Sunday, 9 October 2016

Baldwin's Bluff (Serpentine National Park)


The other, lesser known walk trail in Serpentine National Park, Baldwin's Bluff's walk trail leads walkers along vehicle tracks to the summit of a nearby hill. Dominated by Wandoo Woodlands and Granite outcrops, the trail is particularly lovely in early Spring, with wildflowers in bloom and spectacular views of Serpentine Falls and the valley beyond. Worth checking out for the view alone. 


Distance: 6 km (return)
Gradient: First 1.7 kilometres up are moderately steep, with the 1.3 kilometres to the summit being fairly gradual. Return starts gradual before becoming steep. 
Quality of Path: Largely clear, however the steep ascents and descents are damaged by erosion and can be uneven
Quality of Signage: Clear Trailhead and directional arrows at key track junctions
Experience Required: No Bushwalking Experience Required
Time: 1.5 Hours
Steps: No steps, but uneven and steep paths are not wheelchair accessible
Best Time to Visit: Late Winter-Mid Spring
Entry Fee: Yes. National Park Fees apply
Getting There: The trail starts at the Serpentine National Park day use area. Access of via Falls Rd, off South Western Hwy south of Jarrahdale. 



After have spent eight day on the Bibbulmun Track from Balingup to Pemberton, I was definitely feeling a certain amount of Post Trail Depression. In the days after returning to Perth and to work, I wished I was back on the trail; in spite of the unseasonably wet weather, I missed walking 20 kilometres every day and the simplicity of our schedule. As such, we decided to do two walks when the next weekend came around. The first was a return visit to the Bibbulmun Track section from Sullivan Rock and over the two Monadnocks and back, with the second being a trail we hadn't done before - Baldwin's Bluff in Serpentine National Park. With a visit to the Stirling and Porongurup Ranges planned the weekend after, doing a trail in hilly terrain seemed like a good warm up for the more challenging walking in our near future. 



Driving into the day use area of Serpentine National Park, the Baldwin's Bluff Trailhead was not difficult to find, however it not immediately clear which of the nearby hills is Baldwin's Bluff. Unphased, we started the walk via the walk trail that runs behind the toilet block in the day use area. 



This stretch along purpose built walk trail is very brief, and it is not long before walkers turn left to walk along a vehicle service track. 



While walk trail is preferable, the vehicle track offers walker lovely views of the surrounding Jarrah forest and the Granite formations that dominate the area. The track soon reaches a junction; the trail to the left leads to the excellent Kitty's Gorge Walk Trail along the Gooralong Brook, while the trail to the right leads to Baldwin's Bluff. 



From this point, the trail rises up a moderately steep incline as it follows the vehicle track up Baldwin's Bluff. 



Running near several water courses, the Jarrah forest encountered earlier reliably transitions to beautiful Wandoo woodlands. The Laterite vehicle track is typical of the Perth Hills area and was quite eroded due to the heavy rains of the Winter and early Spring. 



Although at times uneven, the ascent is not overly difficult - especially when compared to some of the hills we had encountered along the Bibbulmun Track from Boarding House to Beavis - and we had reached the top of the steepest part of the walk in under 30 minutes of our starting time. 



From here, the walking is fairly easy, following the vehicle track up a very mild ascent. The Wandoo Woodlands provide for some pleasant walking. 



Doing this trail in early October, Alissa and I were gifted with some spectacular wildflowers. Early in the wildflower season, yellows seem to dominate, however many of the other colours were beginning the appear all along the walk. 



The trail follows rim of the valley, with the foliage to the right of the track beginning to open up as it reached the peak. 



Just before the summit, the track passes by a lookout point that offers walkers a spectacular view of Serpentine Falls and the valley beyond. This view make the walk worthwhile - as someone who has walked Kitty's Gorge several times, I appreciated getting a bird's eye view of what the final few kilometres of the trail look like. 



Just near the summit, Alissa and I were treated to a field of Everlastings. Having missed out of visiting Coalseam Conservation Park at the peak of its bloom (apparently the best in decades!), this was a nice consolation prize. 


The summit is not clearly marked, but is recognisable due to the expansive granite protrusions. 



Just beyond the summit, the trail fades out just after providing walkers a view of the farmland and suburbia located just beyond the park boundaries. From there, it is a simple matter of retracing your steps back to the start of the walk. 



On the way back, the Baldwin's Bluff trail provided us with two more nice surprises. Just as we were about to reach the point where the track steeply descends, Alissa and I were fortunate enough to see a flock of black cockatoos very close to the trail, with the flock flying across the path in perfect timing for my camera to capture the shot above. 



These were either Carnaby's or Baudin's Black Cockatoos, both species that are sadly on the Endangered Species list. These birds were noticeably less raucous than their Red Tailed relatives, and we felt particularly fortunate to have seen them given their rarity. 



Baldwin's Bluff offered us one final treat as we neared the bottom of the steep descent - a plethora of White Spider Orchids were growing alongside the track! Having missed an opportunity to photograph them when Alissa saw one along the Balingup to Blackwood section of the Bibbulmun, I was very excited to see them on Baldwin's Bluff - especially in such abundance.
Due to the fact that the Baldwin's Bluff trail ascends up a vehicle track, the walking up to the summit is not quite as exciting as it would have been had we gone up a purpose built walk trail, and the erosion damage to the track made it look a bit run down in comparison to the superior and much lauded Kitty's Gorge. In spite of this, the walk was surprisingly enjoyable and is made worthwhile due to the impressive views of Serpentine Falls and the valley beyond. Walking in Springtime is definitely advised, as the wildflowers in bloom were very impressive - and if you're lucky, you might also run into a flock of Black Cockatoos up there yourself! 

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