Exploring the Great Outdoors – Knox Gorge, Karijini National Park, Western Australia.

If you have ever dreamed of visiting Outback Australia, then Karijini National Park is the perfect place to start.

Brilliant, starlit night skies.

Red, red rock and dust.

And gorgeous gorges to explore and swim.

Let’s head down into Knox Gorge.

Red landscape surrounding Knox Gorge
The red landscape surrounding Knox Gorge

I was just a wee bit excited as we piled back into the dreaded mini-bus. Today we were off to visit our first real gorge. Yes, we had been to the stunning and highly popular Dales Gorge the day before, but today we were destined for a gorge slightly off the beaten track.

Knox Gorge is one of the many highlights of Karijini National Park. It is a short and easy drive, along bumpy and corrugated dirt roads from the Karijini Eco Retreat to the Gorge’s carpark and trailhead. Getting down into the Gorge itself however, is a completely different story.

After the obligatory photos, oohs, and aahs at the Knox Lookout, our group regathered and proceeded to straggle along the path edging the gorge. Our route became progressively steeper and rockier as it quickly changed from a garden-variety gravel path to a roll-up-your-sleeves-and-get-amongst-it rock climb.

Those people with a fear of heights and lower fitness or energy levels may choose to simply enjoy the short stroll to the Lookout and then return to their vehicle in the carpark, pull up a chair and open a good book under a shady tree. For the rest of us, the wonders of Knox Gorge are not to be missed.

OK, peering downwards, this was a little steeper than I expected, but I love a good rock scramble at the best of times and another ‘girl’ and I led the way. Down we went. Foothold, handhold, stretch this way, grab that tree trunk, twist and shout!

Pause to catch a breath, steady the trembling knees and take in the beauty that was enveloping us. Down some more. Down, down, down.

As we continued ever downwards, we left the bright sunshine behind and the gorge cliffs provided welcome shade as we clambered our way into a completely different microclimate. Finally on the Gorge floor, we looked back up to see where we had come from and were dazzled to comprehend the steepness of the ‘track’ and how we were dwarfed by the weathered cliffs and overhangs.

It was cool and relaxing sitting on the multilayered rock shelves, listening to a small stream babble along the Gorge floor. Large trees and shrubs had made the most of the good water source, sending their roots deep underground. Wily seeds had worked their way into cracks high up in the rock walls and had grown out into horizontal or vertical plants. Nature is so clever.

The rest of the group (minus one) eventually scrambled their way down to join us. They caught their breath and steadied their beating hearts, and then we all took to the path along the base of the gorge. Apparently our very own private rock pool and a refreshing swim was waiting for us at the end of the line.

Again, the feeling of ancientness overwhelmed me and I couldn’t help but reach out to touch the old rocks and cliff walls. They were layered and cracked and broken, and spoke of having been heaved every which way when the Earth was forming.

Rock climbing in Knox Gorge
Around the ledge we go…

Following the small blue markers, we hopped across the stream which changed from stream to rock pool and back to stream again. Eventually we arrived at, what we thought was the end of the gorge and our swimming destination, but No. The rock climbing was set to start again.

I am sure we all looked like largescale goldfish with boggled eyes and open mouths as our guides explained that we must balance on a tiny ledge and tippy-toe around the cliff face, while only using small slippery hand and foot holds to stop us falling backwards into the water. Okaaaaaay, this was a little out of my comfort zone, but let’s have a crack. I think it stretched the comfort-zone boundaries for most of us and one lady decided she would swim around the cliff face rather than even attempt the climb. Clever lady!

Phew! Eventually we all made it to the other side and after another 300m of rock-hopping, arrived at our destination – a deep, cool, long strip of water. Our own private lap pool!

The water was fresh and crystal clear. As the sun rarely reaches this part of the Gorge, it was a perfect pick-me-up after a hot walk. Most of the group were happy to sit back and relax with a cuppa, but I wasn’t going to miss a swim, even if it was a tad chilly.

Time to return on the same path and everyone gulped at the thought of the cliff scramble again. Thankfully, no one miss-stepped and we arrived back on the other side safe and dry, except for our swimming lady who still wasn’t prepared to tackle the cliff face for love nor money.

Swimming in Knox Gorge
Swim time

If you decide to visit Knox Gorge, here are a few tips:

  • Distance and Time: This path is approximately 2km long and they recommend you allow 3hours.
  • Rating: This walk is rated 5/5 – the highest, hardest rating. It is not all that difficult, but the challenge lies in the rock scrambling and the heights. This walk would be unsuitable for those afraid of heights.
  • Tallness: Short people and people with short legs may find this walk slightly more difficult as you must reach and stretch for hand and foot holds as you clamber down and up. Just take your time and you will be fine.
  • Footwear: Solid footwear is recommend to provide good grip on the loose and/or smooth rocks.
  • Poles: Think about carrying/using poles to provide extra stability. I didn’t use them as I preferred to use my hands, but many group members found them invaluable.
  • Waymarking: Small coloured blue circles are attached to rocks to show you the safest path along the Gorge floor.
  • Fitness: You don’t need a high level of fitness to enjoy this walk, but good, strong knees are a must.
  • Safety: Be careful of slippery rocks. Take your time and step carefully. Also, beware of snakes! Apparently King Brown snakes are active 24/7 x 365 days. They are not a problem if you give them the respect they deserve and plenty of room to escape.
  • Facilities: There are no facilities of any sort in the bottom of the Gorge. Composting toilets, picnic tables and a little shade are available in the carpark.

Despite huffing and puffing my way back up the rock face and collapsing in the carpark, I am sure I had a silly grin on my face. I had just done something amazing and seen something equally so. Life is pretty awesome in the Australian Outback.

When did you experience something truly special?

The Basics

What: If you stand at the Knox Lookout, you get a panoramic view of Knox Gorge and can see how it intersects Wittenoom Gorge. When we visited there was also a beautiful array of wildflowers and termite mounds. Just fascinating.

Knox Gorge - Karijini National Park

Where: Knox Gorge is located approximately 11.5km north-east of the Karijini Eco Retreat.

When: Visit this gorge early in the morning or late in the afternoon when the light is at its best and the slanting rays bring the countryside and red, red rock to life.

Why: To wonder at the power of Nature and for a refreshing swim.

How: How about an early morning walk? Take a short-cut from the Eco Retreat via Joffre Gorge, and you cut off about 7km, making the return walk only about 8km. Just make sure you take water, a hat and sunscreen.

Who: For the young and adventurous at heart.

Related Posts: For another stunning swimming experience in Karijini National Park, don’t miss Dales Gorge.

Related Blogs: I don’t think Jo will take you quite so far off the beaten track, but her walks are no less enjoyable.

Read About It: Ready for a serious adventure in the remotest, hottest, most unforgiving part of Australia? Grab a copy of Tracks by Robin Davidson as she takes her camels on an epic 2,736km walk. Go straight to Book Depository.

#karijini #travelinspo #westernaustralia #karijininationalpark #shortwalks #KnoxGorge  #dayswalks #swimmingholes #outbackaustralia #indigenoushistory.

57 thoughts on “Exploring the Great Outdoors – Knox Gorge, Karijini National Park, Western Australia.

  1. Forestwood June 30, 2021 / 2:18 pm

    Good Lord that ledge does not look very wide. My heart would be in my mouth. And scrambling down must have been tricky.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. anneharrison June 30, 2021 / 3:45 pm

    Simply gorgeous! My daughter and I were literally on the runway about to fly to WA for a tour when the borders were closed – hopefully we’ll get there soon, your photos are so inspiring.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 1, 2021 / 1:47 pm

      Oh, my heart breaks for you. You must have been shattered. Yes, we need to be flexible these days, but sometimes it would be nice if we could plan to travel and then DO IT! I still have a few more posts to share on WA so I hope it gives you a little inspiration before it is your turn to fly. Hang in there, Mel


  3. restlessjo June 30, 2021 / 4:10 pm

    I was hyperventilating just looking over your shoulder, Mel. This is one occasion when I might be happy not to follow you down that cliff face, beautiful though it undoubtedly is. I don’t mind the odd vicarious experience. 🙂 🙂 Thanks so much for ‘boldly going’, and sharing it with us.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 1, 2021 / 1:49 pm

      Fair enough. I know all this rock scrabbling is not everyone’s idea of a good time! Maybe I was loving it so much because I have had my wings clipped for so long! 😉


      • restlessjo July 1, 2021 / 4:12 pm

        I just don’t have great balance anymore, Mel. Awesome surroundings though 🤣💕

        Liked by 1 person

        • Life...One Big Adventure July 2, 2021 / 10:17 am

          Fair enough. We each have our own super powers and obviously yours is not balance. Perhaps it is the vitally important skill of finding cake? 🙂


  4. wetanddustyroads June 30, 2021 / 7:13 pm

    Hmm, I’m pretty sure there is NO path going down … 😳. Anyway, your adventurous spirit showed us some pretty amazing pictures! You are one daring lady!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 1, 2021 / 1:51 pm

      LOL! I guess it depends on how you define ‘path’! And, I wasn’t going to travel all that way and miss out on a thing. It truly was a ‘boots and all’ adventure!

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Toonsarah July 1, 2021 / 1:46 am

    Wow,there is NO WAY I would attempt this – it looks beautiful but well beyond what my knees (or the rest of my body!) could take 😳

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 1, 2021 / 1:54 pm

      I hear you. The oldest in the group was well over 70 years, and even though she was vertically-challenged, she had good knees! I read somewhere once that we should look after our knees as we will miss them when they are gone! 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

  6. Monkey's Tale July 1, 2021 / 8:44 am

    Wow the colour of the rocks is gorgeous, so vibrant. I’m surprised there isn’t even a safety chain or rope for the ledge traverse. I feel likewe’re in the outback right now with our Canadian heat wave 🙂 Maggie

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 1, 2021 / 1:57 pm

      The red colours look fake don’t they? But I promise that red is the consistent colour, only the shade varies slightly. Take care in that heat. Canada was on our news last night with your heatwave and I think they said somewhere in your country was up to 46C! Now that is HOT. Your poor plants and animals (including humans) must be in shock.


  7. Kyle Cash July 1, 2021 / 1:02 pm

    Another great article.

    Props to you for having the courage to get out of your comfort zone like you said. Many will simply turn around at the point! Kudos.

    As well, maybe this is me being a silly American, what is a ‘cuppa’? I saw you said everyone enjoyed sitting back with a cuppa. My ignorance on this one is showing 😂

    Great pictures as well. I enjoyed reading this!

    Kyle, The Travel Runner

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 1, 2021 / 1:59 pm

      Sorry, sorry! I shouldn’t include slang in my posts. A ‘cuppa’ is a cup of (traditionally) tea, but now can include coffee too. Basically the water was way too cold for them to swim and they preferred to sit in the sun with a hot beverage instead!

      Liked by 1 person

      • Kyle Cash July 1, 2021 / 2:38 pm

        Haha no worries! I’m always up to learn new slang. Adding it to the repertoire 😉

        I had assumed it was this when I read it, but you never know. Thanks for the clarification though!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. Destinations Journey July 1, 2021 / 4:08 pm

    We used to live at Newman in the late 1980s and used to go camping in the gorges with friends. Can still remember the spectacular scenery and colours. Thanks for reminding us of the great places we went to.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 2, 2021 / 10:21 am

      I think I was more worried about falling backwards into the water than the actual height. It certainly made me move quick! 😉

      Liked by 1 person

    • Life...One Big Adventure July 3, 2021 / 11:08 am

      It has been there for thousands of years. I suspect it will still be waiting for you when we can all travel again. Have a good day.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. rkrontheroad July 8, 2021 / 1:37 am

    A great reward, that swimming spot in the canyon! But I never would have made it around that narrow cliff. Glad to have you take me there.

    Liked by 1 person

  10. pam@ichoosethis July 9, 2021 / 11:14 am

    This looks Amazing. Cept that ledge – that doesn’t look so amazing. I might have had to swim also. LOL. Beautiful terrain.

    Liked by 1 person

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