The Bibbulmun Track is one of the world’s great long distance walk trails, stretching 1000km from Kalamunda in the Perth Hills, to Albany on the south coast, winding through the heart of the scenic South West of Western Australia.
And as I write this article on horse riding on the Bibbulmun track, I can almost hear all those hikers tutting-tut
ting over their screens, almost feel their palpable anger emanating through cyber space.
Horse-riding on the Bibbulmum Track? But you’re not ALLOWED horses on the Bibbulmun Track!
They’re right- NO horses permitted on the Bibbulmun Track.
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.
Do you really want to go horse riding on the Bibbulmun Track?
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 horse trekking, and the designated track shelters have been designed with only walkers in mind.
These 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 fairly 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 Bibbulman riders.
“OH, if ONLY we could ride the Bibbulmun Track!”, they lament.
Often, some choose to enjoy its splendors regardless, usually ending in a fine or in further tarnishing the reputation of the local horse-rising 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 Bibbulman Track” would have more a more apt title for this post.
So yeah, just for the record-
Please don’t go horse-riding on the Bibbulmun Track.
Unfortunately, Western Australia lacks any true long-distance trails suitable for horses. But if you’re keen to see some of the South West’s natural wonders by horseback , then the good news is that you can ALMOST follow the Bibbulmun Track. Here’s a couple of points to be aware of:
For much of its length, the Bibbulman is shadowed by minor rural or logging roads.
We 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 as such and thus horse riding may not be permitted (i.e. kinda like that Nature Reserve at Quarram Beach that 4WD-ers tear around on like its a rally race. Alas, horse hooves are feared too destructive for the fragile environment.)
But, I digress. Check out a map of the Bibbulmun, especially the stretches between Collie and Walpole. See all those lil’ red road lines running across, beside and parallel to that yummy yellow Bibbulmum line?
You can ride on those red ones (roads) instead- 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 on to the ranger.
IN addition, While I would rather walk on more organic, single lane, overgrown tracks when hiking, I know that ,y own horses prefer to amble along a wider gravel road and appreciate the increased visibility that this offers. I wonder what others’ horses are like?
But before you tear off into the sunset, bound for those endless gravel backtracks, there is one teensy-weensy little problem…
Well, more like the steel vehicle-exclusion kind.
I recently made the mistake of setting off through the bush, bound for Lake Muir. I had done my homework, planned my route along the back roads, identified some potential (semi) legal campsites, only to find one of these steel gates blocking our way ahead.
With the prominence of Phytophthora Dieback in the region, more and more of these still gates seem to be going up, practically overnight. And while the Bibbulmun maps are pretty good at showing which forest roads have them, most other maps don’t.
And yes, your horse can technically go around these gates. Easily. But that’s not the issue here- after all, you are claiming rights to traverse a national park by road because your horse is a ‘vehicle’, right?
So I would think that if you bypassed an exclusion gate by steering your horse around it, he/she no longer really counts as a vehicle. I guess. You may wanna check up on it. I reckon you’d be landed with a fine of some sort- whether its for having an animal in a national park or for ‘driving’ a vehicle in a restricted area… Not sure. If anyone finds out, I’d love to know!
So check the Bibbulmun maps for the presence of these gates, or ring the local DPaW office. And if you do choose to be a ning-nong and disregard the gate by going around, please, please, please remember to brush off Neddy’s feet first!
2. The Bibbulmun Track is not ALL Bibbulmun track.
For some of its course, the Bibbulmun follows formed roads. So its totally 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 TSRs in Western Australia, rather a challenge it may prove to be. Its pretty unlikely that you’ll find substantial grazing areas to camp at. As you’ll be traveling mostly through forests, hay drops and highlining/ night-lining your horse may be the best bet.
Details on suitable places to camp are beyond the scope of this article, so check out this post for ideas on where to camp with your horse.
Needless to say, the Bibbulman 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 it. Its a pretty awesome experience.