Karijini National Park is located about 14 hours north of Perth and it’s well worth the drive to a place often considered one of Australia’s best National Parks. Karijini is home to a number of incredible gorges to explore. Swim in crystal clear pools of water and hike to cascading waterfalls. It often feels like a natural adventure park or playground set amongst an ancient landscape.
Explore Weano Gorge and Handrail Pool
Located at the end of Weano Gorge is Handrail pool, and getting there is half the fun – wade through a waist-high section of water, scramble over rocks and boulders, and make your way down a narrow section of the gorge to emerge at the top of a waterfall. Then, holding on tightly, use the handrail fixed to the gorge wall to access this picture-perfect pool.
Swim in Fern Pool
On the eastern side of Karijini National Park and located at the end of Dales Gorge is Fern Pool. The beautiful spring-fed pool and waterfall is a significant place for the local aboriginal people. It’s one of the most accessible places to swim and also one of the prettiest; to get there, follow the stairs from the car park to Fortescue Falls, then it’s another 300 metres past the falls on a well-defined trail to the deep turquoise pool.
Explore Dales Gorge
Also located in Dales Gorge is Fortescue Falls, the park’s only permanent waterfall. This picturesque spot is the perfect place for a swim; float away in the pool beneath the cascading falls and soak up the views of the red sandstone gorge walls. From here you can either follow the trail along the gorge rim or continue on exploring along the base until you get to the end. Circular Pool, also located in Dales Gorge, is currently closed due to a rockfall.
Watch sunrise and sunset from one of the many lookouts in the park
There’s no better place to be in Karijini at sunset than one of the many lookouts overlooking the gorges to watch the last of the light on the red, iron-rich, escarpment. Head to Junction Point and Oxer lookouts which are located near the junction point of the four gorges (Weano, Red, Hancock, and Joffre) for a fantastic birds-eye view into the deep gorges below.
‘Spider Walk’ at Hancock Gorge
The reward for climbing over rocks and then using all four limbs to inch your way along a narrow section of Hancock gorge (referred to as the ‘spider walk’) is Kermit’s Pool, aptly named due to its green colour. The class 5 walk into Hancock Gorge is often described as ‘journeying into the centre of the earth’ and it isn’t hard to see why – the rock formations in this ancient gorge are 2.5 billion years old!
Explore Kalamina Gorge
Kalamina Gorge is one of the quieter gorges in the national park, and you’ll often be lucky enough to have this place to yourself. Make your way down the set of stone steps and, once at the bottom of the relatively shallow gorge system, turning right will take you towards a permanent pool of water and a small waterfall at the base of the gorge. You can continue following the stream to reach the beautiful Rock Arch Pool at the end of the track.
Take a dip in Spa Pool in Hamersley Gorge
One of the most recognisable places and the most photographed in Karijini National Park has to be Spa Pool in Hamersley Gorge on the north-western side of the park. While the rest of Hamersley Gorge is just as impressive and a great place to swim, the highlight of the gorge is this picture perfect, small rock pool.
Photo by @mattfieldes_photog
Explore Joffre Gorge
The trail to Joffre Gorge leads you from the car park and nearby observation platform which has great views over the gorge, then takes you across the top of the falls. It’s then a steep, but short, climb down the rocky edge to the base of the gorge. Turn right and follow the stream to get to the beautiful curved waterfall that cascades down the natural amphitheatre-like gorge.
Hike Mount Bruce
Mount Bruce (Punurrunha) is located on the western side of Karijini and if you’re headed from Tom Price you’ll spot it easily on your way into the park. At 1,234 meters, it’s the second highest peak in Western Australia and offers great views across the Pilbara landscape. The 10 km, class 5 hike can be challenging and takes about 4-6 hours return depending on your fitness level.
Photo by @niklas.christl
Camp (or glamp) beneath the stars
After an active day of hiking and exploring, there’s nothing better than camping out beneath a star-filled sky. The Dales Gorge Campground allows for easy access to Dales Gorge (Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool) and there are often astronomy sessions that run regularly at night during the peak season for those who are interested in learning more about the night sky. For those who aren’t keen on camping, Karijini Eco Retreat has cabins and eco tents (in addition to a campground) and is closely located to Joffre Gorge with trails that lead from the retreat directly to the gorge.
All photos by Alex Pantazis (@alex.vp.photography) unless otherwise marked.
About the author:
Alex is a photographer and writer who loves exploring the Kimberley and the outback. When she’s not stuck in the office, she’s out hiking, traveling down dusty roads and taking photos.