unlike many other long distance trails in the world, the Bibbulmun actually passes through trail towns along the way. For first time thru-hikers, this makes resupply logistics easier; there is no need to walk off the track to top up food or to spend days driving along the track ahead of the walk burying caches and hoping that its not discovered by wild animals/other people or destroyed in a bushfire. For those doing sectional hikes, the towns allow the track to be broken up into more easily digestible segments, with most towns being served by TransWA bus services.

The Sheila Hill Memorial Track runs concurrently with the Bibbulmun and offers a short 4.6 kilometre day walk option

7. Its highly customisable

While regular road crossings and passing through towns means that the Bibbulmun Track is not a true wilderness walk, it also means the track is highly customisable. While the track cannot be completed entirely as day walks, it is surprising just how much of the track can be completed in this manner. As an example, we were able to complete Kalamunda to Dwellingup as eight day walks, one overnight and one three day hike. This flexibility is perfect for beginners as you can work towards a sectional End to End by starting with some day walks to get comfortable, graduate to overnights and then extend to longer multi-day journeys as your confidence grows.

Stunning scenery between Waalegh and Helena campsites - only 9.6 kilometres apart

8. It provides shorter, easier days close to the Southern and Northern Terminus

While seasoned thru-hikers can put away 40+ kilometres in a day, such distances would be near impossible for a beginner. While all huts along the track are a comfortable day apart from each other (never exceeding 30 kilometres a day), the first eight from the Northern Terminus in Kalamunda and the first three from Albany are all under 16 kilometres apart, with many being under 10 kilometres. This allows beginners doing a multi-day stretch to ease into the walk and get used to the distances before tackling the 20+ kilometre distances that are more common further along the track.

Diversion information can be read online before heading out to the track itself

9. The Bibbulmun Track Foundation and Website are excellent

The Bibbulmun Track Foundation is one of the best and most supportive trail friends groups you are likely to encounter. The Foundation coordinates trail maintenance and runs regular training and trip preparation classes, group hikes and even one on one support for Foundation members. Their website is arguably one of the most helpful and use friendly websites dedicated to a long distance trail, with easy to access information about trail closures, diversions, road access points and distances between points along the track. While the Bibbulmun is free, regular users or thru-hikers should really join the Foundation as its an invaluable resource that is worth every cent. 

The beautiful Quarram Beach between Peaceful Bay and Boat Harbour

10. Its beautiful, but not the most spectacular walk

This might seem a bit like a backhanded compliment but hear me out. Although the Bibbulmun has arguably the best wildflower display of any long trail in Australia and there are exceptional town to town sections of the track (Donnelly River Village to Pemberton and Walpole to Denmark are particularly excellent), there are more spectacular trails in other parts of Australia and the World. While some might see this as a negative, I think its a good thing - if your first walk as a beginner is the most stunning walk in the world, where do you go from there? The Bibbulmun is beautiful enough that it is likely to give beginners the hiking bug, learn the skills required to become competent walkers in a safe setting and serve as a solid foundation for more challenging but more spectacular walks elsewhere. 


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