Expectations were high after checking out images of Karijini National Park. The landscape impressed us so much that we decided to make the extra 1.200 kilometre trip to Karijini. Was it worth the drive? I answer the question with a resounding YES. The two days in Karijini made me realise how beautiful the world is and how much I love Australia. In this post, I share how to have two amazing days in Karijini NP!
Karijini is Western Australias second largest park and offers many adventurous things to those who love nature. The huge red mountain formations, waterfalls and breathtaking gorges impressed me. The national park is home to a huge selection of plant species and animal populations. It is fair to say that Karijini has been one of the most beautiful destinations I have been to in Australia.
Let’s give a little more background on how we ended up in Karijini NP. Together with my sister, I went on a 4-week camping trip in Western Australia. Actually, it was a 3,5-week trip as we first visited a friend in Melbourne. We started our Western Australia campervan adventure in Perth and drove all the way up to Exmouth. A beautiful coastal drive.
And then we read about Karijini, a National Park landward and 610 kilometres from Exmouth. For Dutchies, it doesn’t necessarily make sense to drive “that far” for a national park: we go grocery shopping in Germany. Turned out that after a few days, we didn’t care about distances anymore. The driving was relaxed on the Western Australian roads and those 610 kilometres were peanuts.
This guide covers all you need to know about Karijini National Park:
- My favourite paragraph to start with: Why should you visit Karijini? Western Australia is huge, it has loads of highlights but I will tell you 5 reasons why Karijini is a must-visit.
- What to do in two days– this is based on my very own experience. I hope my information helps you plan your visit to the park and inspirres you to hike or join a tour.
- Day 1: Karijini National Park hiking trails – I had loads of time during the road trip to read all about Karijini’s hiking trails, the distances and what to expect. So why not make your live a little easier and share it?
- Day 2: Join a Karijini Tour – there is just one tour company that organises trips and it’s a must-go!
- Karijini Camp Sites – A description of the Karijini National Park and Tom Price campgrounds. I have also included two maps of Karijini NP and Tom Price to give you and idea of the locations and distances.
- Do you need a 4 WD? Not necessarily and I will tell you why!
We give you 5 reasons to visit Karijini NP
- Karijini National park is Western Australia’s second largest national park, encompassing about 627.440 ha – the largest park is Karlamilyi NP. Nope, we didn’t go there.
- This is an ancient part of the world. The Karijini rocks are over 2.000 million years old. That’s not a typo. The gradual process of erosion has sculptured its way through the land.
- Flora & Fauna. Karijini is home to a large variety of ecosystems. The steep layered gorges and the aqueous soil are ideal for a huge amount of plants to grow and for animals to live.
- Karijini is simply stunning! I hope my photos confirm that statement.
- There are 19 hikes available AND you can go canyoning. Yes, I know this is two reasons. Just couldn’t choose and wanted to end up with 5 reasons 🙂
If you’re a hiker and don’t fear a little adventure, then these are my tips for two awesome days at Karijini: hiking on day 1 and canyoning on day 2. Or the other way around, whatever you prefer!
Day 1: Hiking in Karijini National Park
Karijini National park is divided into 5 area’s: Dales Gorge, Joffre and Knox Gorges, Hancock and Weano Gorges Mount Bruce. The national park in Western Australia is a true hiking paradise with 19 hikes in 4 classifications (class 2 to 5) to choose from. Each area has its own hikes and each hike is classified into a level. Trail classifications vary from class 2 to class 5. Class 2 trails are easy hikes with some steps but you don’t have to be fit for this hike. Class 5 hikes are difficult trails, you should be in good health and flexibility helps. Expect steep sections, slippery and wet rocks.
Dales Gorge (east)
The starting point is a parking spot that is easy to reach with a non-4WD vehicle. From the parking ‘Dales day use’ area there are 4 hikes. We did all four hikes as they are all in the same area and connected to each other. You need a full day if you want to make the most of it!
- Gorge Rim – 2 km (class 3)
- Fortescue Falls – 800 metres (class 3)
- Circular Pool – 800 metres (class 4)
- Dales Gorge – 2 km (class 4)
Joffre and Knox Gorges (north)
This area, as well as the Hancock and Weano Gorges, are closest to the Karijini Eco Retreat. More about the retreat in the ‘campsite’ section of this article. The roads to this the starting points of these gorges are unsealed. The area offers four hikes:
- Joffre Lookout – 100 metres (class 2)
- Knox Lookout – 300 metres (class 2)
- Knox Gorge – 2 km (class 5)
- Joffre Falls – 3 km (class 5)
Hancock and Weano Gorges (north)
- Oxer and Junction Pool lookouts – 800 metres (class 2)
- Upper Weano – 1 km (class 4)
- Lower Weano – 1 km (class 4)
- Hancock Gorge – 1 km (class 5)
- Handrail Pool, Weano Gorge – 150 metres (class 5)
Kalamina and Hamersley Gorge (north)
- Hamersley Waterfall – 400 m (class 3)
- Kalamina Gorge – 3 km (class 4)
Mount Bruce (south-west)
Opposite the entrance and park exit west, there is a 3-kilometre unsealed road bringing you to Mt Bruce. It’s the second tallest peak in Western Australia. There is also a mine site nearby that you can visit. Hikes and trails in Mount Bruce:
- Marando View. Class 2 – 500 meters (30 minutes return). This is the hike to the mine site.
- Honey Hakea Track. Class 3 – 4,6 kilometers (3 hours return).
- Mount Bruce Summit. Class 5 – 9 kilometres (6 hours return).
Dales Gorge hike (2km, class 4)
We decided to hike in the Dales Gorge area to admire the sunken gardens, dark blue pools, cascading waterfalls and snakes. Yes, snakes. We walked the 2 km Dales Gorge hike that took us about 3 hours, plus another 30 minutes for photos and relaxing. The trial connects the two ends of Dales Gorge and the hike is among the rocks, literally in the gorges. We kicked off at the Three ways lookout and descended into the gorges. Those lookouts should not be skipped as you can really see how massive the area is.
Our first stop in the gorges was Circular Pool. A nature swimming pool with turquoise water! We hiked all the way to the Fortescue Falls and walked another 300 metres (class 4) upstream along the gorge to Fern Pool. This trail was definitely a class 4 hike with obstacles and steep sections. And a lack of marks so guessing and dead ends were involved. Nevertheless, the colours of the gorges were stunning.
The Dales Gorge and Circular Pool hikes are the yellow lines on the map photo. The Circular Pool hike is 800 metres and a class 4 trail.
Gorge Rim hike
After the Dales Gorge hike, we climbed out of the gorges and hiked the Gorge Rim (class 3) which is the green line on the Dales Gorge map. The Gorge Rim hike brought us back where we started, the Parking area.
Just some hiking advice….
1. Wear shoes
This might be a ‘I would not do this‘ but I have seen people wearing flip flops and bikinis in the gorges. Plus, I was told people died in the pools due to stupid behaviour. So, wear proper hiking clothing and shoes (running shoes is fine) wear a hat, bring sunscreen, water and food. We may save a life or two here.
2. Keep your eyes open and mouth shut
In other countries, my thoughts are ‘Yeah, I know there are animals, but we won’t spot any’. Not in Australia. I have seen so many incredible creatures, colourful birds, weird insects and other wildlife in this country. Just by walking by and keeping my eyes open. That snake on the photo, was right in front of us when we were passing by. I decided not to warn my sister to keep the levels of nervousness low and quickly follow her. I love animals, but I am not a huge fan of lizards, snakes, reptiles. I still want to spot them and make photos. Karijini is also known for its wild dogs but we haven’t seen any!
Fear of heights, not a fan of abseiling? Me neither. I still joined a small group adventure day tour to get the adrenaline going. Was it worth it? A full ‘Yes’ again. I am seriously no hero when it comes to adventure seeking. I will never be the first one (or the second) to jump off a bridge or at all would swim with sharks. Only whale sharks in Exmouth, I was up for that.
So how did this happen? After my hiking research, I figured we should go to the northern part of Karijini. To the Weano, Joffre and Knox Gorges. However, most of the hikes in those areas were either short lookout trails of class 5 hikes. The class 5 hikes sounded intense. As my sister and I don’t consider ourselves veteran hikers, we joined a small group canyoning tour organised by West Oz Active. I never did canyoning before, but hey – we have to challenge ourselves right? And so we did.
West Oz Active Canyoning Tour
Our guide and tour company owner, Pete, was a passionate guy whose humour made my day! Sliding down waterfalls, scrambling on rocks, abseiling, tubing, climbing and paddling through the water. It was all part of the awesome adventure. We spend most of the day in restricted areas of the national park, so it really felt like a special day with our tour group.
The tour kicked off at Knox Gorge, we hiked through waist-high waters and made our way down to the beautiful Red Gorge. We had lunch at a spot where you will only have lunch once in your life. After tubing and paddling, we arrived at Junction Pool, a unique spot where four gorges come together. The highlight of the day was the vertical climb along Kermit Pool and the Spider. The best thing was: I had no fear at all that day. I have the biggest smile on my face on all photos!
I recently (2nd of April 2017) read that Pete sold West Oz Active to two fellow adventurers. A quote from his message: We would like to assure our clients that there will be no change to the winning formula of putting old Karijni first. Our Guests Safety and experience remains our core concern. Pete now runs a travel agency in Tom Price and still works close together with West Oz Active.
There are two campgrounds in Karijini National Park and one caravan park in Tom Price. Tom Price is the closest town to Karijini.
- Tom Price Tourist Park. Expect to pay $ 35-40 for a campervan, including power and water.
- Karijini Eco Retreat. This campsite had no power but is the only campground in the park. Price is $40-50 for a campervan.
- Dales Camp Ground near Dales Gorge. $20-15 dollar for 2 people and campervan.
Don’t expect showers or posh toilets at Karijini Eco Retreat and Dales Camp Ground. Facilities are very basic so make sure you are self-sufficient. Karijini Eco Retreat did have a restaurant but we found the menu quite expensive, so we went bbq-ing with our German neighbours!
Some practical tips
- Auski Roadhouse & Tourist Village is a caravan park in the North East of the park. Coming from the West, it did not make sense to go there. It might we worth your consideration if you travel to the Great Northern Highway towards Port Hedland.
- The entry station where you register your visit to the park is 40 kilometres on a sealed road from Tom Price. Keep in mind that the drive from Tom Price to the Dales Gorge parking area (where we hiked on our first day) is 98 kilometres. There is no mobile network in the park. You can get paid wifi at the Eco Retreat but it’s incredibly expensive.
- Use the WikiCamps app to find the nearest campgrounds and caravan parks. An Ozzie recommended the app to me on the first campsite we were and I used it every day of our trip!
- Check out the Western Australia Parks and Wildlife website for more details.
The maps below display the distances from Tom Price, in Karijini and camp sites. It may be a little tiny to read in detail. If you are interested in receiving the maps by email, just send me a message.
Good to know: Many visitors drive a 4WD because they travel to Broome where a 4WD is recommended. However if you drive from Perth to Karijini and back to Perth again, it’s not necessary to drive a 4WD. It Karijini and other National Parks – like Francois Peron – it’s more convenient to have 4WD simply because you have easier access to certain areas. We didn’t have a 4WD. And if you don’t drive a 4WD either, keep in mind that insurance may not cover a broken car or campervan window. So pay attention when you drive an unsealed road. We just drove very slow and carefully, I would discourage you to race 🙂
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This is not a sponsored post, I genuinely loved the campsites I stayed and the canyoning tour. I paid for my stays and tour with my very own credit card.