Karijini National Park, WA

Mike and Anita Pavey — 17 August 2012

There is something uniquely magnificent about the red earth, gorges and waterfalls of Karijini National Park that etches into your mind. Whether it's indigenous serpents in the pools weaving their magic or just the raw attraction of this unique landscape, it's a destination that you need to see and appreciate for yourself.

 Where is Karijini National Park?

Karijini National Park is the jewel in the Pilbara crown with gorges ripped into the landscape forming tiered rock formations, natural swimming holes and waterfalls. Sealed road access is available off the Great Northern Highway from the east or the Nanutarra Munjina Road from the west, both join Paraburdoo Tom Price Road. Naturally, the best route for a camper trailer is the path less travelled and the unsealed Roebourne Wittenoom Road or the Tom Price Railway Road from the north, are both excellent options. Despite being unsealed, the roads are well formed and generally in good condition, subject to dips and dry creek crossings that slow progress. The Tom Price Railway Road is maintained by Rio Tinto and a permit must be obtained prior to travelling the route, available from the Tom Price or Karratha Visitor Centres. The permit requires users to view a safety video outlining the terms and conditions of using the road.

Karijini National Park attractions

Within Karijini NP, the main points of interest are within the Dales and the Weano recreation areas.

The Dales

The area includes Dales camp ground, a day use area and Dales gorge, including a number of scenic highlights. The walking trails are more representative of hiking, with unclear trails that require you to navigate through a boulder strewn river bed. The gorge rim provides a bird's eye view of everything below including the swimming holes, gorge floor and Fortescue Falls. The gorge rim trail is generally easy with a few rocky sections. Entry to the gorge is via some steep steps leading to Fortescue Falls. A short walk to Fern Pool rewards with a delightful swimming hole, waterfalls, pool access ladder and a viewing deck.

 Back at Fortescue Falls a trail follows the gorge floor, and is marked. Hug the left hand side rock wall before carefully crossing the slippery rocks in the creek. The trail is rated 'Class Four' and is a challenging walk, involving clambering over rock platforms and navigating slippery rock surfaces. Circular Pool at the far end of the gorge is protected from sun for most of the day, making it icy cold. Still, it makes for a refreshing dip after the hard hike. As an alternative to backtracking to the starting point, climb the vertical goat track to the Three Ways Lookout. While the path is steep, it saves a big return walk with some amazing views of the gorge along the way.

Karijini Eco Retreat

The Karijini Eco Retreat is situated just off Weano Road near the gorges. Flushing toilets, hot showers, camp kitchen, restaurant, bar and kiosk cater to all needs. Shade is at a premium and the sites are very open, more so than Dales.

Weano's Recreation Area

Weano's Recreation Area is accessed via the unsealed section of Banjima Drive, past the Visitors Centre. The road can be corrugated, making it an arduous 80km return trip. The gorges and walks are more adventurous than Dales, ranging from class two to six, the latter involving abseiling and rock climbing. Weano Gorge is the easiest of the walks with steps leading down to the basin and a short walk along the gorge. Hancock Gorge throws down the wilderness gauntlet with a super steep descent into the gorge, followed by an even steeper ladder, wading through waist deep chilly water to bring you to Spider Walk. With the rock walls so close, the only way forward is to brace your arms and legs outstretched against each side of the gorge, Peter Parker style. Shuffling forward, you eventually reach Kermit's Pool, a swimming hole completely enclosed by towering rock walls.

 Karijini Visitors Centre

The Visitor Centre is worth a look with plenty of information on the park including the geology, history, flora, fauna, art displays, tour bookings and general points of interest. Then there is a cultural display by the traditional owners to welcome visitors to the park. Make sure you grab yourself a copy of the Information and Walk Trail Guide which guides walkers on the expected level of difficulty because there are some real doozies!

Want to plan your trip? Find and book accommodation in the Pilbara.


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