The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s greatest long distance walk trails, stretching 1000km between the Perth hills and Albany on WA’s wild windswept coast. The track winds through towering karri and tingle forests, down mist-shrouded valleys, over giant granite boulders and along breathtaking coastal heathlands. But with the track being designated ‘walkers only’, how can horse riders enjoy some of the spectacular surrounds that the Bibbulmun track is known for?
Alas, I can almost hear all those hikers tut-tutting over their screens, almost feel their palpable anger emanating through cyber space.
“Horse riding on the Bibbulmun Track? But you’re not allowed horses on the Bibbulumun Track!” they would shriek.
That’s right: no horses.
And rightly so. Western Australia’s only long-distance walk trail, the Bibbulmun Track, traverses large areas of fragile forest and coastal heath, which could easily be damaged by horses.
Besides, even if it was in any way legal, the Bibbulmun Track is highly unsuitable for horse travel. While it does veer through the occasional resupply town, the entire trail runs through wilderness-type areas rather than the rural areas more suited to unsupported horse trekking, and the designated track shelters have been designed with only walkers in mind. They are usually situated deep within a National Park and have no grazing or potential horse containment areas. The water source is usually a small water tank and as the huts see frequent traffic, it would just be plain rude to use these, given the amount that horses drink.
So I have some difficulty understanding the constant refrain of would-be Bibbulmun horse riders.
“OH, if ONLY we could ride the Bibbulman Track!”, they lament.
Occasionally, some riders choose to enjoy its splendours regardless, usually ending in a fine or in further tarnishing the reputation of the local horse-riding community. When horse-owners act irresponsibly, other would-be trail riders get banished from more and more land and it ruins the chance for those that come after.
So I am in no way condoning the idea of saddling up a steed and hoofing it along the Bibbulmun. In fact, perhaps “Please Don’t Ride on the Bibbulmun Track” would have been a more apt title for this post.
So yeah, just for the record: PLEASE DON’T RIDE ON THE BIBBULMUN TRACK.
But, if you’re keen to see some of the South West’s natural wonders from the back of a horse , then you can ALMOST follow the Bibbulmun Track. Here’s a couple of points to be aware of:
1. For much of it’s length, the Bibbulmun Track is shadowed by minor rural or logging roads.
Horse riders can use these.
It is my understanding that in Western Australia, horses can be considered vehicles, which means we are within our rights to ride on any designated road or road reserve, even within a National Park (just don’t stray from the road!). It is probably worth mentioning that a 4WD track is not necessarily a council road and thus horse riding may not be permitted.
Check out a map of the Bibbulmun; especially the stretches between Collie and Walpole. You’ll see a plethora of little red roads running across, beside and parallel to the yellow Bibbulmun Track.
You can ride on those ‘red’ roads instead, and chances are they’ll see little traffic anyway.
And there’s nothing to be lost by it. You wont have to fret about dodgy wooden footbridges that have certainly not been designed with a 500kg+ load in mind, or worry about being ‘dobbed’ in to the ranger.
In addition, While I would rather walk on more organic, single lane, even overgrown tracks when hiking, many horses prefer to amble along a wider gravel road and appreciate the increased visibility that this offers.
2. The Bibbulmun Track is not ALL Bibbulmun Track.
For some of its course, the Bibbulmun follows formed roads. So it’s completely legal to take a horse on these sections of the Bibbulmun track. After all, if cars can use it, so can you.
When you’ve got your route sorted by shadowing the Bibbulmun track and utilising multi-use/ road segments of the trail, finding suitable campsites is your next challenge. And with the absence of travelling stock reserves in South- Western Australia, this may prove to be rather a challenge. It’s fairly unlikely that you’ll find substantial grazing areas to camp at through much of the area that the Bibbulmun track traverses, and since you’ll be travelling mostly through forests, hay drops and high-lining/ night-lining your horse may be the best bet.
Needless to say, the Bibbulmun Huts are a no-go zone…
And if all else fails in your Bibbulman-esque horsey escapades, you could always give the equines a holiday and, well, just walk the Bibbulmun track. Its a pretty awesome experience.