Karijini National Park is a hidden gem full of stunning gorges, wildlife and natural swimming holes. Find out everything you need to know.
Visiting Karijini National Park was one of my favorite adventures in Australia. The national park is one of my favorite places on earth and absolutely magical. The landscape with its picturesque gorges, natural swimming holes and red rocks is amazing.
As a matter of fact, it is my favorite place in Australia followed by the cliffs of Sydney and Rottnest Island. Therefore I can only encourage you to add it to your Western Australia road trip itinerary. You won’t regret it! Karijini is a piece of heaven and a real hidden gem that many have never heard of.
Back in 2018, I spend three days in Karijini and I would have loved to stay longer. While there, I did most of the class 4 and 5 gorge hikes and they were some of the greatest hikes I did in my life. The length of the individual hikes might be short, but the things you will see will leave you breathless.
I really hope that you will love Karijini National Park as much as I do if you decide to visit it. And do not forget to bring swimwear and a towel. Swimming in the crystal clear rock pools after a hike is incredible.
How long to stay in Karijini?
Spend at least 3 days there to do most of what the national park has to offer. If you want to visit Karijini after reading this Karijini Guide, you can find a 3 days in Karijini National Park itinerary at the bottom of this post.
But if you feel like venturing even further of the beaten track, you should add at least another day as it will allow you to explore the abandoned town Wittenoom just outside of the national park or more remote gorges.
About Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park is set in the Hamersley Range in the Pilbara region. It is 75km E from Tom Price, about 4 hours from Port Hedland (325km) and 9 hours from Exmouth. With a size of 6.274 km² it is Western Australia’s second largest national park.
The large diversity within Karijini National Park can be traced back to fire stick farming by the Aboriginal people thousands of years ago. You can learn more about this at the Karijini National Park Visitors Center, so do not forget to stop there when you visit the park.
You can find a map of Karijini here.
Karijini National Park Entrance Fee
Visiting Karijini National Park is rather affordable. If you plan to spend more than 4 days in Karijini or want to explore other national parks in Western Australia, it is best to buy the Holiday Pass.
National Park Pass: 12 AUD per day per car (max. 12 people)
Holiday Pass: 60 AUD (valid for 4 weeks and all national parks in Western Australia)
Things to do before you explore Karijini
Plan out your trip there in advance and check if your vehicle can drive on all the roads as some of them are unsealed. Therefore it might be better to exit the park and reenter it at a different location. So take the driving time into account. You do not want to miss out on things because you run out of time.
There are no real shops within the park, so you should buy food and drinks before you head there. Hereby it is best to do so in Tom Price or Port Hedland as these cities have the best prices. The fuel station east of Karijini has a small selection of groceries as does Karijini Eco Retreat, but the prices there are steep.
Stop at the Karijini Visitor center when you enter the eastern side of the park. The staff there will be able to give you useful information and you can learn more about the history of this national park in Western Australia.
Karijini Gorge Tours
If you don’t feel like venturing into the gorges of Karijini on your own, you should check out the tours organized by West Oz Active Adventure Tours. Aside from simple gorge tours, they also offers tour to level 6 areas that are not accessible to the general public and photography tours.
My road trip crew and me actually met one of their guides at the very start of our trip in Broome, so we got a free gorge tour when he and a friend had a day off. They accompanied us in the first gorge and told us what to look out for, and it really boosted my confidence to explore the other gorges without a guide. Therefore I can recommend joining one of their gorge tours if you have no prior experience or just want to brush up your skills.
I love canyoning and dream of doing the Weano Descent with the company during my next visit to Karijini.
When to Visit Karijini?
The best time to visit Karijini is between April – October. The temperatures are lower and there is less rain. The days are warm, but the nights can get very cold due to the high location of the camping grounds. During the summer months the temperatures often exceeds 40 degrees celsius and it rains a lot, so it is best to avoid these months.
Where to Stay in Karijini National Park
By now there are three camping sites within Karijini National Park and several free ones nearby, which you can easily find with the Wiki Camps Australia app. Due to the stunning scenery, the national park has some of the best camping in Western Australia. This might just be my opinion, but I loved seeing the wildflowers and how close the camping spots are to the gorges.
The booking process for the two parks and wildlife campgrounds were altered in 2019. Therefore it is necessary to book your stay in advance. You can do so up to 180 days in advance, so it is best to plan ahead.
Karijini National Park Camping
Dales Gorge Campground
If you do want to shower, you have to drive to the Visitors Center and use their showers for a small fee (4 AUD). Just check the opening times before you drive there, so you do not stand in front of closed doors.
Arrive early if you want to explore Karijini National Park during school holidays. Otherwise you might have to wait a bit until you can drive to your pre-booked camping spot at Dales Gorge Campground.
The camp sites here have different sizes, so be sure to book one that suits your preference. Generators are only permitted at two of the six loop, so only book the Bungarra and Cockatoo loop if you need one. The official map of the campground should help you select a site.
Dales Gorge Campground Map
Karijini Overflow Camping
The Karijini Overflow Campground is the newest campsite and located around 10 km away from Dales Campground. It is close to the visitors center and you can use the showers there for a small fee. This campsite is only open during the peak periods.
Cost: 11 AUD p.p./night
You can book a camping spot at Karijini Overflow Camping on the Park Stay WA website. Keep in mind that you can only park one vehicle per booking, so be sure to book your stay accordingly.
I have not been to this campsite as it was established after my Western Australia road trip. However the reviews of this campground are great, so you should opt for this one if you do not mind the short drive to Dales Gorge.
It is not possible to stay at the Karijini Overflow Camping campsite for more than two days. If you wish to spend more time in Karijini, you can easily book further nights at the other two campgrounds.
Karijini Eco Retreat
Karijini Eco Retreat is a retreat that promotes sustainable tourism. It has a restaurant in the main building and a small shop where you can buy food.
You can camp there for $20 per person or stay in a deluxe tent, whereby prices vary between $189 and $349, so check the current price online before you arrive. All camping plots have access to hot showers that use rain water.
Be mindful of the sleeping times as the management does not take kindly to groups it considers to be loud after hours. Do yourself a favor and do not play music even if the volume is turned down.
We experienced a bit of a situation at this retreat that involved a noise complaint, and to this day I am not entirely sure how to explain the situation. If you want to know more about it, you can read my guest post for ShareBus.
There are hikes of varying levels in Karijini National Park and the rating follow the Australian standard. Class 2 hikes are walks on hardened surfaces and possibly a small amount of steps. Meanwhile class 3 might have some unstable surfaces and conditions depend on the weather. Both of these levels are rather easy one require little to no physical effort aside from walking.
Hikes of class 4 consist of natural tracks so do not expect even surfaces. Meanwhile class 5 hikes are rough terrain and require a high level of fitness. Outdoor experience is recommended. Do not do these hikes if the weather conditions are bad as it can get incredibly dangerous.
As you are hiking in gorges, there is a risk of flash floods so leave the area as soon as heavy rain sets in if you have already started the hike.
Things to do in Karijini National Park
Please be careful while exploring the gorges: while I was there with a group of amazing women, a tour guide told us how hard it is to rescue someone that injures themselves in the gorges. And I honestly do not want to be responsible for adding to their workload. So please heed the warning signs.
I want to give you an overview of everything one can do at my favorite place in Australia, so this guide includes some things that I have yet to do. But I will tackle them once I return there.
Mount Bruce (Punurrunha)
Mount Bruce is the second highest mountain of Western Australia with a height of 1235m. There are various hikes on Mount Bruce and I recommend starting all of the just after sunrise. Hereby all three hikes start at the car park and both the Honey Hakea Track and Summit Hike pass Marandoo View.
Marandoo View: 500m, 30 minutes (Class 3)
Honey Hakea Track: 4.6 km, 3 hours return (Class 3)
Summit Hike: 9 km, 6h return (Class 4) – amazing view over mountain range
Hamersley Gorge is located in the northwest of the national park and away from the other gorges of Karijini. It is a 400 meters, 1 h return trail that end at the picturesque Hamersley Waterfall.
A 4WD is recommended for the drive to the car park, but if you drive slowly, a 2WD is sufficient.
Handrail Pool: 1 km, 1.5 h
If you swim through the pool, you can continue the hike to its nearby ending point. Be aware of the fact that the water here is colder than in the other natural pools of Karijini National Park. So please do not just jump in and allow you body to get used to the water temperature – especially if the air temperature breaches 40 degrees celsius.
The Hancock Gorge hike also starts at Weano car park and is divided into two parts. The first part is class 3, while the rest is class 5. You will have no choice but to walk through water, so only bring gear that you don’t mind getting wet or a waterproof bag.
Hancock Gorge – Part 1: 135 meters, 10 minutes return
The easy part of the hike ends at a ladder. If you climb down, you will proceed to part 2.
Hancock Gorge – Part 2: 200 meters, 45 minutes return
This is the best part of Hancock Gorge as it includes places know as Amphitheatre, the Spider Walk and Kermit’s Pool. I especially loved Kermit’s Pool which marks the end of the trail. The area beyond is class 6 and requires a special permission.
The first part of the track towards Joffrey Falls is rather easy even if it is class 4, but the last climb is level 5. Climbing down the cliff is worth the amazing view that awaits you, but only do it if you are wearing sturdy shoes and are confident that you will be able to do it. I personally would rank the short climb the hardest thing I did in the national park. It is best not to climb down on your own. If you do not feel like climbing down you can just hike to the lookout to see the falls.
Knox Lookout: 300 meters, 15 minutes return
Gorge Hike: 2 km, 3 h return trail (class 4)
Gorge Rim: 2 km, 1.5 h
Dales Gorge: 2 km, 3 h return
Circular Pool: 800 meters, 2 hours return (class 4)
Circular Pool is the natural pool visited by the largest amount of people, but if you go there in the hour before sunset, you might be lucky enough to be the only one there.
Fern Pool (Jubura)
Fern Pool is only a 300m walk away from Fortescue Falls. And while this section is classed as class 4 it is fairly easy and absolutely worth it. Especially as Jubura is the only permanent waterfall in the park.
Once there, you can enter the water using a ladder and swim to the waterfall. It is a very serene location and sitting in the little cave under the waterfall is incredibly peaceful.
The pool is very important to the local Indigenous people, so please be quiet and respectful while swimming there.
Kalamina Gorge is the shallowest gorge of Karijini. It is a class 4 hike, but considered to be a perfect introduction hike. As you venture through the gorge you walk along a stream and ponds. The trail ends at Rock Arch Pool and is is 3 km long and takes 3 h. However you will need a 4WD to access this gorge.
Oxer Lookout & Junction Pool Lookout
These two lookouts are located close to each other and there is a narrow trail connecting these two. They are close to the Weano Recreational Area and getting there is a 800 meters, 30 minutes return walk.
Junction Pool Lookout is 130 meters high and allows you a view of the junction of the Joffre, Hancock, Weano and Red Gorges.
The view these viewpoints offer you is stunning so be sure to visit. While I was at the Junction Pool Lookout a flock of bird flew through the gorge and it only added to the scenery.
I personally did not visit Wittenoom as our car could not handle the road there, but it was recommended to us by locals. Wittenoom close to Karijini is an abandoned town with only two remaining citizens. However, visiting this place is not without danger.
It is up to you if you want to visit it, but be aware of the possible health hazard due to asbestos mining between 1937 and 1966. There are many warning signs that advise you not to do it, but it is possible.
In its natural state, the blue asbestos is harmless and only its dust is lethal. Therefore some say that going there is fine as long as you’re not planning on throwing dirt in the air or eating something that has fallen to the ground. However inhaling a single asbestos fiber can be deadly.
In the end, I cannot tell you what you should do, so please do your own research before you decide to visit Wittenoom. If you decide to go, do not camp there and leave the area once you have explored the ghost town. Furthermore wearing a mask while exploring the town also doesn’t hurt.
The condition of the road there varies. So if you decide to go to Wittenoom, I recommend inquiring about its condition at the fuel station close to the national park. In general, it is best not to drive there with a normal rental, but a 4WD will easily handle the road there.
I admittedly was not sure if I should include Wittenoom in this Karijini National Park guide. But in the end, I figured that locals might recommend it to you too. Therefore I prefer it if you have some general knowledge of the danger. Do your research and make an informed decision.
Yampire Gorge (closed)
If you own an old travel guide, it might still list Yampire Gorge and its’ trails. Please be aware that this gorge is closed to the public due to the high amount of asbestos. Do not try to enter this area. It is even more dangerous than exploring Wittenoom.
What to Bring to Karijini National Park
- walking shoes or trainers for all other walks
- swimwear and microfiber towels
- a good and sturdy camera (like the Olympus TG6)
- fly net
- hiking backpack
- trash bags (as it’s not possible to dispose of trash at the camping spots or elsewhere)
Phone Reception in Karijini National Park
It is likely that that you won’t have cell phone reception while you’re in the park. Telstra is the company with the best reception off the beaten track. But even with Telstra I had no reception except for a very limited service at the camping places. Therefore it is recommended to download a map of the area before you head to the national park. Additionally you should always let someone know where you are if you explore the gorges on your own.
3 Days in Karijini Itinerary
Day 1: Dales Gorge Area
Accommodation: Dales Gorge Campground or Karijini Overflow Campground
Day 2: Hancock Gorge, Weano Gorge, Joffrey Gorge, Knox Gorge, Kalamina Gorge
Start out your day with Hancock Gorge and Weano Gorge. They are both incredibly stunning and a must if you feel fit enough. I absolutely loved both of them.
Afterwards you should head towards Karijini Eco Retreat which is situated close to Joffrey Gorge and do one of the hikes there.
Accommodation: Karijini Eco Retreat
Day 3: Mount Bruce, Hamersley Gorge
Mount Bruce is located outside of the limits of the national park, so it is best to do it as you leave the national park. It is recommended to woke up early if you want to do the summit hike.
If you want to do more after the Mount Bruce hike, you can head to Hamersley Gorge which is approximately 57 km away.
Accommodation: Tom Price Tourist Park