Originally we had planned to spend time camped at both Stirling Range NP and Porongorup NP but realised these places are quite close and that perhaps our hiking passion might be a little stronger than that of our children. Stirling Range has loads of day walks but every one of them scales a rather steep mountain on the range. Given this we decided to just stay at Stirling Range and pick one day hike there and one in Porongorup to ensure the hiking remained as enjoyable as possible for all. Doing this though makes us feel a lot of pressure to pick ‘the best of the bunch’. I think we did OK for both these areas.
We chose to camp at Moingup Springs Camp in the Stirling Range. This is just off the main road so has more traffic noise than other NP campgrounds we have stayed at but was a pleasant setting amongst the trees. If you are ever planning to camp here be sure not to park under the beautiful gums as this is where the black cockatoos perch all night and you will find you car, or in our case awning, splattered in loads of bird droppings in the morning. This camp seemed to attract campers in smaller tents and 2WDs. We came across a lovely German couple who spent time teaching the kids how to make origami boats.
Our inspiration for the Porongorup walk came from our friend Andrew who shares a lot of photos from the Perth is OK Facebook page. One post was of the Castle Rock Skywalk and when Matthew saw it he asked if we can go there. It is a 4.4km return walk which meanders up a hill to a series of granite boulders that have a very impressive steel lookout built on them. There were quite a few wildflowers on the walk and the climb up to the lookout was fun. The kids enjoyed playing on the rocks and Andrew and I had an in depth discussion about the pros and cons of building such infrastructure on walks. The pro being it attracts loads of people and gets them outside making it one of the most popular walks in the area. After all it was the pic of the lookout that drew the kids to want to do the walk. The con of course is that there’s now a massive, ugly steel structure on the top of beautiful granite outcrop and the increased traffic unfortunately means increased rubbish. This was the first walk in ages where I collected loads of litter and a number of empty water bottles. Why people can carry full water bottles up a hill but cannot carry empty ones back down is beyond me. Despite that, it was a lovely walk.
We took a scenic route back to camp taking us past another winery, Ironwood, with more lovely wines and the Stirling Range Drive which had a number of lookouts, the most spectacular being the Central Lookout with 360 degree views.
Choosing our one walk for Stirling Ranges was harder. Thankfully we had spoken to the, very friendly, ranger who suggested doing Toolbrunup rather than the more popular Bluff Knoll walk. It was a stunning walk on a fairly narrow trail that started in a wooded area before ascending the mountain and getting steeper as it went. It was only 4km return but quite challenging due to the steepness and much of the walk being on loose rocks. There was a lovely wooded area with soft green moss before the track opened up onto a bouldered area to climb.
The wildflowers were spectacular, especially towards the top. This was a nice surprise as we thought we had missed the season. Even the kids were taken by the stunning colours and variety.
The view from the top was amazing looking over the range in every direction.
The walk down was almost as slow as the ascent due to the loose rocks and boulders. If you like climbing mountains for spectacular views then Stirling Range is a must visit, especially in wildflower season.