The Walpole Wilderness might just be the perfect place for a camping holiday. With seemingly endless white sand beaches and enough hike trails to keep you busy for weeks, this region is on the bucket list of every outdoor enthusiast – and if it isn’t, it should be! The shaded Southern Forests offer a welcome retreat from the hot Australian sun, as well as a plethora of native species and wildflowers. Wandering through the Valley of the Giants is taking a walk through an ancient woodland, virtually unchanged for 65 million years. Dinosaurs may have stomped these hills. The landscape of Mount Frankland offers an exciting hike and unrivalled 360°views across the Walpole Wilderness from its historic fire watchman’s tower.
We took a day trip to Mount Frankland during our week-long camping adventure to the Walpole and Denmark region. Having spent the previous few days on the coast, we were energised and relieved to find ourselves wandering through the shade of the woodland again.
Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout
We opted to start with the shorter Mount Frankland Wilderness Lookout walk. At only 600m we knew that if Maddie wasn’t happy in her carrier she’d be ok to walk that far. As with the rest of Mount Frankland National Park, the trail was in excellent condition and paved or elevated walkway for most of its length. There were several information signs along the route describing the endemic trees and plants we might see along the route.
The elevated pathways were similar to those at Valley of the Giants, fully enclosed with a gentle incline and thoughtfully planned. Nearing the lookout we knew we were in for a treat. The trail follows the contour of the mountain to a circular platform from where the walkway juts out into the forest canopy. Gazing down from the viewing platform you can look straight down around 10m and then further out – maybe 50-60 m to the base of the hill – I’m not the best at guessing heights so don’t take my word on it. From the platform you can see through 180 degrees across the farm land and forest below and to peaks far on the horizon. It is easy to see why these hilltops were used to spot fires in the bush below.
Maddie loved throwing gum nuts from the platform and listening as they fell through the branches below, creating a hollow thud as it bounced and ricocheted off the rock. We stayed for a while, admiring the view and giving Maddie time to play. I love that she’s so interested and entertained by the simplest things in nature and want to nurture that curiosity.
Maddie was so happy this morning that we decided to carry on and attempt the Summit Walk.
The Summit Walk
1.2km return – class 4
Starting from the information shelter, the Summit Walk is only short at 1.2km, but climbs rapidly in altitude in that short distance. The signage warns of a ladder and 300 steps. I was actually relieved to read this. A Class 4 hike can either mean scrambling over boulders and under ledges, or a ladder – the ladder is much easier and actually possible with a toddler. The Class 4 Loop Trail in Kalbarri National Park would not have been at all suitable for Maddie.
The walk starts with a gentle incline and easy paved switch-backs with plenty of little benches along its route. The concrete form steps are in good condition and although steep, are not too taxing. Every few minutes we would turn around and be surprised by yet another incredible vista, each more impressive than the last as we climbed higher and higher.
Approaching the ladder we were relieved to see it was not enclosed and therefore Jed could easily climb it with the carrier on his back. Maddie was excited by this new toddler extreme sport and giggled merrily as Jed climbed. I’m sure her wiggling made it more challenging for Jed to climb but he didn’t seem to mind.
It got hotter as we ascended and the bush got less dense with less shade and different vegetation. Gone were the tall trees with their forgiving shade, now we were the tallest thing around. Before long the vegetation cleared completely and there was only bare granite rock between us and the summit.
From the summit we could see to the horizon in every direction. On a clear day you can see all the way to the ocean. Today was not perfectly clear though. There was no cloud but a slight haze produced by a nearby prescribed burn. We could see the fire in the distance, it looked enormous. Prescribed burns are a regular occurrence throughout Australia and are used to help prevent natural fires getting too big and out of control.
Although Maddie would have been perfectly safe to wander around on her own at the summit we decided to keep her in her carrier. She was happy up there taking it all in but once we’ve let her out she doesn’t often want to get back in and neither of us wanted to carry her down those ladders in our arms.
We did try to take a family portrait but the sun was glaring and wind strong enough to blow our hats off so we had removed them. The pictures did not come out well with us all squinting into the sun with flat, sweaty hat hair so I will not disturb you with them here – still, they make a funny family portrait for us to have a laugh at privately.
The descent back down the stairs and ladder was easy and we were glad to be back in the cool forest. There is a 1.6km Caldyanup Trail that loops off this trail but we decided not to attempt it as we sensed Maddie was starting to get fidgety. Besides, the hike had given us all an appetite. I later learned that Caldyanup is the aboriginal name for the mountain.
Picnic at the Towerman’s Hut
During our research we had read that there was a picnic area and barbecues at the Towerman’s Hut. We had packed everything needed for a bacon sandwich into our Engel and were now very much looking forward to a good feed. Jed walked back to the car while I played with Maddie at the picnic table.
Maddie walked around the area picking up more gum nuts, sticks and various coloured leaves before climbing onto the bench so she could sort them on the table. She played happily there while Jed cooked up the bacon. The smell of bacon cooking filled the air and attracted the attention for some fellow hikers as they passed by. They stopped for a quick chat before continuing their climb.
We took our time having a bite to eat, letting Maddie have all the run-around time she needed before we put her back in the car for the hour long drive back to camp. She walked back to the car, stopping at the large information shelter to climb up and run along the walls. The shelter is enormous and we guessed it must be used for events. I’m not sure if they do already, but this would be the perfect place for some outdoor lectures or information evenings on the native and endemic species to the region. We certainly got the impression that Mount Frankland, along with the Valley of the Giants were very well maintained and were some of the top attractions for the region. Even so, we only saw that one other couple during our morning at Mount Frankland.
How was Mount Frankland formed?
The Geology of Mount Frankland
Australia, as we know it today, is both the world’s largest island and its smallest continent. However, we were not always so geographically solitary. At one time (between 1.5 billion and 400million years ago to be precise) Australia was joined to the west by the Indian subcontinent, and to the south by what is now Antarctica. Throughout geological history super continents have come and gone. There have been times when the continents collide and come together to form enormous mountain chains such as the present day Himalaya, and times when they have split and drifted apart, such as is happening in Africa’s Great Rift Valley today.
The landscape we see around us is the result of many, many geological events throughout Earth’s history, but in the case of Mount Frankland and surrounds, we can focus in on one particular era. Around 1.2 billion years ago, the infant continents of Western Australia (i.e. the Yilgarn Craton) and Antarctica (Mawson) collided together with enough force to push up a giant mountain chain to rival any on earth today. This collision is known as the Albany-Fraser Orogeny. With mountains several kilometres high, the pressure and temperature in the core of the mountain chain, deep below the surface, had risen high enough to melt the rocks. These molten rocks eventually hardened to the granites we see today. After a very, very long time of erosion, that mountain chain has almost completely disappeared, with only the tough granite core remaining. This is the granite we see so prevalent at Mount Frankland and along the southern coast of Western Australia.
Western Australia remained attached to Antarctica and India for a very long time, rifting apart some time in the Jurassic to Cretaceous period leaving Australia with its present day configuration.
A great destination for a young family to explore
All the trails in this National Park were suitable for families with all the facilities you need, plus the picnic area and barbecues. We loved how cool and refreshing it was in these hills compared to the dry heat of the coast. It was also only windy on the actual summit so quite comfortable for walking or sitting to enjoy your bacon sandwich.