Karijini National Park is WA’s second-largest protected area, with spectacular, accessible gorges in the north and a vast unvisited section to the south, separated roughly by Karijini Drive, the southernmost of the two roads running through the park. Travellers rave about the nerve-jangling walks, timeless scenery and sparkling waterholes here, and are often taken aback at the lush, spinifex-covered hills and proliferation of white-trunked snappy gums that sprout from the blood-red rock, distinguishing the Pilbara from the better-known but drier Kimberley, especially in July and August (the busiest months).
The gorges themselves cut through the north-facing escarpment of the Hamersley Ranges and all offer spectacular views as well as a range of graded walks through their interiors. There are scores of superlative swimming holes in the park too, but they tend to be situated deep in the gorges, and are rarely less than absolutely freezing, even on the hottest days.
Karijini Drive is sealed, but the northern Banjima Drive, which runs between the gorges, is predominantly corrugated dirt. Barring adverse weather, the park remains accessible for all vehicles throughout the year, although 2WD may find things a little bumpy. The gorges get extremely hot between November and April, making the winter the best time to visit, and flash floods are reasonably common so keep an eye on the weather forecast. Keep a check on your watch too – ascending out of the gorges in anything less than full daylight is a definite no-no.
The park has a western entrance, accessed from Highway 1 via Tom Price, and an eastern entrance, accessed via the Great Northern Highway from Newman in the south or Port Hedland to the north. Whichever way you enter, make sure you fill up at the last available fuel station as driving distances in the park tend to be underestimated; count on doing around 250km. There’s limited food and drinking water in the park, so it’s best to bring your own just in case.