Bank balance a little low? Eaten too many mid-winter snacks? Want to get back to nature? What are you waiting for!
The Railway Reserves Heritage Trail allows urban adventurers a city escape without leaving Perth's limits. The 41 km dirt track loop retraces the old railway alignment of the long-gone Eastern Railway which linked Fremantle to York in the 1880s. From Bellevue at the base of the Darling Scarp to Mount Helena, with another section extending to Wooroloo Reserve, this walking, cycling, dog and horse friendly* trail offers all levels of explorer an alternative view of the Perth Hills to that experienced by cars whizzing along the nearby Great Eastern Highway.
Rain clouds coming in over the old railway alignment.
Locally called the 'Bridle Track', this largely unknown patch of adventure not only boasts stunning scenery, seasonal wildflowers and panoramic views over the Perth hills but your journey can take you over old wooden railway bridges (John Forrest National Park), passed unused railway platforms (Swan View Station), historical buildings (Stationmaster's House, Glen Forrest) or between railway cuttings blasted out of the escarpment (Darlington to Glen Forrest route).You may feel you are in the bush but many trail points offer community parks with picnic tables, toilets, children's play equipment, historical information and other facilities to make your trip enjoyable.
Why not pull up for a bit and relax? You've earned it with all that exercise!
My favourite section of the track runs from to Darlington (downhill is so much easier than up!) [map]. I feel it is here you are able to best appreciate the railway past; the railway cuttings into the hillside, the raised nature of the track offering views out into the hills. For parts of the journey a water course follows you, the rush of winter rain racing you along the trail. Here and there are wooden seats, one perfectly placed to admire a nearby rapid which is being fed by a recent downpour. When you do finally reach Darlington, this section is not particularly long but you will probably stop for pictures, you are greeted with the second Darlington Railway platform. Not much is left of this platform dating to 1903 but this adds to the mystery of the area.
Watching rapids while resting. What better way is there to spend the day?
The track is free except when accessed from the John Forrest National Park main car park. If you were a Perth high school student you would have undoubtedly visited, several times, the national park so skipping is acceptable for the cash-strapped. Also don't forget to take a friend. Not only will they, hopefully, come to your aid should you suffer a mishap, did I mention it's a dirt track, smart adventurers will park a car at either end of the route to ensure no need for backtracking!
Start of Railway Reserves Heritage Trail downhill between M. J. Morgan Reserve, Glen Forrest and Darlington. Facilities include: picnic area, playground, bathroom facilities and barbecue.
With an elevation around 300 m (Darling Scarp), think carefully about whether to tackle the trail up or downwards. The tracks' proximity to the Great Eastern Highway allows visitors to enter and leave different parts of the trail as they see fit and it does not need to be conquered in one day. Want to have a relaxing outing? Have breakfast in Mundaring and take the 7 km trail to Glen Forrest for a coffee. Want to work off a week filled with coffee and other midday snacks? Contemplate riding the 16 km uphill route from Bellevue to Mundaring. Whether you want to spend an hour walking a small section or a whole day exploring, the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail has something for everyone.
Horses/Dogs: Allowed except in John Forrest National Park. Dogs must be on leash. Cost: Free except when accessed from John Forrest National -Park main car park.
Fitness/Experience Level: All. Length: 41 km loop. Can be taken in sections. Time of Year: All (Sunshine in summer, colour-change in the tree leaves in autumn, lush and green in winter and wildflowers in spring).
Method: Walking, cycling, horse riding. Motorised vehicles prohibited.
- Facilities: Many trail points offer community parks with picnic tables, toilets, children's play equipment, historical information and other facilities.
Car: Great Eastern Highway.
Public Transport: Train to Midland train station, Midland Line. Check www.transperth.wa.gov.au for up-to-date bus timetables.
Bike: Cycle from Midland Station.
Suggested downhill itineraries:
- Burn Baby Burn: Breakfast in Mundaring before taking the track downhill, stopping in at Glen Forrest or Darlington for a coffee before continuing on to Bellevue. Distance: 16 km. Time: 45min (Google Estimate). Method: Cycling. Direction: Downhill.
- Lovely Outing: Breakfast in Glen Forrest before walking to Darlington. Distance: 3 km. Time: 32 min (Google Estimate). Method: Walking. Direction: Downhill.