Stirling Range National Park encompasses the only major mountain range within the southern half of Western Australia. The rugged peaks, which rise to more than 1000m above sea level, feature stark cliff faces, sheltered gullies, magnificent views, and a rich diversity of unique and colourful wildflowers.
The park is one of the world’s most important areas for flora, with 1500 species, many of which grow nowhere else. It is also home to many fauna, especially birdlife, including long-billed and short-billed black cockatoos and western whipbirds.
The Aboriginal name for the range is Koi Kyenunu-ruff, meaning ‘mist moving around the mountains,’ frequently seen in the region.
As Perth locals who enjoy hiking, we have visited the Stirling Ranges on numerous occasions.
Where is the Stirling Range?
The Stirling Range, or Koikyennuruff, is located in Western Australia’s South West region on lands of the Minang and Goreng people, about 400 km south-east of Perth. It stretches over 60 km and is protected by the Stirling Range National Park.
To reach the Stirling Range from Perth, take Albany Highway south until the Frankland-Cranbrook Road, which will take about 5 hours.
If you’re staying in Albany, it’s an hour’s drive on Chester Pass Road.
Some of the roads in the Stirling Range National Park are unsealed gravel roads, but are suitable for most two-wheel-drive vehicles. However, if you are renting a car or campervan, check with the hire company to ensure you are able to travel on these roads.
Stirling Range National Park Trails
Stirling Range National Park offers a range of hikes from two-hour walks to strenuous overnight camping treks.
There are seven well-known hikes within Stirling Range National Park including:
Bluff Knoll, at 1098 m, is the highest peak in the Stirling Range, and the most popular trail in the national park and often ranked as one of Australia’s best hikes. The three-day Stirling Range Ridge Walk, which starts at Ellen Peak, is for experienced hikers only as the track is very vague and scant.
We have only climbed Bluff Knoll and Mt Trio to date but hope to return to the Stirling Range to complete the others.
Bluff Knoll – 6.8 km – Grade 4
Hiking Bluff Knoll for sunrise is on many hikers’ bucket lists, but I wanted to see where I was going as I don’t like heights! You should allow 3-4 hours to complete the trail (it took us 3 hours when the girls were nine).
The turnoff for Bluff Knoll is along the Chester Pass Road. Go past the picnic area to the car park. In peak times, like weekends in spring or school holidays, the car park can fill up as early as 9 am. If this happens, rangers close the road off, and you won’t be able to access Bluff Knoll until people leave.
The walk is not as bad as you may think, although it does require a decent amount of fitness. The trail climbs gradually up the face and then rounds the peak at the back. The views as you climb are beautiful, but the vista from the summit is spectacular, with views over the national park and surrounding plains. Look out for quokkas up there; Rottnest Island isn’t their only home!
The trail is well kept with markers advising how long you have left to walk. The stairs make the climb and descent a lot easier than other hikes we have done as it isn’t as slippery. You’ll see a small waterfall just before the 1 km sign with the lower slopes covered with eucalypt, banksia and grass trees. Once you pass the shelter of the trees, it starts to get windy, so be careful of your footing.
If you climb Bluff Knoll in spring, you’ll be rewarded with beautiful wildflowers, including Mountain Bells and the Queen of Sheba Orchid. There are over 1000 species of wildflowers within the Stirling Range National Park.
It can be quite cold at the top, and the weather can change quickly, so ensure you take a warm protective jacket. Bluff Knoll is the only place in Western Australia where it snows.
An entry fee applies to access Bluff Knoll as it is in the Stirling Range National Park. If you don’t already have a pass, you can buy one at the pay station on the left after turning off Chester Pass Road.
Bluff Knoll is known as Bular Mial, which means many eyes, to the local Aboriginal people. Eyes are upon you there, protecting you. The mountain is sacred as it is where the spirits of Nyungar people go after death. Please be respectful of the Aboriginal Culture and don’t become party to the Instagram craze “Buff on the Bluff”, where people post photos of themselves nude at the summit.
Mt Trio – 3.5 km – Grade 4
Warrungup, meaning “three become,” is the Aboriginal name for Mt Trio due to the mountain comprising of three peaks linked by a plateau.
This hike is the easiest in the Stirling Range National Park and is accessed from the car park, along Formby Road South, off Chester Pass Road. It’s popular with wildflower enthusiasts and known for its red mountain bell, Darwinia lejostyla.
The walk commences with a steep climb via many steps to a saddle between the peaks. From the saddle, it’s an easy but windy walk with views of Mt Toolbrunup. The summit provides plenty of space to take in the sweeping views.
National Park fees apply.
Mt Hassell – 3 km – Grade 4
Along with Mt Trio, this hike is one of the easiest in the Stirling Range National Park, and accessible to most people with reasonable fitness, although be prepared for some rock climbing.
The car park is located on Stirling Range Drive, off Chester Pass Road.
The walk starts gently, followed by steeper parts of scree. As the trail gets steeper, you will need to do some rock scrambling. There are two false summits on Mt Hassell, which keep the trail interesting and challenging.
Rock formations show ripple marks, an indication that the ocean once covered them. Once the water lowered, layers of sediment were converted into rock by pressure created by their weight.
The view at the 847m summit is stunning, especially of Toolbrunup.
Mt Toolbrunup – 4 km – Grade 5
Mt Toolbrunup is the second highest peak in the Stirling Range National Park at 1052m and the most challenging one day walk. You should allow 3-4 hours to complete the hike and have a moderate degree of fitness and be prepared to scramble up some steep rocky sections.
Despite the trail being shorter than Bluff Knoll, it’s made a lot harder by large sections of scree, boulder fields, and steep ascents.
The trail leaves the car park at the end of Mount Toolbruinp Road and follows an old fire track through woodland, which becomes progressively steeper. You will pass through dense forest, gullies, and scree fields as you make your way to the saddle near the top of the south-west buttress. From here, it’s a short, steep scramble to the top.
You are rewarded with incredible 360-degree views of the Stirling Ranges from the relatively flat summit. During spring, you can look for beautiful mountain bells and southern cross flowers.
National Park fees apply.
Mt Talyuberlup – 2.6 km – Grade 5
Mt Talyuberlup is one of the Stirling Range National Park’s shortest walks, but one of the steepest. It’s a challenging hike to reach the rock-covered 783 m peak, but you’re rewarded with exceptional views from the top.
The trailhead starts opposite the Talyuberlup car park, next to the information board. To get to the car park, take the gravel Stirling Range Drive off Chester Pass Road.
The trail starts gently winding through a patch of Talyuberlup Malee but gradually increases as you ascend. Once you get to the overhang, the track requires rock scrambling to reach the summit. Near the top, you’ll find a cave (although it’s hard to tell that it’s a cave) with warning signs not to enter due to possible collapse. However, inside the cave is the trail marker. You can choose to go around the outside, but I’m not sure if you would be any safer if the cave did collapse.
Once through the cave, you are required to take a last steep rock climb to reach the summit. As you would expect, the views are incredible, with Talyuberlup’s rocky spires towering over the heathland below.
This hike is arduous, and the path can be dangerous when wet.
National Park fees apply.
Mt Magog – 7 km – Grade 5
Mt Magog is the longest day hike in the Stirling Range National Park and presents a challenging hike to the 856m summit. It has a certain wilderness feel, probably due to the walk being one of the least popular.
The trail starts from the picnic area on Stirling Range Drive and follows a 4wd track for a rather dull 2 km. Once at the base of Mt Magog, the climb is steep and hard work to reach the saddle between Mt Talyuberlup and Mt Magog. Here you can see a wild campsite to the right of the trail.
The final section follows the saddle with a bit of rock scrambling to reach the summit. The views of the Stirling Ranges are stunning and offer a different perspective of the mountains.
National Park fees apply.
Stirling Range Ridge Walk – 26 km one way – Grade 6
Stirling Range Ridge Walk, also known as the Eastern Peaks Ridge Route, runs from Bluff Knoll to Ellens Peak. It’s often rated as one of the best and most demanding walks in the state and the country, so maybe save this one for last. The walk could take up to 3 days to complete as you rise from peak to peak, ascending through narrow valleys between every one. The route is unmarked through rugged terrain, where natural hazards exist. Hikers are responsible for their safety, and you need to plan well and be prepared.
You will need a high level of experience and equipment, including navigation skills, a map, and navigation equipment (your own Personal Locator Beacon and mobile communication are strongly recommended). In addition, you will need to be self-reliant in case of emergency first aid or extreme weather conditions.
Before commencing your hike, sign the visitors’ logbook at the picnic area across from the Bluff Knoll Road entry station. Sign in at the start and completion of your hike which will assist with rescue in an emergency.
History of the Stirling Range
I would like to respectfully acknowledge the Minang and Goreng people, Traditional Owners and First People of these lands. I would like to pay my respect to the Elders past, present, and future, for they hold the memories, the traditions, the culture, and hopes of their people.
The range was home to the Minang and Goreng Indigenous people for thousands of years before English Captain Matthew Flinders made the first recorded sighting of the mountain range in 1802. However, John Septimus Roe named the range after Captain James Stirling, the first Governor of Western Australia, in 1835. Some calls exist for the range to be renamed due to Stirling’s involvement in the 1834 Pinjarra massacre.
The area was temporarily reserved in 1908 and was officially designated as the third national park of Western Australia in June 1913.
Hiking Tips for the Stirling Range National Park
All the hikes in Stirling Range National Park require bushwalking experience. In which case, you will most likely be aware of how to hike safely. However, here are some tips to ensure you keep safe in the Stirling Ranges.
Take plenty of food and carry two to three litres of drinking water per person for half to full-day walks. Please take all your rubbish out with you.
- Carry 2-3 litres of water per person for half to full-day hikes
- Wear sturdy shoes or hiking boots as all walks are steep and have uneven surfaces
- Layer clothing as it can be cold at the summit
- Take weatherproof clothing in case of bad weather (it can change quickly)
- Wear sun protection and Sunscreen (take a small tube with you to reapply on longer walks)
- Carry a first aid kit in your backpack
- Walk in groups
- Clean boots to prevent dieback from spreading
- Consider using insect repellent
- Check the weather forecast and don’t hike when it’s windy, hot or in bad weather
- Register before you go
- Check for closures at alerts.dbca.wa.gov.au
- Pay entry fees or buy a pass
- No pets allowed
- Download the Emergency Plus App
- Take care near rock edges as they can crumble without warning or be slippery
Accommodation Stirling Ranges
There isn’t a huge range of accommodation close to the Stirling Ranges, but Mount Barker is a 40-minute drive and Albany just under an hour. Albany has a wide choice of places to stay for all budgets.
For a truly unique experience, book one of the cottages next to The Lily, an authentic 16th Century operational Dutch Windmill. The five-storey mill is one of the largest traditional windmills ever built in Australia. You can stay in one of the 16th Century replica Dutch Houses or for a really memorable experience, an original 1944 Dakota plane. You can read about the history of the Dakota and see photos on the Lily website.
Stayz (similar to Airbnb, but I’ve found them cheaper) has a few properties close to the Stirling Ranges. Check them out here.
Alternatively, find out what’s the best accommodation in Albany.
Stirling Ranges Camping
Stirling Range Retreat, Mt Trio Bush Camp and Caravan Park, and Moingup Springs offer a range of accommodation, including bush camping sites.
With powered and un-powered sites, Mt Trio Bush Camp is in a peaceful natural bush setting on a working farm that borders Stirling Range National Park.
Stirling Range Retreat offers campsites and a variety of self-contained accommodation.
Moingup Springs offers basic bush camping with toilet facilities and gas barbeques. However, you cannot book these sites and are on a first-come basis.
Best Time to Visit Stirling Range National Park & Weather
The Stirling Range is renowned for its unusual and sometimes spectacular cloud formations and sudden weather changes.
It’s wettest between May and August, with the summer months being the driest. Temperatures in summer are generally warm, with the maximum average about 26°C and 12°C minimum. Winter, between June and August, the maximum temperature average is around 15°C with the overnight minimum averaging 6°C. The Stirling Range is the only place in WA to have snow occasionally.
Lightning strikes are the cause of most fires in the park. When visiting, be aware of thunderstorms and of hot, windy days when fire risk is high.
Spring is my favourite time for hiking in the Stirling Range National Park due to the wildflowers, with autumn a close second. However, despite summer having mainly clear skies, it can be too hot. A lovely day in winter would be perfect if you could avoid the rain.
Stirling Range National Park Entry Fee
National Park fees apply to the hikes in the Stirling Range. The cost is A$15 per vehicle with up to 12 people. If you are spending more than one day in one of the national parks, consider buying a Park Pass. Make sure to display your pass on your dashboard when you’re in the park. RACWA members can get the passes for half price.
The Stirling Range Drive – 100 km circuit
The Stirling Range Drive is a must-do for anyone visiting the area. You can enjoy the views of the stunning mountains as you drive through the middle of the national park. There are many places to stop, including viewing points and lookout areas, and keep your eyes peeled for wildlife, like the western grey kangaroo. The drive stretches from the Western Lookout close to Red Gum Spring to the Eastern Lookout by Bluff Knoll.
The roads are mainly unsealed gravel but are suitable for most two-wheel-drive vehicles. Pack some food and drink with you as there aren’t any shops on the drive.
Horsepower Highway – 75km one way
The Horsepower Highway is a roadside display of vintage and quirky tractors, with new machines being added frequently. The drive, on sealed roads, starts 5 km south of the tiny rural town of Broomehill and follows the Broomehill-Gnowangerup Road through to Gnowangerup until near the Stirling Range National Park.
You will pass through farmland, with the majestic Stirling Ranges on the horizon. Please use common sense and pull right off the road to view the machinery.
Hike Grades explained
Grade 1 – No bushwalking experience required. Flat even surface with no steps or steep sections. Suitable for wheelchair users who have someone to assist them. Walks no greater than 5 km.
Grade 2 – No bushwalking experience required. The track is a hardened or compacted surface and may have a gentle hill section or sections and occasional steps. Walks no greater than 10 km.
Grade 3 – Suitable for most ages and fitness levels. Some bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may have short steep hill sections a rough surface and many steps. Walks up to 20 km.
Grade 4 – Bushwalking experience is recommended as tracks may be long, rough and very steep. Directional signage may be limited.
Grade 5 – Very experienced bushwalkers with specialised skills, including navigation and emergency first aid. Tracks are likely to be very rough, very steep and unmarked. Walks may be more than 20km.
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Are dogs allowed in Stirling Range National Park?
Unfortunately, dogs are not allowed in Stirling Range National Park to protect its flora and fauna, and domestic animals are at risk of snake bites.
How much does it cost to climb Bluff Knoll?
It is free to climb Bluff Knoll, but you have to pay to enter the national park. The current cost is A$15 per vehicle for up to 12 people and can be paid at the pay station on the left after you turn off Chester Pass Road. If you plan to visit other national parks or return for other trails, a Park Pass will be more cost-effective.
When is the Stirling Range wildflower season?
The Stirling Range wildflower season is from about mid-August through to the end of October. There are more than 1500 species of plants, with over 120 unique to the Stirling Range.
Is Bluff Knoll open?
Yes, Bluff Knoll has opened following the devastating fires in December 2019 and January 2020 that caused extensive damage. Intense fires sparked by lightning tore through more than 40,000 hectares of land in the park.
Are there toilets at Bluff Knoll?
There are toilets at the base of Bluff Knoll.