Location: Mount Cooke, Monadnocks National Park
Distance: 9.5km loop
Grade: 3 - Variable terrain with some steep inclines
Trail Marker: Only partially marked withYellow triangle with black Wagyl (snake)
Duration: 4 - 5 hours
Elevation: 230m climb
Date climbed: 18th February 2018
Kml Trail File: Please click here.
It's not often Dave (hubby) and I get a day off together and when we do we are both usually to buggered to do anything so was stoked when we realized that we had Sunday off, we had energy lol and I was even more excited when he said 'lets go climb one of your mountains' 🙂
It was quickly decided that Mount Cooke would be our challenge for the day, a walk trail only documented by GPS of which I found the map and notes for via the Walk GPS website so after quickly gathering our things we jumped in the car and made our way to Monadnocks National Park. With perfect hiking weather in our favour we knew we were going to be in for a treat. Now, the starting point can be a little hard to find but basically it is 44km SE of Armadale along Albany Highway. Continue down Albany Highway for 2km past the start of the Cooke Pine Plantation, then turn left onto a narrow dirt track, look for the blue Parking sign, we found this option a little easier on the vehicle (we didn't have the 4WD). Follow the dirt road NE across the plantation area to reach a T-junction with another dirt road (Cooke Rd) along the NE side of the plantation and turn left, make your way a few hundred metres to till you come to a clearing on your right which is where you can park the car and begin your hike.
Mount Cooke is the highest granite monadnock in the Darling Range situated within the Monadnocks National Park. The 9.5km walk trail includes 3 kms along the main ridge and summit of Mount Cooke which sits at 582m above sea level (and about 200m above the surrounding plateau).
From the carpark we made our way north east along a vehicle track which leads to a smaller track close to the east bank of a stream course. The track continues north up the narrowing gully through the forest then over a sloping granite outcrop before again continuing up the gully. We crossed a stream course which had some slight dampness from the previous rains and then began our climb quite steeply through the forest and shrubland.
Continuing in a north west direction we came across an beautiful sloping outcrop (can be slippery so take care) which provided glimpses of the southern ledge. Continuing our climb we were in awe of each granite outcrop we came across which literally appeared to be moving as little Western Bearded Dragons scurried across the top. Quite friendly too, a little too friendly on one occasion. I am still not sure whether he scared me more or I scared him. Have you ever seen a lizard leap like a cat. I love lizards but this one caught me by surprise as I am sure he was making a beeline for climbing up my leg. My scream scared him stiff, pretty funny but definitely one of those times you have to see to really get what I mean. I really loved this part of the hike, this was probably where we spent the most time as we just couldn't stop turning around and taking in the views and being early morning there was still a lot of low cloud around adding a bit of mystery to the experience.
We continued onwards and upwards following the small rock cairns north across and up the steepish rock slope continually turning around to take in the sweeping views of the beautiful landscape boasting a beautiful view of Boonerring Hill which is located 17km SSE. This section can be a little tricky if your not paying attention, not that I really think you need to follow the rock cairns exactly but as long as you get to the top then your on the right track. This is the kind of spot you can sit and waste many many hours just immersing yourself in the beauty of nature so take your time, breathe in deeply and just be present in the experience. The amount of lizards that came right up to us just blew us away, experiences like that only come with patience and a willingness to slow down and enjoy the journey.
A little further up is where you will meet up with the Bibbulmun Track which is now your trail across the top of Mount Cooke to the Mount Cooke campsite. When you get to the top of the 120m climb up the outcrop make sure you explore around the large split boulder located just to the right (east) of the track. This is the famous Mount Cooke Cave people talk about, if you find it make sure you write your name in the book. It's a good size low-ceilinged cave , the perfect shelter for hikers caught in bad weather.
Continue on upwards onto the narrow rocky ridge providing more stunning views, this time east across the Darling Range and north up to Mount Dale on the horizon. We then follow the ridge for another 1km where we reach the actual summit rock cairn marker near the northern end. We were in awe of the large Balga Trees along the ridge which are absolutely beautiful, must be at least thousands of years old. It really is a special section to walk, taking in the views all around, just breathtaking.
We are nicknaming the rock on the left 'Big Foot' as it looks like a Dinosaurs foot, funny that no-one has mentioned this before, maybe our imaginations just go a little wilder then others haha
And check out the rock on the right, very cool pattern system on it, no idea what would cause that but interesting to say the least.
From here make sure you jump up on rocks and walk along there, you will see the track has a log over it so kind of gives you a warning to change direction. If you look up when your on the rocks you will see the Bibbulmun Track sign pointing the way.
Now you should start to get some good glimpses of Mount Vincent & Mount Cuthbert in the distance, there is a few vantage points to get good views. Walk GPS says to consider taking a worthwhile very short off-track diversion to a granite slab to the left. We got a bit confused here as you actually have to head down over a granite outcrop, the track is a small track easily missed to the left. The area boasts many rock cairns, almost like a hikers trademark to say they have been there. Not something we do anymore once we understood the damage Rock Cairns can actually have on the eco system.
The track then starts to descend down into the Valley towards Mount Cooke campsite with the trail becoming a little more like the pea gravel we all know so well on the Perth trails. Wasn't long before we came to the bridge, crossed over a large stream course and headed in to the campsite. The campsite was actually destroyed from the Mount Cooke wildfire in January 2003. The water tank was the only remnant that survived. The fire burnt through more than 18,000 hectares of forest through the Monadnocks. The fire was caused by a lightening strike and with high winds and a heavy build up of dry debris the fire burnt fiercely up the slopes, along the ridge of Mount Cooke and then south for another 25km.
The campsite has since been rebuilt providing Bibbulmun Track lovers with great accommodation for their multiday hiking experience.
Leaving the campsite you continue along the old sandy vehicle track which heads west north west from the campsite to Cooke Road where you turn left and continue on for approximately 2km. This section of the trail was a little uninteresting as your just following 4wd tracks but once you get back into the forest it picks up again. Turn left at the 2km mark onto an old vehicle track which heads uphill. Its about another 2km back to the carpark crossing over a number of. Look out for the track to the right at this point and veer right partly off-track descending through open forest. Cross a small stream course and you will then be back at the start.
Please note: This track is not marked (except the Bibbulmun Track section) so does require a good level of hiking experience. At the very minimum please make sure you have downloaded the map (available from Walk GPS, you need to pay for subscription) and trip notes to help you through. Make sure your phone is charged and if possible carry some sort of personal beacon, we use a SPOT Gen 3 device. Also make sure you have adequate water, minimum 3 litres per person.
We absolutely loved this mountain adventure, definitely one we will do again, I don't think you can ever get sick of the views. Hopefully this post inspires you to get along and check it out, we would love to hear your thoughts on the trail. Please feel free to tag us in your adventures.
We acknowledge the traditional owners of the land on which we walk, the traditional lands of the Whadjuk people & wish to acknowledge them as traditional owners paying respects to their Elders, past & present, and Elders from other communities who may be here today.