Need to know info
Distance: 5.5km one way trail
Where: Trailhead carpark on Ocean Beach Road (Between Chiltern and Heather Roads).
Time: 2-3 hours.
Difficulty: Moderate to difficult
Stuff you’ll need: Hat, sunscreen, sunglasses, water, sturdy enclosed shoes, wet weather gear
Best time to go: All year round.
Where to find it
Sheila Hill Memorial Track
“You need to be in Albany by 4pm on Monday.” When you get a message like this from your boss, you don’t think about work, you think how can I squeeze a hike in to my schedule.
Being lucky enough to have Sunday night accommodation in Denmark, I started looking for a nearby trail I could complete in a morning and Sheila Hill Memorial Track seemed to fit the bill.
At first I had my doubts. From the trailhead on Ocean Beach Road, which I’ve passed many times before, the Sheila Hill Memorial Track looked ordinary. A sandy car park, straggly bush and ‘medium to difficult walk’ sign showed little promise of an excellent walk.
A note on distance
If you google the Sheila Hill Memorial Track or Sheila Hill Trail (as it’s also known), you’ll find there are varying views on the time it takes to complete the walk. Most sites say it’s a 5.5km one-way trail that takes three-ish hours. It’s also commonly suggested that you leave a car at each end of the trail.
Only having one car, I took the advice of a brochure from the Denmark Visitors’ Centre that claimed it to be a loop trail that would take three-ish hours – despite adding a 3.5km stretch along Lights Road to Ocean Beach Road.
The brochure’s time estimate seemed a little off but being overconfident, I decided I’d set aside 3 hours and see where I got to before I had to head back in time for work.
On the trail
My dad and I began the Sheila Hill Memorial Track mid morning with a cloudy sky and a weather report that predicted on-and-off showers. In true Denmark style, the phrase ‘on-and-off’ turned out to be quite the understatement, but I’ll get in to that later.
From the entry on Ocean Beach Road, the walk began as a four-wheel drive track on flat ground in karri and jarrah forest. Following the yellow triangles (or the Bibbulmun’s yellow Wagyls) the track then turned left up a hill, running along the boundary of residential properties. I noticed these lucky homes have views of Wilson Inlet through the karris, and found myself wondering how much I’d need to save to buy my own holiday home in Denmark.
After about 10 minutes of uphill, the wide trail narrowed to a single track that plunged into dense and changing forest – one of my favourite things about this walk. Reminiscent of trails in Pemberton, the Sheila Hill Memorial Track winds through sections of tall karris and green mossy undergrowth that is scattered with karri hazel and tassel flowers.
What makes this track different from its Southern Forest cousins is that it crosses groves of Sheoak trees, steep rocky sections and huge granite boulders that offer glimpses of the coast below – with the biggest boulder hiding an impressive cave.
Exploring this cave was an unexpected highlight. Giant boulders created two ‘rooms’ that someone creative had decorated with ochre dots, handprints and circles. The fresh remains of a campfire and crate full of sleeping bags suggested that this same someone may also regularly spend the night – and with the cave’s excellent views, you can’t blame them.
At the cave it felt like we had reached track’s highpoint. We were mistaken. The track continued past several more enormous boulders before finally emerging from the trees to a large flat granite outcrop, known as Alex’s Rock, and Mount Hallowell.
Now at the top, we were rewarded with 270-degree views of the coast, Wilson Inlet and the rolling hills of Denmark’s farming areas. On a clearer day, we might have even been able to see the neighbouring Mount Lindesay.
We took a short break to enjoy the views, keeping our eyes on the clouds coming in from the sea. These looked like the on-and-off showers the weather bureau had promised. With this in mind, we followed the Bibbulmun’s handy signposts to make our way to Monkey Rock. This section was quite hilly, winding up and down over logs and rocks, and we were quickly too warm for our rain jackets.
Naturally, as soon as we shed our wet weather gear, the rain arrived and settled in for what became less of a shower and more of a downpour. When we reached Monkey Rock we were well and truly soaked. Monkey Rock is known for its spectacular views but all we could see was a haze of white. It was a shame to miss but I’ve watched this video of the views, so I feel a tiny bit better.
If we had two cars, Monkey Rock’s carpark on Lights Road would have been the end of the hike. Unfortunately we didn’t, so we agreed to make a run for it and jog along Lights Road back to our start point.
On a sunny day, this last stretch of the loop may be quite pleasant, as the road was quiet and there was grassy farmland along the way. For us, it was a very, very wet four-kilometer run with the only feature being a quick hello to some friendly brown cows.
Looking on the brighter (and drier) side, our sodden jog ensured that we completed the Sheila Hill Memorial Track within my three-hour time limit, meaning that I achieved my goal of squeezing in a hike before my afternoon work commitment. I may have been wet but my hike craving was satisfied!
The Sheila Hill Memorial Track is definitely worth checking out.
Don’t be turned off by my wet-weather experience. If you go on a fine day, you’ll enjoy a wonderful walk that has a variety of terrain, beautiful trees and lots of rocky features to explore along the way. Whether you start at Ocean Beach Road or Monkey Rock, there is quite a lot of uphill, so your legs are sure to get a work out. The steep, technical sections and narrow single track give this track an element of challenge, while still being achievable for most fit walkers.
Going back to the earlier note of distance, I’d recommend you make this a one-way walk rather than the loop. While the walk along Lights Road is doable, it does add an hour or so. Park a car at both ends or get a lift and spend that saved time at Denmark’s other beautiful sights – that’s my plan for my next visit!