Gloucester National Park is one of the best places around Pemberton to see the giant karri trees, for which the Southern Forests region in Western Australia is famed.
The landscape is hilly and very beautiful with the tall karri trees reaching skywards, lush green undergrowth and rivers flowing through. Along with Warren National Park, it’s among the most picturesque spots in the karri forests with some of the oldest, tallest trees.
The park is conveniently close to town and easily accessible by sealed roads, or by walking. It skirts the southern edge of the Pemberton townsite then extends out to the north-west and south-east beyond town, protecting 8.8 hectares of stunningly beautiful old-growth karri forest plus some areas of jarrah and marri.
Special Places and Attractions in Gloucester National Park
1. The Gloucester Tree
Front and centre in Gloucester National Park, and arguably Pemberton’s most famous tourist attraction, the Gloucester climbing tree is not to be missed. This giant karri tree is one of the three lookout trees open to tourists to climb, and the views from the top above the trees are amazing.
The Pemberton lookout trees were not originally built with adventurous tourists in mind (the one exception being the Bicentennial Tree). In the old days before spotter planes, these trees were used to get high above the forest canopy in order to spot fires in the forest as early as possible.
The climb is pretty daring, and many people decide in the end not to make the climb. But the Gloucester Tree is always worth a visit whether you climb it or not, for its interesting history and for the entertainment of watching other people climb… and most of all for its beautiful surrounds with gigantic 60+ metre trees towering overhead, dappled sunshine and shadow, the constant sound of birdsong and breezes rustling in the treetops and the clean fresh forest air. Although close to town it feels deep in the middle of the forest.
It’s also a wonderful spot for bird watching. Brightly coloured native parrots are there every day, flitting about and hopping around in the leaf litter. Some of the parrots are semi-tame, it seems – they’ve been there every time I’ve visited the Gloucester Tree and on a couple of occasions have landed even perched on me and my friends’ arms!
Be warned as Pemberton’s number one tourist attraction it does get busy sometimes; if the crowds are too much for you head to the less popular Bicentennial Tree in nearby Warren National Park instead.
2. The Cascades
The Cascades is the one of Gloucester National Park’s two main tourist attractions. You can also get there by car by driving south out of town down Vasse Highway then onto Pemberton Northcliffe Road. Turn left down Glauders Road then another left onto the road leading up to the Cascades carpark.
A brook babbles over low rocks, cascading from a cool dark riverpool reflecting dark tree trunks of jarrah and marri reaching up to the sky contrasting with the occasional ghostly pale karri. After lots of rain the cascades are a raging torrent with lots of white water, then in dry times more like a couple of little streams flowing over smooth granite – but most commonly it is something in between those two extremes.
A serene and restful place, but not a particularly wild and natural one as steps, bridges and boardwalks have been built.
After walking down to the cascades, a short 1.2km loop bushwalk heads further upriver then up the valley slope and back. We did this walk late in the day in winter a few weeks ago and the cool dark forest was very atmospheric – lots of undergrowth, birds and interesting forest fungi to discover.
Explore a short distance downstream via the track from the carpark pointing out the Bibbulmun Track, and find a suspension bridge across the brook and a railway bridge a bit further downstream. The tram tour makes a stop at The Cascades.
Burma Road Scenic Drive
Burma Road is a winding gravel road that begins with a short but beautiful drive through the Gloucester National Park before continuing through wild and beautiful forest scenery for many kilometres.
From Pemberton townsite, Burma Road first leads to the Gloucester Tree. Most tourists don’t drive any further than this, but beyond the Gloucester Tree it turns to gravel then exits the national park and continues for several kilometres through beautiful forest scenery until it eventually meets up with more gravel tracks down to Wheatley Coast Road to the east. You’ll need to keep an eye out for the right-hand bend in Burma Road near the beginning of the drive.
Bush Walks in Gloucester National Park
Bibbulmun Track passes through the national park from Pemberton townsite to the Gloucester Tree, then down alongside Eastbrook to the Cascades, and beyond following Lefroy Brook.
Walk Into the National Park From Town (3km one-way)
You can easily walk the three kilometres from the middle of Pemberton town to the main attraction in Gloucester National Park, the Gloucester Tree. From the main highway (Vasse Hwy) follow sleepy sidestreets up the hill to the western edge of town, then pick up the Bibbulmun Track as it winds its way through the trees next to Burma Road.
Gloucester Tree Short Walks (400m and 800m loops)
Several more bush walks of varying lengths begin at the Gloucester Tree. The shortest and easiest is a 400 metre loop walk through the forest called Duke’s Walk, which is great if you’re short on time. Although short, this walk immerses you in the forest and gets you close to nature and is well worth doing.
If you’ve got half an hour to spare, then you can do Karri Views, an 800-metre loop that takes you down to the edge of the valley and back to the Gloucester Tree, taking in some beautiful views along the way.
Gloucester Route (10km loop)
If you’re after something a bit longer to get deeper into the national park, the longest of the loop walks beginning at the Gloucester Tree is 10km. It makes a fantastic half-day walk through the karri forest, taking you down into shady gullies and over creeks, and you can even work in a stop at the Lavender and Berry Farm about half-way.
Gloucester Tree to the Cascades (6km one-way)
12km-return track down to the Cascades on Lefroy Brook from the Gloucester Tree (this is part of the Bibbulmun Track) is another great way to spend half a day and experience the best the Gloucester National Park has to offer.
The Lefroy Brook Loop at the Cascades (1.2km loop)
The walktrail at The Cascades is a beautiful short loop walk of only 1.2km that takes you alongside the cascades and the serenely beautiful Lefroy Brook, then up around a hillside through the forest and back down the valley again.
Visiting Gloucester National Park
National Park Entrance Fee
Gloucester National Park is one with a national parks entry fee of $12/vehicle for the day. The good news is the fee is valid not just in Gloucester National Park but in Warren and Beedelup National Parks as well. If you’ll be visiting more national parks with an entrance fee during the month then consider buying a month’s pass which costs $22/vehicle.
A ranger is stationed at the Gloucester Tree as you drive in. You can pay the fee to them and they’ll give you a national parks pass. You can also buy one from the Visitor Centre or DPAW office in town.
Location and Getting There
The two main roads into the national park are Burma Road to the Gloucester Tree from the back of town, and Glauders Road off the Pemberton-Northcliffe Road which is the turnoff to The Cascades.
There’s also a scenic back way into the national park to the Gloucester Tree from Wheatley Coast Road to the east via Burma Road Scenic Drive.
Visit Gloucester National Park on the Karri Forest Explorer Drive Around Pemberton
Follow the Karri Forest Explorer Drive beginning and ending in Pemberton to visit all of Pemberton’s main tourist attractions, and lots of beautiful scenery and some great wineries along the way. The Gloucester Tree and The Cascades are two of the stops on the drive. Turn your radio to 100FM to hear information at each stop.
Last Updated: 18th July, 2015.
First posted on 17th July, 2015 by Bonny.
Subscribe to Keep In Touch!
Wild Western Australia is an ever-expanding website with new articles and photos published every week. To ensure you remember and keep in touch enter your email address to receive a weekly round-up of new posts on the blog: