Well, where to start?!
If we’re talking about the best national parks in Australia, then Karijini has to be the creme de la creme, the cream of the crop, the big daddy!
When I visited this epic reserve in Western Australia as part of my 4wd budget road trip around Australia, I was with a North American backpacker who described it as “Zion National Park on crack”… quite the accolade!
I’ll let you read into that what you will!
But suffice to say, Karijini National Park is truly spectacular, truly huge and truly worth visiting!
So if you’re thinking of hitting up this amazing national park during your travels in Australia (and let’s be honest, why wouldn’t you?!), here’s my ultimate guide, jampacked with everything you need to know, about visiting this truly spectacular destination!
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What Makes Karijini National Park Special?
First up, let me tell you that Karijini is massive… in every sense of the word!
Not only does it cover a huge geographical region, but the landscape itself is huge, the range is enormous and the sheer expanse of it all is breathtaking!
Next up, the colours are massive too!
That classic Outback red is heavy all around due to the iron-rich character of the earth here and contrasted against a classic blue Pilbara sky and those ancient greens trees, well, you’ve got yourself a landscape that looks as if it hasn’t changed much since the dinosaurs roamed it.
Third up is the massive amount of activities you can enjoy in Karijni National park – from exploring those ancient gorges on foot, to swimming in natural water holes, to camping under the stars – this place provides a wealth of things to see and do for next to nothing.
And last, but not least the connection to country here is massive, tangible and magical.
Revered as a special and sacred place to the indigenous population for tens of thousands of years, Karijni National Park is steeped in story and significance.
Visiting here is a privilege.
It feels like you temporarily step out of one world and into another.
And it’s all there to be enjoyed, savoured and revered, so go and do just that!
How to Get to Karijini National Park
Ha, now this is half the fun right?!
Karijini National park is located in the remote Pilbara region of Western Australia.
There are sealed and unsealed road options to get here, but please do research in advance and plan the route you want to take accordingly – you may require a permit to travel on some roads.
It goes without saying that you’ll need your own transport to visit Karijini. If you want to rent a campervan, then check out Discovery Campers for some great deals.
I made the drive from Port Hedland in a day and then headed to Karratha, via Millstream-Chichester National Park, on the way back.
In between, I stopped at Tom Price – a small mining town near to Karijni that had a fuel station, supermarket and visitor centre.
Many road permits that may be required can be obtained here, so it makes for a handy pitstop… in more ways than one.
And that’s because, outside of Tom Price, there are no fuel or vehicle repair facilities in the Karijini area, so make sure you are well prepared with adequate supplies and necessary car checks in place before you come here – I actually had to rescue someone with a blown-out tyre myself here!
You’ll also want to check the WA National Parks website before travelling to Karijini to ensure road conditions are good and that the park is open.
Adverse weather conditions, as well as a range of other reasons, can sometimes mean Karijini (or parts of it) are closed.
When to Visit Karijini National Park?
The best time to visit Karijini National Park is undoubtedly during the winter months of April through October, when the chance of heavy rain is significantly lower… as are the temperatures!
Most rain in this region falls during the summer months of November through March, and access during this time to both the parks, tracks and pools can be severely restricted.
Summer temperatures also regularly exceed 40 degrees, which makes doing anything in this dry, baking heat nearly impossible!
During winter, the day temperatures are a little cooler, which makes hiking and exploring the park more comfortable.
Nights can be chilly however, even frosty, so do bring suitable attire if you’re camping out during the coldest months of July and August.
I visited Karijini in early October and found it perfect. Nights were cool, not cold, and the daytime temperatures were great for hiking as well as taking a dip!
Also the crowds were much thinner!
Entrance Fees for Karijini National Park
Like almost all the national parks in Western Australia, Karijini National Park has an entrance fee.
Costing $15 AUD per vehicle ($8 for concessions), entrance is actually pretty cheap if there’s a few of you and is payable at the entrance to the park or the Karijni Visitor Centre.
That said, if you do think you’ll be visiting a lot of national parks in Western Australia, you might want to consider buying a Park Pass like I did.
These offer great value for money if you’re travelling and exploring the state for an extended period of time.
How Long to Spend in Karijini?
Many people advise staying between 3-4 nights in Karijini.
This initially sounds like a very long time, but it really is advised as there is so much to do here and it takes a long time to get there!
I stayed for 4 nights – 2 nights in the national park camping and 2 nights in free camps just outside the park.
This gave me 1 day to drive there, 1 day to explore the Dales Gorge Area, 1 day to explore the Weano Gorge Area and 1 day to explore the Hammersley Gorge Area.
This was well-timed, as I didn’t feel rushed, but I’d hate to have cut it any shorter, especially when you’ve come all this way!
Karijini National Park Accommodation
Being pretty damn remote, it’s likely that if you do visit Karijni National Park, you’ll end up staying here.
Driving to the park and then seeing even a glimpse of what this spectacular place has to offer is going to take you much longer than a day!
Here’s the rundown of the few places there are to stay in and around Karijini.
#1 Karijini National Park Camping
The cheapest option when it comes staying in Karijini National Park is within the national park camping itself.
Even after the entrance fee, you still have pay for camping here, but given the location, it’s a bargain at only $20 pppn for an unpowered site.
The national park camping area at Karijni is based around the Dales Gorge area of the park in its eastern section.
There’s several different campsites here (essentially looped areas next to each other), with some catering for generators, caravans etc and others designated as quieter, tent zones.
Camping at Dales Campground will mean are very near to the eastern attractions of the park including Fortescue Falls, Fern Pool, Circular Pool and the Three Ways Lookout.
Campers at Dales Campground must be largely self-sufficient with no water, food or fuel on hand here.
There are toilets, but no showers.
#2 Karijini Eco Retreat Camping
A more glamorous option can be found in the western area of Karijini National Park, otherwise known as the Weano Gorge Area.
Karijni Eco Retreat is a privately-owned accommodation resort that sits within national parkland.
They have some lovely glamping and cabin options, for those who are less keen to rough things, and also a small shop and café/restaurant, meaning you don’t have to bring all your food and water in with you.
Showers and toilets are available too, along with a host of other amenities.
Accommodation prices at the Karijni Eco Retreat are in addition to the regular park entrance fee and very according to the season.
#3 Staying in Tom Price
The other option is to stay in Tom Price and travel in and out of the park.
Here you will feel closer to civilisation and can stay in a hotel, such as the Tom Price Motel.
However, it’s worth factoring in the drive time and fuel costs to do this and balance this against any other advantages.
#4 Free Camping
There are also a number of free camps in and around Karijni National Park.
Download the Wikicamps app for more details.
I stayed at one on the way in from the Port Hedland side, and then at another one on the way out near Tom Price, but paid for camping when I was actually within Karijini.
This is because I worked out that the cost of driving out every night from the park to the free camp, and back again in the morning, would have cost me almost as much in fuel as the camping fee!
Karijini National Park Itinerary
As I mentioned, I highly recommed allowing 4 days to experience this amazing national park.
Day 1 will be mostly taken up with driving there, entering and checking at your accommodation / setting up camp.
Day 2 is a great time to explore the Dales Gorge area in the eastern section of the park.
On day 3, drive over to the Weano Gorge area in the western section of the park and explore all the fantastic things to do there.
On day 4, check out Hamersley Gorge and then exit the park and head to Tom Price for the night.
Remember that given the distances you’ll need to travel, and the heat in this park, it really does pay (and is very wise) to do less and savour as much as you can at a slower pace.
Walking Tracks in Karijini National Park
Karijini National park has several excellent walking trails.
Although none of them are very long, probably given the hot climate out here and the tendency for dehydration – not to mention complex rescue operations if things do go wrong – they are extremely rewarding.
It goes without saying that, for any walking here, you’ll need to wear sturdy shoes and be mindful of the gorge edges which can be slippery, unstable and high.
Do not hike here if there are flash flood warnings or significant rainfall!
My only other advice would be to set off early and to carry lots of water – it can get extremely hot here in the middle of the day.
#1 Dales Gorge
From the Dales Camping area, you can actually walk to, and then along, the length of the gorge taking in all the attractions as you go.
It roughly takes 3 hours, but that’s not including time for a dip in Circular Pool, Fern Pool or Fortescue Falls.
The walk is a combination of high-rim walking, which gives great elevated views, and walking along the gorge floor to gain an entirely different perspective.
#2 Weano Gorge
For the Weano Gorge walks, it’s best to park in the Weano Day area and hike from here.
The 2 trails you can’t miss are the ones to Handrail Pool and Kermits Pool – these are absolutely spectacular, but do require scrambling and, at points, swimming through water… so bring your waterproof cameras or cases, plus dry bags!
The Spider Walk, in particular, is more an adventure sport, than a walk, but is brilliant!
You can loop these 2 top picks together via the Oxer Lookout Trail and / or the full Weano Gorge Loop, which is definitely worth doing if you have the time.
Again this will take you about 4 hours, but do allow more time for swimming, relaxing and photographing!
Other Things to Do in Karijini National Park
Hiking to the various pools is certainly the main attraction when visiting Karijini National Park, but alongside this, there are plenty of other things to enjoy.
- Check out the excellent visitor centre here, it has a very interesting exhibition about the heritage of this magical place.
- Wildflowers bloom here during the colder months and the spectacle they produce is quite astounding to see.
- Wildlife watching including kangaroos and wallaby spotting, as well as watching hundreds of bird species and reptiles is great fun.
- Swimming in all the wonderful rock pools and waterfalls is a great way to relax and cool down in Karijni National Park. Just be careful and don’t dive in as the water can be freezing and it’s dangerous to do so.
- Photographing the landscape from some of the many lookouts is definitely one of the best things to do in Karijini National Park.
- Head to Hammersley Gorge, a short drive away from the other sections of the park to swim, snap and hike in this stunning spot.
What to Take to Karijini National Park
Along with the usual kit, there are a few things that I found would be especially helpful to take to Karijini National Park…
- Headlamp for dawn walks (see my list of the best headlamps if you don’t have one already).
- Good trail runners or light walking shoes (you don’t need boots for the day walks).
- Sunhat with good coverage for protection.
- Natural Sunscreen.
- Natural Insect Repellent.
- Water Bottle.
- Swimwear for the rock pools.
- Good camera like my Sony A6000.
- Hiking daypack to carry all you’re gear in when hiking.
- Warm Clothes if camping outside of the summer months.
- Rainjacket if you’re visiting during the wetter months.
PIN IT TO PINTEREST!
So that’s my ultimate guide for visiting Karijini National Park in Western Australia.
I really can’t recommend visiting this place highly enough, so definitely consider adding it to your list if you’re ever travelling this part of the Land Down Under.