Location: Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary, Gidgegannup

Distance: 11.7km loop

Grade: 3

Trail Marker: Yellow Triangle with Numbat

Duration: 6 - 9 hours

Cost: $5, bookings must be made in advance. Please call 08 9572 3169

Toilet Facilities: Yes, at start/finish

Dog Friendly: No

Date Hiked: 15th September 2018

The Numbat Trail is a challenging 12 kilometre loop offering some of the most spectacular views of the surrounding Avon Valley. Located within the Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary walkers are welcomed with an abundance of native fauna & flora along the well maintained paths with a variety of awe inspiring views and landscapes that distract those from the tough climbs. The estimated time to do this hike varies. Trails WA say half day, Paruna Wildlife Sanctuary recommend allowing 6 - 9 hours so that's what I have written.

I've done this hike a few times over the last couple of years so thought it's probably time to do a blog on it. The first time Dave, myself and Sophie took 7 hours but we did have some amazing encounters with wildlife. I've included a few of those pics below. It's amazing how the landscape has changed over the year. The second time I led a large group of hikers and we did it in 6 hours, once again had lots of time for nature immersion and admiring the wildlife. This walk we did with a smaller group in 6 1/2 hours which is our standard really for any half day hike allowing us plenty of time for some nature immersion activities. It can definitely be done quicker, I've seen people signing out after 4 hours but I guess it comes down to your purpose for hiking the trail. Is it just to say you have accomplished that one or do you really want to enjoy the experience. Ask yourself that and that will determine the time you need to allow yourself.

Each visit has been slightly different in regards to what I have seen. The first time as mentioned above we had lots of wildlife encounters, with Kangaroos mainly but found ourselves a beautiful Echidna right at the top lookout which kept us distracted for at least 30mins. What is so funny about this day was that we were first on trail, had some big groups pass us, by gosh they were noisy, and then saw on their departing notes that they were disappointed as they did not see a single Kangaroo or anything. Just goes to show you that how you walk through nature quite often dictates the experience you will have.

Getting back to this walk now, we arrived nice and early hoping to catch some low fog in the valley but the sun was already up shining it's warmth down upon us which was a nice feel to start to the day as well so a quick loo stop which by the way is essential as there are no toilets on the track, before we began our half day hike. Making our way along the trail we begin our walk along a beautiful boardwalk that runs along a granite outcrop to protect the fragile habitat below.

The trail then continues on pass a small dam, over a small bridge and then winds its way through the thick vegetation climbing up the Wandoo Slope, a taste of the many inclines to come. A beautiful granite outcrop can be visible about half way up on the left along with a lookout just prior. The views provide glimpses of the beauty you will be privy to for the rest of the day.

Spring time is the perfect time to visit with flowing creeks, lush green views, chirping birds, historic monuments and spectacular spring wildflowers. Orchids are a plenty with some beautiful Cowslips and Spider Orchids being seen. Walking through the ever changing vegetation of Wandoo,  Powderbark, Jarrah and Marri Trees is a highlight for me. The contrast of colours they all throw out, very warming and calming. The sanctuary provides quite a few picnic tables throughout so there some great opportunities to really spend the whole day exploring every part, there certainly is no need to rush through the experience. Continue on downhill via switchback trails with more wildflowers in sight and you might just spot yourself a cheeky little red robin who quite happily posed for the camera on this occasion. The first sights of the Avon River and main East Railway can be seen in the valley below. The track continues downhill along the top of Paruna Gorge to a large viewing platform where you will find the first waterfall. This was quite lovely for us as it was flowing this time, my first two visits I was not so lucky. Continuing over a wide 4wd track making your way once again up a small incline where you will find another beautiful wooden boardwalk leading out to a large exposed granite slab, providing the first lot of really awe inspiring views of the valley, railway and river below. The trail then skirts along the ridge once again with some of the most beautiful views. Lots of greenery this time of year too which was lovely to see. The amount of granite outcrops in the sanctuary was lovely with rich contrasts providing some great photo ops. The granite outcrops also provide nice little places to sit and reflect on our time in nature.

At approximately the 4km mark you will see another Trail Junction point. We continued up to the right ready to complete phase 2 of the Numbat challenge. To get to the next loop we walked the ridge between the two alongside a large granite wall, prickly hakea and one sided bottlebrush. The vegetation at this point completely changes compared to what we walked through on the western side. The sanctuary pamphlet talks about fences and the need to shut gates but they are quite outdated as you can technically walk around all gates. This section is nice and hilly. Found a fairly new Numbat Trail sign as we crossed another wide 4wd track signally us to take the single track downhill to the valley below and once again we found a switchback trail that took the nastiness out of the steep incline we would have faced. It wasn't long before we reached the main creek below and crossed the small footbridge where you come to the next trail-head sign. It signals right to do the loop from here but it can really be done either way. We turned left and made use of the picnic table to stop for morning tea. Make sure you allow time to explore here as this is where we found waterfall number two.

Departing the picnic area we continued our ascent up to monument lookout which houses a plaque that was unveiled by Hon. Wilson Tuckey MP, the Minister for Forestry and Conservation as well as Dr Tim Flannery. It marked the creation of the Paruna Wildlife Corridor linking Walyunga and Avon Valley National Parks on the 4th November 1998. From here it's up and along the ridgeline again before heading down the switchbacks to a wide 4wd track. To complete the loop you would turn right and head back downhill however I recommend taking the spur trail (which at this point is now straight ahead) and walk the 280m up and out to a spectacular rocky lookout, probably my favourite viewing platform of the walk. Once again I highly recommend spending some time exploring this area as this is where we found the Echidna last time. If your in a small group and it's nice and quiet you might just get lucky, Quendas and Kangaroos have also been seen frolicking this part of the sanctuary. Following the spur trail back down we then turned left and completed the loop back to the first picnic table along the creek where waterfall number 3 can be found. We then retraced our steps back along the same ridge to the 2nd trail-head junction.

I remembered at this point that this is where the inclines/declines and steps begin to take their toll as walkers are then faced with an incline of steep switchbacks. This is usually where the knees start to hurt lol  Thankfully there is a few little natural seats along the way so just take your time. Once you get to another trail head junction, there is another spur trail to the left. A 100m walk is where you will find the John Forrest Cairns and some spectacular views. The cairns are still in excellent condition given that they were built in 1879 during the original survey trip through the valley. Follow the spur trail back down to the junction continuing straight along the ridge taking in the scenery through thick Parrot bush and down stone steps watching the vegetation change below your feet from red pebbly soil to white sands.

Passing by a sandy stream, the Possum Trail links in from the left and from here on out to the carpark all three trails follow the same path back. Follow a wide 4wd track up through thick Wandoo before turning left and heading out to the massive granite outcrop called 'Pink Rock' named after a pink feather flower that flowers in late spring. I couldn't see any in bloom at this time. Follow a beautifully maintained wooden boardwalk out to the final viewing area where the Avon and Blackwood Rivers can be seen. The granite in places is cracked to form sheets which is a natural process of weathering caused by the heating and cooling of the rock. Take the trail back along the boardwalk to the junction sign and turn left to walk along the fence for a short distance to another beautiful spring wildflower display as you make your way back to the carpark.

We hope this blog inspires you all to start planning your adventures throughout Australia's biggest state, best known for its spectacular landscapes, breathtaking beaches, wildflowers, wildlife, rugged coastlines and ancient regions.

There is a trail waiting for you all. Get outdoors and experience extraordinary!