Sunday, 26 June 2016

Numbat Track (Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary)


Arguably the finest day walk in the Perth Outdoors, the Numbat Track is the longest trail within Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary - an important corridor linking Walyunga and Avon Valley National Parks. The well maintained trail takes walkers up, down and through the valleys of the park, and includes superb walking through Wandoo woodlands, the spectacular Paruna Gorge and offering breathtaking valley views. 


Distance: 12 km (two loops linked by a return section)
Gradient: Mostly hilly, with many significant ascents and descents through the valleys dominating the walk.
Quality of Path: Largely clear and well maintained, with duck boards and well constructed steps. Some sections are slightly overgrown with the trail indistinct but easy enough to follow.
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed with distinctive Numbat markers.
Experience Required: Some Bushwalking Experience Required. Those with known knee problems may have some difficulty with this walk.
Time: 4-5 Hours
Steps: A lot of steps - probably over 1000!
Best Time to Visit: Throughout Winter-Early Spring
Entry Fee: Yes. A $5 entry fee is payable to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy and must be paid ahead of time.
Getting There: The trail is on Avon Rd in Gidgegannup, a left turn off the long and winding O'Brien/Clenton Rds


A little known fact - albeit one that is becoming less and less of a secret these days - is that the best day walk in the Perth area is not in a National Park at all, but rather in a wildlife corridor connecting Walyunga and Avon Valley National Parks. Known as Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary and run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, the corridor is home to many endangered species. It is also home to three well constructed trails - so well constructed in fact that they outshine nearby alternatives like the Echidna and Eagle View Trails. At 12 kilometres, the Numbat Track is Paruna's longest and best walk. Alissa and I were thoroughly impressed when we walked the track in 2012, and a free weekend in June ahead of a week-long Bibbulmun Track walk made a return visit to Paruna a perfect warm up.

One cannot just show up at Paruna - walkers need to book their visit ahead of time with the sanctuary's visitor program as a code is needed to unlock the gates. Back in 2012, walkers were able to pay for entry at an honour box within the sanctuary, however repeated theft has meant that payments must now be paid by credit card ahead of a visit. This is an added complication, but is well worth it.



Once through the gate, walkers need to sign in at a register. Maps of the walks are available at this point. A short distance from the entry is a composting toilet alongside a vehicle track, with all three walk trails (the Possum Loop, Quenda Circuit and Numbat Track) beginning immediately right of this landmark.



Straight away, walkers will notice that these are trails of a very high standard of construction, with features like boardwalks appearing at several points along the walk, especially where there are fragile habitats to protect. 



A dam is located to the right of the track, with a fairly natural look that gives the appearance of a small lake. Being a fan of walking at sunrise, the view of the mist coming off the water was the first welcome reward for our early morning efforts. 



The sounds of flowing water provides a gentle accompaniment for this early part of the walk, with a creek flowing adjacent to the track. A number of granite formations give walkers some indication of the landscape to come. 



At a junction in the trail, the Possum Loop continues to the left while the Numbat Track and Quenda Circuit continue north-east up the valley slope and into Wandoo woodlands. With the continually undulating terrain, steps are a major part of this walk. While occasionally challenging, they are generally fairly well maintained throughout. 



Paruna's trails feature regular short side trips over their length that lead to lookouts at key vantage points. Many of these lookouts are superb and well worth the quick diversion, with quite a number also featuring picnic tables. 



As we walked across the valley ridge, the Wandoo and Powderbarks were bathed in the morning light. The Wandoo Woodlands in the park are some of the best I've seen in the Perth area, and would make for good bushwalking even without the lovely valley views. 



As the trail veers west, the Avon Valley is revealed in all its glory. Having arrive so early in the morning, Alissa and I were greeted by valleys shrouded in mist, making for a particularly picturesque pastoral landscape.



As the trail descends it arrives at what is the Numbat Track's most stunning feature - Paruna Gorge and its viewing platform. 



The same stream seen early on flows down through the Paruna Gorge, flowing over a series of gentle falls and into rocky pools. The scene is one of the finest one can encounter along any trail in the Perth area, and it makes me wonder how some of the lesser parks in the Perth Hills are National Parks when this isn't! 



From the lookout, an overgrown spur leads down to the rocky pool below, and while it does become slightly indistinct, it is well worth heading down to have a closer look. 



As the trail continues west, more lookouts appear alongside the track. The same railway line that can be seen from Walyunga National Park runs alongside the Avon River below, and with the mist clearing we were provided with a clearer glimpse of the occasional train passing by. 



The trail loops back south, with the Quenda Circuit and the Numbat Track splitting in two directions. Where the Quenda Circuit loops back to the start, the Numbat Track continues west along a return section of track that leads to the second loop of the walk. 



By now, walkers will be used to the constant rising and falling of the valley terrain, with this return section being no different. The Numbat Track rises initially up another valley slope. 



And then falls back down to down what feels like an even steeper descent. 



The trail then reaches another small gully. This is the start of the second loop, with the trail initially running alongside the gently flowing water. 



This is a lovely area filled with kangaroos, and very inviting picnic tables are located along the gully's banks. 



A smaller, less spectacular rocky pool is also located near the picnic spot with the tranquil sound of water flowing over the rocks making for an idyllic scene. 



The gentleness near the gully soon gives way to a yet another ascension as the track rises to its highest point. 



There are literally hundreds of stairs in this section, making it an excellent cardio workout, and a far more scenic one that Jacob's Ladder in King's Park. 



After a 200 metre spur heading further west to a lookout, the track begins to level out and curve back to the east. The bench pictured above is located along this section. While it may look very inviting, resist sitting here - when we did the walk in 2012 Alissa and I sat down here only to realise that it is right above a massive ant nest! Just after I took the above picture, I felt a bite on the back of my legs confirming that these guys are just as aggressive as they were four years ago. 





After walking through some further wandoo woodlands across the ridge, the landscape becomes more open, providing excellent views of the rolling hills and valley below. 



At the track's highest point is the Bilu Lookout. Easily the  most elaborate of the park's lookouts, it features stone paving and retaining walls as well as a dedication plaque showing the park was opened by Dr. Tim Flannery and, of all people, the controversial Wilson Tuckey. 



From the lookout the trail continues back down the slope to finish the loop back at the creek. Following the creek back to its source, signs indicate there there is a waterfall, however the water gently flowing down the rock face was more gliding than falling. I can imagine it being a lot more impressive after heavy winter rains, however. 



From there, walkers simply retrace their steps up and down the valley along the return section of the track to where the Numbat Track branched off from the Quenda Circuit, rejoining the shorter trail once again. 



The trail in this section rises up a series of seemingly never ending switchbacks. While shorter than the rise to the Bilu Lookout, it definitely felt steeper.



As a cruel continuation of the ascent, a spur is located at the end of the switchback leading uphill to a monument. The monument is one of the John Forrest Cairns - a series of cairns constructed in 1879 as part of the original survey expedition of the area undertaken by the great John Forrest himself. These cairns can be found throughout Walyunga and Avon Valley National Parks, with this being is one of the cairns still in good condition. 



After walking through Jarrah-dominated woodlands, the track returns once more to Wandoo and Powderbark, and follows a vehicle track for a short while before returning to purpose built track. 



This leads to the last lookout of the trail, sitting on top of Pink Rock. While the granite below is not actually pink, the name comes from the fact the rock is covered in pink flowers at the height of springtime. As with almost all walks in Western Australia, this walk would be even more spectacular during the wildflower season. 



From the lookout, the trail follow the boundary fence for a short distance back to the start of the track. 




On the way out, don't forget to sign out of the register and leave your comments for the Paruna staff. 



When Alissa and I walked this track in 2012, we literally had the entire park to ourselves. Although we were the first to arrive during this visit in 2016, we were far from the last. There were at least 8 cars in the car park, suggesting that this trail's reputation has significantly grown over the last 4 years. 

And deservedly so - I would definitely consider the Numbat Track the greatest of all the day walks in the Perth area, beating out such excellent walks in the National Parks as Kitty's Gorge, Eagle View, Ghost House Walk and the Echidna Trail. The stunning Paruna Gorge alone would make this a worthwhile visit, but with the trail passing through superb Wandoo woodlands, alongside gentle streams and an historical monument and offering superb valley views from its plethora of lookouts, the Numbat Track is pretty much a perfect showcase for the Perth Hills. An absolutely essential trail. 

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