For a lot of people, hiking is about the challenge of the distance – immersing yourself in nature for days at a time. I am not one of those people.
As much as I love exploring the bush and testing my stamina on a technical trail, I love coming home to a comfy bed even more. And when it comes to tackling the Bibbulmun Track, WA’s quintessential 1000km walk trail, I have to do it my way – one day-walk at a time.
Karri Gully to Gregory Brook Campsite Walk is a Bibbulmun Track day-walk I have wanted to do for a while. The walk’s promise of tall trees and a babbling brook was appealing, and when you add in the closeness to Donnelly River Village and the opportunity for an emu selfie, it became irresistible. So we took off a couple of days and headed to Bridgetown to tick this walk off the list.
Welcome to Bridgetown
Bridgetown is a quaint, country town located 3 hours south of Perth and a convenient 35 minutes from Karri Gully, making it a handy base to explore the Bibbulmun Track and surrounding Blackwood River Valley.
We arrived late Sunday afternoon, which was not only too late to head to the Bibbulmun, but also too late to check out most of the main attractions in town. (Tip for young players: 4pm is closing time in Bridgetown.) Not ready to settle in for dinner, we headed to the Blackwood River to complete the River Walk, which turned out to be a delightfully scenic way to stretch our legs.
The next day, after a holiday sleep-in, we set off mid-morning to Karri Gully. Driving along Brockman Highway, I saw the sign for Donnelly River Village and decided the pull of emus was too strong to ignore. At Donnelly River Village we were greeted by a whole flock of feathered and surprisingly fearless friends. This isn’t a blog post about Donnelly River so I won’t go into too much detail, but I highly recommend buying a bag of emu feed from the General Store – you will get pleasantly ambushed!
The Karri Gully to Gregory Brook Campsite Walk
After exploring the peaceful little village, we got back on track and continued 15 minutes more down Brockman Highway to Karri Gully. Located on a bend in the road, the Karri Gully picnic ground is clearly signed but can creep up on you if you’re driving at a fast speed, so keep an eye out for the brown picnic signs as you approach. Pulling in, we could see the red Bibbulmun Track sign, the yellow waugul marker, and a grove of tall karris so we knew we were in the right place.
The track began by leading us through karris and lush undergrowth, reminiscent to many trails in Pemberton. Soon enough we encountered a fork in the track where both sides displayed Bibbulmun Track markers. Turn left or go straight ahead? Using some hiker’s intuition, we ignored the left fork and correctly continued straight along the trail.
The track then left the karri forest and we entered dry, gravelly jarrah forest. At this point, I’ll admit I was a little disappointed. With a name like Karri Gully, I was hoping towering karri trees would be a dominant feature of the walk, not Perth-style jarrah forest. The trail then turned onto a stretch of 4WD track and the gravel continued, and my heart dropped even more.
Luckily this part of the track was short lived. After about 10 minutes of gravel, we veered on to single track. We were still surrounded by jarrah forest, but it was different. The trees were denser and the ground was covered in a lush undergrowth of green shrubs and wildflowers, including an abundance of cowslip orchids. I could feel my earlier disappointment being replaced by the familiar excitement of hiking in a beautiful location.
The best way to describe the middle section of the walk is ‘meandering’. The track twisted and turned through trees and grasstrees, getting denser and greener as we went along. The increase in greenery was accompanied by a downhill slope in the trail – two very good indicators that we were approaching water. Our hunch was right as we reached the bottom of the valley and the sounds of Gregory Brook filled our ears.
I couldn’t stop the smile appearing on my face as we arrived at the Gregory Brook campsite. Surrounded by tall trees and being metres from the water, it’s the sort of campsite that makes you want to pack up and move permanently to the forest.
Although we had no plans to stay the night, we still enjoyed exploring the campsite hut. The view from the bunk beds was a wall of green foliage and I imagined the sounds of the creek would lull weary walkers to sleep – or, send them to the toilet. Regardless, the thought of staying overnight seemed very appealing.
I always enjoy reading the notes of other walkers, so I took some time to flick through the Bibbulmun’s campsite register. One walker had written that he had gone for a dip in the brook and discovered it was ‘bloody cold’. After dipping my arm in the water, I can confirm that he was one hundred percent correct.
Once we had gotten our fill of campsite fun, we turned back to retrace our steps to the start. Heading back, I noticed the valley had some of the tallest banksias I had ever seen. Tree-like in height, I think they’re called River Banksias and look very different from the wide, Bull Banksia that is commonly found in Perth.
In terms of wildlife, we only had two close encounters on the walk. The first was a couple of brilliant, blue-green jewel beetles that took a great liking to Jarrad’s black cap. The second was a quick glimpse of some emus darting through the forest. They were very speedy so I didn’t get a clear view. However, they had left some pretty obvious clues in form of distinctive cone-shaped poos.
Just before reaching the end of the trail, we took a short detour on the short Karri Gully Walk ( Note: this is not part of Bibbulmun.) The signage claimed it was a 20 to 30 minute walk, but any moderately fit person would be able to complete it in five. As short as it was, I was glad to squeeze some more karri into our trip.
Back at the car, Jarrad and I agreed the Karri Gully to Gregory Brook Campsite Walk was excellent. Short enough to fit into half a day and scenic enough to impress any nature lover, it’s a fantastic introduction to the Bibbulmun Track. If you’re a day-walk fan and are heading to the Blackwood River Valley region, check it out.
Need to know info
Distance: 8km return
Where: Walk begins from Karri Gully picnic area, Brockman Highway. 20km from Nannup or 28km from Bridgetown.
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: Winter to Spring are ideal.