Tuesday, 2 October 2018

Yardie Gorge Trail (Cape Range National Park)

One of Trails WA's Top Trails, the Yardie Gorge Trail provides a short but scenic walk exploring Yardie Creek - the only creek in Cape Range with permanent water. Starting along its northern bank, the initially wheelchair friendly walk heads up along the creek's edge, before following a rugged walk overlooking the creek. With cliffs of red limestone, this is an iconic Outback scene in the Ningaloo Coast World Heritage Area

Distance: 2 km (loop)
Gradient: A mix of a gentle walking along the creek's edge, with occasionally steep ascents and descents in and out of the side gorges
Quality of Path: Generally clear and well maintained trail, with some rough ascents/descents in sections
Quality of Signage: Clear trailhead at the start of the walk, with waypoint poles and signs at trail junctions.
Experience Required: Bushwalking Experience Recommended - particularly with arid climates
Time: 30 minutes - 1 Hour
Steps: Many steps in places
Best Time to Visit: Autumn-Spring on cooler days, and preferably early in the morning. This is an area prone to extremely hot temperatures with little to no shade. People have literally died on other walks in the park due to heat exhaustion. Do not even think of doing this walk in Summer or on very hot days
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park fees apply
Getting There: From Exmouth, follow Yardie Creek Rd into Cape Range National Park and continue until the end of the sealed road. Trailhead is located in the car park

After completing the Mandu Mandu Gorge quite comfortably in an hour, Alissa and I headed as far as the sealed road in Cape Range National Park would take us to complete our last walk in the park at Yardie Creek. Being listed as one of Trails WA's Top Trails and an iconic feature of the park, Yardie Creek's short trail had been one I'd been wanting to check out for years so it was good to finally make it to Cape Range to check it out.

The first part of the trail is known as the Yardie Nature Walk. While I'm not a fan of WA's somewhat misleading habit of naming a shorter version of a trail a different name when it is ostensibly just the same walk but not the whole length, this first stretch of the walk is on a wide, wheelchair-friendly trail that makes it accessible for all visitors.

The trail runs alongside Yardie Creek as it makes its way to the high gorge walls further along. Yardie Creek is unique amongst Cape Range's gorges insofar as being the only gorge in the park that is permanently filled with water. As the range formed, Yardie Creek drained the greatest catchment in Cape Range and as a result is the only one that is not now a dry gorge or canyon.

Being an accessible Class 1 trail, there is a seating located along the trail for those with poor fitness or mobility to rest up and take in the views.

Looking downstream, Alissa and I could see that Yardie Creek's inlet was closed, with four wheel drives crossing the sand to the other side. While the sealed stretch of Yardie Creek Rd ends at Yardie Creek, it is possible for high clearance four wheel drives to head across the sandbar and continue along an unsealed stretch of road to Coral Bay. Not wanting to risk getting stuck, Alissa and I would have to take our X-Trail all the way back and around to Coral Bay, however those with high clearance can make use of this more adventurous shortcut.

Being the only creek in this dry area, Yardie Creek supports an abundance of interesting plants along its banks. Mangroves can be seen on either side of the creek, and we were intrigued by these yellow fruit seen growing along the water. We had not seen these before, and wondered if they were edible bush tucker or poisonous. If anyone knows, please comment below.

The wheelchair-friendly section of the trail reaches it end as the gorge walls start to rise. While more spectacular views would be had further along the walk, the lookout point provided is a reasonable option for those without the mobility to head further along.

The trail changes to a Class 4 standard as it becomes the much more rugged Yardie Gorge Trail.

The trail follows a series of white marker poles as it makes its way to a series of stunning vantage points looking down into the creek.

As with the Mandu Mandu and Badjirrajirra Trails, the trail crosses a series of smaller side gorges as it makes its way along. These side gorges are the main reason for the Class 4 rating of the walk, as they are often step and require some mild scrambling to traverse.

The views from this higher vantage point are extraordinary. The view of a creek full of water set against the red colour of the limestone walls makes this an iconic Outback landscape.

While I've enjoyed swimming Outback waterholes in Hamersley Gorge and at Millstream-Chichester National Park, Yardie Creek really made me wish we had brought our kayaks as it looks like an awesome place for a paddle. Indeed, we saw a number of people paddling up and down the creek on the day of our visit, and I couldn't help but feel a little envious of them. Oh well, just another reason to return to Ningaloo for another visit in the future.

The Yardie Gorge Trail crosses another side gorge before reaching its final stretch at the creek's bend.

The creek turns northwards before turning back inland into the range. The track here reaches a great vantage point at the bend before rising up along the gorge rim.

And then abruptly, the trail ends, with a sign indicating that this is the end of the walk. This seems a bit odd to me, as I feel like the trail could easily have continued for a bit further. The cliffs further along appear to be higher and the creek keeps going, so there doesn't appear to be any obvious reason for the trail to end.

With a decent drive ahead of us and plans to go snorkeling at Bills Bay when we made it to Coral Bay, Alissa and I didn't have time to explore further upstream, however it is an area that is begging for further exploration on a return visit.

Returning back along the gorge, it was clear that what we did see was quite spectacular anyway, and it was awesome to see the course of Yardie Creek as it heads towards the ocean filled with water in contrast to the similarly continuous creek bed at Mandu Mandu Gorge is now dry for most of the year. From this excellent vantage point, Alissa and I retraced our steps and were back in the car in 40 minutes all up.

While extremely short, the Yardie Gorge Trail was an enjoyable walk due to the beauty of the rugged gorge landscape. I had hoped that Yardie Creek would live up to its reputation as a must see location in Cape Range, and I'm glad to say that it was worth the somewhat long drive to the southern end of the sealed road just to do this trail. This is an area of the park I would love to explore more, and Alissa and I would love to come back to Yardie Creek with our kayaks to see how far upstream the water goes. All the more reason for us to return to this beautiful part of Western Australia.


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