Tag: Denmark

Sheila Hill Memorial Track

Sheila Hill Memorial Track cave view

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.

However, after seeing the positive reports and photos from the Life of Py, the Long Way’s Better, and Bibbulmun Track Foundation, I knew I should put this outwardly modest trail on to my to-do list.

Sheila Hill Memorial Track signpost

Fun fact: The Sheila Hill Track follows a section of the Bibbulmun Track.

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.

Map from the Trails of Denmark Brochure: denmark.wa.gov.au

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.

Sheila Hill Memorial Track karris

Tall karris line the edge of the track.

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.

Sheila Hill Memorial Track

Along the track you’ll find the odd bit of railing to make it easier to scale some of the boulders.

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.

With a view like that, I’d camp here too.

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.

Sheila Hill Memorial Track mount hallowell

Even with rain clouds, Mount Hallowell offers a gorgeous view.

Sheila Hill Memorial Track fungus

Fungi adds some colour to the forest.

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!

I do love a mossy rock.

The wrap-up.

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!

Sheila Hill Memorial Track granite outcrop

There’s plenty of rocky sections to test your footing.

Bald Head Walk Trail & Torndirrup National Park

Have you ever been to a location so beautiful that it makes you feel glad to be alive? It may sound a little odd, but that’s exactly how I felt while exploring the Bald Head Walk Trail.

Need to know info

Distance: 12km there and back ( we however did about 5km)
Trail Start: Isthmus Hill car park,  Murray Street, Albany, Torndirrup National Park
Time: 2 – 3 hours one way
Difficulty: Difficult
Stuff you’ll need: Sunscreen, water, hat, sturdy walking boots

The Bald Head Walk Trail

Our Bald Head Walk Trail experience did not go to plan. When we set off from Denmark, the sun was shining, albeit a little weakly but the skies were definitely blue. As we made the 40 minute drive to Albany, grey clouds began rolling in, and by the time we entered Torndirrup National Park, these ominous clouds had covered the sky.

Bald Head Walk Trail boardwalk

The wooden boardwalk up Isthmus Hill.

When we reached the trailhead, light rain was falling and thick white mist obscured our view of the coastline. Should we turn back and check out some other, drier tourist spots in the area? Probably. But first we decided to make the short 1km climb up Isthmus Hill to see if our walk would be worthwhile.

After walking up a slippery and steep wooden boardwalk through peppermint trees and coastal heath, we emerged on the top of Isthmus Hill. In the distance, we could just make out the striped rocks of nearby Stony Hill and the coastline of Frenchman’s Bay. But by then, that oh-too-familiar walking itch had set in so we agreed to go ‘‘just a little bit further.”

Isthmus Hill

Me trying to be positive about our cloudy view from Isthmus Hill.

As we rounded the next corner, I think we all shared an involuntary outburst of exclamations and swear words. The view was incredible. The thick white mist had parted to reveal a brilliant green isthmus that stretched out between two blue but very turbulent bodies of water below. You can’t turn your back on scenery this beautiful so we continued on the trail.

Bald Head Walk Trail

The sort of view that’s sure to make any nature fan feel giddy!

With every step we took, more and more of the coastline came in to view. To our left was Frenchman’s Bay. To our right was the Southern Ocean, which was putting on quite the show with huge waves crashing against the rocks below. As the peninsula narrowed, we spotted a sign and narrow path leading down to these fierce waves.

Bald Head Walk trail

Walking down to meet the monster waves

Normally, I’m a little hesitant around angry water, but my braver walking buddies saw no problem, so we made the descent to the rocks below where we met some of the largest waves I have ever seen in my life. These turquoise blue monsters were thrashing the rocks, making the sort of roar that reminds that you don’t stand a chance against them. As nerve-racking as that can be, that humbling feeling is one of my favourite things about nature and about this trail.

 

Bald head walk trail waves

While this photo doesn’t capture the scale of the waves, it does capture their excellent colour.

After we had filled our wave watching quota, we climbed back up and continued along the main trail until we reached a peak which I think is called Limestone Head. Here, our old friends heavy rain and mist returned, once again blocking our view of the surrounds. I also admit, that we had made the regrettable decision of not bringing much water, as we hadn’t planned to go much further than Isthmus Hill. So rather than push on unprepared and through bad weather, we turned back before reaching the trail’s namesake Bald Head.

Common Bunny Orchid

Common Bunny Orchid

While it was disappointing to cut the walk short, we did manage to catch a few glimpses of late-blooming wildflowers on the way back, like the Common Bunny Orchid, as well as plenty of droplet covered spiderwebs. Seeing as the trail features large granite and limestone outcrops, I’d be willing to bet that it also plays host to plenty of pretty wildflowers during spring. In fact, I’ve vowed to return to the trail during the warmer months to see if I’m right!

Torndirrup National Park

To make up for our shortened walk, we stopped in at a number of Torndirrup’s other wonderful coastal sights, including The Gap, Natural Bridge and The Blowholes. All of these are impressive in their own right, particularly the Gap, who’s new walkway gives you a bird’s-eye view into a deep, wave filled chasm. Torndirrup National Park is definitely worth a visit, even if Bald Head’s 12km trail is out of your comfort range.

The Gap Albany

Feel the rage of the The Gap!

Torndirrup National Park

Colourful lichen adorns the boulders surrounding the Blowholes.

 

The verdict

While our Bald Head Walk was a little damper, greyer and shorter than the experience of others, (see the posts of Life of Py & The Long Way’s Better for sunnier pics) it was still a spectacular walk with scenery that I think is best described as life-affirming. Let me know if you feel the same way!

Torndirrup National Park

That curved dome is Bald Head, as viewed from The Blowholes.

 

Denmark to Lights Beach Bike Trail

Mixing the Munda Biddi Trail and Denmark to Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail to make our own scenic tour.

Need to know info

Distance: Approximately 25km one way
Trail Start: Denmark River Bridge or Lights Beach.
If you start at Denmark River Bridge, you’ll begin the ride on the Denmark to Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail. If you start at Lights Beach, you’ll begin on the Munda Biddi Trail.
Time: 2 – 3 hours one way
Difficulty: Easy to moderate
Stuff you’ll need: Mountain bike, helmet, sunscreen, water

Note: Sorry about the lack of trail map…someone forgot to turn on Strava. Luckily, you can find the map of the Lights Beach Munda Biddi section here and the Denmark to Nornalup Heritage Trail is visible on Google Maps.

Over the Easter break, we headed south to Denmark with the aim of squeezing in some nature time between our heavy schedule of easter egg eating. We’ve already ridden a few of Denmark’s popular cycle paths like Ocean Beach Cycleway and the Wilson Inlet Heritage Trail, but seeing as I am now the owner of a legit set of wheels, we were keen to explore some less paved terrain. Although eager, I am far from being an experienced mountain biker, so I was looking for trail in the Denmark area that was epic in scenery but still achievable in distance.

Our solution came from a bike riding duo we met at Greens Pool who mentioned a stretch of Munda Biddi Trail that crossed with the Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail. They assured us it would be a pleasant ride, taking us from the beach, through farmland and forest all the way back to Denmark town centre…and they were right. (Thanks guys!)

The Trail

Being a combination of two different trails, this 25km route uses rail trail, bitumen road, gravel paths and winding single track. It can be completed in number of ways:

1. Start at Denmark River Bridge and enjoy a cruisey, mostly downhill ride to Lights Beach.
2. Start at Lights Beach and challenge yourself to a few uphills before finishing with lunch at Denmark town centre.
3. Make it a return 50km ride, or a loop by following the Munda Biddi Trail along Ocean Beach Road.

Seeing as we were already near Lights Beach, we took the second option. However, if you can organise a lift back, I’d recommend starting at Denmark, letting the scenery at Lights Beach be your pay off. Which ever way you choose, here are some of the highlights and challenges you’ll meet along the way:

Lights Beach Denmark

Lights Beach – an epic start or finish to the trail

Lights Beach

Lights beach munda biddi

Weaving through the maze of dense underground.

One of Denmark’s most rugged coastal spots, Lights Beach offers fantastic views of the coast and Southern Ocean. While it’s far too rough for swimming, Lights Beach has impressive lookouts and plenty of rock pools to explore. The bike trail starts on the north side of the carpark (look out for the Munda Biddi Trail sign) and leads along the coast before quickly turning inland. Here you plunge into lush peppermint forest for a rollercoaster ride up and down hills, past a small waterfall and most likely a roo or two.

Road to/from Greens Pool

Munda Biddi Lights beach

Look at that coast line in the distance. See hard riding pays off!

This section will put your wrists to the test. This 6km stretch of red dirt road between Lights Beach and Greens Pool is extremely corrugated – so much so that it feels like you’re riding along a tin roof. Our handy tips for tackling this section include riding along the very edge of road, where the ground is slightly smoother, and relaxing your grip on the handlebars to reduce your chances of whiplash…just kidding.

Greens Pool

Greens Pool is one of Denmark’s most famous spots – and for good reason. Large, smooth rocks provide shelter from the harsh swells of the Southern Ocean, making it look and feel like a swimming pool. On calm sunny days, the pool’s turquoise water sparkles and is somehow enhanced by the promise of a Mr Whippy van up in the carpark. You’ll have to take my word for it, as I forgot to take any pics.

Denmark to Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail

nornalup heritage rail trail Denmark Cycle Trail

Riding through young Karris

The full length of the Denmark to Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail is 55km, but on this ride we covered just 12km. This short section still manages to pack in the scenery, passing through slices of karri forest and rolling green paddocks. You might even be greeted by some very chilled cows along the way!

denmark to nornalup heritage trail Denmark Cycle Trail

A patient boyfriend waits while I take photos.

The Denmark to Nornalup Heritage Rail Trail is very easy to follow with blue train markers at regular intervals and bright red timber signs at every road crossing. Closer to Denmark town centre, you’ll also spot the familiar yellow Wagyl markers as sections of the trail overlap with the Bibbulmun Track. Take note: If you’re coming from Denmark, turn left when you reach South Coast Hwy and keep an eye out for the yellow Munda Biddi signs – they can be hard to spot as they lead into a very narrow strip of single track along the edge of farmland.

nornalup heritage rail trail

Overall, this route is a nice way get a glimpse of some of Denmark’s prettiest locations. Thrill-seeking mountain bikers might find it a little on the easy side, but if you’re happy to cruise along, it’s a wonderful way to soak up some excellent Great Southern scenery.