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Despite my horrible navigation skills, I successfully enjoyed an unmarked bushwalk around Wungong Gorge.
My recent walking escapades have focused on the Perth Hills (mostly the Kalamunda Region) which I have found to be a great place for winter bushwalking. But what about further south? Like Armadale? The train line travels that way so it's perfect for a carless commuter such as myself. After some research, I come across Wungong Gorge, which is located in the southern section of Wungong Regional Park. I recently visited the northern end of Wungong Regional Park and absolutely loved it (apart from ant attacks). The paths were a little wilder than I am used to and information on the area (as well as trail markers) were not very prevalent. A distinct lack of information on trails around Wungong Gorge was apparent when I did a bit of a Google search. The best information I could find on the area was via walkgps.com so I bookmarked the page on my phone browser and was ready to go (UPDATE: TheLifeofPy.com has also recently hiked the area).
I will start my walk from the corner of Rails Crescent and the South Western Highway in Wungong. But I need to get there first from Perth city via a Sunday public transport timetable. I take the train from Perth at 8am and arrive at Armadale station at 8.35am. Ten minutes later the 251 bus arrives and I am at my destination just before 9am. Time to start walking.
I get out my phone and consult the walkgps.com map. Soon enough I am off course but it doesn't really matter as much of the area is "pathless" and more like a green grassed parkland with scattered trees. There are tracks around but no dedicated marked paths (that I could see anyway). Are these walking paths or routes the local kangaroos take? I would follow what seems to be a path but would soon find myself walking along the grasslands.
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As I walk along the green pasture I find myself slowly ascending. The green grass then makes way for an amazing grove of grasstrees. I really enjoyed meandering my way around here.
That was a walk in the park and probably my first parkland amble in a very long time. I really enjoyed the freedom to roam instead of being directed by paths and trail markers. Speaking of paths, I meet a wide one and find myself back on the walkgps.com route. Time to make some altitude.
The path levels out and I am treated to some views. Good spot to catch my breath.
Breath caught. More altitude awaits in a northerly direction.
Following the walkgps.com route, I divert off the wide track and onto a goat track into the bush.
I then hit another wide track which I proceed to follow downhill. Should have walked the other way instead. But it doesn't matter, I take a long way and enjoy the views over the Swan Coastal Plain.
Back on track, I find myself at a white gate and the start of a nice flat path. Brilliant, these steep rocky tracks are getting the best of me.
On crossing the gate, I notice this sign.
Hence the gate and the old fence. This area is free of the plant disease Phytophthora Dieback which can affect around 40% of Western Australia's native flora. On my many bushwalks around the Perth metropolitan area, I have witnessed a number of areas affected by Dieback. It is most obvious when all the larger trees and shrubs are dead but the grassy undergrowth is growing strong. One of the ways to stop Dieback it to stick to the paths and refrain from bushbashing (i.e. making a path through virgin bushland).
Sticking to the flat path with the tall trees looming above made for a really nice stroll. I wander without a care in the world. That’s when I remember I am following the walkgps.com route, so I look at my phone to see when the next turn off is. I have already past it. Huh? I didn’t see any path. Backtracking I look for the hidden path but cannot find anything but overgrown goat tracks into the Dieback free bushland. Looks like a bushbashing route to me. Instead of getting lost and possibly spreading Dieback I head back the way I came and join the walkgps.com route via defined paths. Time to negotiate some slippy downhill paths. Lucky I have my walking poles.
At the bottom of the hill, I hit the main drag. There are a number of walkers, cyclists, and families with small kids. Much easier walking around here.
The path is flat, clear and tree lined, making for a really enjoyable walk. No wonder the population is much denser down here compared to the hills I just conquered.
Even though the path is wide and clear I find myself off track and at a rocky dead end. How could I get lost on such an easy path?
Instead of taking the path to Wungong Gorge I must have taken the entrance road to an abandoned quarry. Oh well, backtracking again, but a worthy detour. Time to enjoy more relaxing bushwalking.
I soon cross Wungong Brooke and enter Wungong Gorge.
That little stream carved a gorge? That must have taken some time.
In the distance, I can hear splashing and dogs barking. As I approach I see a group of people with their canine friends playing in a small weir further upstream. The weir is on a short side path so I deviate to investigate.
The rocky cliffs to the north of Wungong Brook are a dead giveaway ... I am entering Wungong Gorge.
I continue on my way along the flat wide path which follows the mostly unseen Wungong Brook. Not many views along here as I am deep in Wungong Gorge and surrounded by vegetation. Under the shade of the trees and the gorge cliffs to the north, it gets rather chilly.
The path starts to rise a little and I find myself in the open with views of Wungong Gorge.
The bushwalk between the northern face of Wungong Gorge and Wungong Brook was really enjoyable. Not the greatest views in the world but the lush bushland at the bottom of the gorge was rather tranquil (if you ignore the barking dogs of course). I can fully understand why this seems to be a popular dog walking and weekend family adventure area. Felt like I was back in Gondwanaland, in the age before time. My time in the trees, however, is now over and the views clear.
I have a decision to make. Continue to follow the walkgps.com route and take a loop trail to the north, or skip it and head over to the southern face of Wungong Gorge. I decide on the later as I think the walk will be long enough anyway and the southern face of Wungong Gorge looks too tempting (in hindsight, I'm glad I made this decision as my legs had had enough by the end of the hike).
First, it is downhill ...
then I cross Wungong Brook ...
and then it is uphill. I guess this is why they call it a gorge.
The nice flat path at the northern face of the gorge is in stark contrast to the steep rocky paths that climb the southern face of Wungong Gorge. Another difference is the lack of people of this side. I guess the paths scare people off a bit. The walk isn't that bad don't get me wrong, but you have to work on this walk. But the work is worth it.
Probably the best views of the entire walk I think.
The only person I met on the south side of Wungong Gorge was here in the south-east section of the loop. She asked for a picture with her dog. And I can understand why. The views are really nice. A bushland setting, but with green rolling hills. It looks a little farm like to me.
I continue to ascend. The path does get rather rocky and steep in sections. Unfortunately, my pictures don't really do the hike justice. Think I was too interested in the views that I worked for.
At the top, the path flattens out and provides some good views over to the northern face of the gorge.
I try my best to follow the walkgps.com route but cannot find the side paths suggested. Instead, I just follow the main path. I dare say these small goat tracks suggested by walkgps.com are well overgrown. I do however find my way back onto the suggested route and find a rocky outcrop which provides substantial views west over the Swan Coastal Plain.
After a short rest admiring the view I continue my bushwalk. The bushwalk becomes a bit more "bushier" than expected, however. This doesn’t seem to be a popular route at all.
Something doesn't feel right. The path dissipates at another rocky outcrop. So where now? I check my phone. Way off course. Oh well, while I am here I might as well check out the views.
As I backtrack I try to find the path suggested walkgps.com. Nothing. No obvious sign of another track. I dare say these paths are past overgrown. Ok, I give up. Going to stick to the obvious paths on Google Maps.
I start enjoying the walk again once I am on a nice wide path. Spring is in the air and the first blooms are appearing.
Heading west to the south-west corner of the Wungong Gorge loop I enjoy the flat path and the occasional good view.
Being content with the views and the nice wide path I find myself off track again. But I don't think I can be blamed for this. At this "intersection" which way would you naturally walk?
To the left on the wide path, or to the right along the fence line? I chose the left option. However, right along the fence line is the correct answer. After some backtracking, I return to the correct path and head north along the final stretch of the loop.
Along the fence line, I find a rocky path downhill. Time to descend.
On my way down I am treated to the occasional view of the gorge to the east.
At the bottom of Wungong Gorge, I am treated to a small water crossing.
As I try to peacefully take some pictures of the babbling brook I am interrupted by some noisy dirt bikers wanting to cross. Completely ruined the ambience.
Just beyond the watercourse is the main drag back to the South Western Highway.
My aching legs are happy to see a flat, clear path. My aching legs are not so happy about the fact that I didn't make it to the bus stop on time. The next bus doesn't come for another 2hours! I guess I could wait, but stuff it, time to walk all the way back to Armadale Train Station. Definitely not the most exciting walk along the South Western Highway. Sure I like walking, but my legs are knackered after climbing up and down the Wungong Gorge all day.
The total hike was 20.6km and it took me 5.5 hours. If you exclude the walk back to the train station it was 16km and took me 4.75 hours. You could also significantly reduce the time and severity of the walk if you didn't include the first section where I hiked up into the north hillsides. And of course, if I didn't get off track so much it would have taken even less time. But all in all, I really enjoyable walk. My favourite section would have to be the clear flat path under the trees and shadows of the north side of the Wungong Gorge and then the climb into the southern section of the gorge. Definitely the best views up there.
Give the walk a go but do not expect any signage at all. If you stick to the main paths you will be fine, but bring a map or your smartphone.
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