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Karijini National Park

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Karijini National Park is WA’s second-largest protected area, with spectacular, accessible gorges in the north and a vast unvisited section to the south, separated roughly by Karijini Drive, the southernmost of the two roads running through the park. Travellers rave about the nerve-jangling walks, timeless scenery and sparkling waterholes here, and are often taken aback at the lush, spinifex-covered hills and proliferation of white-trunked snappy gums that sprout from the blood-red rock, distinguishing the Pilbara from the better-known but drier Kimberley, especially in July and August (the busiest months). Karijini Drive is sealed, but the northern Bunjima Drive, which runs between the gorges, is predominantly corrugated dirt – barring adverse weather however, the park remains accessible for all vehicles throughout the year, although 2WD may find things a little bumpy. Gorges may flood and get extremely hot between November and April, so this is worth bearing in mind.

The gorges themselves cut through the north-facing escarpment of the Hamersley Ranges and all offer spectacular views as well as a range of graded walks through their interiors. While lesser trails are not uniformly well marked, the “Trail Risk” signs certainly are, and will warn you if you’re about to venture into a Class 6 area. Injuries are common in the park, and fatalities do occur, so think carefully about which trail your level of fitness will allow you to complete comfortably, and wear solid walking sandals – on many walks a small slip could see you plunge a fair distance down a gorge face. There are scores of superlative swimming holes in the park, but they tend to be situated deep in the gorges, and are rarely less than absolutely freezing, even on the hottest days. You should always keep a keen eye on the weather forecast and your watch within the park – gorges can flood very quickly if it rains, while ascending out of the gorges in anything less than full daylight is a definite no-no.

The park has a western entrance, accessed from Highway 1 via Tom Price (50km away and the best place to base yourself when exploring the park) and an eastern entrance, accessed via the Great Northern Highway from Newman in the south or Port Hedland to the north. Whichever way you enter, make sure you fill up at the last available fuel station as driving distances in the park tend to be underestimated; count on doing around 250km. There’s limited food and drinking water in the park, so it’s best to bring your own just in case. Unless you’re on a tour, you’ll need your own vehicle to visit Karijini.

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