We’ve completely fallen in love with the Pilbara region, and like others feel that the red dirt has gotten into our blood. From the pristine beaches and blue water through to red rocks, spinifex and more 4WD tracks and camp sites than you can poke a stick at, it’s a place we’ll forever enjoy visiting.
In this post, we check out the many 4WD tracks in the area, and what you need to know.
Before we do though, I want to cover a few things that you really should have, or know before heading out.
The Pilbara is seriously remote
If it weren’t for the mining activity that goes on in the Pilbara, the whole area would be very, very quiet. However, even with the mining that goes on, expect not to see a single person for days in some parts of the Pilbara, and that means if something goes wrong you are likely on your own.
You’ll have patchy reception (sometimes in the most random places), but bank on not having any phone reception for a large majority of these places, and that makes getting help even harder. If you are going to the Pilbara, let someone know where you are going, and check in regularly. Take ample water and food, repair gear and tools and take it easy. It’s a really harsh part of the world to get into trouble!
You need good quality tyres
I would say that the Pilbara is up there with the most harsh terrain for 4WD tyres in Australia. If you head up there with a set of Dunlop road terrains that your vehicle came out of the factory floor with, you are going to have major issues.
If you plan on doing 4WD tracks in the Pilbara you need at a minimum, a good set of light truck, all terrain tyres. The rocks in the Pilbara are like nothing else, and will give you punctures and sidewall damage without even trying. Even those running good tyres at the right pressures still experience punctures from time to time, and there’s not much you can do about it.
George River Gorge
Located in Millstream National Park, the George River Gorge 4WD track is a 10 kilometre track off the main road that goes through some stunning scenery, and ends up at George River Gorge. You can camp here for free, with minimal visitors except the birds, and enjoy picture perfect sunrises and sunsets against the red rock.
The 4WD track starts just after Python Pool, on Roebourne-Wittenoom road, and meanders its way to a river crossing not long after, then a fairly flat drive with a number of descents and ascents before heading down into another river crossing, and the Gorge itself.
The track is not for newbies, but its not overly difficult or complex either, and we managed just fine with our 2016 Isuzu Dmax towing our Reconn R2 hybrid camper. If its been really wet I’m sure a few sections would be entertaining, and the track gets rougher and rougher the further you go (with the sections after the first main pool about as rough as it gets), but the scenery is out of this world.
If you want to drive up what seems like a river, and experience some waterfront camping in the Pilbara, Kalgans Pool is for you. Starting not far out of Newman, this track winds its way along a narrow, corrugated track to where the water starts. You’ll drive through several hundred metres of water, seemingly like driving up a river, before popping out at the Pool itself.
For a large majority of the year the water is no more than half to three quarter wheel depth, and the ground is rocky and impossible to get stuck in. The worst thing would be meeting another vehicle mid way through the water, but you are pretty safe overall.
Kalgans Pool is a beautiful place to camp, or you can stay at a number of spots on the way in near the water (some of which are probably equally as good, or better than Kalgans Pool itself).
Skull Springs Road
Starting in Nullagine, Skull Springs Road meanders its way East towards the Telfer Mine. The road starts off wide and in pretty good condition, and is used by trucks to and from the various mines. As you drive along though, expect the road condition to deteriorate rapidly, until you end up crossing river beds and winding your way up and down the Pilbara hills on a single lane, rocky track.
Once you get to near Running waters the road opens up again and despite the usual corrugations and a couple of river crossings at the end, you’ll arrive on the blacktop and be able to head north towards Carawine Gorge and Marble Bar.
The first part of Skull Springs road is picturesque, but nothing compared to what is in the middle and further along. Expect to cross a number of rivers, and don’t go too quickly, as the wash outs and steep descents and ascents creep up on you all too quickly. We discovered a couple of wash outs that were over half our tyre in depth, and hitting them at speed especially if you are towing something is a sure fire way to write your vehicle off.
Just over half way along Skull springs road lies the turn off to Skull Springs. This is designated by a couple of skulls on a post, and the track in is a couple of kilometres of relatively straightforward driving.
When you get to Skull Springs though, you have to navigate a couple of crossings that can be reasonably deep, and then pick where you want to stay. We camped on the big island with streams all around us, but you can keep driving further if you please. When we visited the next crossing was about a metre deep, with a short space (enough for a vehicle), before you plunged into the next hole, and I didn’t look beyond this.
With our Reconn R2 behind us I wasn’t game to go any further, as the ground looked like it was soft enough to get the Dmax through and then sink, with the Reconn in the water. Not worth it for us!
One of the more technical and entertaining drives in the Pilbara is the 4WD track from Skull Springs road to Running Waters. The first part of the track is straight forward, with only a couple of sections with holes and steep descents then ascents. Our Reconn R2 made it through no worries, and you end up in a shady area where there is a turn around point for those wanting to head back out, or stay outside of the real 4WD section.
You’d get a small off-road van into this with no issues, and be able to tow it back out again without worrying about doing damage.
From the turning circle onwards though, you have a fairly narrow track that winds its way around various tree stumps and lumps, through a couple of muddy holes and then onto some really slippery rocks that often have water running over them. Not long after you’ll arrive at Running Waters, and have a choice to make. You can camp to the left or the right, stay where you are and have a swim or turn around and head back out again.
The whole 4WD track is relatively level, and unless the water levels are seriously high you have no concerns about getting stuck and flooding your vehicle. My Dad took his fairly stock Pajero in with no real issues, and we even saw a horse float at one of the camp sites that had been made into a camper, but I wouldn’t take anything in that you aren’t prepared to take a knock underneath on, and I certainly wouldn’t tow anything in unless you are confident and competent.
On our first visit, I felt fairly comfortable we could return with our camper trailer, and in 2022 we did exactly that, towing our Reconn R2 in all the way to a fantastic camp site literally 3 metres from the water. We had an amazing stay with the entire place to ourselves, and got in and out with no issues at all, but we did spend some time planning the drive in and out, and taking it nice and slow in first gear low range the entire way.
Meentheena Veteran Retreat
I’m sure many of you will not have heard of this great place, and that’s something we need to change. Located roughly half way between Carawine Gorge and Marble Bar, this private property is set up for anyone to visit with plenty of places to camp, and more 4WD tracks than you can poke a stick at.
We didn’t find anything that was super difficult, but the scenery and water holes here are stunning and you can basically explore as you please.
Whilst there’s nothing extreme about the 4WD tracks through Cheela Plains, it is one of the most scenic places you’ll visit in the Pilbara, and it makes for a great stop on your way from the coastline.
We spent a couple of nights camped at Cheela Plains in their bush camping section, and had an absolute ball.
In the back of the Karijini National Park lies a water hole that is better than virtually anything else we’d done before. The track starts in between Tom Price and Paraburdoo, and takes you through a scenic drive before you arrive at Magic Pool.
A hugely fun, but short 4WD track right near Tom Price takes you to the top of Mount Nameless. This track varies in difficulty level depending on what condition its in, but its always worth a drive to the top, where you’re yielded with some pretty incredible views over Tom Price and the mine nearby.
The Burrup Peninsula
We were super excited to visit the Burrup Peninsula and explore more of its beautiful coastline. Looking at the jump up though, we decided the damage wasn’t worth it, and two others wouldn’t have been able to come.
This takes you to some incredible coastline, or you can head across to the other side and explore a heap of other 4WD tracks too. Apparently this is being removed soon, with a road being put through, which will no doubt make the pristine area further north less appealing!
Despite feeling awfully sceptical about Pardoo Station when we were arriving, we fell in love with this place and would happily go back any time. The camping is much like that of a typical caravan park, but once you leave the camp grounds there are more 4WD tracks to explore the amazing area than you could do in many days.
From tidal creeks to kilometres of beach, salt flats and everything in between the property is nothing short of stunning, and well and truly worth a visit.
The Pilbara is home to some truly spectacular places, and in many ways is as good as the Kimberley, which is world renown. If you have a 4WD, the right gear and a sense of adventure you can have the ultimate holiday in the Pilbara, and we rate it as one of the best places in WA to explore.
Have you done any Pilbara 4WD Tracks? What did you think of them?