Heat up on the Dales Gorge Loop then cool off at Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool
The Dales Gorge Hiking Trail is perfect for a hot day where you’ll have the chance to explore the gorge under the shade of trees the heat up and take a dip in the rock pool at the base of Fortescue Falls then again at Fern Pool.
It’s a bit over 5kms to complete the entire loop although there are plenty of other shorter options, as there’s a car park above Fortescue Falls allowing you to walk straight down to the waterfall then a short distance further to Fern Pool. A trail goes along the top of the gorge which is mostly flat and easy to complete, for those that don’t want to take the steep decline into Dales Gorge.
To complete the entire loop, it’s suggested that you begin by parking at the Dales Day Use Area, head over to the Circular Pool Lookout, across to Dales Gorge Lookout, then take the track into the gorge as you’ll swim late in the hike as opposed to taking a dip then walking another 4.5 kms and heating up again. Once you’re into the gorge from Dales Gorge Lookout, you’ll then follow a creek right along the base of the gorge, past some cascades until you reach Fortescue Falls (where you can have a swim), from there you have the choice of heading up the timber stairs to the top of the gorge or continuing on for a short distance to Fern Pool (another great swimming spot).
Once you’ve reached Fern Pool, head back to Fortescue Falls, up the stairs and follow the Dales Gorge Rim Walk back to the day use area.
DALES GORGE HIKING TRAIL VIDEO COMING SOON
As there’s plenty of shade and opportunities to take a swim, this walk isn’t overly impacted by the hot climate.
Heading down into the gorge from Dales Gorge Lookout is along a very steep trail, it can be difficult for those that don’t have steady feet and it is a bit of a mission to get back up, although it’s only a short distance of elevation. There’s are some rocks to get up from the bases of Fortescue Falls to the top, then a large set of timber stairs from the falls to the top of Dales Gorge. The rest of the trail is mainly flat and quite easy other than a few different sections where you’ll need to climb over some rocks for a few metres at a time.
The full Dales Gorge Loop is about 5.1 kms, although you do have the option of just completing the Gorge Rim Walk that goes along the top of the gorge or parking at Fortescue Falls and heading straight down the stairs to the waterfall, then a short distance to Fern Pool.
For those that don’t want to complete the entire loop, start by parking at the day use area and getting a view from both Circular Pool Lookout and Dales Gorge Lookout (just near the car park), then drive over to Fortescue Falls and either just get a view of the waterfall from the top of the stairs, or walk down to the falls and over to Fern Pool.
Other than the steep section going from the Dales Gorge Lookout down to the base of the Gorge, the track is mainly quite flat with little elevation, other than some short sections where you’ll need to go up some rocks near the cascades and from the base of Fortescue Falls to the top of the waterfall. Of course you’ll also need to either take the large set of stairs up to the top of the gorge from Fortescue Falls or the steep rocky section over near the Dales Gorge Lookout, depending on which way you decide to exit the gorge.
There’s a large car park with plenty of room and toilet facilities, although there isn’t any drinking water available.
Just next to the car park are barbecues, picnic tables and a shelter to escape the sun.
Closest place to buy food & drinks
Dales Gorge is inside the Karijni National Park, a very remote area. You won’t find any grocery stores or petrol stations, unless you head back out of the park, but there’s water and some basic snacks at the Karijini Visitor Centre, about 15 minutes away (you’ll also find phone and data service there too).
Dogs aren’t allowed anywhere inside the Kairjini National Park, although there are council operated kennels in Tom Price for just $20 per 24 hours.
Getting to Dales Gorge
It’s close to an hour and a half drive from Tom Price to Dales Gorge, where you’ll find the start of the trail that loops past Fern Pool and Fortescue Falls.
You’ll need to drive out of the south-west of Tom Price, about 10 minutes after exiting the town, 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. Keep following Banjima Drive until you see the signs for Dales Campground, Dales Gorge Lookout, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool, you’ll need to turn right onto Dales Road.
Follow Dales Road all of the way to the end, you’ll go past Dales Campground then find the Dales Day Use Area car park, where you can start the hike.
Accommodation & Camping
Here, you’ll find many unpowered camp sites that are suitable for all types of campers, RVs and caravans. There are toilets and a small info centre, but you’ll need your own water and power.
It can be a good idea to set up base at one campground for several nights and explore the national park by driving to a different area each day. It doesn’t really matter if you choose to stay at Dales or another campground as the attractions at Karijini are all quite spread out, so a long drive is required.
Another good option is the Karijini Eco Retreat.
At the Karijini Eco Retreat, you can find accommodation in the form of cabins and eco tents/glamping tents, some are quite luxurious and others are basic. There area also unpowered camping sites.