Karijini - The Crowning Jewel of the Pilbara


Karijini National Park (formerly know as Hamersley Range) is one of Western Australia’s most spectacular parks, and at 6274 square kilometres, it is the second largest in size only to Karlamilyi National Park.

Based in the heart of the Pilbara region some 1200 km north of the capital Perth, Karijini National Park offers visitors rugged gorges, waterfalls, plunge pools, walking trails of various levels and a red beauty that is distinctly north-west Australian.

The Pilbara is generally known as the mining hub of the west, but as the locals will proudly tell you, there is so much more to see than open-cut mines.

Situated just north of the Tropic of Capricorn, the best time to visit Karijini is in the late autumn, winter and early spring when the days are clear and warm. Summer in this semi-desert region can see the temperature soar well over 40 degrees with the chance of cyclones and flooding.


Karijini National Park
Photo Credit: Flickr/Obliot

A party led by explorer F T Gregory first visited the area in 1861 and he named it Hamersley Range after his friend Edward Hamersley. The park is the traditional home of the Banyjima, Kurrama and Innawonga Aboriginal people, with the Banyjima name for the area being Karijini. Occupation for the first Aboriginal people in the area dates back more that 20,000 years.

The rocks found at Karijini were some two billion years in the making, a time frame that we cannot even begin to comprehend.  Visitors to the park will also have the opportunity to see many beautiful wildflowers (in the cooler months) and a large array of Australian wildlife that includes red kangaroos, rock wallabies, lizards, snakes, bats, echidnas and goannas. There are also plenty of huge termite mounds which feature in the landscape all through the north and never fail to surprise me with their shapes and shear size.

Walk Trails in Karijini

Following is a list of the different walks you can take at Karijini supplied by the Department of Environment and Conservation.  Many of the walks are considered suitable only for fit and healthy people who are well-prepared so please take care and notify a ranger before starting out on the longer ones.

Circular Pool

This is a loose, steep descent, then an easy ramble to the hidden gardens of Circular Pool. (800m return.) This is an arduous walk, so you must allow at least two hours return.

Dales Gorge

A four-kilometre return trail runs along the bottom of the gorge. Allow three hours for the return walk.

Gorge Rim Walk and Circular Pool Lookout

A 1.2-kilometre return trail runs along the rim of Dales Gorge.

Fortescue Falls and Fern Pool

Walk down through the changing vegetation of the iron-rich gorge walls to the park's only permanent waterfall. (800 metres, two-hour return walk.)

Hancock Gorge

Journey to the 'centre of the Earth' down this steep, narrow gorge. Feel the highly polished rock on the way down to Kermit's Pool. (1.5 kilometres, three-hour return walk.)

Joffre Gorge

A short track runs from the car park to the lookout overlooking the falls, which are usually dry, and the plunge pool at their base. (100 metres, 10 minutes return.) Follow the marked route into the bottom of the gorge to the first pool downstream of the waterfall. (Three kilometres and a three-hour return walk.)

Kalamina Gorge

There is a 30-minute return walk into the gorge's lush, shaded pool. Alternatively, walk within the gorge along a stream and small ponds (Three hours return).


Karijini National Park
Photo Credit: Flickr/Charlene

Mt Bruce (Bunurrunha)

Spectacular views from the top of the second tallest peak in WA, called Bunurrunha by the Aboriginal people. There are three walks of varying lengths and difficulty: Marandoo View is 500 metres and takes 30 minutes return. Honey Hakea Track is 4.6 kilometres - allow three hours return. The walk to Mt Bruce Summit is 9 kilometres - allow five hours for the return trip. This walk is recommended only for fit and experienced walkers.

Red Gorge

Access into this gorge is via Knox, Joffre or Hancock Gorges. Rangers must be notified before entering it.

Weano Gorge

A walk trail takes you down the steep descent into Weano Gorge and through the bottom of the gorge to Handrail Pool (300m return). Please tell the ranger if you intend to walk past this point.

How to get to Karijini:

You can fly to Exmouth, Karratha, Newman, Paraburdoo (near Tom Price) or Broome to join a tour or hire a vehicle and drive yourself there.  Karijini is about 80 km north-east of Tom Price and you will need a four-wheel drive and a bit of research and preparation if you choose to make your own way.  Once you are there however, the first gorge is only a 50 metre walk from the car park.

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