With the cooler weather upon us, now is the time to pack your hiking boots, water-bottle and hat, and head for one of the beautiful national parks which surround Perth. Located on the edge of the city, just 24km from the CBD, John Forrest National Park is the oldest national park in Western Australia and probably the most well-known. Situated in the Darling Ranges, it covers over 1,500 hectares of land. It was originally established as a conservation reserve in 1898, but was officially named John Forrest National Park in 1947, in honour of the colonial explorer and former premier of Western Australia, Sir John Forrest.
For the avid nature-lover and bushwalker, the John Forrest National Park offers many delightful options, ranging from short rambles around the picnic grounds to strenuous extended hikes. For visitors in wheelchairs, the elderly and families with very young children, a mainly level 450 metre trail leads around Rocky Pool, a lovely man-made pool situated amidst beautiful native gardens in the main picnic area.
An enjoyable longer hike for adults and older children is along the Railway Heritage Walking Trail which extends a few kilometres, following the alignment of the long-suspended Eastern Railway route to Northam. It begins at Rocky Pool and extends along Jane Brook, passing the beautiful Hovea Falls and National Park Falls, and finally the historic Swan View railway tunnel, which was constructed in 1895.
This trail is also enjoyed by cyclists, as it is generally well-maintained and more or less level. It is possible to explore the old rail tunnel on foot (kids love doing this), but sturdy footwear and a good torch are strongly recommended. The best time to see the falls in their full glory is after regular rainfall, and especially during the springtime when the bushland is carpeted with a rich tapestry of native wildflowers. For energetic and experienced hikers, the Eagle View walk trail follows a 15km circuit throughout many of the less frequented areas of the park, and also commences at the Rocky Pool picnic area.
Wildlife lovers and photographers who visit the John Forrest National Park will be pleasantly surprised to observe a wide variety of native animals and birds in their natural environment. In particular, western grey kangaroos are regularly spotted around the picnic areas in the early morning and late afternoon. The park is therefore a wonderful place to take friends and family from overseas for an outing.
The park's main visitor area is accessed off the Great Eastern Highway (there are a couple of turnoffs to the left, just before Mundaring), and consists of a ranger office, information shelter, picnic area (with electric and gas barbeques, and shelters), and public toilets. There is also a tavern situated in the immediate vicinity, where meals and refreshments can be purchased.
How to get there:
Drive along the Great Eastern Highway from Midland towards Mundaring. The national park is to the north of the highway, and there are three sign-posted entrances on the left-hand side of the highway, before Mundaring. These routes will lead one to the main picnic area, the tavern and where the hiking trails begin. The western side of the park can be accessed on Pechey Road in Swan View, where the trails following the old railway track commence.
National park entry fees apply: $11.00
to visit the website.