The Pilgrim Trail - Bells Rapids to Walyunga
Updated: Feb 4
EDIT: The February 2021 Woorooloo Fire has severely impacted this area. Please seek updated information before accessing this trail.
Walyunga National Park and Bells Rapids are both firm favourites and this walk combined the two. Being uncharted territory we joined Off the Beaten Track for a guided hike for this one, setting off at 7am from the car park at Bells Rapids (yes it was only just light but at least there was no problem finding a parking space!)
We crossed the Bells Rapids Footbridge and although the water was flowing there were not too many rapids yet - more rain is needed for that to happen. Across the bridge you have the option of turning left to walk along the edge of the river on the River Walk or you can turn right to head up the infamous (and very steep) Goat Track. However today we discovered a third option...turn right immediately alongside the river and look for the Pilgrim Trail markers.
The Pilgrim Trail is a 185 km trail from Subiaco following the course of the Swan/Avon Rivers into Walyunga National Park where it diverts north to New Norcia. The trail retraces the steps of Dom Rosendo Salvado, a Spanish Benedictine monk who walked from Perth to establish the Benedictine Monastery at New Norcia. We have come across sections of this trail before while exploring the many beautiful walks along the northern bank of the Swan River.
The Pilgrim Trail section between Bells Rapids and Walyunga is about 6 km each way, taking 90 minutes to two hours in each direction. The well marked trail is mostly flat but has sections that are quite rough with rocks, tree roots, fallen trees and muddy patches to negotiate. The narrow trail is single file most of the way with some wider sections.
It was ever so peaceful walking through the bush - the silence only broken by the calling of birds
(and the occasional train trundling past on the track which runs adjacent to the river on the opposite bank!) Sometimes we could hear water rushing over the rocks but mostly the water just streamed silently by. Recent rain has made everything fresh and green. Tranquillity!
There are a few landmarks along the way: old bridge posts, large boulder clusters - one of which sadly has graffiti on it, rock cairns and the river level markers which lead from the path down to the river (9M) but also extend up the hill a considerable distance. They do make you wonder how deep this river used to be!
After crossing into Walyunga National Park you pass what was historically one of the largest known Aboriginal campsites around Perth. This area has been used as a meeting place for thousands of years and was still in use by the Nyoongar people late last century. It is now a registered Aboriginal site.
The trail emerges at the Walyunga Pool car park where there are picnic tables, barbecues and a toilet. The water is not suitable for drinking so make sure you bring plenty from home. A large sign provides details of the various walking trails you can access in the National Park. Off the Beaten Track produced some wonderful herbal tea and a trail mix snack from their backpacks and we enjoyed the peaceful serenity while we ate.
After a rest we followed the Walyunga Heritage Trail (1.6km return) which meanders along the river bank between Walyunga Pool and Boongarup Pool. This wider trail is well maintained and has interpretive signage along the way explaining Aboriginal myths and legends and the importance of plants and animals to the Nyoongar people, who traditionally camped in this area. This track is generally flat but has some small inclines and a few steps. Sections fall away quite steeply to the river so watch the kids. Along the way you will see the "gates" on the river which are part of the Avon River Descent.
At Boongarup Pool the Avon River and Woorooloo Brook merge to become the Swan River.
You can continue to walk 1.8km (each way) upstream from here to Syd's Rapids. You can also explore the other trails featured in our Walyunga National Park blog: https://outandaboutfnc.wixsite.com/outandabout/post/2018/05/21/walyunga-national-park
Walyunga is a National Park so an entry fee of $15 per car applies, dogs are not permitted and the gates close at 5pm. Camping at the nearby campground is available by prior arrangement with the ranger.