How to Complete the Stirling Ranges Hike in 3 days

Preparing for the Stirling Ranges hike

The Stirling Ranges hike across the ridge from Bluff Knoll to Ellen Peak is one of WA’s best trails. The following itinerary is a guide to complete the trek in 3 days. However, experienced hikers with a high level of fitness may finish the trail faster.

AT Morphet’s book, ‘Mountain Walks in the Stirling Range: Part 2’ is a popular resource but has been out of print for years and copies are difficult to find. Unfortunately, my copy got wet when I was caught in the rain on the trail, but I’ve since borrowed the book from my local Perth library using an interlibrary request. Network with other local hikers and you may have luck borrowing one or tracking down a digital copy. The Stirling Ridge Walk facebook group is another useful source of information. See the ‘files’ section for documents shared by fellow hikers.

Most people stay at the Stirling Range Retreat before and / or after the Stirling Ranges hike.

Planning on trekking the Stirling Ranges hike? The Stirling Range Ridge Walk covers how to prepare for your hike in greater detail.

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The Stirling Ranges Hike 3 Day Itinerary

Day One

The Stirling Ranges hike Log Book

Stirling Ranges hike from Bluff Knoll carpark

The Stirling Ranges hike is one of Australia’s most challenging treks, so notify friends and family of your travel plans and sign into the visitors log book. The log book is located at the picnic area across from the Bluff Knoll Road entry station and is monitored by DPAW (Department of Parks and Wildlife) Rangers. Leaving a record of your intended travel plans alerts Rangers when assistance or rescue may be required.

Starting the Stirling Ranges hike: Climbing Bluff Knoll

The first section of the Stirling Ranges hike is a continuous, uphill staircase and the only part of the trail with an established track. This ensures the quickest and easiest access to the top of the ridge and is why I prefer to start the hike at Bluff Knoll rather than Ellen Peak. The trail from the Bluff knoll car park to the summit is sign-posted, 3kms long and takes approximately 1 hour. The Bluff Knoll trail is listed as a Grade 4 difficulty rating (out of 5) and rises 1,098m above sea level . You may also be interested in: The Best time to climb Bluff Knoll.

‘The Chasm’, East Peak, Moongoongoonderup Hill & Isongerup Peak

From Bluff Knoll, pass through ‘The Chasm’ to East Peak and on to Moongoongoonderup Hill. The trail heads north and takes a steep descent, before ascending Moongoongoonderup Hill. This is a good place to stop for lunch. The next climb is Isongerup Peak. After descending Isongerup Peak either complete Day 1 and camp at the sheoak col or press on to the cave at First Arrow. The distance between Bluff Knoll and Isongerup Peak is 5km and takes approximately 6 and a half hours.

Bluff Knoll chasm Atlas Introspective

Day Two

The Arrows

The Arrows is the most technically challenging section of the Stirling Ranges hike. The trail between Isongerup Peak to Third Arrow is 2km and takes approximately 3hrs. First Arrow is the most difficult and some hikers opt to lower their packs down the rock ledges with rope. This is not necessary but be prepared to scramble up and down the rock ledges and be mindful that a heavy backpack can impair your balance.

First Arrow

There are many false trails on First Arrow which is not only confusing but can cost valuable time if you get lost. From the sheoak col pass through a rock castle, and go straight through the cleft. Veer left and look for the grassy rake to the west of the ridge. Continue up the ridge and climb the rock scramble. From here, follow the ridge for about 50metres.

Click to view a detailed map of First Arrow (courtesy of Torridon Publications).

North West Pinnacle

Veer left down the galley to traverse the North West Pinnacle. Avoid the trail that appears to follow the ridge, as it’s quite exposed and can be dangerous in poor weather. The section of trail that returns to the ridge is steep, so take your time and climb it safely.

Stirling Ranges hike Bluff Knoll to Ellen Peak. The Arrows.

From here, follow the trail back to the ridge, passing the rock ledges and the camping cave between the summit of First Arrow and the North West Pinnacle.

Second Arrow

The path through Second Arrow is more straight forward. Third arrow is within sight, simply walk towards it.

Third Arrow

At Third Arrow, pass the water barrel on the western side of the peak and top up your water if needed. Please note that this water source is inconsistent and shouldn’t be relied upon. From here you can set up camp in the cave at the northern side of the north buttress, or press on.

Hikers continuing on the trail, climb the summit of Third Arrow, and can either skirt downwards around the northern buttress and onto Little Arrow; or climb upwards and through the central gully. Whilst it may appear to be the more challenging climb, the central gully route is easier and more straight forward. The trail that descends around the northern buttress is steep and the rocks are slippery in wet weather.

Click to view a detailed map of Third Arrow (courtesy of Torridon Publications).

Stirling Ranges hike: Bakers knob

Bakers Knob

From Third Arrow to Pyungoorup Peak there is 1km to cover via Bakers Knob and takes approximately 1 hour. At the base of Bakers Knob, is a clearing which makes for a good campsite in mild weather. However, there isn’t much shelter and may not be the best campsite if there is strong wind.

After completing The Arrows, Bakers Knob is a welcome break. This is an easier section of the Stirling Ranges hike so take a moment to enjoy the view. After clearing Bakers Knob the next leg is Pyungoorup Peak. The cave here is a great camping site. But if you’re making good time, by all means, press on.

Day Three

Pyungoorup Peak

From Pyungoorup Peak to Ellen Peak there is 1km to cover in 2 hours. The vegetation at Pyungoorup Peak is slightly different to other regions on the trail, with a long section over-grown with reeds that cut your legs and arms if exposed. Cover up in long pants, gaiters and gloves for protection. The reeds also hide dips in the ground so take care and use your hiking poles to feel out the trail.

view from the Stirling Range ridge Atlas Introspective

The trail veers to the Southern side of the ridge, aim to stay as close to the rock face as possible. Towards the end of Pyungoorup Peak the path becomes narrow and curves around an exposed corner. At this point it’s tempting to descend away from the rock face, but resist- it’s a false trail. There’s a small clearing in the saddle before Ellen Peak which is a good place to set up camp if needed.

Ellen Peak

The Stirling Ranges hike is a one-way trail, commencing at either Bluff Knoll or Ellen Peak. It’s easier and quicker to get onto the ridge from Bluff Knoll, as it’s the only part of the hike with a set trail. The Ellen Peak section of the trail is less defined and sandy in places, so it’s easier to descend than climb.

Stirling Ranges hike: view from Ellen Peak

From Ellen Peak the most difficult sections of the Stirling Ranges hike are behind you. There is 11km to cover from here to the boundary fence but thankfully, it’s all downhill and shouldn’t take more than 5 hrs. Before your descent from the ridge, climb the summit of Ellen Peak and take in the view one last time. The descent is steep so go slowly and use your hiking poles to protect your knees.

Leaving the National Park

In his guidebook, AT Morphet recommends leaving the national park via a trail that has since been blocked to prevent the spread of dieback. Instead, cross the boundary of the national park, and walk the long, sandy track to the boundary fence.

Getting back to your car

Before starting the Stirling Ranges hike make arrangements to get from the trail back to your car, which hikers usually leave at Bluff Knoll car park or the Stirling Range Retreat. Hitch a lift or arrange for a pick up service with the Stirling Range Retreat for a small fee. Larger groups can leave a car at each end of the trail. Gluttons for punishment can continue walking to the Stirling Range Retreat, which takes 4-5 hours. Don’t forget to sign out of the visitors book.

For hikers who successfully complete the Stirling Ranges hike, a celebration and a cold beer is in order. However, if your trek did not go according to plan, you’re in good company. Many hikers plans are hampered and must access one of the four escape routes (Bluff Knoll, First Arrow, Moongoongoonderup ridge and Ellen Peak) to bad weather or injury. There will always be another weekend and next time you’ll tackle the hike with more experience under your belt. The Stirling Ranges hike is a trek that gets under your skin and one trip is never enough!

The track to the Stirling Ranges hike, Ellen Peak end.

Read on: Everything you need to know before attempting the Stirling Ranges hike.

If you enjoyed the Stirling Ranges hike, you may also be interested in another multi-day hike in WA: the Cape to Cape.