Christmas Tree Creek Trail - John Forrest National Park
This challenging 11 km trail offers city views, creek crossings, waterfalls and a steep 2km incline as it winds through a variety of scenery with an abundance of wildflowers in late winter and early spring, including many varieties of orchid. Christmas Tree Creek Trail follows the same trail as the longer 16 km Eagle View Trail but diverts through the middle of the park allowing a shorter walk.
Although many trails have wildflowers this walk truly immerses you in them with individual plants along the way as well as clusters of beautiful bushes covering the hillsides along Christmas Tree Creek. The end of this trail (if you walk it clockwise) follows the shorter Wildflower Loop Trail however the wildflowers we saw at the midpoint of Christmas Tree Creek Walk were much better than the ones we saw on the Wildflower Trail section.
All the trails start from the picnic area and there are large signs near the ranger's office and toilet block giving details of the trails. Make sure you take note of the trailmarker (black boot for this trail) and walk in a clockwise direction as trails are not as well marked heading anti-clockwise. I always think it is a good idea to take a photo of the map before you leave....just in case!
Follow the trail markers and cross the footbridge over Jane Brook. The trail follows the brook a short distance before heading under the old Railway Bridge.
The trail offers occasional glimpses of the brook as you wander along this relatively flat section of the trail to National Falls. Make sure you stop to explore the falls and keep an eye out for orchids.
After National Falls the trail climbs some stairs and narrows. As you gain height you can see across the valley to the Railway Reserves Heritage Trail as it passes the Swan View Tunnel. There is a turn off point to head back down to National Falls on a rough 1.5km trail.
Flowering bushes line the narrow trail winds as you continue to climb gradually, passing some granite boulders and then emerging at the lookout where you have stunning views over the Perth Coastal Plain with the CBD buildings in the far distance. There are some lovely flat granite outcrops here ideal for a morning tea break before you hit the trail again. From here the trail follows the ridge line and it is narrow, rocky and uneven.
After a gentle descent off the ridge the trail widens out again.
Soon you turn onto a narrow, rough and rocky track which was actually flowing as a little stream when we were there. Climbing up this track, which was almost a small gully at some points, you walk through shady forest before emerging into wider spaces as the trail follows the valley alongside Christmas Tree Creek. With wide open slopes to one side this is where the wildflowers were prolific. You can stop off and rest on the rocks as the trail crosses Christmas Tree Creek at a small waterfall.
Not long after crossing the creek the trail splits as you hit a fire trail. The Eagle View Trail continues straight ahead and Christmas Tree Creek Trail heads off to the right following the fire trail. There is a long steady climb uphill - don't be fooled because just as you think you are about to crest the top more uphill track is exposed! Looking at the photos the trail looks like it goes forever but the trail starts from the bottom of the gully so only half is part of the Christmas Tree Creek Trail.
Finally after a long 2 km climb you crest the top near a water tank and from here the trail follows the ridge line again then starts to head downhill where it meets up with the other end of the Eagle View Trail Loop and soon afterwards the Wildflower Loop Trail.
The track continues to wind gently down hill (reward for that massive trek uphill!) until you have views across the valley to Hovea Falls. A short distance further along there is a side track you can take which will take you to Hovea Falls for a closer look. From Hovea Falls you can return to the picnic area along the wide Railway Reserve Heritage Trail.
Having explored Hovea Falls on another visit we continued along the trail until we reached Jane Brook, passing the quaint picnic huts and a nature playground near the car park. John Forrest National Park is Western Australia's oldest National Park (and the country's second oldest) and new signage near the picnic area tells the story of people notable for their contribution to the park, including John and Margaret Forrest.
All up the trail took 4 hours at a reasonable pace with lots of photo stops (how can you resist stopping to take photos of all the stunning wildflowers!) After the walk there is the opportunity to have a picnic or grab a bite to eat at John Forrest Tavern with the kangaroos.
We have previously explored the main picnic area walking the family friendly Jane Brook Promenade Trail (2.5km). The 4.5km Glen Brook Dam Trail is relatively flat as it circles the dam but is a narrow single file trail most of the way. The National Park Falls Trail is 2.2km long and is a lovely short walk which allows you to explore the falls. This is also a narrow trail but the falls can also be accessed from the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail which is flat and more suited to prams or bikes. If you venture further along the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail from National Falls you will get to the Swan View Tunnel. Hovea Falls can be accessed either on a bush trail or you can take the Railway Reserve Heritage Trail for a flatter walk on a wide trail.
There are public toilets in the picnic area but there are no facilities along the trails so take a ziplock bag with some tissues in case you need the bush toilet! Take plenty of water and some snacks to sustain you on this long walk.
The park has been upgraded recently and there are quite a few extra parking bays but you need to arrive early to get the better spots. As we left at noon the carpark was full and new arrivals were being directed to park on the road above the park entrance and it is a fair walk from there to the picnic areas - downhill there but then you face an uphill trek at the end of the day!
We drove out along the newly reopened Park Road Scenic Drive which winds it's way west looping back to Great Eastern Highway. There are only a few opportunities to park to enjoy the views and with only 2-3 bays available there is no guarantee you will be able to stop to enjoy the views across the National Park and the Coastal Plain. Please note the Scenic Drive gates close at 4 pm every day.