Regarded as one of the best national parks in WA (if not, in our somewhat biased opinion, all of Australia!), Karijini National Park is an incredible spot to explore and the perfect place to head for a road trip up north. An adventure lover’s dream, the park is packed with great places to swim, climb – and even abseil!
What is it?
Karijini is home to a number of gorges to explore, hike and swim – imagine deep, iron-rich red coloured gorges, picturesque waterfalls and crystal clear pools of water all set amongst an ancient landscape. The rock formations in the park are over two billion years old, making Karijini home to some of the oldest rock formations in Australia.
Where is it?
Located in the Pilbara, Karijini is about a 14-15 hour drive from Perth (about 1400 km) via Meekatharra and Newman along the Great Northern Highway. Otherwise you can use the coastal road and go via Exmouth (it’s a longer drive but means you can check out places like Kalbarri, Monkey Mia and Coral Bay on the way). If you’re not up for a road trip, there are flights to nearby towns of Paraburdoo and Newman. Karijini is then about a 140km drive from Paraburdoo or 185 kms from Newman.
What to do?
Karijini is an adventure lover’s paradise! The park is home to challenging grade 5 hikes but the reward is breathtaking views into the heart of gorges, incredible waterfalls and fab swimming spots.
Descend into Hancock Gorge down a series of ladders and make your way along narrow, slippery rock ledges or wade through icy cold pools of water then ‘spider-walk’ (using all four limbs to inch your way along a narrow section the gorge) to get to a deep, green coloured plunge pool.
In Weano Gorge wade through waist-high water, scramble over rocks and boulders, clamber through a narrow section of the iron-ore rich red gorge to emerge at the top of a waterfall where you climb down to the plunge pool below using a handrail.
Get your fix of fresh water swimming in the crystal clear waters of Fern Pool, Fortescue Falls and Circular Pool in Dales Gorge or head out to Hamersley Gorge on the western side of the park where you’ll find the picturesque Spa Pool.
There are two campsites within the park: Dales Campground (which can be pre-booked online up to 6 months in advance) which is close to Dales Gorge where you’ll find Fortescue Falls, Circular Pool, and Fern Pool. Karijini Eco Retreat, close to Joffre Gorge, also has unpowered sites and all campground bookings should be made through their website. If camping’s not your thing, Karijini Eco retreat also has cabins and eco tents (as well as a restaurant and bar!).
What not to do:
While Karijini is filled with adventure, it’s also packed with plenty of risks: from snake bites, falls, and heat exhaustion to injuries from rock ledges collapsing and even death. While the rock ledges might seem stable, they can give way without warning and shouldn’t be climbed, and roped off areas and restricted areas in the park are there to keep you safe (and alive!). It’s not just for your safety, rescues here take hours, but also for the safety of the rescue team. Back in 2004, SES Volunteer James Regan died in a flash flood while attempting to rescue an injured hiker. Like any outback trip, pack and carry plenty of water with you. It can get extremely hot in the gorges in Summer and there’s also a high risk of flash flooding in wet weather, please leave the gorges if it starts raining. Be sensible, don’t take risks or do anything stupid – and stay alive!
The road into Karijini, as well as to the visitor centre, Dales Gorge and all but the last 3kms to the Eco Retreat is sealed and easily accessible but a 4WD is recommended if you want to explore all the park. You can also access some of the roped off areas and restricted gorges in the park (like Red Gorge) on an adventure tour with West Oz Active.
The Banjima, Innawongka and Eastern Guruma people are the traditional owners and custodians of the park. Fern Pool is a sacred site and visitors are asked to be quiet and respectful while there.