Views in the Australian outback don’t get much better than this – steep red rocky cliffs, native trees and a water hole.

Exploring Karijini National Park gorge walks

After seeing a picture of Hamersley Gorge on the front of an RACQ holiday book, a good friend and I decided we wanted to go there one day.

That happened when we were both 21.

It wasn’t a direct route, of course.

We headed north along the coast across to the Gulf of Carpentaria, via the Northern Territory and made our way through Western Australia until we got there.

Obviously, we saw heaps of attractions on the way, and we also spent a month or so working in various towns so we could pay for fuel and beverages, but we made it.

Mirror-like reflections made the scenery even more spectacular.


It was awesome to revisit Hamersley Gorge 27 years later with my family, hopefully inspiring my kids to travel this great country.

My eldest daughter has already spoken about doing a trip similar to the one we’ve just taken when she’s 20.

I hope that’s the case.

Who knows, I might even be able to tag along or cross paths on the road.

Hamersley Gorge

This gorge is simply spectacular, both to look at and for a refreshing dip.

Situated to the northwest of Karijini National Park and away from the other main attractions, a designated trip is required to visit the gorge, though it’s worth it.

We enjoyed a quiet dip in the beautiful Hamersley Gorge.


Even if you don’t go for a swim, you will be mesmerised by the beauty of the place.

Deep rock pools with rugged scoured embankments adding to the visual beauty of the water.

If you can fluke it when no one else is there, you can get mirror-like reflections, which are almost surreal.

Unlike when I was here the first time, there is now a sealed road for the car park, toilet and designated lookout.

Unfortunately, it does take away from the fact that you are literally in the middle of nowhere, but I guess it makes things accessible so that more people visit.

You must experience it to fully appreciate how awesome this place is.


Is that a good thing though – I’m not totally convinced.

One thing I am convinced of however, is that it is worth the trip.

Kalamina Gorge

All the gorges are spectacular, with each a little unique, giving them all their own personality or feel.

Which sounds kind of weird, but it’s true.

Even though we spent every day here walking through gorges, we didn’t get tired or bored because they were all so different and had their own charm and challenges.

The girls loved the offerings of the national park as much as the author.


Kalamina Gorge is not very large in comparison to some of the other gorges, yet it does have some stunning rock formations and a water hole, which makes it one of the more picturesque.

The beauty of Kalamina Gorge is that you don’t need to walk for hours to explore it.

Climbing down rock stairs brings you to the base of the gorge, where you can view permanent pools and waterfalls.

If you are more adventurous, like us, you can complete the 3km return walk to the Rock Arch Pool.

Again, very much worth it.

And the swim at the end is refreshing.

Some of the walks, such as Joffre Gorge, had stairs or ladders, while others had very slippery shale-type rocks.

Joffre Gorge

At only a Class 4, this was one of the easier walks.

Though it did require us to transverse over very loose and rough terrain.

The loose rocks were often more difficult to walk over because they moved, making it tricky to stay upright and maintain balance.

If you’re not keen to venture into the gorge, you can do only the lookout, though as we’re always up for an adventure, for us it was the full walk.

Thankfully there wasn’t too much water in the gorge, so we were able to walk all the way in and enjoy the spectacular scenery.

It is a good idea to take a photo of your hike map before heading off.

Knox Gorge

This walk was probably one of the more challenging we encountered.

You’re faced with a very steep slope that needs to be navigated down, with the trail full of loose rocks that slide underfoot.

This climb requires you to pay full attention to your foot placement and be able to adjust your footing if you start to slide.

Overall, a very challenging climb down and up – definitely a Class 5.

Once you reach the bottom of the trail and proceed along to the end of the gorge – which required climbing up and down several rocky section – you come to two large rock embankments that gradually come together.

The colour of the rocks and their formations were stunning.

Weano Gorge – Handrail Pool

Lower Weano Gorge is accessed, like several walks in the area, by a Class 5 track.

These trails require a high level of fitness and are suited to experienced and well-prepared hikers.

The trek down was reasonably easy at the start but became more challenging, with heaps of climbing and scampering required.

You also need to walk through deep water to make it through to the actual Handrail Pool.

On the trails that required walking through water, we used our reef shoes.

These made the going easier at times, though a high level of caution is required because it’s very easy to slip on the rocks.

However, another adventure where the rewards at the end were totally worth it.

A Class 5 walk requires a lot of climbing and scampering.

Hancock Gorge

This is another hike where you’re best to bring a pair of reef shoes because you’re going to get wet.

Initially, you make your way down into the gorge, which isn’t too bad, but some sections of the walk may require you to sit and slide down rocks.

Thankfully your efforts are compensated by a deep pool at the end that has a high side – perfect for jumping off – which both little and big kids enjoyed.

The end of the track often meant it was time for a swim.

Dales Gorge Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool

If you are wanting to experience some of what Karijini National Park has to offer and you don’t have the physically capability to conquer Class 4 and 5 walks, I highly recommend doing the Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool walk.

These are reached by going on the Dales Gorge ‘Gorge Rim’ walk.

Both pools are spectacular – I seem to be saying that or a similar adjective a lot – the beauty is simply amazing and hard to describe any other way.

These were the final walks and swimming hole we visited and were a pleasant way to finish our time in the gorges.

Easy to get to, the Fern Pool comes complete with a handy ladder.

Mount Bruce

After ticking off all the gorge walks in well under the predicted walking times, we were feeling confident to do the same when we embarked on the trek up Mount Bruce.

As for all our walks, we took plenty of water for the time we thought we’d be walking and some snacks for energy.

We were also sun smart, wore hats and had good walking or hiking shoes.

Even though the summit was a 9km hike, about 500m elevation and a suggested six-hour return trip, we were confident we could do it, and in less time.

The main reason for this was that we’d done all the other walks in half the time or better.

The early stages of climbing Mount Bruce.


The climb started well and we were all in high spirits as the first hour went by.

It was only after the second hour had passed and hikers on their return had said we still had a long way to go, we started to think we’d bitten off more than we could chew.

After some consideration – we had our two girls with us – we decided to continue, at least to the chimney.

The chimney is a section of the climb where you need to hang onto a chain as you make your way around a small ledge on the edge of a cliff face.

After getting around that, you needed to climb a steep piece of rock to get to the next ridge, which then winds along more ridges until you reach the summit.

As my eldest daughter and wife are a little scared of heights, this part of the climb was challenging to say the least.

Rest time. Have a break and refuel in the shade so you’re ready to trek on.


Though I am very proud of our crew – we worked together and made it past this and other Class 5 sections.

Reaching the summit was a very rewarding feat and, while the view from the top was amazing, I was more impressed that we’d made it.

The descent was easier, yet had its challenges too.

After two knee reconstructions, I find walking down harder than the trek up.

Thankfully we made it back unscathed – not in record time but with the satisfaction of doing it as a family.

We made it to the summit!

Home base

During our time in Karijini National Park, we had two home bases – Dales Recreation Area and the Eco Resort campgrounds.

Both places provided reasonable access to the gorges and hikes, with the Eco Resort also providing a small café for buying snacks, dinner and refreshments.

If you’re planning on staying here, make sure to keep up to date with the latest dingo activity.

A dingo notice had been given when we were there, so we made sure to keep our distance when we encountered them.

Aside from that, this place was insatiably beautiful and somewhere I want to get back to.

If you ever get the chance to explore any of the Karijini National Park, do it.

This part of our country is so spectacular and would have to be up there as one of the best adventures we’ve had as a family – definitely a major high point of our trip!

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