Wilderness views from Mt Chudalup
If you're visiting Northcliffe, in Western Australia's southern forests, a good side trip is to visit the coastal cliffs of Windy Harbour. However, when driving to the coast it's easy to whizz straight past Mt Chudalup, as so many do. I reckon it's worth stopping for the short but scenic climb.
Don't be misled by the "Mt" prefix. Like most West Australian features labelled as mount something or other, Mt Chudalup is no lofty peak; rather more like a big hill, with a summit altitude of 187 metres. Any reasonably fit person can reach the top with a little effort - it is an uphill walk with some steep bits near the top.
Lack of altitude is no handicap. The surrounding area is mostly low and gently undulating, and Mt Chudalup's modest height gives a commanding view over forested wilderness stretching to the horizon, or to the coast. It's a great way to gain a perspective of the area, and just how undeveloped it is.
If you drive between Northcliffe and Walpole, you may notice that the forest is not all the same. There are pockets of gigantic karri trees as seen on the postcards, but between these are patches of marri, jarrah, and other smaller trees. Some sections are hilly and lush, while others are flat, sandy and more open. While you can observe this variation from a car, standing on Mt Chudalup reveals the diversity in a more graphic way, all at once.
To visit, turn up the signposted side road which branches left (if heading towards the coast) 16km south of Northcliffe. A short drive up good gravel brings you to a car park (with a toilet), from where it is about 1.5km walk to the top. An hour is sufficient for most people to do the return walk with a rest on top. More time might be needed if you're unfit, or it's hot, or you just want to take your time and properly observe the changing vegetation.
The walk begins in big forest, but as you ascend the trail the surrounds become more open, and lower. At Mt Chudalup's summit you'll find bare granite domes - a little steep in places, but providing extensive and unobstructed views. There's usually a good breeze to cool you down, too. There are also some steep drops which should be treated with caution in high winds; blown-away companions would be hard to retrieve!
Returning is via the same route, and nearly all downhill! Whether you go to better appreciate the environment, or just for a nice view, visiting Mt Chudalup is a short detour and a pleasant addition to a day trip from Northcliffe.
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