Karijini National Park: 3 Day Itinerary

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Located 1,500km north of Perth Karijini National Park is the second largest National Park in Western Australia. Famous for its spectacular gorges, dramatic waterfalls, rocky creeks, refreshing waterholes and forever changing colours it is a must visit. My favourite National Park in Australia so far. It is home to the traditional lands of the Banyjima, Kurrama and Innawonga people of the Pilbara region. To this day, they still play a large role in how the park is run. While it is possible to see the highlights on a day trip to Karijini, I would highly recommend you to stay at least three days. There is so much to explore.

Fern Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to get to Karijini National Park.

A 4WD is advisable, many roads are sealed but to give you the best advantage. You can drive a direct route straight from Perth 1,443km through the centre of Western Australia. Many people take the scenic route along Australia’s beautiful coral Coast. The closest airport to Karijini National Park is Parabadoo in which you’d have to hire a vehicle to get around. There’s no public transport, your only other option would be to hop on a designated tour.

 

Where to stay in Karijini National Park.

There is limited options when it comes to accommodation within the National Park. We free camped for the few nights we were there. There is also two paid campsites that are relatively close to popular attractions. Dales Campground is a favourite amongst many due to its close proximity to some great waterholes in the park. It is within walking distance of Dales Gorge which includes Fortesque Falls, Fern Pools and Circular Pool. The campsite fee is $11 per night and facilities include drop toilets and large unpowered sites. Karijini Eco Retreat offers glamping or camping. It’s a much fancier spot. They have 40 deluxe eco tents, 10 dorm style tents and 64 campsites. From here you’re within walking distance to Joffre Gorge and Joffre Falls Lookout. In order to get  here you will have to drive 314km of an unsealed road with minimal corrugations. Camping for an unpowered site costs $15. Before entering the National Park we stayed at Tognolini Rest Area which was just outside the National Park, an hours drive in. The perfect rest area with plenty of space, epic views and it was pretty quiet.

 

Mt Bruce Central Bush Camp was another one we stayed at. At free camp close to some of the main attractions such as Joffre Gorge. A large stoney area. The stargazing from here was just incredible. Buddha’s Rest Area, a free shady camping area, only 4km from Hamersley Gorge. Facilities include toilets and a large skip bin. This campsite tends to get busier due to its location. The mosquitos were rampant here, be sure to pack the mozzie spray.

Mt Bruce Summit

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The best time to visit Karijini National Park.

The best time to visit Karijini National Park is during the winter months as temperatures during the summer can soar well above 40 degrees celsius. Wet season makes the area a no go due to regular, flash flooding between September and February. Ideally it would be great to go just after wet season when the waterfalls are still flowing. I visited in August and some of the waterholes had little water. Just remember to pack some warm clothes as the nights do get extremely cold.

 

Things to know before visiting Karijini National Park.

  • Pets are not permitted within the park.

 

  • The nearest fuel station is an hour drive away in a small mining town called Tom Price or Auski Roadhouse, the same distance away heading East.

 

  • There is no drinking water available within the park. Make sure to bring enough for your stay.

 

  • There is a park fee to enter Karijini National Park, $15 per car per day or a holiday pass for $25. If you are planning on staying longer in Western Australia’s National Parks it is well worth getting a parks pass.

 

  • Camp fires are not permitted within the National Park.

 

  • Pack accordingly. While the days are hot, the nights can become very cool. Be sure to bring warm clothes.

 

  • The mosquitos are on steroids. They are massive and even bite through your heavier clothing, pack lots of spray!

 

Hamersley Spa

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 1

The night before heading into Karijini National Park we camped at Tognolini Rest Area, a free camp an hour away. We got up early, made our way in and spent the day exploring Dales Gorge, Fern Pool and Fortesque Falls. To get to Dales Gorge and Fortesque Falls you’ll see a metal staircase from the carpark. Follow this down to Dales Gorge. To the right you’ll see red rock layering the sheer cliffs. As you make your way down you’ll begin to hear the falls. This is one of Karijini’s only permanent waterfalls. A stunning waterhole that is extremely popular due to its accessibility. An 800m, grade 3 return walk. Arrive early or late to get the most out of your visit.

 

Fern Pool

This spot was one of my favourites. It is like something out of a fairytale. A whimsical waterfall you can sit behind with greenery falling from every corner. A true oasis. Only 300m from Fortescue Falls, a grade 4 walking trail. The fish here may have a nibble on your toes, a free day spa! A shaded wooden entry platform provides the perfect spot to chill out for a few hours.

 

Gorge Rim Walk

A short 2km, grade 3 walk along the rim of the gorge with spectacular views into Dales Gorge from above. There is however very limited shade, so I would recommend doing this before the peak heat of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 2

We camped at Mt Bruce Central Bush Camp Campground, so we were close by to Joffre Gorge. We had a busy day and explored Joffre and Knox Gorge, Hancock Gorge, and Kermit’s Pool. They are all close to each other making it easy to explore one and hike onto the next.

 

Joffre Gorge

Both Joffre and Knox Gorges are easily accessed from Mt Bruce Campground or are within walking distance from Karijini Eco Retreat. Follow the marked route into the gorge to the first pool downstream of the waterfall. A 1.3km return, grade 4 hike that is especially impressive after rain. The water was not flowing when we visited, however, we did get to experience the spectacular curved walls forming a natural amphitheatre.

 

Knox Gorge

Known as one of the more challenging climbs in the park. A 2km, grade 5 walking trail. Once you climb down the first 200m it gets easier from then on. A deep chasm that intersects Wittenoom gorge just along from the Knox lookout. I’d recommend visiting early morning or late in the afternoon when the vivid sun rays enhance this spectacular panorama looking like something that belongs in Utah or Arizona

 

Hancock Gorge, Kermit’s Pool

This was one of our favourite and most adventurous gorges. The hike to Kermit’s pool was unlike anything we’ve experienced before. With deep water crossings, steep metal ladders, narrow rock passages and uneven terrain, it was such an adventure. After wading through waist deep water arriving at the pool was surreal. A crisp, cool pool with huge rocky walls surrounding it on all sides. The colours and textures of the rocks are just magnificent. We spent a few hours here jumping in from the different rock ledges.

 

Weano Gorge, Handrail Pool

Just across from Hancock Gorge you’ll see a pathway leading to Handrail Pool. Make your way down the rocky stairs and turn right at the bottom of the gorge to start the Handrail Pool Track. The gorge appears as if it’s closing in on itself, but if you continue down between the rocks you’ll come to the entrance of an impressive pool. A 1km walk to the lower Weano Gorge and 150m to the Handrail Pool, the grade 5 hike turns many people off, so it doesn’t get as busy. It is quite an easy walk once you do make it past the initial stairs. Use the handrail provided to climb down to the amphitheatre pool like area. The reflection off the water is insane.

Handrail Pool

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Day 3

We woke early to summit Mt Bruce before the heat of the day began. After that we spent a few hours relaxing before heading to Hamersley Gorge and Spa in the late evening where we had the whole place to ourselves. We spent our final nights stay at Buddas free campground just 4km from Hamersley’s gorge.

 

Mt Bruce

At 1,234m high Mt Bruce or Punurrunha as it is known to the Aboriginal people is the second highest mountain peak in Western Australia. A grade 5 hike and 9km return, taking 4-6 hours depending on your ability. This moderately steep trail follows a clearly marked path along the ridge of the mountain with a couple of challenging rocky climbs to negotiate. June to August are the best times of the year to tackle this climb, when the daytime temperatures are in the low 20’s. You’ll be rewarded with amazing views of the Karijini landscape and Hamersley Range. Be sure to start your hike early, bring plenty of water and sunscreen.

 

Hamersley Gorge

This is a beautiful spot, but it is not that easy to get to. The road to Hamersley Gorge is unsealed with rough corrugations. We arrived after 4pm and had the whole place to ourselves for a good hour which made it so special. The rocks appear with unusual intricate patterns caused by the continuous bending and buckling of the rocks under immense pressure. To reach the spa, turn right at the bottom of the trail and climb over the rocks up to the spa in the top right hand corner. This is one of the most beautiful places in Karijini National Park. Before visiting, it was hard to find any information on how to get to this insta worthy spot. A short, 500m grade 4 trail, turn right once you’re at the bottom of the stairs that lead from the car park. Follow the small round trail markers and creek to reach the pool and enjoy.

 

There you have it. 3 epic days in Karijini National Park. Exploring ancient rocky tunnels and plunging gorges, paddling through deep waterways, and sitting under waterfalls. What more could you ask for? A must visit when exploring Western Australia.

Knox Gorge

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

3 Day Itinerary Summary

Day 1- camped at Tognolini Rest Area (free).

Fern Pool, Fortesque Falls, Dales Gorge and camped at Mt Bruce Bush Camp (free).

 

Day 2 – Handrail Pool, Weano Gorge, Hancock Gorge, Kermit’s Pool, Joffre and Knox Gorge and camped at Mt Bruce Bush Camp Campground.

 

Day 3 – Mt Bruce Summit

Hamersley Gorge and Spa

Buddha’s Rest Area free.

Located 1,500km north of Perth Karijini National Park is the second largest National Park in Western Australia. Famous for its spectacular gorges, dramatic waterfalls, rocky creeks, refreshing waterholes and forever changing colours is a must visit. My favourite National Park in Australia so far. It is home to the traditional lands of the Banyjima, Kurrama and Innawonga people of the Pilbara region. To this day, they still play a large role in how the park is run. While it is possible to see the highlights on a day trip to Karijini, I would highly recommend you to stay at least three days. There is so much to explore.
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