Bibbulmun Track, Australia
Best For: Pretty much anyone—from families to hardcore speed hikers—who want a sense of the wonders and people of southwest Australia
Distance: About 600 miles from Kalamunda to Albany on the south coast. The track is divided into 58 sections. There are 49 shelters along the track for thru-hikers.
Southwestern Australia‘s answer to the Appalachian Trail is quite new. The 600-mile walk is the brainchild of a local hiker who wanted people from the city to “go bush.” It was first opened in 1979, but did not reach its present complete state until 1998 (thanks in part to construction by prison crews, oddly harkening to Australia’s history as a penal colony). But it is based on much older Australian traditions—the walkabouts that the continent’s aboriginal people still undertake, often for months at a time, into the bush. The Bibbulum is, in fact, named for the indigenous people of the area (the Bibbulum or Noongar people who still live here), and it winds into the land of the original inhabitants and the wonderland of Australia’s endemic flora and fauna.
Hiking out of Kalamunda, 45 minutes east of Perth, the track begins in forests of marri and jarrah, the most common eucalypts in the area, which shelter many snakes, the symbol of the Bibbulum. It’s common to find snakes, ranging from the death adder to the tiger snake, nonchalantly sunning or slithering along here. Along the track, there are also rare creatures like the numbat, a termite-eating marsupial that looks like a cross between weasel and opossum, and the chuditch, a quoll or carnivorous marsupial, that is threatened by nonnative, and very poisonous cane toads. Along the Donnelly River, 250-foot-tall karri eucalyptus shelter purple-crowned lorikeets squawking far above in the canopy.
Besides all that wildlife, though, it’s the social aspect of the trail that makes it most Australian. At the campsites you will meet hikers from around the globe as well as regular Australians who have fulfilled the original promise of the trail and are spending time simply walking for weeks to better understand themselves and the unique place where they live.
When to Go: The austral spring (September to November) and fall (March to May) are the best times, with hikers starting in spring heading north-south to avoid the heat and those in fall making the trip from south-north to outrun the winter.
Shortcut: It’s easy to access most segments of the Bibbulmun Track for day trips or shorter overnight jaunts. The Bibbulmun Track Foundation even offers Day Walk Map Packs to make it easy to do so. One of the best spots for day walks is in the giant karri forests of the Donnelly River.
Insider Tip: It’s worth taking time out of the hike to explore the “track towns” it passes by and/or near. Pemberton, in particular, has been developing its wine industry since it was made an official wine region in 2006, so stop and taste some of southwest Australia’s Shiraz and chardonnay (which is particularly good here).