For nature lovers and those who simply want to take a break from the hectic city life, Kennedy Range National Park has plenty to offer.
Located in the Gascoyne region of Western Australia, the Kennedy Range National Park lies around 830 kilometres north of Perth and approximately 150 kilometres east of Carnarvon.
The spectacular weathered plateau covers an area measuring 1,416.6 square kilometres. Forming a huge mesa, the natural landscape features sandstone cliffs on the southern and eastern sides, interrupted only by canyons rising to steep elevations of 100 metres.
Once home to the Maia and the Malgaru aborigines, archaeological evidence suggests that this area was inhabited by these indigenous Australians for more than 20,000 years before the Europeans arrived.
So, if you have the Kennedy ranges on your travel bucket list, you’ll not only be steeped in the beauty of nature but also visit a place of great cultural and historical significance.
While there, you can keep yourself actively engaged with the following things to do:
1. Rough it out on a 4WD ride
Got a taste for adventure? If you’re riding a high-clearance and capacity four-wheel-drive vehicle, you can access the western side of the Kennedy Range National Park via the Gascoyne River crossing comprising around 200 metres of soft sand.
Do note that the track is really rough and there are no marked walk trails in this area. So, before embarking on this activity, do your research and make sure you have all the equipment and supplies you need to safely manoeuvre this track.
You could also check at the information shelter found on the southern side of the Gascoyne River or at the one located around 35 kilometres north of the river, along the track leading from the west.
2. Explore the many walk trails at the park
There are two classes of walk trails in Kennedy Range:
- Class 3: You need to have a moderate level of fitness if you wish to tackle these trails. Although slightly modified for ease of access, these trails also feature unstable sections or surfaces.
- Class 4: Most of these trails are rough or unaltered, so be prepared for some challenging crossings. To take on these trails, you must have a moderate to high level of fitness.
The Kennedy Range National Park features six walk trails, namely Temple Gorge, Honeycomb Gorge, Drapers Gorge, the Escarpment Trail - which takes you to the top of the range - the Escarpment Base Trail, and Sunrise View.
- Temple Gorge Trail (Class 3): The Temple Gorge Trail takes approximately two hours to finish at a distance of 2 kilometres (return). The trail begins at the day-use site and you’ll be following a dry creek bed as your guide. It ends at a fork in the creek featuring a prominent rock face called the ‘Temple’.
- Honeycomb Gorge (Class 3): This rocky but generally easy walk takes only around 40 minutes to complete and has a distance of 600 metres (return). Here, you’ll see the characteristic mass of hexagonal holes or honeycomb formations along the cliff faces. The Honeycomb Gorge trail ends at a large natural amphitheatre featuring a seasonal waterfall and pool.
- Drapers Gorge (Class 4): This well-marked trail is only a 1.6-kilometre (return) hike, and usually takes about half an hour to complete. Although the start of the trail seems super easy, it comes with a rock scrambling (up and down) challenge across steep, loose stony slopes, as well as narrow rock ledges and overhangs.
- Escarpment Trail (Class 4): The Escarpment Trail measures 3.4 kilometres (one way) and takes about an hour to finish. You can begin your walk either at the car park or campground in the area. It’s best to start early as walking in the heat or near evening can make negotiating this trail more difficult, and you also need to allocate enough time for your return hike. Although there are marks across the trail, there are steep climbs, loose rocks and cliff edges you need to negotiate. Once you reach the top, you’ll be rewarded with gorgeous panoramic views of the vast landscape.
- Escarpment Base Trail (Class 3): Although the 5.8-kilometre (return) Escarpment Base Trail can take about half a day to complete and there are some slopes with loose rocks along part of the way, it is mostly suitable for moderately fit walkers. You can take your time taking in the views as you traverse sections with sheer rock surfaces, huge boulders and with a quick detour into Honeycomb Gorge. It’s best to start early for this trail and you’ll have enough time to catch the sunrise lighting up the cliffs in a soft red glow. You might even spot kangaroos in the area.
- Sunrise View Trail (Class 3): This short 300-metre (return) walk is ideal for morning people and only takes about 15 minutes to finish. It features an elevated viewing area, which offers a good view of the sunrise as well as the battlement-like face of the range.
Picking the most suitable season for walking along one - or more - of these trails is also important. For many, the best time to visit the park is August to September, when the more-than-80 species of wildflowers start to appear in their natural wildlife habitat after heavy rains.
Also, make sure to keep an eye on trail markers that signify the correct path - since some of these trails can be tricky to navigate. Although, looking out for trail markers is always important, regardless of the trail’s difficulty.
3. Camping underneath the stars
Kennedy Range National Park camping is another popular activity this side of Western Australia.
You can go to the Temple Gorge campground, which is a bush campsite. Booking is not required here and camping fees are $8 for adults, $6 for concession and $3 for children (up to 15 years of age).
Take note that Kennedy Ranges camping requires you to be self-sufficient as there is no water available here. However, there are drop toilets and a communal fireplace in the facility. There are camp hosts at the site from May to September, but if you come anytime outside of this period, you can pay via an honesty box.
Campers are advised to collect or purchase firewood before going to the park. Personal campfires are discouraged and fires are not permitted during summer and windy weather.
If you’d prefer a stay with access to water, power and amenities, consider camping in Carnarvon after your long day exploring the National Park.
General safety tips for park-goers
Hikers and campers are advised to come well-prepared and be self-sufficient, especially during the hotter months (December to March) when the risk of dehydration and exposure is especially high.
For your safety, try to observe the following tips:
- Walk in groups as there is safety in numbers, especially when someone is injured or if there’s an emergency.
- Share a detailed itinerary with your family or close friends before embarking on your trip.
- Be sure to carry cool water with you at all times. Bringing three to four litres of drinking water for yourself before going for a trail walk is a good amount, but be prepared to take extra water during the hotter months.
- If you’re going hiking, monitor the weather, and start and end early.
- Put on sun protection, including sunscreen, a wide-brimmed hat and a comfortable loose long-sleeved shirt.
- Wear the appropriate hiking gear, especially footwear.
- Follow trail signs and take regular breaks in between.
- Always be on the alert for loose dirt and rocks, undercut cliff edges and uneven ground.
Plan your trip to the Kennedy Ranges
The Kennedy Range National Park is a natural gem well worth the trip and ranks highly among the best national parks on offer in Western Australia.
If you’re headed to Carnarvon, make sure you book your accommodation at Carnarvon Capricorn Holiday Park. Here, you can prepare for the Kennedy Ranges leg of your journey and rest and recharge after spending time at the park.
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