Saturday, 30 July 2016

Lesmurdie Falls (Lesmurdie Falls National Park)


An extremely popular walk in the Perth Hills, this very short trail leads walkers to Lesmurdie Falls - easily the most magnificent waterfall in Perth. The relatively easy walk from the top of the falls to its foot is a pleasant stroll, with excellent views of the city and the national park's relatively lush surrounds. Crowded with tourists and locals alike, the spectacle of the falls makes up for the somewhat noisy atmosphere. 


Distance: 2 km (return)
Gradient: Continually downhill and then continually uphill back. Alternate return path is very steep.
Quality of Path: The main track is clear and well defined, starting as pavement and moving to well graded surfaces.
Quality of Signage: Largely well signed, with clear directional markers and info units along the track
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: < 1 Hour
Steps: Many steps
Best Time to Visit: Mid Winter-Early Spring
Entry Fee: No
Getting There: The trail starts at the main car park at Falls Rd, off Lesmurdie Rd in Lesmurdie. Alternatively, a shorter walk to the fall can be achieved from the lower car park at the end of Palm Terrace. 



Lesmurdie Falls has a peerless reputation as the most spectacular waterfall in the Perth Hills - as well as one of its busiest attractions. With a short 2 kilometre trail and the promise of large crowds, its a walk I've put on the back burner for a very long time. With Alissa's recovery from throwing her back out a few weeks ago entailing shorter walks than usual - and with good winter rain meaning the falls would be flowing well - we decided to head out for this short but popular walk.


As soon as we arrived at the Falls Rd car park, it was clear that even the forecast of mildly bad weather later in the day had not put droves of people off from visiting the falls. I've rarely seen John Forrest or Serpentine National Parks this full, and being such a tiny national park only serves to enhance the relatively crowded feel. Given the significant number of visitors, the facilities here are excellent, with the trailhead being very informative.


The walk begins as a paved path leading from the day use area. The trail is initially in Jarrah woodlands, with the Lesmurdie Brook running alongside the track.


Eventually the landscape opens up, offering superb views of the Swan Coastal Plain below. While initially still paved, the path eventually gives way to well graded and compacted dirt track.


Two well constructed lookouts give walkers an opportunity to see the falls up close, with the first one directly above the head of the falls looking down.


The path continues down to the second lookout.


To me, this is the superior of the two lookouts as it provides walkers with an excellent vantage point to see the upper section of the falls in action. Numerous informal trails dot the landscape below the lookout, suggesting that a lot of visitors to the falls create their own pathways in order to get closer to the falls.


The trail continues down the well formed pathway, with turn offs leading down steep descents to the falls. We were initially a bit confused by the fact the trail seems to continue west past the falls, but this is simply designed to make the incline less steep, and the track does indeed loop around to the foot of the falls.


Eventually, the well formed path gives way to a rougher dirt track. Metal directional markers give walkers clear navigational guidance, with the trail returning to Lesmurdie Brook.


The shallow brook runs along a rocky bed, with the trail running alongside. Further downstream is the lower level Palm Terrace car park for those not wanting to do the longer walk.


This well worn path to the falls heads east upstream, and is very pleasant walking as the gentle sound of water babbling down the brook increasingly gives way to the roar of the falls.


Crowded with tourists and locals, the foot of the falls is a justifiably popular and awe inspiring sight. Compared to Serpentine, National Park and Sixty Foot Falls, Lesmurdie Falls is significantly larger and with a more impressive flow. Everyone from families with young children to rock hoppers climbing informal trails up the falls were out and about, and I spent some time setting up my camera and waiting for the brief moments when the falls were clear of other people to take my photos.


I timed it well however, as just after we left a very large group had gathered at the foot of the falls with a few following informal paths up the rocks to circle back to the top of the falls the other way. 


Tracing our steps back, a spur up a steep and rocky path leads to the Lions Lookout. The turn off for the lookout is not clearly marked but runs to the left from the main ascending trail.


Less impressive in construction that the newer upper lookouts, the Lions Lookout nevertheless offered an impressive vantage point, showing the upper tiers not visible from the foot of the falls.


From the lookout, its a short walk back to where the lookout's trail branched off. This steep, rocky and muddy trail is a shortcut back up to the top of the falls, and is more challenging terrain than the descent. As you can see from the photograph however, the ascent was achievable by families and is short enough to not be insurmountable.


From there the trail returns back to the car park for an overall walk that is said to be little more than 2 kilometres. Even while stopping to take photos of the falls, this walk did not take much time at all and would very easily be achieved in under an hour.

Lesmurdie Falls is arguably the most spectacular waterfall in the Perth outdoors, and with its close proximity to Perth, it is no wonder it can draw the massive crowds that it does. The scenery along the walk cannot be faulted, and the way the walk follows Lesmurdie Brook to the top of the falls and then loops around to follow the brook back upstream to the foot of the falls gives the walk a nice sense of symmetry. The only problem with the walk is that it is extremely busy and almost too short to really get a sense of truly 'going bush'. Alissa commented that it felt like there was clear potential for more adventurous paths to be forged for those hardcore bushwalkers looking for a bit of a challenge; certainly many others felt the same thing, as we witnessed many people scrambling up the rocks to circle back on the other side of the brook, rather than following the trail back to the top. Given the lack of length, it is hard to call this one of Perth's best walks, but the falls are enough of a draw to nevertheless make this an essential experience of the Perth Hills.

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