Karijini is home to a spectacular and unique collection of gorges and rockpools that are unlike anywhere else in the world! The walks, gorges and attractions make this one of the most amazing national parks in Australia.
The best place to start is at the eastern end of the park, where a sealed road provides easy access to Dales Gorge.
A variety of trails have been marked out by the Department of Environment and Conservation and have been graded according their degree of difficulty. A moderate level of fitness and agility is required to visit the most spectacular areas of the National Park, but specialised hiking equipment isn’t necessary you are fine to walk around in a sturdy pair of sneakers or boots.
There are several sections in the gorges that will require you to hop across water courses along a series of stepping stones, traverse narrow sections adjacent to the water and wade through short sections. You should expect to get a little bit wet!
The general access trails range from Class 2 (well marked easy routes) to Class 5 (moderately rough terrain requiring a decent level of fitness). Beyond this, some sections at the end of gorges have been classified as Class 6, and continuing on requires a guide and equipment such as ropes and harnesses. Well marked signs warn of the dangers and it is definitely not recommended to continue past these points.
Dales Gorge Area
Starting at the Dales Gorge camping area, a well marked trail winds along the top of the gorge providing several scenic lookouts to the pools and junctions below.
The walk through the gorge itself is well marked and easily accessible. Circular Pool and Fern Pool abut either end of the trail. Both of these stunning swimming holes are special places to the local Aboriginal people, and it is not difficult to see why. Quite simply, they both evoke a sense of wonder and amazement.
Visitors are welcome to swim, but are asked to behave respectfully. Midway between these two pools is Fortescue Falls, a dramatic waterfall which cascades down a wedding cake-style tier of rocks.
Kalamina and Knox Gorges
Heading west, just past the visitors center are Kalamina Gorge, Knox Gorge and Joffre Falls. The road beyond the visitor’s center are unsealed gravel, but are fine for two wheel drive vehicles. You’ll want to drive slowly and be prepared to rattle around!
Kalamina is a pleasant and gentle walk. With a wide base and flat slate-like rocks, a steady water courses trickles over terraces and steps, ending at Rock Arch Pool. Although impressive, Kalamina has less eye-catching features than some of it’s more famous neighbours. There is some great detail in the cracks and fissures that make up the gentle falls.
Knox Gorge receives little publicity and fewer visitors but it is one of the hidden gems of Karijini. Deep red and purple rocks walls with distinctive iron banded rock formations and several clear swimming pools made this an unexpected highlight of our visit. At it’s end, Knox Gorge narrows into a spectacular ravine with views to Junction Pool below. A large dead gum tree lies wedged several metres in the air – a reminder of the powerful forces of nature and the flash floods that can fill these gorges in minutes.
Joffre Gorge offers easy views from the lookout, with a steep descent down onto a rocky beach at it’s base. Early morning is the best time to photograph this waterfall, before the sun shines into the pool and it becomes busy with swimmers.
Hancock and Weano Gorges
The gorges at the western end of the main are of the park are more spectacular again, and Hancock Gorge is incredible!
One of the highlights is undoubtedly Kermit’s Pool, so named because of its bright green hue. While not particularly difficult, a reasonable level of fitness is required for this walk. You should also prepare to wade through some short sections of water. We simply left our shoes mid-way own the track and continued barefoot. Other hikers continued the walk in their boots, but this isn’t strictly necessary and will leave your footwear wet for several days!
The end of Hancock Gorge looks down onto a series of cascades and pools named Reagans Pool, where warning signs caution against going any further without ropes, harnesses and an experienced guide. In 2004 an SES volunteer, Jimmy Reagan, drowned in a flash flood while rescuing a tourist from this pool and it has since been named in his honour. This should serve as a sombre warning not to continue any further. For those keen to explore these extreme areas, professionally guided tours are available through West Oz Active – http://www.westozactive.com.au/
Neighbouring Weano Gorge is home to Handrail Pool. After navigating some thigh deep water at the start of the trail, the gorge narrows to the width of one person before opening into a cathedral like cavern. Water flows though the access point and you can swim through a chilly tunnel to a rocky beach at the end of the gorge. This is yet another spectacular vantage point with water cascading over a dramatic series of cascades.
Outside of the main area of the park lies Hamerserly Gorge, a 55km drive from the western entrance of the park.
The most well know feature is Spa Pool, where the banded rock formations have been twisted into shapes resembling ocean waves. The astonishing vertical curved rocks on display here aren’t found elsewhere in the park.