The 75 km Kep Track follows mainly old railway line from Northam to Mundaring, then down to Mundaring Weir. It often follows next to the Perth to Kalgoorlie water pipeline, and passes through or near small Hills towns, historic railway stations, a water spring, a refractory, a foundry and old mill sites. Kep ("Gep") is the Noongar name for water. This Track mixes cycling, nature and history all into a full day's ride.

The Kep Track is generally clearly marked. However there are a couple of spots where the directions are not clear. The longest section without markers is 6.5 km, which is long enough for you to start worrying you are not on the right route. My route sheets include a detailed hill profile and a GPS map of my actual ride, as well as a detailed sheet of every change in direction. To get the full ride gpx or the ride route summary, select the "Route Sheets" tab above, and click on the download buttons for each.

The Kep Track is a longer ride than the Railway Heritage loop, as well as harder. It is a great step up to riding the Munda Biddi Trail - the Northam to Mundaring leg would be similar to one day's ride on the Munda Biddi.

Here is my 90 second video of my ride on the Kep Track:

I prefer to start at the Northam Tourist bureau in the middle of Northam as it is prettier (right on the Avon River), you can get your maps there and there is a cafe with toilets. It is at Grey St, Northam - see www.visitnortham.com.au The Poole St starting point is only 1.8 km away, but it is a bit bland with just a picnic table and carpark.

Northam is the largest town in the Avon region. It is the largest inland town in WA not founded on mining. The arrival of the railway made Northam the major departure point for miners who headed east towards the Goldfields. The Kep Ultra running race is held each year on the Foundation Day long weekend in early June. The race starts in Northam and includes 100 km and 75 km events finishing at Mundaring Weir. The suspension bridge across the Avon river is the longest in Australia.

Getting there/back: Munda Biddi Shuttle Services (www.mundabiddishuttle.com ) offer a shuttle service from Mundaring to Northam on selected weekends. They plan  to get riders into Northam around 9 am. Plus they will drop less ambitious riders at Fox Road, which means the first few km of rough uphill are cut out. Price is $25 per rider and bike (minimum 4 riders, maximum 8). Contact them for more details.

The Avon Link train provides three return trips between Northam and Midland (via Toodyay) on Mondays, Tuesdays, Thursdays and Fridays and one return service on Wednesdays and Saturdays. It is one of the most comfortable commuter train rides in Australia with air conditioning throughout, access to power points for laptop computers, free WiFi and bike carrying facilities (maximum 4 per service, additional cost of $15 each). One way tickets are about $20 (Nov 2015) and are best pre booked, although they will accept walk ins if there is space. See more at https://www.transwa.wa.gov.au/Services/AvonLink  Downside is that it gets into Northam late morning, so doesn't give you a full day to ride back.

At the Poole St starting point you will see the first Kep Track markers and information posts (see photos). They are regularly seen along the track (especially until Clackline) and clearly mark changes in direction.

The trail to Clackline is a mixture of single track next to the Goldfields pipeline, 4 wheel drive track, good gravel road, and sealed country back roads. The climb up to the West Northam tanks (near Fox road) wasn't too bad as I wasn't carrying a load, although the Track was rough in parts. The first hill is the worst, but it is only 400m. The track was still going upwards until 7.5 km point, then after that the hills were a lot more undulating till Clackline. The track was generally well marked to Clackline. After Clackline, it all changes - the trail is then old rail trail. Trains cannot climb hills, so the trail is a lot flatter. In many places that meant digging cuttings (cutting through the small hills), or building up embankments. Considering they were dug 120 years ago without heavy machinery, these cuttings and embankments are very impressive. Also after Clackline the markers become fewer - I think that is because the rail trail is more obvious. The longest section with out any marker was 6.5 km- more than enough to make you question if you are still on the right track!

Eadine Springs is about 500m down a steep rough gravel track to two separate picnic areas with tables & bbq, but no toilets or water. The springs are quite small.

At Clackline we can start to see the rail heritage of the area as we join the old railway line. John Forrest recorded the name Clackline in 1879 but the origins of the word is unknown. A settlement was established in the 1880s, and the township was gazetted in 1896. It has also been known as Clackline Junction for the road and the rail junction. It was an important junction for the Eastern Railway lines to Northam, and Toodyay. The railway service through Clackline was closed in 1966 at the time the Avon Valley route of the Eastern Railway was opened.

A restored rail carriage, serving as a museum, was installed opposite the general store. A subway passes under the highway to connect to the remains of the Clackline railway station. We ride passed to old station, and in parts you can see old rail sleepers and other railway associated foundations. Remains of a loco turntable and remnants of the timber railway bridge across Clackline Brook are also visible.

In 1929, Clackline School's students and the head teacher commemorated the 100th anniversary of British colonisation by building a monument. The monument features a sculpture of a lion, with a plaque. It is located at the the Clackline Bridge which also has toilets, picnic table and chairs, bbq and water point. The pool next to the bridge is called Platypus Pool - strange because we don't have platypus's in WA.

Clackline Bridge is a historic road bridge that carried the Great Eastern Highway until 2008. It is the only bridge in Western Australia to have spanned both a waterway and railway, the Clackline Brook and the former Eastern Railway alignment. The mainly timber bridge has a unique curved and sloped design, due to the difficult topography and the route of the former railway. The bridge was designed in 1934 to replace two dangerous rail crossings and a rudimentary water crossing. Constructing a highway bypass of Clackline and the Clackline Bridge between 2007 and 2008.The local community had been concerned that the historic bridge would be lost, but it remains in use as part of the local road network, and has been listed on both the Northam Municipal Heritage Inventory and the Heritage Council of Western Australia's Register of Heritage Places.

Nearby to the Clackline station on is an old dam for supplying water to locos, and the location of the original Goldfields Pipeline - it was shifted in the 1930's and again in the 1950's. The map at Platypus Springs shows the dam, and the old pipeline foundations are obvious.

The trail now tends to be a flattish gravel path as it follows the old railway line route that occasionally gets gravelly in sections.

The Clackline Refractory is a heritage listed brickworks site located on Refractory Road and we ride right past it. An abundant supply of fine quality clay was discovered in Clackline in 1898, which led to the establishment of a quarry and refractory. By 1901, the industry was important to WA, with the brick products from Clackline used by multiple government departments, the Fremantle Gas Company, and many goldmines. Other users of the bricks included the Railway Department, the Perth Gas Company, the Fremantle smelter, and the Great Boulder Perseverance Company The Clackline Refractory also supplied bricks for the nearby pumping stations for the Goldfields Water Supply Scheme. Alongside these structures is a large brick chimney. The building looks unsafe with broken asbestos sheets - I recommend you stay outside the gates.

Bakers Hill was originally known as Mount Baker in 1897. In 1902 the name was changed to Baker's Hill to avoid confusion with the town of Mount Barker near Albany. The apostrophe was removed from the name in 1944. Bakers Hill was also a station and siding on the second route of the Eastern Railway between Midland Junction and Spencers Brook. This track was closed in 1966 as well. We will ride past the old train platform. The township (100m away) has a small shop and a great bakery.

Wundowie was named in 1907 and was a siding on the Chidlow to Northam section of the railway. The origin of the name is from nearby Woondowing Spring which is an Aboriginal word thought to come from Ngwundow, meaning "to lie down". Following the decision of the government to construct the blast furnace and wood distillation plant (to produce charcoal) in 1943 at Wundowie, plans were made to develop the townsite. Wundowie was chosen due to the abundance of natural resources in the area - being on the main railway line, close proximity to the city, extensive low grade forest areas, the Kalgoorlie pipeline was close by, local iron ore deposits, and limestone and magnesite ore were all obtainable from various sources in WA. Lots were surveyed in 1946 and the town was gazetted in 1947. The iron works commenced production in 1948, and the railway station was opened in 1949. In 1974 the plant was sold to Agnew-Clough Ltd and upgraded. By 1979, a shortage of hardwood timber resulted in the saw mill being closed. By 1981 the mill ceased operation, and the end of pig iron production, so they diversified into other lines such as stoves, tillage points and BBQ hardware.In 2006 the foundry was purchased by Bradken.The railway line was continued for a while from Northam to service Wundowie - after the main closure of the Chidlows route and the opening of the Avon Valley route in 1966.

The Wooroloo name comes from a Noongar Aboriginal word that was first recorded in 1841, with other spellings also used. A timber mill operated by Byfield Brothers commenced operations in the 1880s, and Byfield's Mill was established as a railway stopping place for the Eastern Railway in 1893, being renamed to Wooroloo in 1897.
The local general store is open every day 7am to 7pm (8am start on Sunday) and is only 50m from the Track.

The Chidlow townsite was originally known variously as Chidlow's Flat, Chidlow's Springs or Chidlow's Well after a well and stockyard on the old Mahogany Creek to Northam road. The well was sunk by William Chidlow, a pioneer of the Northam district, who originally established the Northam road. Chidlow arrived in the colony in 1831. Settlement began in 1883 when it became known that Chidlow's Well was to be the terminus of the second section of the Eastern Railway, which was opened in 1884. Chidlow's Well railway station and townsite were renamed Chidlow in 1920. The railway station and yard were of significance in the operation of the Eastern Railway from the 1880s to the 1960s. Lake Leschenaultia was originally constructed to provide water for the steam trains and holds approximately 520 million litres of water. Various proposals have been put forward to rebuild the railway to Midland especially due to the restricted nature of public transport to the Chidlow area.

We pass the small Hills township of Mt Helena, which was the original home of White's Mill (1882- 1888). The production of railway sleepers was their main concern but they supplied timber for local orders. When a local builder was contracted to build "Woodbridge" for the Harper family at Guildford, White's Mill cut all of the timber for the project ( see www.nationaltrust.org.au/wa/woodbridge ). Even though the mill burnt down in 1893 it was completely rebuilt and went on to supply timber for English paving in 1897-8. Timber from this area was used in the interior of St Georges Cathedral in Perth. In 1897 the Mill was sold and the name changed to Lion Mill, and eventually the area around it became known as Lion Mill. Bunnings purchased it in 1905. One of the locos they used was called "Dirty Mary" who got her name for her ability to spray oil over herself and anybody standing in the vicinity. She was in service at Lion Mill in 1907 until 1926 when the mill closed, then went into service at the Bunning Brothers mill at Argyle, near Donnybrook. During WW1, 72 men from Lion Mill enlisted - over half the adult male population. 18 were killed, and one, Lt McCarthy, won the Victoria Cross, one of only 10 VC's awarded to WA soldiers. The surrounding district name was changed from Lion Mill to Mt Helena in 1924.

Sawyers Valley began as a sawmill (there are numerous saw pits still in the ground South of the town) and railway siding to process timber from the forest surrounding the Helena River to the south. The first inhabitants were convicts or ticket of leave men (ex convicts). In the 1890's mills were built and the town became a hub for supplies and recreation. It was gazetted in 1898. Local employment included sleeper and timber cutting and Goldfields Water Supply Scheme maintenance, but then grit growing took over as the mills closed. A popular display at the Collie Vistors Centre is Polly, a traction engine made in 1879 in the UK. In 1875 Alexander Buckingham built a timber mill near Kelmscott. In 1880 he purchased a traction engine that later became known as Polly. He used it for several years to haul logs before reselling it to Sawyers Valley. Two of Alexander's sons became millers in the Wellington area near Collie, and they repurchased the engine in the 1900's and drove it there - the journey took two weeks! This was known as Buckingham's Mill. In 1912 she was fitted with loco wheels and winch and converted for use on the railways around Collie, where she worked till 1954, when the tracks were removed. After that she retired and was placed in front of the Collie Visitor Centre.

This ride passes close to Mundaring ( Mindah-lung means "high place on a high place" in the local Noongar language ). A couple of hundred metres from the Kep Track is the Sculpture park, which is the Northern trail head for the Munda Biddi. It has sculptures set amidst Golden Wattles, gum trees and wildflowers. It also has a playground, picnic area with electric BBQ's, a modified railway signal tower, amphitheatre and minor walk paths. The old Station Masters House and public toilets are nearby. In recent years the park has also been the home of the Mundaring Truffle Festival.

Construction of Mundaring Weir was commenced in 1898, the same year as the town was gazetted. The engineer C. Y. O'Connor was involved the design of this scheme that pipes drinking water from the Dam to the booming, but dry, Goldfields, 600km away. We will pass the Mundaring Weir Hotel that was built at the same time and was where O'Connor stayed regularly during the construction of the weir. The track goes along the old train line that was built in the 1890's to assist with the building of the Weir.

Keep in mind the Kep Track has been put on permeant railway line, whereas the MB is often on temporary logging rail line. The difference is that the permeant rail line was more solid and compact, whereas the temporary line was used for short periods, was less compact, and then removed over 60 years ago. This means the Kep track is generally firmer and easier to ride than the MB, which has more loose gravel and steeper slopes.

A very interesting map is the one shown in my gallery or at the top of this page. It is map of the WA railway lines dated about 1910. I have cropped it to show the Kep Track route i.e. Northam to Mundaring. We do not follow the railway line from Northam to Clackline via Spencers Brook, but after that the Kep track follows the route to Mt Helena, then on to Mundaring Weir. Some of the stops on the map are no longer evident on the Track, but would have serviced local farms, the Goldfields Pipeline etc. The most interesting would have to be the Sanatorium Siding. A sanatorium for the treatment of tuberculosis ("T.B."), or consumption as it was also known, was built in the relative isolation of Wooroloo and, officially opened in 1915. Built to house 300 patients (200 male and 100 female), there were initially only 80 patients, many of them ex-miners from the Eastern Goldfields. From the late 1930's, Wooroloo was used as a preliminary 6-8 week training school for both male and female trainee nurses. Until the 1944 discovery of treatment for T.B., rest, fresh air and good food were the only hope for T.B. patients. Many of them ended up in the nearby Wooroloo Cemetery. Patients with multiple sclerosis, stroke and paraplegic victims and alcoholics were also referred there until its controversial closure in 1970.

GPX files I have available:

Kep Track (all)
Northam to Mundaring (Sept 2014)
Mundaring to the Weir (April 2014)
Getting there/back:
Mt Helena to Bellvue via John Forrest National Park (March 2015)
Bellvue to Midland (March 2015)
Mundaring to Midland (Sept 2014)
Midland to Mundaring (April 2014)

This page is the property of Follow My Ride, a website detailing off road cycle tracks near Perth and in Western Australia. This page is on the Kep Track.