Kalamunda Railway Heritage Trail
The first day of the Noongar season of Makuru, which marks the cold and wet months of June and July and a public holiday for WA day, led us to explore the Kalamunda Railway Heritage Trail. Although we explored both sections I would recommend walking or riding the shorter Northern section with the kids before a picnic in beautiful Stirk Park. Explore the Find a Fairy Trail or visit the Heritage Village for a full day out.
The original rail line was built in 1890 to transport timber from Canning Mills to the Midland timber mill. The railroad led to rapid development of the Kalamunda area as it also allowed fresh produce to be transported to the growing population of Perth. In 1949 a coal strike forced the closure of the railway line and it never reopened as road transport became a viable alternative. In 1952 the railway lines were completely removed but the council retained the land and maintains the trail which cuts through the bush in two sections either side of the town. You can enjoy either the shorter northern section or the longer southern section, choosing your distance to suit your family, as they are both there and back trails.
Northern Section - 4 km return
The northern section starts on Elizabeth Street, a convenient distance from Stirk Park where we parked. Although it is an uphill climb to the beginning of the trail once you are on the trail it is flat and very gently inclined (downhill going north and ever so slightly uphill on the return!) The trail officially runs for 2 km however we misread the map and thought the trail took us all the way to the top of the Zig Zag Road, which it does, but the distance is more like 3 km. We forged on hoping for the stunning views of Perth from the top of the Zig Zag Road but the trail stopped at Lascelles Road and we didn't continue on to the lookout.
Side Note: If you haven't driven the Zig Zag Road at Gooseberry Hill make sure you add it to your wish list. The Zig Zag road follows the original rail line and twists down the steep gradient in a series of long hairpin turns. It is a very narrow road and therefore traffic only operates in one direction, down hill from Gooseberry Hill, to take advantage of the stunning views across the Perth Coastal Plain and and the Helena Valley. There are small bays dotted along the road so you can pull over to take photos. The Zig Zag Road is not recommended for walking however once a year in October it is closed to traffic so that hikers can enjoy the walk in wildflower season. Sadly the road is temporarily closed to traffic for 6 months from May 30 2020 but on the flip side this might be the time to hike it!
The Railway Heritage Trail is well maintained with some sections that get a little slippery from pea gravel or the multitude of gumnuts sent down from the trees above. It is easily manageable for older kids on bikes or for wheeling prams. The trail is family friendly with mostly walkers, dog walkers and the occasional bikes ridden by individuals or families. The road cyclists use the road so there are no speedsters whizzing by on the trail. We didn't work out that the signposts with 1 and 2 on them measure the distance in km from Elizabeth Road (we only worked this out walking on the southern section) and these are quite a handy guide. A highlight was the delightful surprise of coming across Gumn(u)town, a little grove of toys set up by the side of the path. Another surprise was the memorial to an American aircraft that crashed in the bush after taking off from Perth in 1945.
If you are walking this trail for the views there are only a couple of glimpses through the trees to the Perth Coastal plain so it is not a scenic walk. At the time of our walk there were still glimmers of autumn leaves in people's yards and the very occasional wildflower but I think the optimum time to do this walk would be in Spring when the wildflowers are out and perhaps there is some water trickling down the embankments.
Because this trail has Railway Parade on one side and Williams Street on the other there is quite a lot of traffic noise until you get beyond the 2km mark when it is quieter. The trail also crosses several side streets so make sure the kids know to stop at the road if they run ahead.
Southern Section - 8km return
The Southern section starts opposite the Bibbulmun Track Northern Terminus on the corner of Mundaring Weir Road and Railway Road. This section is 4 km in each direction although the track itself continues on beyond the 4 km mark. With mountain bike trails weaving through the early section you can hear the bike riders off to both sides and occasionally they cross the heritage trail. Further along there were more riders but the trail is wide enough to accommodate both walkers and riders.
There is only one small section which offers views across the valley, close to the 2 km marker. We walked the full 4 km to the Walliston Siding however in hindsight if we walked this trail again we would only cover the first 2 km before turning around. This early section includes the views and the South Kalamunda Siding.
Being a long walk with not too much scenery to look at we found we were noticing the plants including the lovely colours on the bark of the trees, fungi, and the occasional flower.
We wandered through Kalamunda town between the two trail sections passing the Kalamunda History Village which nestles around the original station buildings, now listed by the National Trust. The village has a collection of heritage buildings (appropriately on WA day we stopped to have a look - through the fence as it was closed) which you can explore during opening hours - entry fees apply. During school holidays the Village runs a number of interactive programs for children.
If you are walking both sections of the trail you will pass through Kalamunda's town site where you can enjoy a meal and a drink or if you wish to explore more of the local history you can follow the Kalamunda Town Centre Heritage Walk Trails. Pick up a brochure from the Zig Zag Cultural Centre, the History Village or the Kalamunda Library or download the app. Kalamunda also has lots of fairies residing in town so grab a map and follow the trail to Find A Fairy.
The rail heritage trail is an easy hike or ride as it is flat and the track is wide and well maintained. I would recommend it for family walks with young children in prams or young bike riders or if you walk with someone elderly who finds hilly trails too difficult. You can walk or ride as far as you want to before turning around. If I were to do this one again I would come in Spring to enjoy the wildflowers.
On another side note to prevent the spread of dieback please stay on the tracks and try to avoid mud. After your walk clean your shoes by scraping off any soil and mud, wash shoes with water and if possible use a small spray bottle to apply methylated spirits to sterilise the soles of cleaned shoes.