Karijini National Park has it all, by gorge
Full of spectacular gorges, rock pools, waterfalls and curious wildlife, Karijini National Park is in the Hamersley Ranges of the Pilbara region.
It is just north of the Tropic of Capricorn and can be accessed from Tom Price, Roebourne, Port Hedland or Newman.
It is also the traditional home of the Banyjima, Kurrama and Innawonga people, with evidence of their early occupation dating back more than 20,000 years.
Karijini is easily accessible by sealed roads to the main entrance, visitor centre and Dales Gorge.
Other roads in the park can be corrugated and rough but are worth the effort as they lead to some of the most remarkable natural attractions in the world.
Best time to visit is late autumn, winter and early spring. It can get frosty at night in autumn but the days are warm and skies are clear blue.
The climate is tropical semi-desert so in summer, temperatures frequently top 40 degrees.
Driving through a dusty plain into Karijini, massive mountains call from the distant horizon. Closer, walking trails along flat open country give little hint of what’s to come.
You are not aware of the gorges until you arrive at a lookout exposing magnificent cracks in the earth which have been carved from the rocks by erosion over 2500 million years.
The Visitor Centre in the park is well worth a visit and is a great way to start your exploration.
The building itself is interesting and very different to your average centre.
It was designed to withstand any fires through the area so construction materials and lack of openings all help reduce fire entering or damaging the building.
One of Karijini National Park’s big attractions is that its scenery is so accessible: you can literally pull into a car park, walk 50m and peer into a 100m canyon to see waterfalls, emerald rock pools and stunning rock formations.
First, we head to the Dales Gorge section of the park, including Circular Pool, Fortescue Falls and Fern Pools.
The three-hour return trail to Dales Gorge heads down a steep, rocky path to Fern Pool.
It’s perfect for a dip in its emerald-coloured waters before walking along the floor of the gorge for a refreshing swim at Fortescue Falls.
A trail at the bottom of the gorge winds through amazing rock formations to Circular Pool.
There are trails to suit everyone, from beginner to the more experienced, including assisted wheelchair access to Circular Pool Lookout and independent wheelchair access at the Karijini NP visitor Centre and Dales Day use area.
So this really is a place for everyone.
There is a choice of excellent picnic areas for the day travellers as well as camping sites to stay longer.
A day entry pass is $12 a car and $6 for seniors and motorbikes. These can be purchased at park entry points.
For longer, purchase a holiday pass which gives up to 4 weeks, or an annual pass (per vehicle to all parks in WA). Concession cardholders get a great discount too.
Camping is available in Dales Campground and is accessible via a sealed road. The campground is on top of the gorge.
All sites are suitable for caravan, tent, bus and camper trailers and are unpowered although there there are allocated sections if you need to operate a generator.
There is no facility to book ahead, so in peak season (June-August) it’s recommended to arrive early (very early).
Basically, it is first in best dressed so line up at the Camp Host station and wait for someone to leave for you to take their place.
We lined up at 6.30am and were first off the rank.
There is an overflow area to wait it out for the next day if you miss.
All camp sites are private and excellent. There are toilets (spotless) and gas barbecues provided but no open fires permitted.
If you are lucky, you may even spot a dingo in the campground.
Oh, and did I mention the stars?