Sky high on Bluff Knoll, Western Australia
A new experience is the spice of life, is it not?
Our last day in Porongurup, we hiked Bluff Knoll in the Stirling Range National park. The 6 kilometre return trail to the Bluff Knoll summit scales 1,097 metre high, the highest peak in the south of the state. Bluff Knoll is a must see and do in Western Australia particularly because the biodiversity and scenery is quite unique in the area.
Waking up at the early hour of 5.30 am, we fumbled our way into the car with our backpacks and a flask of piping hot black coffee. The weather had turned from sunny blue skies one day to dull grey and wet the next. We were leaving for Bridgetown in the afternoon and solidly determined for the challenge. All the while, hoping positively the weather would change in the park.
Driving along a sealed road through the park, the terrain is distinctly different to anything I have seen in the lower half of Western Australia, that is, not positioned along the coast. Peaks rise from a green dense forest and its a beautiful sight. Well worth the early morning wake up. We arrive at the entrance car park and its cold, the wind travels noisily down the slope hitting us at the car park, giving me instant shivers. I put on a second jumper and we set off, walking towards a colourful rainbow in full form.
The beginning of the trail is sheltered by trees and bushes, the light precipitation falls but does not reach us.
Soon enough, we reach steps leading us higher and higher towards the summit. The trail features all kinds of different steps and there is no uniformity to them either. Sections of the trail become a climb for my short legs. This is a wilderness hike but not an extreme one. The trail has been formed with whatever material is nearby with the exception of the wood planks to prevent the land sliding in wet weather.
The thick cloud cover conceals the panoramic view that hikers are treated too as they ascend up the mountain. The photo below of myself, illustrates a blue white background and on a clear day the 600 metre drop to the landscape would be visible. Before travelling to Bluff Knoll, I did a little reading on the experiences of other hikers. There were mixed opinions on the level of complexity of the trail. I would say, it is challenging if you do not generally hike or participate in uphill exercise. Navigating along uneven ground does consume a little more energy than a run around the local park. We both have a good fitness level, however, having not completed any of the latter for a couple of months now, I was definitely puffing up the steeper incline and my muscles aching.
Hikes descending down, pass us absolutely drenched and windswept. We are dressed pretty warm but are not carrying any waterproof jackets. We have worked up a sweat at this point and the cold weather was appreciated.
Derek’s watch tells us how many metres we are climbing, it instantly answers the question “are we there yet?” At an impressive 900 metres above sea level it’s surprising to see the diversity of the landscape, wildflowers bend strongly with the wind. I can only imagine what spring would bring to Bluff Knoll.
The weather intensifies further as we encounter the exposed section of the slope. The wind is howling and the rain hits us on an angle. It’s crazy and fun. We yell and point. A small yellow sign tells us we have reached the summit, Woohoo! It is a feeling of elation to think we have made it to the top. Yesterday was the highest hike to Castle Rock and today has surpassed that.
Unfortunately there was no awe inspiring view for us today, instead we were in the clouds and it was just as amazing. The rocky outcrop on the summit provides some shelter and we snack on bananas and take rest. We poke our heads over the edge and I still get a feeling of vertigo knowing the drop down.
We chat to another guy sharing the summit with us, he tells us on his first visit some 20 years ago, a snow storm blew in when they reached the top. On the rare occasion it does snow on Bluff Knoll. Rare being the operative word.
Just like the other hikers ,we descend Bluff Knoll drenched in water and feeling wind-swept. On our descent, the weather starts to clear and we are treated to a view for the first time. Albeit much lower on the slope, the view is stunning.
When we return to the carpark, we see a thick cloud fastly rolling over Bluff Knoll. We pass a family entering the trail and the dad yells out to his kids, it’s a relief to see hikers are returning dry. We stop and talk about the conditions, telling him its pretty wet and windy up the top. He has walked the trail a few times and never seen the cloud cover like this before. It makes for an interesting hike, we know this for sure. At the same time we would love to return on a clear day!
Facts About Bluff Knoll
- Located in the Stirling Range National Park
- 6km return trail
- Toilet facilities at car park
- Lookout at car park level for those that do not hike
- A good level of fitness with steady feet is advisable
- Allow 4- 6 hours depending on fitness level and how many times you stop to take in the view and snap pictures
- National park fee is currently $12.00 per vehicle
Tips for Hiking Bluff Knoll
- A light rain jacket – even in summer the weather changes dramatically
- Waterproof cover for camera if the weather is not that great
- We noticed a couple of hikers using hiking poles, these would come in handy
- Bring along plenty of water, one bottle per person
- Closed shoes. Sneakers are good and hiking specific boots are better. The rocks are quite sharp and can damage soft sneaker soles.
- Bring along energy snacks, for us that was bananas and chocolates
- Do not litter and bring a plastic bag to store your own rubbish. Take the bag with you if there are no bins for disposal
- As you drive along the road in the park, particularly at dawn and dusk, be careful of crossing kangaroos and other wildlife. These beautiful animals can cause serious accidents, fatally harming themselves and in some cases us. Dusk and dawn are times when they tend to be active.
- Hiking clothes. Thongs are a bit impractical. Bluff Knoll is a well frequented trail and if you land into trouble you most likely will be discovered. But what if? What happens if the cloud cover was so thick you could not see in front of you and veered off the trail? You had no choice but to overnight. Best to be prepared.
Where we stayed
Jilba Cottage, 55 minute drive from Stirling Ranges National Park.
Have you seen our other travel posts about the area?