Australia's top long-distance trails for hardcore hikers

Enjoying the magical Warrumbungle National Park
Enjoying the magical Warrumbungle National Park

Set in a backdrop of truly wild and far-flung landscapes, these top 10 multi-day hikes in Australia will make you feel like you’re a world away.

Those who brave these challenging trails return home feeling an enormous sense of achievement. Will you be one of them?

1. South Coast Track, TAS

You’ll walk out a more resilient and enlightened person than when you first stepped foot on the track. This epic expedition takes you to the unspoiled wilderness of Australia's southernmost shores.

Expect river crossings when trekking Tasmania's South Coast Track |  <i>John Dalton</i> Enjoy glorious, uninterrupted views along Tasmania's South Coast Track |  <i>John Dalton</i> The terrain on the South Coast Track can be very muddy |  <i>John Dalton</i> The South Coast Track is a full pack carrying trek |  <i>John Dalton</i>

It is an extremely demanding trek but one of Australia's finest long-distance walks. You’ll camp, swim and trek along empty and pristine beaches as you cross the striking Ironbound landscapes to alpine heights.

Difficulty: Challenging. Be prepared to brave Tasmania’s variable weather conditions as you walk between 10 to 15 kilometres each day. Expect creek and river crossings that could be waist-deep. Plenty of mud, slippery surfaces, steep tracks and fallen trees while carrying a full pack of up to 20 kilograms increases the difficulty.

Length: Around 65kms (8 days)
Start point:
Melaleuca (a short flight from Hobart)
End point: Cockle Creek, Australia’s southernmost town
Ideal for: Motivated walkers with a high level of fitness with multi-day hiking and full pack carrying experience.
When to go: Between late November and mid-April.

Find out more →

2. Bungle Bungles & Piccaninny Gorge Trek, WA

Following the track northeast, enter deep into the World Heritage-listed ranges and be marvelled by the maze-like domes of the Bungles found nowhere else in the world.

Bungle Bungles |  <i>Kate Harper</i>

Stop by waterholes and caves, soak in the wild seclusion of this ancient landscape and keep your eye out for one of the 130+ bird species and native animals found here, such as the short-eared rock wallaby.

Sheer rock walls and sandstone chasms will surround you on all sides as you explore the Piccaninny Gorge system. Plus, the flight to and from Kununurra is possibly one of the most scenic outback flights, passing over Piccaninny Gorge, Argyle diamond mine and Lake Argyle.

Trekking through Piccaninny Gorge in The Bungle Bungles, Western Australia |  <i>Steve Trudgeon</i> Exploring remote gorges of the Bungle Bungles |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i> Picaninny Gorge, Bungle Bungles |  <i>Steve Trudgeon</i> Exploring remote gorges of the Bungle Bungles |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i> Sleep under the stars in picturesque locations |  <i>Holly Van De Beek</i>

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. This is an achievable expedition-style bushwalk and while you will be travelling with a full pack, on the days when you are exploring the upper gorge areas, having an the established base camp for a few nights means you will only carry a daypack on day 2-3. This trek is demanding but greatly rewarding.

Length: Up to 38km (5 days)
Start point:
Piccaninny Gorge
End point: Cathedral Gorge
Ideal for: Swag campers, full pack trekkers and wilderness lovers.
When to go: The cooler, winter months of the outback, between May and August, are the ideal times to soak in these spectacular ranges and make the most of the clear skies by sleeping under the sky swag style.

Find out more →

3. Jatbula Trail, NT

At the edge of the Northern Territory’s Arnhem Land Escarpment, you’ll wind your way along the fringe of cascading waterfalls, from high quartzite cliffs to shady monsoon forests that line the creeks.

 

With crystal-clear creeks throughout, there are abundant opportunities for croc-free swimming! You’ll end each night to the lullaby of nature’s sound at scenic and exclusive wilderness campsites – adding to an exceptional tropical hiking experience!

Difficulty: Moderate. You must be capable of walking on rough terrain with a full pack (15-17kg).

Length: 60.5km (6 days)
Start point:
Katherine Gorge in Nitmiluk National Park
End point: Edith Falls (Leliyn)
Ideal for: Bushwalkers with a good level of fitness and a love for swimming holes.
When to go: Between May and August.

Find out more →

4. Larapinta end to end, NT

You could very well consider the Larapinta Trail the mecca of Australian desert hikes, smack bang in Central Australia’s diverse outback. You’ll be clocking in 223 kilometres on this full traverse as you embrace spectacular geographical, historical and cultural highlights including Stanley Chasm, Euro Ridge, the Ochre Pits, Ormiston Gorge and welcoming the sunrise at the summit of Mount Sonder, one of NT’s highest peaks.

Walking on the Larapinta Trail |  <i>#cathyfinchphotography</i> Waterholes along the Larapinta Trail are like an oasis in the desert |  <i>David Coorey</i> Mulla Mulla (Ptilotus exaltatus) |  <i>David Coorey</i> Spot endemic birdlife on the Larapinta |  <i>David Coorey</i> Discover a diversity of landscapes along the Larapinta Trail |  <i>#cathyfinchphotography</i> Curious wallaby's along the Larapinta Trail |  <i>#cathyfinchphotography</i>

Following the spine of the West MacDonnell range over secluded ridges and canyons, the distance, ruggedness and remoteness of the trail bears the challenge of walking up to 30 kilometres on some days.

 

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. Be prepared to trek for up to 8 to 10 hours a day in adverse weather conditions.

Length: 223kms (12 or 14 days). The trail has 12 sections with shorter, self-guided and ‘in comfort’ options available.
Start point: Telegraph Station in Alice Springs
End point: Mt Sonder
Ideal for: Seasoned walkers with an excellent level of fitness.
When to go: Between mid-April and early September. Wildflowers are out during the warmer months of April, May and September. From June to August, the climate is much more cooler.

Find out more →

5. Warrumbungle National Park, NSW

Step into the gnarly terrains of nature with sprouts of wildflowers and vegetation. The ultimate backdrops though are the Breadknife rock formations, the incredible sunset skies and the Milky Way above, which puts on the show come nighttime at camp.


Experience Australia's only Dark Sky Park on foot with jagged volcanic silhouettes rising sharply from eucalyptus-dotted ridges amid surrounding plains. The breadth of the park makes one trip here not enough!

Happy faces on the summit of Belougery Spire Sunset skies at Warrumbungle National Park Sandstone Caves located in the Pilliga Nature Reserve have a rich indigenous heritage |  <i>Sue Badyari</i>

Difficulty: Moderate. Encompassing various summit walks, the various ascents and descents command a good level of fitness.

Length: Around 63km (Multiple day walks over 6 days)
Start point:
Camp Walaay
End point: Pilliga National Park to explore the Sandstone Caves walking track
Ideal for: Stargazing enthusiasts and nature walkers should sign up with a multitude of walks which explore the Warrumbungle's iconic scenery and unique flora and fauna.
When to go: Between May and October. You’ll want to avoid hiking here in the peak of summertime as temperatures can climb.

Find out more →

6. Walls of Jerusalem Circuit Trek, TAS

Don a full pack, camp at remote and scenic locations, and be enchanted at every corner through a biblical landscape of true alpine wilderness.

 

As you summit numerous peaks, including King David’s Peak and Mt Jerusalem, the panoramic views gained will be well worth your efforts. You'll walk out with a renewed passion for life and the yearning to return to nature as soon as possible.

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. This trek involves walking up to 7 to 8 hours a day whilst carrying a 15-20kg backpack, so previous multi-day hiking experience and full pack trekking is preferred. Be prepared for potential variable weather.

Length: 53km + side trips (6 days)
Start point
: Lake Rowallen
End point: Mersey Valley
Ideal for: Nature lovers who relish in the excitement of remote alpine hiking with the chance of winds, steady rain, and even snow in elevated areas that can occur at any time of year.
When to go: For warmer days, the summer season (December to February) is best but this is also the most popular time to walk in Tasmania. To witness wildflowers in bloom, springtime between October and November is an ideal time. During March and April, you can see nature change to marvellous autumnal hues, with relatively sunny days and cool, crisp nights. 

Find out more →

7. Heysen Trail, SA

Walk across SA's spectacular rural landscapes and spend each evening at unique, comfortable outback stays. Some of the spectacular natural attractions of the region include Wilpena Pound, Black Gap Lookout, Mount Remarkable and Alligator Gorge.

The Heysen Trail traverses the Bunyeroo Valley with Wilpena Pound in the background |  <i>Chris Buykx</i>

You can trek the best sections of the famous Heysen Trail in splendid isolation with us, including the last leg: Section 61 with an extended exploration of the Flinders and Gammon Ranges.

Difficulty: Introductory to moderate (when trekking certain sections of the trail).

Length: 1200km (the full trail is made up of 61 sections)
Start point: Rawnsley Park Station or Willow Springs Station (on our 6-day Heysen Trail trip)
End point: Mount Remarkable
Ideal for: Those looking to experience the Aussie outback’s charm, heritage and alpine ambience. Wildlife lovers need also to apply to get up close with the region’s many characters such as the yellow-footed rock wallaby, euro and emus.
When to go: May to September, where these semi-arid ranges of dry climate create ideal conditions for walking. 

Find out more →

8. Frenchmans Cap, TAS

Climb to Tasmania’s iconic quartzite peak, the highest peak in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park.

Views along the Frenchman's Cap Hike

Standing at 1443 metres, Frenchmans Cap is not to be underestimated, but its summit views will leave you gobsmacked with arguably the best vistas across the entire World Heritage Area. The 360-degree views from the top take in a vast expanse of the southwest, which includes the Arthur Range, Mt Ossa and Macquarie Harbour.

Difficulty: Moderate to challenging. If you want to add to the challenge, combine this epic climb with a rafting expedition of one of the world's 'best river journeys', the Franklin.

Length: 46km return journey (5 days)
Start point
: Lake Vera
End point: Lake Vera
Ideal for: Experienced bushwalkers who love trekking in the rugged wilderness and can manage a full pack. You will be tested as you trek in unpredictable weather, mud, varying terrain and steep ascents.
When to go: Tasmania’s summer season is the best time to climb the peak, however, contingency days are set aside for added flexibility to maximise summit success. 

Find out more →

9. Port Davey Track, TAS 

Feel like you’re a world away as you experience the tranquillity and remoteness of the Lost World Plateau and surrounding ancient mountain ranges on the Port Davey Track.

Viewing Mount Solitary from the Port Davey Track |  <i>Tourism Australia & Graham Freeman</i>

Walk in rare pockets of rainforest, camp on the banks of the mystical Crossing and Spring Rivers, cross the magical Bathurst Harbour by rowboat and summit Mt Hesperus in the Western Arthur Range. The Port Davey Track, while often overlooked for the South Coast Track, is a winner when it comes to rugged, remote wilderness.

Difficulty: Challenging. You'll experience long days on tough and very isolated terrain and the track is not to be underestimated. Expect sections of muddy button grass (bring gators!), river crossings, overgrown trails and steep inclines in forested mountains. Combine this trek with its nearby neighbour, the South Coast Track, for an epic traverse of the entire southwest of Tasmania.

Length: 70km (7 days)
Start point
: Scott Peaks Dam
End point: Melaleuca 
Ideal for: Those looking to disconnect from the busy urban life and who are ready for a wonderful experience whatever the weather.
When to go: During Tasmania’s summer season for ideal and warmer weather conditions.

10. Remote Blue Mountains Traverse, NSW 

Leave civilisation behind and venture into the depths of NSW’s unique World Heritage-listed wilderness of the Blue Mountains.

Lunching at the Lost World |  <i>Michael Buggy</i>

Experience a mix of environments, from the classic Australian dry sclerophyll forests to the ancient Gondwana rainforests beneath towering sandstone escarpments. This bushwalk takes you well beyond the tourist trails as you access areas that can only be reached via roped ascents or descents.

Difficulty: Challenging. The terrain is at times rugged and remote with tracks that may be long, rough and steep. You will be required to carry a full pack, so multi-day bushwalking experience is recommended.

Length: 96km (5 days)
Start point
: Lost World
End point: Megalong Valley
Ideal for: Experienced bushwalkers who want to get off the beaten path and who relish at the thrill of an abseiling adventure.
When to go: The spring months will offer a lovely splash of colour to your walk and weather conditions won’t be too hot when on the track. 

Find out more →

Know a hike that you think should be on this list? Let us know in the comments below.

australian hiking trails, challenging hikes, remote hiking trails, tough treks, top rated hikes in australia

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