Dales Gorge Hike, Karijini National Park
|Location||Dales Gorge, Karijini National Park, Western Australia|
|Duration||2-3 hours including swim time at the waterfall|
|Grade||4 – moderate to difficult (due to stairs!)|
The Dales Gorge Hike trail guide
The Dales Gorge Hike is one of the most popular hikes in Karijini National Park, and it’s easy to see why. The trail begins in the Dales Gorge carpark. You can also start the hike from the Dales campground if you are staying there.
The trail is a loop, combining the Gorge Rim Hike and the Dales Gorge Hike. You begin with a walk along the rim of the gorge from the Fortescue Falls lookout to the Circular Pool lookout, before descending down into the gorge. You will then enjoy the walk along the creek towards the falls, crossing the creek in several places.
If you hike the loop in a clockwise direction, you can enjoy cooling off at Fortescue Falls or Fern Pool. After your swim simply head back up the stairs to the carpark.
The Gorge Rim Hike
From the Fortescue Falls viewing platform, turn left and walk along the rim of the gorge. This path is fairly rough and rocky, but the views out over the gorge are spectacular. There are several places to stop for photos.
After about 1km, the path heads down into the gorge. Before walking down, continue another hundred metres or so for views of the Circular Pool. This view would best be seen during the middle of the day as during the earlier morning there’s shade on the cliffs.
The path down into the gorge is steep and uneven, with many natural steps in the rocks. Those with bad knees may choose to do this loop walk in reverse, but we chose to come this way so we could have a swim at the end. If you’re up for it we definitely recommend doing the walk in a clockwise direction.
As we were climbing down, we looked with wonder at the red cliffs opposite, and the layers of rock. We wondered how many millions of years it took to create this natural art. Ghost gum trees clung precariously to the cliffs in places, we puzzled over how their roots got water – did they sink all the way to the bottom of the gorge?
Dales Gorge Hike
Arriving at the bottom of the gorge, the path heads to the right, to walk upstream to the Fortescue Falls. (Previously there was a path to the left to the Circular Pool, but due to rockfalls, this path has been closed until further notice.)
We found some shade under a huge rock to stop for a snack, before continuing on to the first set of cascades. This was a beautiful spot, with water flowing over the rocks amongst the trees and reeds. We stopped here to cool off and take some more photos.
The path crossing the water in several places, and walks along the cliff edges. Someone had put stepping-stones out, so it’s possible to do the whole walk without getting wet feet. Beware! Some of the stepping-stones are a little wobbly – don’t fall in!
The walk finishes at the Fortescue Falls pool, where you can stop for a swim, continue on to the Fern Pool, or head back up the stairs to the carpark.
We really enjoyed this walk, and only saw a handful of other people on the trail. I’m guessing that most visitors simply take the steel steps down to the swimming holes, but honestly, I think doing the walk the way we did just adds so much more to the experience. Arriving at the falls after walking upstream along the gorge was spectacular, and would have been even more so had we come upon the falls by surprise, rather than anticipating them due to the noise of all the people there.
Want to see more of this hike?
Check out our “Ultimate Guide to Karijini National Park” video for more of this beautiful hike, and more amazing hikes in Karijini
Where to Next?
Check out some of the other great hikes and gorges in our Complete Guide to Karijini National Park.