Hiking the Stirling Ranges
The Stirling Ranges are really an oddity in the mostly flat southwestern Australia. This area thousands of years ago was once under the ocean. The rocky peaks you see below were once a rock outcropping that had waves crashing against it at one time:
However, a geological fault line here pushed the rock outcroppings upward after a large earthquake to form the Stirling Ranges:
The highest point of the Stirling Ranges is Bluff Knoll pictured below:
Looking at it from below I could easily picture the ocean waves crashing against the surface of this rock. Bluff Knoll towers over the surrounding country side at an elevation of 1,095 meters above sea level. This was the main hike I wanted to complete during my visit to the Stirling Ranges. The starting point for the trail was only about a 10 minute drive from the caravan park we had stayed at, which allowed me to get a good early start on the trail.
I had read that the weather here at the Stirling Ranges is very unpredictable since it rises at such a high altitude so near the ocean. The unpredictability of the weather I would quite clearly find out about on this hike. The day started out quite nice with partly cloudy skies. The trail head began with a nice kiosk providing plenty of useful information about the ranges. The hike is just over 6 kilometers round trip and is recommended for people with moderate fitness. The hike usually takes people 3-4 hours to complete. The trail is also very well maintained:
You can also see from this picture, the bush is pretty thick all around trail until you reach the upper heights of the mountain. The Stirling Ranges is well known in biological circles for being home to many types of wildflowers and plant life that does not exist anywhere else in the world. As I ascended the mountain I saw plenty of flowers and plants I have not seen before:
As I ascended over the tree line a great view towards the western portion of the range opened up:
You can see from the shadows that a heavy cloud cover was starting accumulate over me. This was a sign of thing to come. The cliffs that towered over me were quite impressive to view as I ascended up these wonderful mountains:
To the Summit
I also had a great view of the parking lot below where the campervan was parked and my wife was sleeping in that morning:
My wife has a bad knee, so steep hike like this one, she usually does go on with me. This hike is steep enough that I really wouldn’t recommend it for anyone with leg or knee problems.
When I reached a saddle on the right hand side of the peak the famous wild flowers prevalent only in the higher altitudes of the ranges came into view:
Allegedly there are more species of wildflowers in the Stirling Ranges than in all of the British isles. Pretty amazing:
It was at this saddle I decided to sit down, drink some water, and get my camera out of bag to take some pictures. I nearly sat down on top of a poisonous red back spider:
Chalk up another near death experience for me in Australia. Spiders were not the only thing running around in the upper reaches of the range, so were snails:
From the saddle I also had a great view of the farm land to the south of the range:
Notice in this picture the salt lakes encroaching on the forest land from the south. Also notice the darkness taking hold on the peak. The peak was becoming shrouded with clouds and the wind had picked up noticeably. I had to take my hat off because the wind was to strong to wear it. Plus the temperature had dropped substantially and I had to put a sweat shirt on. I could feel that rain was on the way; so I packed up my stuff and hurried to the summit of the peak. I was literally jogging up the trail to reach the summit before the rain.
I reached the summit and it was very windy. I actually had a hard time standing just trying to take pictures from the summit. I had no plans to stick around up there to long and enjoy the view. It was windy and freezing cold with rain on the way.
This is what the view towards the south looked like:
Here is the view looking to the north:
Notice how dramatically the national forest land gives away to the surrounding farm land. The farm land you see continues north for hundreds of kilometers before becoming desert outback.
Here is the view looking towards the east:
And finally here is the view looking towards the west:
The Descent Down
It was about now that it started to rain and I quickly began to make my way back down the mountain. As I descended down the mountain, I looked back up at the summit and you could see it raining up there and as I continued down I only got hit by a sprinkle of rain and then the clouds blew away as quickly as they came in:
By the time I got back to the campervan it was really nice out. All in all, it took me an hour and half to climb up the mountain and only 45 minutes to get down because I was keeping a slow jog most of the way down because of the rain. My wife had lunch ready for me when I got back and it was nice to sit back, eat lunch, and enjoy the view:
After lunch we drove back down the mountain and began heading towards the southwestern port city of Albany. The highway we drove on was a nice scenic ride over a saddle that ran through the middle of the ranges:
Eventually the highway began its descent down the south side of the ranges. We were soon rewarded with great views of the Stirling Ranges from the south side:
Just like on the north side of the Stirling Ranges, the views of the ranges over the wheat fields can be quite spectacular:
All in all spending a couple days in the Stirling Ranges was a great time and one of the highlights of our entire two weeks in West Australia. However, it was time to leave the mountains and head for the beautiful port city of Albany.
Next Posting: Video of the Stirling Ranges
Prior Posting: Across the Wheat Belt
Back to the Western Australia Holiday Journal Archive