Karijini National Park is one of the most incredible places you can visit in Australia. Known for blissful freshwater pools, rugged gorges and towering mountains. It’s an oasis in the desert, located in the Pilbara of Western Australia.
However, there’s a lot of things you should know about this rugged, untamed landscape before visiting.
Understanding the weather at Karijini can make or break your trip. For example, the Pilbara can get variable rainfall and extremely hot summers. But, if you choose to go to Karijini at the right time, you are in for a treat!
We have added all the things we wish we knew, before we embarked on a journey to Karijini National Park for the first time!
When is the Best Time to Visit?
Karijini National Park is located in the Pilbara in the North of Western Australia which experiences tropical weather with a wet, hot and humid Summer, and a drier more comfortable Winter.
For this reason, the best time to visit Karijini National Park is from late autumn, through winter into early spring. In Western Australia the best months to visit are from April to September.
We went in August and had very pleasant weather, but the water levels are lower and less fresh in August. In this article we will break down the multiple benefits and cautions to be aware of, when visiting Karijini in different months.
The warm clear winter days and cool starry nights provide the perfect backdrop to explore. No matter when you visit, you’ll find something to surprise, challenge, and inspire you at Karijini National Park.
Use this quick menu below, to jump to the season (or question), and learn about visiting during those times.
- What is the Weather Like?
- Is it Safe?
- Flash Flooding Warnings
- What Precautions to Take When Visiting?
- Late Autumn – April to May
- Winter – June, July, August
- Early Spring – September to October
- Summer – November to March
- Things to Bring
What is the Weather Like?
Karijini’s climate is mostly tropical, located in the middle of the Pilbara, a desert like environment in Australia’s Northwest. Your experience of Karijini largely depends on the time when you visit. Winter weather offers more comfortable weather conditions, whereas summer can be unbearably hot.
Best Months for Karijini – April to September
The weather is generally very pleasant between these dates. April and September top a high of 32 degrees, whereas the months in between settle at a comfortable high of 26 degrees or lower.
We go more deeply into the weather and what you can expect for each month of the high season later on in this article.
Water temperatures inside the gorges can be very cold, so cold that hyperthermia can be a risk. So make sure you don’t stay in the water too long and have a dry outfit to change into after. Being located in a semi desert like environment, night time can also be as cold as 10 degrees in July, so make sure you pack warm clothes for the night time!
Being a tropical climate, during winter there is a lot less rainfall over Karijini than in summer. It’s important to note that: rain in Karijini comes with the risk of cyclones, flash flooding, road closures and park closures.
Karijini Low Season – October to March
Summer is an unpopular season for visiting Karijini, we don’t recommend visiting in the summer. But if you absolutely must, be prepared for temperatures to regularly be above 40 degrees. Be aware of the risk of heatstroke, dehydration, cyclones, heavy rainfall and closures due to flash flooding.
No matter when you visit – Keep up to date on the weather and always have a back up plan. Pack a lot of water and remember that Karijini National Park is a remote place, you need to go in prepared with everything you need and leave nothing behind.
For more information on park alerts visit this page: Alerts Page From Karijini Eco Retreat.
Is it Safe in Karijini National Park?
When you visit Karijini National Park, one of the biggest attractions is the rugged natural environment of vertical plunging rock walls and icy cold pristine swimming holes. Tourists love that Karijini hasn’t been built up or changed too much for visitors to experience it.
However, like any untouched paradise, visiting Karijini comes with risks and it is best you’re aware of them so you can have preparations in place.
Risks shouldn’t stop tourists visiting a once in a lifetime destination, if we didn’t travel due to fear we would never leave the house. In any natural environment, exploring comes with some level of risk. As long as you respect that, you will be much better off and much safer, than if you disregard it completely.
Being aware and taking precautions for your visit will set you up to have an excellent time without the added problem of not being prepared in an emergency. Most tourists visit and don’t have any problems, for example, we visited for 4 days and didn’t encounter any problems.
However, there are some serious and unfortunate accidents which have occurred in Karijini National Park. We are going to elaborate on the risks below, and some precautions you can put in place to avoid them.
Flash Flooding Warnings
Karijini National Park is sometimes closed temporarily (usually for a day or so) due to rainfall and the risk of flash flooding. Sometimes the dirt roads into Karijini can be flooded too which can stop people being able to enter the National Park.
While it’s rare, it can happen unexpectedly. The best way to be safe from flash flooding, is to leave a gorge immediately, if it starts raining. Flash flooding can be extremely dangerous and even fatal, if you are inside the gorge when it occurs.
If it is already raining, all gorges are closed and sometimes the roads get closed too.
Rains are what contribute to flash flooding, so keep up to date with the weather forecast, online alerts, pay attention to signage, being a well prepared hiker and talk to the staff at Karijini.
You can access up to date information by reading “Park Alerts” here at Parks and Wildlife Service.
How to be safe when visiting Karijini
Most importantly, come prepared and be aware.
Because it’s a remote location, there is only intermittent reception at Karijini (Telstra and Optus only) and limited supplies available. Like any remote travel destination, you need to come into the National Park prepared with everything you need for your stay. There is also no rubbish collection, so bring a lot of bin bags, and take your rubbish away with you.
There is an Eco Retreat with a restaurant and bar, however for necessities, bring all your own water, fuel, food and other supplies.
Hiking and Navigating Rocks
It is important you wear appropriate foot wear, and take each move carefully when descending or ascending out of gorges. If you rush in and out you are more likely to lose your footing which can be dangerous.
When climbing, we recommend always having at least three points of contact, so for example, two feet firmly pressed on a rock, and at least one hand gripping a rock, with the other hand prepared to grab the next position, while climbing in or out of gorges. Lean your weight forward, rather than backwards and plan every move you make.
The rocks can be wet, or dusty, which can both be hard to navigate, so just take it slow and carefully.
Being an equipped hiker
Telstra and Optus tend to get the best reception at Karijini, but if you want to be extra safe in an emergency, we would recommend bring a satelite phone or other communication/location sharing device with you.
When hiking wear waterproof shoes with grip, bring wet weather gear, a change of clothes, sun protection, first aid equipment and plenty of water and food. We bought our waterproof hiking sandals from the brand “Keen” and highly recommend the ones we got, but there are a lot of different brand options you can go with.
Most of the time, people visit Karjini and have no problems to deal with, however, in this rugged, unforgiving environment, you want to be equipped as an individual or family, should you need help in the event of an emergency.
You can read more about staying safe when exploring Western Australia here: Explore Parks WA.
Weather in Karijini
Late Autumn – April to May
Visiting Karijini in April or May is a popular time to visit, but it isn’t known as necessarily the “best” months to go for a few reasons.
However, it can still be a lovely time of year with many visitors still opting to go during this time.
April and May is towards the end of the wet season in North Western Australia. There can still be scattered rainfall which can close the park during this time (or anytime for that matter), but on the plus side the water levels will be high and fresh.
The temperatures and humidity might also be a little higher, but after the summer rains – and sometimes the occasional cyclone – the waterfalls and waterways will be flowing strongly. The vegetation that flourishes along the streams and around the pools will be rinsed of dust and be a vibrant green.
Nights won’t be quite so chilly as later in the year, and the occasional inland storm can put on a show really worth seeing. There’s nothing like the contrast of dark stormy grey thunderheads against the iron-rich red of the Pilbara landscape.
For those who prefer solitude, this time of year sees less visitors to Karijini National Park than the Dry Season, and campsites are not so much in demand.
Access to some areas may be limited, even to 4WD vehicles, as a late season cyclone could play havoc with road conditions, so it’s wise to check local road closures before entering the National Park.
Winter – June, July, August
Also know as the Dry Season in the north of Australia, this is probably the best time of the year to make the most of a trip through the Pilbara. Cloudless skies with low humidity and daytime highs of between 25-30 degrees Celsius make for almost perfect hiking weather.
Rise with the sun to fresh clear mornings – no need for an alarm clock out here! The depths of the gorges are perfect respite from the heat of the day. Enjoy a lazy picnic lunch lounging around a cool, shaded pool.
The later in the dry season that you go, the less the waterfalls will be flowing because of the little rain that comes down in winter. Some of waterfalls in Karijini will still be flowing, a freshwater shower is a must to rinse off that red Pilbara dust.
When we went in August, Joffre Gorges waterfall was dry, however Fern Pool and Fortescue Falls were both running rapidly still. See below.
At this time of year, there is almost a guarantee of warm sunny days and (quite cool) clear starry nights. The dry weather will allow best access to all that Karijini has to offer. Definitely the best time if you are in a 2WD vehicle.
Although this is the busiest time of year, the Pilbara is so expansive that you never really feel crowded.
Make sure to book your campsites well ahead of arrival to avoid disappointment. Dales Campsite within the Dales Recreation Area is a very basic campground with only a water tower (no filtered water) and basic (not super clean) public facilities. Karijini Eco-Retreat offers a range of accommodation options. Both will be in high demand and camping fees do apply.
Early Spring – September to October
The crystal clear blue skies continue into spring, with days getting a little warmer as the calendar progresses toward October. The Dry Season still provides great access to most areas.
The temperature during the heat of the day is creeping up this time of year, but those secret waterways and private pools continue to beckon the adventurous. The depths of the gorges are an escape from the heat above. The water levels in the gorges will be at an all time low this time of year, however they are permanent waterholes so you will still get to enjoy all Karijini has to offer in terms of watering holes.
There are a few less running waterfalls this time of the season, but the cascades on offer are still magical, and made even more so when you are less likely to be sharing these special places with many people at all.
More opportunity to enjoy these sacred spaces alone allows more mindful appreciation.
Summer – November to March
The long summer in the Pilbara region can see daytime temperatures soar to well over 45 degrees Celsius!
This time of year – known locally as the Wet Season – can be every bit as spectacular as The Dry, but for very different reasons. Unexpected and severe weather events can both enhance and hinder a visit to Karijini National Park.
Afternoon and evening thunderstorms offer relief from the heat while providing a lightning show like you’ve never seen before. The excitement and anticipation that accompanies a storm, should also be tempered by caution.
The flash flooding that can occur with these weather events will mean access to explore this remote landscape will be limited and possibly dangerous. Always check locally for current conditions – especially if a cyclone threatens the area.
Things to Bring
- Water! And lots of it.
- Good quality waterproof hiking shoes or sandals.
- Sun protection.
- Insect repellent.
- First aid kit.
- Snacks (or lunch) to keep your energy up.
- Swimmers/bathers and spare dry clothes.
- A good camera!
- A dry bag.
Karijini is the keeper of secrets, but this National Park is more inclined to share them during the cooler months of the year.
The ancient land replenishes and rests with the wet season, revealing pristine waterways snaking their way silently through hidden gorges as the land dries out and roads become passable. As the seasons change in this mystical part of the world, so do the highlights…
Choose your time to visit wisely, and you won’t be disappointed – you will be inspired!
Frequently Asked Questions
How long do you need at Karijini?
We were happy with 4 to 5 days in Karijini National Park. But allow yourself as much time as possible. This unique region of Western Australia has so much to offer – from swimming in natural waterways and spectacular waterfalls, to walking challenging hiking trails and scrambling through prehistoric geology. If you fly into Paraburdoo or Newman, you will need at the very least 3 days to explore the main attractions of Karijini National Park. However if you are driving all the way, then we recommend you spend more like a minimum of 4-5 days to appreciate the best of what this part of the world has to offer.. and more if you can afford the time.
Do you need a 4WD for Karijini?
You can definitely see the the highlights of Karijini National Park with a 2WD drive, but a 4WD will give you more comfort and far greater access to fully appreciate the area, especially during the Wet Season.
Are there crocodiles in Karijini?
No, thankfully not – crocodiles don’t extend this far south or inland. Hypothermia in the cold waters is more of a risk!
Is Karijini open all year?
Yes, the park is open all year, but the visitor centre closes early December through to early February as the excessive heat and potentially extreme weather events tend to deter the crowds. Best to check with WA Parks or the Ranger Station as dangerous conditions may cause the closure of some areas.
Hope this article has helped answer some of you questions! Let us know if you have any questions or additional advice or comments below. Enjoy your travels! Cheers, Chris and Bec.