In the magnificent southern forests of Western Australia lies Mount Frankland National Park. Searches online will lead you to believe that this area really isn’t worth your time, aside from a little mountain with a lookout and a boring ol’ waterfall but Megan knows otherwise!
Once you decide to get exploring (which is why you’re reading this article right?) you’ll realise that this is a spot you don’t want to drive by.
Hiking in Mount Frankland National Park
Western Australia isn’t known for extensive or sky-scraping mountains, but size doesn’t matter right?
Mount Frankland or Caldyanup as known by the Minang people, should be your first stop. Although it’s a small mountain (or some would say anthill) compared to most other Australian state’s standards, atop Mount Frankland you can admire the beauty of the surrounding wilderness and survey what the area has to offer.
Hiking right to the top will take you about 40 minutes for the 1.2km trek. There are a number of other walks around the mountain ranging from 200m-1.6km and some are wheelchair accessible.
Mount Burnett is a favourite walk of mine. A one kilometre stroll around and up the back side of the granite boulders will take you to the top, where you can perch and admire the view, or look for orchids in the mossy crevices of the rocks.
Fernhook Falls & Gladstone Falls
Explore Fernhook Falls once you’ve set up camp – it’s just a short amble from the campground.
In the drier months, Deep River only trickles over these falls, making hundreds of little pools in the granite for wandering around and admiring your reflection. You may even get to watch some of the local parrots and other birds come in for a quick bathe if you sit quietly. Gladstone Falls is a hidden beauty, tucked away in the depths of the national park. In winter you can hear these cascading falls from kilometres away! You’ll need a 4WD to get there as the track can get muddy.
Rowells Pool is perfect for cooling down after a day of adventure. Get out that inflatable unicorn and float around with the tannin foams, or jump in and do some laps!
Gladstone Falls also has a decent area for swimming at the top and some cute little rockpools that warm up in the summer sun like a bath.
Remember that this is a wild place and with the tannins darkening the water, you need to be careful of hidden rocks and branches underwater. And don’t forget the salt for the odd leech or two!
Wild swimming? Read this
There’s Some Gnarly Paddling
Rowells Pool is a good spot for the inexperienced to splash around but don’t venture downstream unless you know what you’re doing, or the river is only trickling slowly (November-June). Inexperienced paddlers shouldn’t attempt to run this river when it’s flowing due to the number of hazardous obstacles and rapids.
Deep River is ideal for experienced whitewater paddlers when it’s at full flow (June-September, less flow from September-November).
If you’re an avid paddler, contact the local national park office for advice. You can travel the length of the river from Rowells Pool to South Coast Highway on the southern end of Mount Frankland National Park over a couple of days and camp along the banks. There are a number of areas that require portaging due to obstacles or dangerous rapids such as Gladstone Falls.
Mountain Biking The Mundi Biddi Trail
The Mundi Biddi Trail meanders past your basecamp, so why not take up this opportunity and pedal along some of the 1000km plus track? Mountain bikes are also great for making your way around the other forest tracks and hunting for wildflowers and majestic Karri and Tingle trees if you don’t have a 4WD.
Forest Bathing and Wildflower Hunting
Drive, walk or cycle down a forest track, find one of many secluded spaces this park has to offer and just be.
If you’re not into meditating, bring along your hammock and a book (or some snacks and a brew) then sit and listen to the sounds of the forest. For most of the year, you’ll be treated to an array of wildflowers including many native orchids. The best places to find orchids are around the granite outcrops scattered through the forest. There are also many towering Karri, Tingle and Marri trees for you to admire.
Swarbrick Art Loop
If you’re interested in abstract art or want to learn some more about the history of the area, head down to the south of the park to Swarbrick Art Loop. This track is wheelchair accessible and great for kids!
Basecamp: Fernhook Falls Campground
On Beardmore Road, in the middle of the park you’ll find the perfect basecamp, Fernhook Falls Campground. Complete with (multiple!) composting toilets, gas barbecues and an undercover camp kitchen, all you need to do is roll up, pitch up and you’re ready to explore! If you get in early you might even score one of the two huts within the campground, perfect for the cooler months.
The campground is perched alongside Deep River. A short stroll will take you to Rowells Pool for a morning dip. You can go at night if that’s your sort of thing, but don’t lose your clothes!
Campfires are allowed only during cooler months. This can change seasonally so it’s worth giving the local national park office a call. At the entrance to the campground should also be a sign to advise if campfires are prohibited for the time that you are visiting.
This is a paid campground so ensure you take some cash and pay up once you’ve secured an abode. These fees assist in maintaining everything which makes the campground a pleasant place to stay.
You don’t need a 4WD to get to Fernhook Falls Campground but the road isn’t sealed.
- Something to explore the river with: canoe/kayak/SUP/inflatable unicorn/floaties (depending on the season and your skill level)
- Mountain bike
- Drinking water and food
- Insect repellent and firewood
- Camping gear
- Something to sleep in (tent/swag/van)
- Hammock with tree-friendly straps
- Vehicle suitable for unsealed/gravel roads
- 4WD if you’re keen to explore the depths of the park
How To Get There
Mount Frankland National Park is located northwest of the little town of Walpole on the south coast of Western Australia. Albany and Manjimup are the closest bigger towns with Albany being 150km or 2 hours east and Manjimup 1 hour or 90km north of your basecamp at Fernhook Falls.