Saturday, 7 September 2019

Bickley Brook to Lions Lookout Walk GPS Route (Korung National Park)

A 100% on track Walk GPS Route, the Bickley Brook to Lions Lookout Walk combines two of Shire of Kalamunda walks to create a 10 kilometre loop. Starting at Hardinge Park, the trail explores the Bickley Brook Valley before heading over to Lions Lookout via a linking trail. Featuring areas renowned for their Spring wildflower blooms, this a perfect beginners' Walk GPS Route

Distance: 10 km (dual loop figure 8 with return section in the middle)
Gradient: Mix of gently undulating and moderately steep walking
Quality of Path: Relatively clear and surprisingly maintained. Track varies from purpose built walk trail to old, sometimes eroded vehicle tracks with uneven gravel to bitumen road
Quality of Signage: Some signage for the two Shire of Kalamunda walks that it is made up from, but no trailhead and several turns being poorly marked. It is best to use the Walk GPS file for the more confusing sections
Experience Required: Bushwalking experience required given the lack of signage
Time: 3-4 Hours
Steps: No formal steps, but some very eroded tracks with informal steps
Best Time to Visit: Late Winter/Early Spring
Entry Fee: No, however access to the GPS file requires a subscription to Walk GPS

Getting There: The trail starts on Hardinge Rd in Orange Grove. From Tonkin Hwy, take Maddington Rd North-East. Maddington Rd becomes Hardinge Rd. Car park facilities are available at Hardinge Park. 

With Perth well and truly in the middle of its most perfect season of Djilba, Alissa and I decided it was the perfect time to visit one of the Walk GPS walks we've been saving for Djilba to explore - the 100% on track loop that joins up the Bickley Brook to Lions Lookout Shire of Kalamunda trails. Joining us for the walk was Alissa's brother Ben, who we hadn't walked with since the William Bay Circuit way back in June 2018.

For hikers familiar with the Bickley Brook Walk and/or the Mason and Bird Heritage Trail will be familiar with the first part of the walk as it starts from Hardinge Park and follows a sealed path alongside Bickley Brook Reservoir before heading past the Outdoor Recreation camp to the end of Hardinge Rd. 

At the end of the road, walkers will have to look for the Kattamordo Heritage Trail sign and pay attention to the arrows that point the way for the Bickley Brook Walk Trail as it descends to Bickley Brook itself.

Crossing the brook, the Walk GPS route is entirely identical to the official Shire of Kalamunda walk for several kilometres, so we were able to put away the GPS tracker and walk on autopilot - a nice sensation that is unusual for a Walk GPS route where it can be a very 'active' walking experience.

Heading along the brook, its exposed bed is a highlight of this section of the trail, however Alissa, Ben and I were surprised by how few wildflowers were in bloom along this stretch. Assuming this was a product of it being in the shaded valley, we all hoped that the display would be more impressive higher up along the way.

Reaching a broad and heavily eroded vehicle track, the three us began the memorably steep ascent that is a major feature of the Bickley Brook Walk Trail. 

As we had suspected, the wildflower display was much better as we headed up the valley with a profusion of colour filling the landscape. 

This is exactly what we were hoping for when we saved the trail for early September and we were not let down. I've said before and I'll say it again; there is no better time to be out and about walking in the Perth outdoors than August and September.

Still following the Bickley Brook Walk Trail, the three of us dutifully turned left at the poorly marked trail junction and made our way across the top of the valley. If you've never done the Bickley Brook Walk Trail before, it probably pays to consult the Walk GPS KML/GPX file at this junction as it is behind a branch and is not immediately obvious. From here, the trail heads west towards the edge of the Darling Scarp and offers views of the Swan Coastal Plain, particularly the Kenwick Industrial area. Some people get really excited by being able to view the Swan Coastal Plain and I have to say I've never understood the thrill, but if this is of interest to you, then the lookouts here do offer said views.

From the lookout points, the trail descends and enters my favourite part of the Bickley Brook Walk Trail as it heads through a lovely stand of Wandoo forest along one of Bickley Brook's tributary gullies. The understory was filled with white wildflowers in bloom, and always reminds me of the great stretches of the Bibbulmun Track in the Helena Valley section of the track that are filled with Wandoo rather than the infinitely less attractive burnt Jarrah forest that dominates the track's northern half. 

After running along the gully, the track rises steeply to the Bickley Brook Walk Trail's high point, again following a deeply eroded vehicle track.

At the top of the hill is a four way junction. Usually, when walking the Bickley Brook Walk Trail, Alissa and I would turn right at this point and begin the somewhat steep and slippery descent back down towards Bickley Brook itself, however it is at this point that the Walk GPS route branches off the Shire of Kalamunda's smaller offering, using the vehicle track heading left to link up the Lions Lookout. Interesting, there is an old marker on the tree suggesting that this link was part of a marked trail back in the day.

From the junction, the vehicle track descends the side gully's valley once more. While lacking in the Wandoo forest seen earlier, the valley was filled with bird life - particularly black cockatoos.

The wildflowers here were again excellent, and will less abundant than the firs ascent of the walk, provided lovely splashes of colour through the landscape. 

Once across the valley and on the other side, the multitude of vehicle tracks makes it difficult to just wing it in terms of directions, and it is at this point that we got the GPS tracker out to ensure we were going the right way. 

Given the seeming appearance of dense forest on the other side of the valley, the three of us were surprised to pass by a substantial building with massive water tanks next to the trail. At first Alissa, Ben and I guessed it was a school, however we would later realise that this is the Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilition Centre.

From Kanyana, the forest was mostly fairly scrappy Jarrah that was at least not heavily burnt, thus offering decent enough walking. 

Unfortunately, the unburnt Jarrah did not last long, and soon Ben, Alissa and I were greeted by somewhat unattractive stretches of forest that had been given the enforced carbonisation treatment by DBCA.

As we followed the vehicle track downhill from the burnt forest, Alissa and I recognised that we were well and truly following the Lions Lookout Walk Trail as defined by the Shire of Kalamunda. 

This part of the walk is mostly low heath, which is just as well as the unsightly vision of charred bark was left to a minimum. Fans of seeing the city from a Darling Scarp walk will really enjoy this stretch as the Perth skyline is easily recognisable from this vantage point. 

Looking down at the valley below, the three of us could see Bickley Brook Reservoir below. Back when Alissa and I did the Lions Lookout Walk we had seen reservoir from the track and wondered if the two trails could be linked up, so it was nice to know that this walk confirms our earlier conjecture. 

The low heath here is quite renowned for its wildflower displays and while it was somewhat marred by patches of dead, burnt scrub, the areas that were in bloom definitely impressed.

After skirting the edge of the scarp and allowing for sweeping views of the Swan Coastal Plain, the trail descends steeply down more eroded vehicle tracks. On my way down, I had stuck to the right of the track as it looked less eroded and ended up ankle deep into mud! Above you can see Ben and Alissa judiciously keeping to their left.

From here, we were getting closer to the Lions Lookout car park, and found the area here to be in much better condition to the deflagrated forest and heath we had seen earlier. At its best, this is what the Lions Lookout area looks like and it was good to see at least part of it in its former glory. 

Lions Lookout features several benches and a picnic area with views overlooking the city. In warmer months, there is often a coffee van selling simple meals as well, making it popular with locals and those perhaps on their way to the nearby Lesmurdie Falls.

From the car park, the trail follows more vehicle tracks across the top of the Lions Lookout area of Korung National Park.

The walking along this stretch is fairly typical of the scrappy Jarrah forest on this side of the Darling Scarp - lacking impressive canopy, bark often showing signs of recent burns (prescribed or otherwise) and with an understory that is low and lacking in the stunning density more common in higher rainfall areas. I think it is well known by now that this is not amongst my favourite types of forest to walk through, and as such it was a merely pleasant and totally uneventful stretch of walking for me. 

Following the GPX file, the three of us followed the tracker along the vehicle track as it brought us to the front of Kanyana before heading down a short stretch of road walking. 

Before commencing the road walking, the three of us passed by a really interesting sign indicating that this was an entry point for the Darling Scarp Walk Trail. This was certainly a very old sign given that the Darling Scarp is now more often referred to in marketing by the more fanciful title of Darling Range, and the fact this is a walk trail that I've heard and read very little about. There a number of these through the Perth area, and it is a shame that people in the past clearly put a lot of effort into creating walk trails only to see them fall into disrepair and become extinct.

After taking note of the sign, the three of us strolled down Gilchrist Rd, keeping an eye out for a right turn ahead that would once again take us back onto unsealed vehicle tracks.

Taking the first major vehicle track to our right, the three of us passed by a rusty pipe that serves as a good landmark for those trying to find their way. Just to the right, what looks like an old abandoned outhouse building is located in the bushes but is ultimately a mere curiosity with not that much interest. 

Continuing along the vehicle track, we were delighted to find ourselves back at the linking track that joins the Lions Lookout and Bickley Brook walks. From here, we were able to put away our GPS tracking and finish the walk on autopilot given we knew it would be following the Bickley Brook Walk Trail quite faithfully. 

Reaching the four way junction again, the three of us began the descent back down the Bickley Brook. This stretch of eroded vehicle track is mostly slippery pea gravel and is always slow going to prevent a fall. It is not as bad as the steep descent along the Piesse Gully Loop, but it is still one that I've always been happy to have trekking poles for. 

After surviving the descent with no issues (other than Alissa losing her hat), the three of us reached Bickley Brook and its crossing point. Given how risk averse Western Australia can be, it is nice that they have a simple series of stepping stones across the brook to give it at least a semblance of adventurousness. 

On the other side of the brook, it is simply a matter of following the vehicle tracks back to the cul-de-sac at the end of Hardinge Rd. From there, the Walk GPS route suggests following a stretch of track to the left of the road. Having walked Hardinge Rd many, many times to do walks in the area, it was a lovely surprise to see a reasonably well formed walking trail through the bush here that provided a lovely alternate way for us to return to our car.

Last year Alissa and I did the mostly on track Walk GPS route from Bickley Brook to Ellis Brook, and at the time we had recommended it as a great beginner Walk GPS walk given how little of it is off-track. The Bickley Brook to Lions Lookout Walk GPS Route has it beat; being entirely on track, this is about as easy as a Walk GPS walk gets, and it results in a 10 kilometre figure 8 walk that is vastly superior to the two much less substantial walks defined by the Shire of Kalamunda. Of all Walk GPS routes, this is the one that has no reason to not exist as a defined trail given no trail construction is required. I hope in the future if the City of Kalamunda go down the City of Armadale route and improve their track signage that they'll consider making this an official trail. For now, Bickley Brook is easily one of the most surprisingly diverse hiking destinations in the Perth Hills, with the Bickley to Lions Lookout Route being well worth checking out - especially if wildflowers are your jam.  


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