Logically, the view from a lookout is no different whether you drove to it or hiked to it. The rational part of my brain knows this, but the rest of me is convinced that the act of huffing up an enormous hill to get to a scenic overlook makes the vista seem so much more beautiful. If you’re like me, you’ll love the Echidna Trail. The 11km loop is the longest of five trails in Walyunga National park, about a 45-minute drive from Perth. One big steep climb from the river bank will get you sweating, but you’re rewarded with a sweeping panorama of the Avon River Valley. Visit in late winter or spring to see the river at its highest, along with many beautiful wildflowers.
The walk: The trail starts and finishes at the Walyunga Pool car park, which is the first turnoff on the right after the park entrance gate. Be sure to arrive in plenty of time to complete the walk by 5PM, when the gate is locked. Walyunga Pool is a great spot for a picnic before or after the hike, with picnic tables, barbecues and great views of the rushing river. From the car park, follow the triangular trail markers with the black footprints along the river bank. The first three kilometres of the Echidna follow the river bank, on a flat, well-graded path shared with a number of shorter trails. If you do the Echidna anti-clockwise (recommended) you’ll pass another picnic area at Boongarup Pool before a straight 1km section to Syds Rapid.
A rail line on the other side of the river carries both freight and passenger trains, including the famous Indian Pacific near the end of its 4,352-kilometre journey from Sydney. Syds Rapid is a great spot for a break, offering great views of the roaring white water. In August, it’s an ideal place to catch the action of the Avon Descent white-water race. From the rapids, the trail turns away from the river and begins its long ascent on a rugged 4WD track. The climb ends at the edge of some farm land, where you can take in a varied and idyllic view of native bush bordering green pastures.
After a few more ups and downs you’ll reach a fire spotting tower on Woodsome Hill, the highest point of the park. The trail flattens out a little after the hill, passing a series of scenic overlooks with sweeping views of the Swan Coastal Plain and the city skyline in the distance. From here the trail is essentially a long, slow descent back to the start point, through bush that was brimming with kangaroos and birds on my most recent visit. I wasn’t lucky enough to see any of the echidnas the trail is named for, but they are around!
If you finish early enough, be sure to stop in at some of the many fantastic wineries and gourmet food makers in the Swan Valley on your way back to the city.