Saturday, 8 June 2019

Beedelup Loop Walk (Beedelup National Park)

An excellent loop walk in Beedelup National Park, the Beedelup Loop Walk explores many of the sights near Karri Valley Resort. Starting near Beedelup Falls, the walk heads down the valley towards the Walk Through Tree before heading through Karri Valley Resort itself as it skirts the shores of Lake Beedelup. Ascending again, the trail ends with spectacular views of the falls in action. A great short walk in the Southern Forest

Distance: 4.5 km ('tadpole' loop)
Gradient: Alternates between some moderately steep ascents and descents with gentle sections. 
Quality of Path: A mix of purpose built walk trail, sealed tracks, board walk and repurposed vehicle tracks
Quality of Signage: Generally well signed, with clear trailheads and markers at junctions. Very little directional information otherwise
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Recommended
Time: 1-2 Hours
Steps: Several steps, especially near the falls
Best Time to Visit: Autumn-Spring, though late Winter/ early Spring would be the most spectacular time to visit
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park fees apply
Getting There: The trail starts at the Beedelup Falls car park. From Pemberton, head west along Vasse Hwy and follow signs for the Karri Forest Explorer, turning right towards Beedelup Falls. Car park is at the end of the road

With my Melbourne employment meaning my June long weekend was a week later than most West Australians, Alissa and I planned a Wheatbelt road trip for the weekend. Due to some serious rain forecast, the idea of a lot of granite dome walking put a damper on those plans, and we decided to look for alternatives. Having not had the chance to visit Pemberton in 2018 and with a handful of walks in the area still to be documented on the blog, Alissa and I settled on a road trip through the Southern Forests, starting with a hike of the Beedelup Loop Walk in Beedelup National Park. Having completed this walk at least twice pre-blog and having walked most of this as part of the Bibbulmun Track, Alissa and I knew what to expect but were happy to be able to finally add this to the Long Way's Better.

From the Beedelup Falls car park, the walk initially follows sealed, wheelchair accessible paths to Beedelup Falls that gently make their way down to the falls.

Passing a day use picnic area, the walk leads to a lookout point that provides nice views of the forest and Lake Beedelup below. On the other side of the lake, the iconic chalets of Karri Valley Resort can be seen through the trees.

Near the lookout point, the Beedelup Loop Walk branches off the accessible tourist trail and leads off on some proper unsealed walk tracks towards Karri Valley Resort and the Walk Through Tree.

At the start of the loop, a clear trailhead sign provided information about the walk, with a rough map of the trail's route. While there is a shortcut option to walk closer to the lake shore the whole way, our aim was to visit the Walk Through Tree for the full experience of the loop given it features some memorably graffiti we wanted to see again.

Aided by overnight rains, the walking was typical of the stunningly lush nature of the Karri forest. In spite of Alissa and I having hiked in almost all of Australia's states, we both agree that the Karri forest holds up as one of the best and most impressive forest types in the country.

It is a shame then to know that at the time of our visit nearby stands of Karri were being logged due to some ridiculous loopholes in what defines 'old growth'. It is almost unbelievable to me that someone would look at these trees and immediately see woodchips and logging instead of magnificent, giant forest that is all too rare in Western Australia.

Following the longer loop, Alissa and I arrived at the Walk Through Tree - one of the two main draws of the Beedelup Loop Walk. A massively tall Karri, the tree features a hollow that appears to have started as a nature hole that has been shaped inside by human intervention.

When Alissa and I visited the tree back in 2015, we remembered a particularly crude but comical bit of graffiti inscribed with the tree. Written with white out instead of the black marker that predominates, Egg and his wife's public act are an iconic part of local history; it is quite impressive to note that this graffiti has amused walkers for a quarter of a century and has stood the test of time.

After paying our respects to Egg and his graffiti, Alissa and I continued on the loop. Descending from the Walk Through Tree, the trail passes through a lush area where a side stream feeds into the lake as it joins Beedelup Brook.

Emerging out of the dense forest, Alissa and I found ourselves along the banks of Lake Beedelup. A man made lake created by a recreational dam, the recent rain had been good to the water levels, with the lake being almost level with the trail and with some minor inundation in places.

Joining onto a vehicle service track, the walk enters the main hub of Karri Valley Resort as it passes the rustic chalets scattered through the forest. Karri Valley has a special place in my heart as it was a favourite holiday destination for my family during the 1990s and early 2000s. I even celebrated my 13th birthday here, and thus the area will forever be imbued with fond childhood memories. It is also infamous for having been taken over by the Orange People followers of Bagwan Shree Rajneesh in the 1980s. Ma Sheela, the outspoken spokewoman for the movement, provided her famous 'tough titties' remark in response to negative reaction the cult had from the local townsfolk.

The trail continues through the main facilities of the park, passing by the main recreation area where a roped off swimming area canoe/kayak hire is offered. As a kid, paddle boats and aqua bikes were also options, but these whimsical water craft have long since disappeared.

Staying close to the lake shore, the trail crosses a bridge over the dam's spillway before heading along a hardened track along the edge of where the dam keeps the lake in.

Given the severe weather forecast and the rains that were to come, it was quite amazing how perfectly sunny and beautiful the morning was; you'd hardly believe that in a few hours it would be heavy continuous rain for the rest of the day.

Heading back into the Karri forest, the trail follows vehicle tracks on the northern shore of Lake Beedelup, eventually running concurrently with the Bibbulmun Track. This stretch from Karri Valley Resort to Beedelup Falls was the first stretch of the Bibbulmun I ever walked, so has a lot of sentimental value for me as it set me on the course to being the hiker I am today.

This section of the track also has some serious comical value for Alissa and I. When we did Donnelly River Village to Pemberton on the Bibbulmun Track we ran into a French tourist who had somehow gotten so severely lost that instead of following the Beedelup Loop Walk, he ended up following the Bibb all the way to Beavis campsite - way over 20 kilometres away! How he missed the clear sign above is beyond me and we seriously worried for his safety, however having no heard about a missing dead Frenchman, it has become a funny campfire story.

A short side track leads to the water's edge and a jetty that is located on the other side of Lake Beedelup. The view from this vantage point is magnificent, with Karri Valley's waterfront chalets looking very enticing. Note that while it appears that the side trip to the jetty is a loop, the trail leads to a dead end with the track beyond the jetty being a service track for the floodlights that shine up on the Karri forest at nighttime. 

Back on the main track, Alissa and I continue on our way up the valley through more excellent Karri forest. Along the way Alissa and I passed the 'natural couch' resting spot we stopped at on the Bibbulmun Track just before the trail turns right towards the falls. 

Reaching Beedelup Falls, the trail offers two options for visitors - to head left over the top of the falls or to turn right and descend to cross the suspension bridge with views of the falls. The trail to the left heads towards the large wheelchair accessible observation deck. While this is the the official route of the Bibbulmun and the one with the main viewing area for the falls, the better route is to head right towards the suspension bridge.

Heading right, the trail follows a set of stairs alongside the waterfall to the bridge.

In spite of some serious rain, Beedelup Falls was not flowing quite as heavily as Alissa and I have seen. Additionally, the morning light is less than conducive to photographing the falls as the light is right behind the lookout point, however for a better view of the falls you can see it in the write up of Beavis to Beedelup on the Bibbulmun Track.

After crossing the swing bridge, the trail ascends a series of steps. After the ascent, the loop of the walk is completed, with only a short walk left to get to back to the car park. 

Karri Valley and Pemberton are amongst my favourite places in the Southern Forests, and it was great to do the Beedelup Loop Walk again. With the memorable Walk Through Tree and its graffiti, the idyllic surrounds of Lake Beedelup and the stunning Beedelup Falls, this is walk with a lot of wow moments and very little filler that is worth checking out if staying in the area. Doing this was a kid is one of the reasons I was inspired to become a hiker, and it is an excellent walk I would encourage parents to take their children on. Who knows - this might well be the walk that inspires them too to hike the Bibbulmun Track and other trails throughout Australia and the world.


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