The Gorges of Karijini National Park
Karijini National Park is one of Australia’s best kept secrets, a raw, isolated and untouched world of red rocks, spectacular gorges and natural swimming pools. Found in the heart of the remote Pilbara region, Western Australia’s second largest national park encompasses thousands of square miles of mountains and landscapes. This is a semi-arid desert, but both travellers and wildlife find respite from the harsh climate in the rivers and watering holes, and Karijini is fast earning itself a well-deserved reputation as a haven for animals and an adventure playground for people.
Exploring the gorges is the best way to experience all that Karijini has to offer, and you’ll find everything from easy waterfall strolls, to intense hikes along rocky river beds in the national park.
To inspire your trip to remote Western Australia, here’s our guide to the best gorges in Karijini National Park!
Dales Gorge is found on the eastern edge of Karijini, and it’s one of the most popular gorges in the national park because it’s both spectacular, and it’s right next to the official camping ground.
Stay overnight and watch the stars brighten up the dark sky before heading down to the gorge itself in the morning. From the top, you’ll have impressive views over the gorge, and short but steep downhill walk will bring you to the bottom, where you can take a dip in Fern Pool. Fern Pool is a sacred Aboriginal site, so be respectful and quiet when you take a swim. You’ll be entranced by the blue, green water and the crashing waterfall, just as the locals have been for thousands of years.
After a swim, hike along the gorge to reach Circular Pool, another dramatic swimming hole, before making the steep walk back to the top of Dales Gorge again, to return to the campsite.
On the other side of the national park, you can find Joffres Gorge, home to a thundering waterfall and a long river. Joffre Gorge is just a short walk from the Karijini Eco Retreat, an outback camping and glamping site that makes for a great base to explore the nearby natural attractions.
You’ll hike down into the gorge, clambering over rocks, until you reach the river. To the right, you can swim through the water or you can walk along a narrow ledge to reach a cavernous chamber, where you’ll see Joffre Falls crashing down into a plunge pool from the colourful cliff face.
If you turn left instead of right at the bottom of the gorge, you’ll see the river winding its way through the gorge. It’s cold and deep, but if you are a strong swimmer, then you can make your way along the gorge to an isolated island at the far end, where there are dramatic views further along the canyon.
A short drive along a dusty unsealed road from the Karijini Eco Retreat will bring you to both Weano and Hancock Gorge. From the top, you can see far across Karijini National Park, but the real adventure lies below. Start with a gentle stroll into Weano Gorge, where you’ll gradually get deeper into the canyon.
In the bottom of the gorge, the path continues towards Handrail Pool. You can exit the gorge before things start to get tough, but if you’re fit and prepared to get wet then the walk takes you through the water, and then down a steep and slippery rock face to an icy swimming pool. Hold onto the handrail that’s attached to the rock as you go down.
Once you’ve returned from Weano Gorge and the Handrail Pool, then climb down the metal ladder that leads into Hancock Gorge, to experience one of the most intrepid places in Karijini National Park.
Hancock Gorge is the most difficult gorge to tackle, and you’ll need to be prepared for scrambling, swimming or climbing. At the bottom of the gorge, the trail leads along the cliff face, and you have the option to either walk along the narrow paths that extends above the river or to jump in the cold water and swim. As the waterway narrows, so does the gorge, and you’ll be scrambling along the path that’s known as the Spider Walk before Hancock Gorge opens up again and reveals the beautiful but hidden water of Kermits Pool.
If you prefer hiking to swimming and rock climbing, then head to Knox Gorge, where you’ll find a beautiful, wide canyon that’s full of life. The walk starts with a short stroll to the epic lookout, where you can see out over the gorges arrayed before you in the red dust.
You’ll then head down into Knox Gorge, following the loose scree slope that requires a few technical walking skills, before you clamber over boulders and rocks to reach the gorge. The path then follows the river, and you’ll pass verdant green scenery that contrasts with the red cliffs that rise high above you until you meet a narrow pass where the path ends, and you’ll need to turn around and return the way you came again.
Hamersley Gorge is at least an hours drive on unsealed roads from the main campsites in Karijini National Park, but it’s arguably the most beautiful gorge to visit.
A short, easy walk downhill and you’ll find yourself in a wide, chasm-like gorge that’s seemingly been carved in two. The rocks are brightly coloured in reds, browns and oranges, and there are unique, wavy and colourful patterns along the cliffs.
In one direction, you have the spectacular Spa Pool, where a waterfall drops into a refreshing swimming hole, while in the other direction, you can swim under the cliffs, as the gorge extends dramatically through the rock.