Explore ancient gorges where often swimming will be required (or optional) to reach the end of the trail at the remote, rugged Karijini National Park!
Karijini is a remote national park in the Pilbara, a few hundred kilometres from the coast in the northern central region of Western Australia.
Known for its rugged landscape with world-class short walks and hiking trails, many of which are some of the best in Western Australia.
A trip to the Karijini National Park will allow you to get up close to large ancient gorges or small chambers with narrow passages where you’ll set off by foot and have plenty of chances to take a dip, sometimes swimming is even required to get to the end of the trail.
With it’s abundance of gorges, hiking trails, natural pools and interesting passages to explore, Karijini can’t be missed when traveling through Western Australia.
Visiting Karijini National Park
The main places to see at Karijini are quite spread out, so it’s best to allow a few days and take a look at one area at a time.
Karijini is packed with hiking trails, which means that you can easily spend quite a while there, slowly driving to a new area then exploring by foot, on the other hand, if you’re only passing through and have limited time, there are plenty of car parks with lookouts and short walks to attractions close by, allowing you to take a look at a lot of great places in less time.
To get the most out of your trip, head into the Karijini Visitor Centre inside the national park where you’ll get tons of information, you can even find phone and data services there too!
Although there are many places to take a look at, with the main ones being: Hancock and Weano Gorge (next to each other), Dales Gorge (which is home to Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool), Mount Bruce, Hamersley Gorge, Kalamina Gorge, Joffrey Falls Lookout and Knox Lookout, here a few places that can’t be missed when you’re visiting Karijini National Park:
Step into the ancient Hancock Gorge and walk through narrow passages with huge orange-red rock walls. You’ll have to be steady on your feet, scaling over rocks, walking though pools of water, then swimming is required to get out to the end of the gorge. It’s an incredible experience that can’t be missed on your visit to Karijini National Park!
Hancock Gorge is one of the most popular short trails inside the national park and best short walks in Western Australia, it’s about 1.5 kms return, if you include walking from the car park at the Weano Day Use Area (then swimming), although chances are that you would have come from the nearby Weano Gorge, which is a good way to start your trekking as Weano is a little bit easier to overcome and Hancock is the highlight, so it’s better to do last.
Hancock Gorge Trail Video Coming Soon
Weano provides you with a great opportunity to get up and close to the gorge without as much difficulty as nearby Hancock Gorge. You have the option of taking the ridge walk along the top of gorge where you’ll get a few chances to look in, then a great view down from a lookout at the end of the trail, otherwise head into the gorge and walk through the centre of it.
Other than a short but steep entrance to the gorge, most of the rest of the walk is quite easy, excluding a few tricky spots where you’ll need to climb down some small boulders, make your way over the occasional jagged rocky section, and wander through a couple of shallow pools.
Once you make it to the Handrail Pool, things get slightly more difficult, but nothing to be worried about. Right near the end of the trail is the Handrail Pool where you’ll need to carefully hold on and climb down a small vertical drop onto a ledge that goes around the edge of a large natural pool.
To get out to the very end of the Weano Gorge Trail (& the best part), you’ll then be required to swim a short a distance.
The Weano Gorge Trail is the most accessible in the area, especially if you don’t enter the gorge and just walk along the top. It’s a great 1.5 km return trail (including the path from the car park at the Weano Day Use Area). We recommend that you start with this trail before walking a short distance over to Hancock Gorge, the highlight of this area.
Weano Gorge Trail Video Coming Soon
Dales Gorge has been carved out since the ancient ages to have huge vertical rock walls that are wide apart, home to Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and the famous Fern Pool.
The best way to experience Dales Gorge is by getting down into the base of it on a hot day, walking through the centre and stopping for a swim at the cascades, the rock pool below Fortescue Falls and then nearby at at Fern Pool.
For those with accessibility challenges, there are great views from several lookouts near the Dales Gorge Day Use Area, where you’ll be able to look down into Circular Pool and into the gorge from the Dales Gorge Lookout. The same goes for the car park above Fortescue Falls, where you’ll get great views of the incredible waterfall.
If time isn’t on your side, park at the day use area to get a few quick views, then drive to the Fortescue Falls car park where you can walk down a long timber stair case to the waterfall, then just a short distance further to Fern Pool.
To get the full experience, park at the day use area (or walk there from Dales Campground), follow the track down into the gorge from near Dales Gorge Lookout, then walk through the gorge, past the cascades and over to Fortescue Falls & Fern Pool, head up the stairs and to the top of the gorge where you’ll then wander along the top of the cliffs, looping back around to where you started. Head here for more details.
Fortescue Falls are inside Dales Gorge where the water softly rolls over the jagged rocks and forms a large pool at the base of the waterfall.
After hiking through Dales Gorge, be rewarded with a refreshing swim and relax on the warm rocks next to the rock pool, before taking another quick dip and then making the short walk to the spectacular Fern Pool for another chance to get wet and cool off.
If hiking through the gorge isn’t on your agenda, there’s the option of driving straight to the Fortescue Falls car park where you can get a great view down to the waterfall. A timber staircase from the car park that goes straight down to the waterfall.
Fern Pool is the best place to head for a swim at the Karijini National Park and will make a lasting memory!
You can choose to either use Fern Pool as a place to cool off after hiking through Dales Gorge or head there directly by parking at Fortescue Falls, getting down into the gorge via a large timber staircase, then following a short track out to the pool.
If you’ve decided to stay at Dales Campground, the start of the trail to Fern Pool is only a very short drive away, making it a great place to finish up and cool down after exploring other parts of the Karijini National Park.
Dales Gorge, Fortescue Falls & Fern Pool Video Coming Soon
Getting to Karijini from Tome Price
Depending on what part of the Karijini National Park you’re heading to, the distance will vary a lot, although it’s pretty straight forward to get there from Tom Price, which is the closest main town.
You’ll need to drive out of the south-west of town, about 10 minutes after exiting the Tom Price, turn left at Karijini Drive. You’ll follow this road for a long time, all the way until you reach Banjima Drive, where you’ll again turn left. This will take you right into the national park.
A fee is required for entering the national park, which can be done at a pay station on Banjima Drive or at the Kariijini Visitor Centre. If you’re entering from the east, there’s also a pay station on that side.
Accommodation & Camping at Karijini National Park
There are plenty of places to choose from for camping inside Karijini National Park, then some free campgrounds in the surrounding area.
Choosing the right location to stay isn’t too important, as the attractions throughout the national park are spread out, so even if you set up camp right next to one great place, an hour or so drive will be required to go visit other places of interest.
Accommodation in the form of cabins, luxurious safari tents and more affordable glamping tents can be found at the Karijini Eco Retreat, alongside non-powered campsites.
Dales Campground is the main place to set up camp inside the national park, it’s a huge area that’s split into a bunch of different areas. There are toilets here, but no drinking water or powered sites. The greatest thing about Dales Campground is that it’s with-in walking distance from Dales Gorge or less than a 2km drive, where you’ll find Fern Pool and Fortescue Falls, two great swimming spots that you can take advantage of after a hot day of exploring the national park.
For powered sites and accommodation, a pool, full comfort, plenty of shade and close to the shops, Tom Price Caravan Park is your best option.
If you’re looking for a free camp between Tom Price and Karijini National Park, try Not Daz and Shaz’s Stop (the closest free camp to Tom Price), the RIP Lookout (great views but a bit creepy) or there’s a large rest stop about half way between the town and national park entrance, somewhat near Mount Bruce, it’s also a large tuck parking area. Keep in mind that all of these free campgrounds have no shade, amenities or drinking water.