Bibbulmun Track (WA)

Warren Campsite, overlooking the Warren River Valley


Stretching just over 1000 kilometres from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills to Albany, the Bibbulmun Track is Western Australia's longest walking trail, falling just behind South Australia's Heysen Trail as the longest walking-oriented trail in the country (the impressively long 5330 km Bicentennial National Trail is not designed with walkers in mind).

Expansive views of the south coast at Big Quarram Beach

Along its route, it passes through some of the best scenery near Perth and through the South West, rewarding walkers with access to many natural attractions only reachable by foot. It ranges from the small mountains and hills of the Darling Scarp through to the Karri Forests of Pemberton, the low lying Pingerup Plains, the giants of the Tingle Forests and then onto some of the finest coastal walking in Australia. The Track has an international reputation, having been called one of the World's Best Epic Trails by National Geographic, while each hut's log books reveal that there are walkers from all over the world who have come to walk the Bibbulmun.

The 3-sided Hut at Swamp Oak Campsite

Being such a long track, an End to End Thru-Hike of the Bibbulmun Track takes around 50 days to walk in its entirety, however day walks and sectional multi-day stretches can be easily achieved. The Track's greatest strength is that every full day of walking either ends at one of the purpose built huts along the track or takes walkers to a Track Town.  Although the huts and associated facilities cannot be guaranteed (some, especially nearer to Perth, are quite small compared to demand at peak times, and bushfires have frequently destroyed several along the track), they make walking the Track very attractive for casual and experienced walkers alike compared to tracks with limited facilities.

Mundaring Weir early in the morning
I really enjoy walking the Bibbulmun Track, particularly the sections close to Perth, between Balingup and Pemberton and the final stretch along the South Coast, and I definitely think the Bibb is the best 'gateway' hike to get into bushwalking. I will say however that while much of the press for the Track rates it as 'world class' or amongst the 'world's best', I would caution that the trail is not for everyone and I prefer to say that it has great potential to be world class. Firstly, the Bibbulmun Track is not a complete wilderness walk, and while a lot of it is on purpose built track there are times where it follows old vehicle tracks or passes by areas that have been heavily modified by humans. Not all of these are bad mind you - walking over or by dams can be very pleasant - but it is worth keeping in mind.

The dull, low-lying swamp near Canning Campsite

Secondly, it is hard to make a trail this long exciting over its whole length, and while there are sections that could be held up as some of the best walking in the country, there are also admittedly dull sections along the way. While thin, scrappy regrowth Jarrah dominates most of the first half of the track, the first section through the Darling Scarp features rugged valleys and small peaks to give the area geographic character. Unfortunately the regularly fire damaged section from Dwellingup through to Balingup is far less interesting, and features a number of dull days of repetitive scenery. Additionally, the beauty and uniqueness of the Pingerup Plains section of the track is greatly hampered by some extremely long and boring road walking that skips interesting nearby scenery like a series of rapids clearly marked on the map. These are unfortunately the kinds of compromises that have to happen on a long track where limited funds and competing land uses mean a less than ideal alignment. It should be noted however that the Bibbulmun Track Foundation is a fantastic friends group who listen to feedback and are always looking at ways to improve the track, and that some of these things will be fixed in time. That is why I say it is a potentially great track; there is always room for improvement and the Foundation are keen to make those improvements when they can. 

View from the Gloucester Tree in Gloucester National Park, located along the Track
Thirdly, while the walk does climb some small mountains and features impressive coastal walking, it is largely a forest walk. For those looking for a trail in high country with seemingly endless mountain vistas, this is not the walk for you. While I do find the endless (and endlessly burnt) Jarrah forests to be uninspiring in its repetitiveness, the Karri and Tingle forests are some of the most beautiful Eucalypt forests in Australia and are definitely a major highlight of the Track. With so much of the track having forests as their major draw card, it also means that it is often severely impacted by wildfires and diversions or even partial closures.

Severe Fire Damage between Dale Rd and Brookton Hwy

These are a reality of the Track; they occasionally make Thru-Hikes unachievalbe, and it is unlikely impossible that you will walk the Track with every section in pristine, unburnt condition, especially given the drying trend of climate change will only make matters worse in the coming decades. Given the very real risk of being caught out in a bushfire, it is best to avoid walking on the track from late-December to mid-March - especially in the northern half. There has also been an increased number of Prescribed Burns along the track that have escaped containment lines - several times near Monadnocks Conservation Park and with severe burns near Albany in May 2018. While most accept that burns are a part of life in dry Eucalypt forest, there are many questioning DBCA's methods and whether the heavy-handed approach is actually doing more harm than good. I am not a scientist so cannot comment on the efficacy, however one gets the impression that other land uses are valued much higher than tourism when the track is frequently closed or diverted for months on end during the peak hiking seasons of Spring and Autumn only to discover burns haven't happened or that the area is completely destroyed by out of control Control Burns. 

The spectacular Beedelup Falls in Winter, Beedelup National Park
These three caveats aside, I do think that the Bibbulmun Track can be called one of the best beginners' trails in the world, as the relatively moderate terrain and the provision of huts makes the transition from day walking to overnight hiking very easy. While there are better, fully enclosed huts on some other tracks in Australia (mainly Tasmania), you would be hard pressed to find another long distance trail anywhere in the world with better facilities over its entire length. It is the original walk that gave Alissa and I the bushwalking bug, and I think anyone living in Western Australia should tackle a section of the track before undertaking any of the country's more challenging trails. And as harsh as I can be about the burnt jarrah section-dominated sections of the track, there are still moments of great beauty between Dwellingup and Balingup to make the walking worthwhile. 

The Irwin Inlet Canoe Crossing

Additionally, if Walpole to Denmark were a trail unto itself, I think it would quite rightly rank as one of the finest in the country. It is the most varied section of the track, passing through everything from forest to grass plains to coastal cliffs, and there is even a section that requires paddling across an inlet! For walkers with limited time, or interstate visitors looking to get a good taster of the track at it's best, a traverse of this section is highly recommended.

Walking the ridge of Mt Cooke

Our Jumbled Up Sectional End to End (2015-2017)

My introduction to bushwalking was spending my Year 12 Leavers walking the Walpole to Denmark section of the Bibbulmun Track in 2003. With very little preparation, this was definitely a big plunge into the deep end but one that taught me a lot about bushwalking, and the next year my friends and I headed off to complete the track from Brookton Hwy to Kalamunda. After this strong start, uni life and the constant lure of working more hours at my casual jobs over the school holidays put the Bibbulmun Track on the backburner until I got back into serious bushwalking in 2010. Even then, it would be two years until I walked a substantial section of the track again, with Alissa and I walking from Albany to Denmark in the winter of 2012.

The Beginning - the Bibbulmun Track's Northern Terminus

In 2015, fires ravaged many sections of the track, including destroying the Long Gully Bridge - something I had always wanted to cross after seeing it in the guide books. I decided that enough was enough - we would work on completing the Bibbulmun Track in full before the 20th Anniversary of the current alignment (since 1998, with minor realignments), and photograph and document every day on the Track. Given our full-time employment, we would have to do the track in sections, with a mix of day walks and mult-day hikes. Living in Perth and with Alissa's parents living in Denmark, we could use both places as bases to complete the sections nearby, including redoing the section from Kalamunda to Brookton Hwy and Denmark to Albany again. In September 2017, Alissa and I completed a dream that started when I walked a brief section of the Bibbulmun near Pemberton in 1999 - to have walked the Bibbulmun Track End to End.

Sheer coastal cliffs near between Boat Harbour and Parry Beach

The Sections

Here are the sections of the Bibbulmun Track divided as we are walking them. Although the whole trail cannot be walked entirely as day hikes, it was surprising how much of the track can be walked in this fashion. Unfortunately, most Bibbulmun Track information online seemed to be written either by people who were Thru-Hikers or by those simply using the track to achieve day walks with little thought about putting these shorter walks towards a sectional End to End. As such, I have had to do a bit of homework to create our day walks based on the available access points and using a car shuffle to make them one way trips. I hope this information will be useful to others planning on completing the Bibbulmun Track in a similar fashion or to get a taster for the track from the sections near Perth. Unless otherwise stated, we are completing the sections predominantly in a North to South direction, however we have had to do some in the other direction where vehicle access or phone reception is more conducive. I have added a parenthetical note of (S-N) to identify these sections. Click on each completed section for their corresponding post.

Kalamunda to Dwellingup 

Hills Discovery Centre to Dale Rd as an overnight hike of:

Wearne Rd to Inglehope Rail Crossing as a two night hike of:
Yarragil Form to Driver Rd - Scheduled for 2017
Driver Rd to Harvey-Quindanning Rd - Scheduled for 2017

Harvey-Quindanning Rd to Harris Dam as an overnight hike of:
  • Harvey Quindanning Rd to Yourdamung - Scheduled for 2017
  • Yourdamung to Harris Dam - Scheduled for 2017

Collie to Balingup

Collie to Mumballup as an overnight hike of:
  • Collie to Yabberup - Scheduled for 2017
  • Yabberup to Mumballup - Scheduled for 2017
Mumballup to Balingup as an overnight hike of:
  • Mumballup to Grimwade - Scheduled for 2017
  • Grimwade to Balingup - Scheduled for 2017

Balingup to Donnelly River Village

Balingup to Donnelly River Village as a two night hike of:

Donnelly River Village to Pemberton

Pemberton to Northcliffe

Northcliffe to Pemberton (S-N) as a two night hike of:

Northcliffe to Walpole

Walpole to Denmark

Denmark to Albany

Denmark to Cosy Corner as an overnight hike of:
Cosy Corner to Albany as an overnight hike of:

1 comment:

  1. If you had limited time, and had to choose between the following two sections, would you choose Northcliffe to Walpole or Walpole to Denmark? (I’m also doing Pemberton to Northcliffe and Denmark to Albany.)