Visiting Karijini National Park was one of my favorite adventures in Australia. With its red rocks, picturesque gorges, and serene natural swimming holes, the landscape of this national park will enchant you. It is one of my favorite places on earth and I can only encourage you to explore this wonderful, remote part of Western Australia.
Add several days in this park to your Western Australia road trip itinerary. I promise that you will not regret it! Karijini is a piece of heaven and at times it is hard to believe that most people have never heard of it. But that is what makes it a real Australian hidden gem.
Back in 2018, I spend three days in Karijini National Park, 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 take your breath away.
I really hope that you will love this natural paradise 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 and one of the best things to do in Karijini National Park.
Facts about Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park is located in the Hamersley Range in the Pilbara region. It is 75km east of Tom Price, about 4 hours south of Port Hedland (325km), and 9 hours away from Exmouth. With a size of 6.274 km², it is Western Australia’s second-largest national park.
Before the Karijini National Park was renamed in 1991 to recognize the historic significance of the area to the Aboriginal people, it was known as Hamersley National Park. To this day the park is a significant place for its traditional owners.
Therefore: Please pay respect to the cultural and environmental value of certain areas and mind the signs in the 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 Centre’, so do not forget to stop there when you visit this park.
You can find a map of Karijini here.
Karijini National Park Entrance Fee
The Karijini National Park entrance fee is 12 AUD per day per car. It is the standard rate for national parks in Western Australia, and if you already have a WA Holiday Pass you can enter Karijini National Park without additional fees.
If you have yet to get a Western Australia national park pass and plan to spend more than 4 days in Karijini or want to explore other national parks in the state, 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 in all national parks in Western Australia)
How long to spend in Karijini National Park
iI you want to do the very best things to do in Karijini National Park, it is best to spend at least 3 days there. Doing so will allow you to explore a large range of different gorges and allow for enough time to enjoy some of the natural pools.
If you want to see more than just a selection of gorges in Karijini National Park and might be interested in venturing even further off the beaten track, you should add at least another day to your itinerary. Doing so allows you to explore the more remote gorges or to simply relax at the beautiful campsites within this national park.
If you want to visit the national park after reading this guide, you can find a ‘3 days in Karijini itinerary‘ at the bottom of this post.
The Best Time to visit Karijini National Park
The best time to visit Karijini National Park is between April and 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 exceed 40 degrees celsius and it rains a lot. Therefore, it is best to avoid these months.
If you want to experience the wildflower season, the best time to visit Karijini is from June to September. After all, these months are the wildflower season of the Pilbara region, and the national park usually has some of the most beautiful flower fields full of purple mulla mullas and Karijini wattle.
Things to do before you explore Karijini
Plan out your trip to Karijini National Park in advance and check if your vehicle can drive on all the roads, as some of the roads within this park are unsealed. Therefore, it might be better to exit the park and reenter it at a different location to reach certain gorges. Take the driving time into account. You do not want to miss out on activities and Karijini gorges just because you have 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 lowest prices for groceries in the wider area. The fuel station east of Karijini has a small selection of groceries as does the Karijini Eco Retreat, but the prices there are steep and the selection is limited.
Be sure to stop at the Karijini Visitor Centre 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 wonderful national park in Western Australia.
Hike Ratings in Karijini
There are hikes of varying levels in Karijini National Park and the ratings follow the Australian standard. Class 2 hikes are walks on hardened surfaces and possibly a small number of steps. Meanwhile, class 3 might have some unstable surfaces and conditions depending on the weather. Both of these levels are rather easy and 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. Some 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 & Gorges
Please be careful while exploring the Karijini National Park 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 because someone that read this Karijini National Park guide injured themselves. 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. I will tackle them once I finally get the chance to return to Western Australia.
Mount Bruce (Punurrunha)
With a height of 1235 meters, Mount Bruce is the second-highest mountain in Western Australia. There are various hikes on Mount Bruce and I recommend starting all of them just after sunrise as it gets too hot during the day. All three Mount Bruce 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 the mountain range
Hamersley Gorge is located in the Northwest of the national park. It is the most remote gorge and quite far away from the other gorges of Karijini National Park. It is a 400 meters long trail that takes around 1 hour. It ends at the picturesque Hamersley Waterfall at the Spa Pool and is likely the most popular photo motive of the national park.
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
The starting point of this Weano Gorge hike in Karijini is the Weano car park. It starts out as class 3 and turns into a class 5 hike when you walk through a narrow passage of towering red rocks.
The last part of the trail just before the Handrail Pool can be slippery so watch where you step.
As you climb down to Handrail Pool, you will have to hold on to a handrail. From above, it looks a lot harder than it is, so do not worry about it. If you have made it this far, you will be able to do it. And the reward of swim between the high towering red walls is just incredible.
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. Allow your body to get used to the water temperature – especially if the air temperature reaches 40 degrees celsius.
Swimming in this natural pool in Weano Gorge was one of my favorite moments in Karijini. I can only recommend floating in the water and looking up towards the towering red walls of the gorge that seem to frame the sky.
The Hancock Gorge hike also starts at Weano car park. It is divided into two parts. The first part is class 3, while the rest of the gorge hike is class 5. You will have no choice but to walk through the water, so only bring gear that you don’t mind getting wet or a waterproof bag.
Bring a waterproof camera as you will definitely want to take pictures as you explore Hancock Gorge.
Keep your shoes on while walking through the gorge or you will slip. I decided to take mine off at one point and ended up regretting it after the first few meters. Let’s just say that I am glad that there is no video footage of it.
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 known as Amphitheatre, the Spider Walk, and Kermit’s Pool. I especially loved Kermit’s Pool which marks the end of the trail.
Karijini National Park Gorges Class 6 Connection
The area beyond Kermit’s Pool has a class 6 rating. Those that want to enter it have to obtain permission from the rangers of Karijini National Park.
Several years ago, the area used to be accessible and it was possible to do a loop through Hancock Gorge and Weano Gorge via the Junction Pool. However, this part of the gorge is way too dangerous for normal hikers and many injuries have occurred in this passage.
It might seem tempting to attempt it anyway, but I under no circumstances recommend it. Please think of those that have to rescue you if you injure yourself and do not do it.
You can reach Joffre Gorge via a path from Karijini Eco Retreat or by walking there from the day parking lot of the gorge. The two paths approach the Joffre gorge from different sides, so the length of the hikes can vary.
The first part of the track towards Joffre Falls is rather easy even if it is class 4. At least, if you do not mind climbing down some bigger boulders that form a path into the gorge.
The last climb of the Joffre Falls hike is level 5 and starts at the area of Joffre View, an unofficial viewpoint. It is the place where many stop their hike. After all, the final cliff is quite steep and the climb is not for the faint of heart.
You have to scramble down some rock slates and at times you have to feel where to place your feet rather than see it. Therefore, it is best not to climb down if no one is with you.
Do yourself a favor and closely follow the arrows that indicate where you should climb down. You can do a minor detour for the first ‘step’ by climbing down to the right of the first descent. After that, the official route is the only safe option.
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 Karijini National Park. I loved it, but it was hard to make myself do it as the exact path is not obvious before you actually climb down the individual passages.
If you do not feel like climbing down, you can just walk to the lookout to see the falls and the amphitheater from above. Do not force yourself to do it if you are not confident enough in your skills. Only four out of the ten of us did the final descent to the pool downstream of Joffre waterfall.
The falls are rarely more than a trickle if you visit Karijini months after the wet season. Nonetheless, standing at the foot of the falls is amazing. The area is a natural amphitheater with curved walls and is just impressive.
I absolutely loved standing at the foot of Joffre Falls and think it was well worth the climb. Therefore, I can only recommend it to you. That is if you are experienced enough to do so and have proper footwear.
Be aware of the fact that it is not allowed to climb up the waterfall even if there is no water
Joffre Lookout: 100 meters, 10 minutes return
Joffre Falls: 3 km, 2 hours return (class 5)
Knox Lookout: 300 meters, 15 minutes return
Gorge Hike: 2 km, 3 h return trail (class 4)
Dales Gorge is located in the eastern part of Karijini National Park and offers several hikes along the gorge rim or through the gorge. Additionally, there are several natural swimming pools in this gorge.
Gorge Rim Hike: 2 km, 1.5 h
Dales Gorge: 2 km, 3 h return
Circular Pool: 800 meters, 2 hours return (class 4)
The Circular Pool is the natural pool in Dales Gorge that is 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.
The walk to Fortescue Falls is 800 meters long and a return trip should take an hour if you plan to spend some time at Fortescue Falls.
There are metal staircases that lead you down into the gorge and right towards the falls. You can swim here, so it is the perfect place to cool off in the heat of the day.
Fern Pool (Jubura)
Fern Pool is only a 300m walk away from Fortescue Falls. And while this section of Dales Gorge is rated 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.
I can only encourage you to visit Fern Pool as the sun is setting. The fading sunlight alters the colors of the area and it only makes this area of Karijini National Park more special.
Kalamina Gorge (Nhamurrunha)
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, is 3 km long, and takes 3 h. However, you will need a 4WD to access this gorge.
Oxer Lookout & Junction Pool Lookout
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 National Park, 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 are 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. 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, it might be a good idea to wear a mask while exploring the town.
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. 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.
Karijini National Park Accommodation
By now, there are three campsites within Karijini National Park. Additionally, there are 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. Therefore, I can only recommend camping within the national park and only opting for free camping the nights before you hike Mount Bruce (Punurrunha).
The booking process for the two parks and wildlife campgrounds was altered in 2019. Therefore it is necessary to book your stay in advance. You can do so up to 180 days in advance. The national park might be a hidden gem, but it is still popular amongst locals, so it is best to plan ahead.
Karijini National Park Camping
Dales Gorge Campground
Cost: 11$ p.p./night
When you are camping in Karijini National Park and specifically at Dales Gorge Campground, you will want to forgo pegs and use rocks instead. The ground is incredibly dry and hard, so using pegs will be impossible. We attempted to use steel pegs and they ended up bending beyond repair.
There are toilets at this campground, but no showers. However, you can just jump into one of the natural pools to freshen up. Please just do not use shampoo or other things.
If you do want to shower, you have to drive to the Karijini Visitors Centre 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 the 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 campsites here have different sizes, so be sure to book one that suits your preference. Generators are only permitted at two of the six loops, so be sure to book a spot on 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 is 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 if you are traveling with a bigger group.
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.
Keep in mind that 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.
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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 rainwater.
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.
Karijini National Park: Additional Information
It is likely that you will not have cell phone reception while you are in the national park. In Western Australia, Telstra is the company with the best reception off the beaten track. However, even with Telstra, I usually had no reception. The only places with a very limited service were the Karijini National Park 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 plan to explore the gorges on your own.
What to Bring to Karijini National Park
Aside from the camping gear you need for your vacation in Karijini National Park (that is if you plan to camp there), you should also bring the following items.
- first aid kit
- sufficient fresh water (at least 3l of water per person per day & enough water to cook and clean the dishes
- good and sturdy shoes that you don’t mind getting wet (for level 4+ trails)
- 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)
Karijini National Park Tours
If you do not feel like venturing into the gorges of Karijini on your own, you should reconsider joining a tour. These days, Karijini National Park tours are offered by Lestok Tours and Space Chameleon Adventure Co.
My road trip crew and I met a Karijini tour guide 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. It really boosted my confidence and helped me feel safe when we started exploring the other gorges without a guide.
Therefore, I can recommend joining a Karijini gorge tour if you have no prior experience or just want to brush up on your skills. Australian gorges do not have the safety features you will find in other countries, so exploring them on your own can be daunting.
I love canyoning and dream of doing the Weano Descent and a level 6 tour during my next visit to Karijini. However, I wouldn’t have enjoyed my time in the gorges if it had not been for that first guided gorge exploration.
Lestok Tours offers regular gorge tours in Karijini National Park. Hereby, you can choose between a half-day Hamersley Gorge and Spa Pool tour (169 AUD per person) and a full-day gorge tour that combines several of the best things to do in Karijini. This tour includes the Oxer Lookout, Weano Gorge, Joffre Falls, the Knox Lookout, and Dales Gorge. It costs 235 AUD per person.
Both tours have to be pre-booked as the half-day tour has a minimum requirement of 4 participants, while the full-day gorge tour has a minimum requirement of 6 participants.
Spacechameleon Adventure Co
Spacechameleon Adventure Co offers Karijini canyoning tours in restricted areas (class 6), so they are the Karijini tour company for thrilling adventures. They offer both Karijini tour packages with trips that last several days and single-day canyoning tours.
As of now, they offer three different single-day tours, which are the amazing Weano Descent (350 AUD pp.), the Red Gorge Class 6 Tour (375 AUD pp.), and an extended Joffre Gorge Tour (475 AUD pp.). Hereby, the Red Gorge Tour will take you from the Class 6 section of Knox Gorge all the way to Junction Pool. The Joffre Gorge tour is by far the longest as it covers a distance of 6.5 km, and can only be done if you have previously done a tour with Spacechameleon Adventure Co.
Currently, these tours are only offered during specific time frames, so check their website for further information.
West Oz Active (out of business)
Sadly West Oz Active Adventure Tours went out of business in January 2021. Aside from simple gorge tours, they used to offer tours to level 6 areas that are not accessible to the general public, photography tours, and the Weano Descent.
3 Days in Karijini National Park Itinerary
Day 1: Dales Gorge Area
The drive to Karijini National Park is quite long, so plan a slow first day on the east side of the national park.
Visit the Visitors Centre before heading to Dales Gorge. Set up camp and start exploring Dales Gorge.
My tip: Head to Fern Pool just before sunset. The colors you will see are incredible. Just bring a flashlight in case you stay a little bit too long.
Accommodation: Dales Gorge Campground or Karijini Overflow Campground
Day 2 in Karijini National Park: Hancock Gorge, Weano Gorge & Joffrey Gorge
If you plan to do the longest hikes in the individual gorges, you will not be able to explore all gorges. Therefore, you have to decide which ones you want to do the most.
Additionally, you should consider which Karijini National Park gorges are the best fit for your personal experience and skill level.
This day includes my personal highlights in the national park and if you want to extend your stay, I would recommend adding another day exploring these gorges.
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. Afterward, 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 wake 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
Will you visit Karijini National Park?
While there are many incredible places in Australia, Karijini National Park is one of my top five recommendations for everyone that visits the country. It is such a unique place and if you love exploring gorges and natural pools you are bound to love it.
It is more than worth the detour to get there and should be a part of every Western Australia itinerary. After all, it is a real hidden gem of Australia and unparalleled in its natural beauty.
If you are planning a Western Australia road trip, these Australia guides might also interest you:
See the Monkey Mia Dolphins
Exploring Western Australia Through Photos
Lancelin Sand Dunes – Sandboarding Adventures
Kalbarri National Park
Perth to Broome Road Trip
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