Hiking South Australia’s Heysen Trail

South Australia’s Heysen Trail is one of the most famous hiking trails in Australia, snaking through more than 1,200km of beautiful scenery between coastal Cape Jervis and Parachilna Gorge in the state’s outback.

First dreamed up in the mid-1940s, the trail is named after Sir Hans Heysen, one of Australia’smost celebrated artists, who made a career painting the beautiful landscapes that feature along the trail.

Heysen Trail map, South Australia

Now, if 1,200km sounds a tad overwhelming – don’t panic! Many people spend a lifetime exploring the entire trail, and there’s definitely no requirement to do the whole lot. Helpfully, the trail is divided up into about 60 smaller sections, and there are sections that are suitable for people of all ages and abilities.

Plus, the variety of regions that the trail passes through means that there is amazing diversity on offer. The trail passing through areas including the Barossa Valley wine region, the historic Mid-North in the outback, and the rugged South Coast with beautiful sea views and national parks.

Hiking from Flinders Rangers along the Heysen Trail.
Hiking from Flinders Rangers along the Heysen Trail. © @trek_tonic (Instagram)

Safety Tips

The most important thing to know about hiking the Heysen Trail is that it is closed during the fire danger season to keep everybody safe. The fire danger season is roughly between November and April, however it is different depending on the part of the trail and the forecast conditions.

If you’re considering a hike during these months, be sure to check the Heysen Trail website forthe most up-to-date information and to make sure your plans don’t go astray.

Encounter an Echidna on the Heysen Trail.
You may even encounter an Echidna on the Heysen Trail. © @hattard23 (Instagram)

The Heysen Trail is well maintained, with a passionate group of volunteers known as the Friends of the Heysen Trail ensuring it is kept in a great condition so that everybody can enjoy it. You can help them out by making sure to pack up all your rubbish and gear, and sticking to the trails as marked (this also makes sure you don’t get lost!).

Also make sure that you look after yourself! Even during the cooler months, the UV can be unforgiving, so be sure to be sun smart and wear plenty of sunscreen and a hat. Speaking of what to wear, be sure to wear loose-fitting, comfortable clothing with sturdy shoes, to make sureyou’re prepared for all terrain! Last, but certainly not least – be sure to bring plenty of water, andlet someone know where you’re planning to go and when you’ll be back.

Note that phone reception can be very patchy along the way, so you might want to take extra precautions such as bringing a satellite phone or wearing a GPS device.

Groups hiking along the Heyson Trail.
Join a club or group to do day hiking along the Heyson Trail. © @bigheart_adventures (Instagram)

The Best Day Hikes

Some of the best short hikes include 11.5km trail from Waitpinga Cliffs to Kings Beach, which offers beautiful coastal views and the chance to spot a rare sea eagle nesting. Sea views can also be taken in on the short 6.7km section between Blowhole Beach and Marrano Creek.

For something more challenging, the 19km hike to St Mary’s Peak near Wilpena Pound offers amazing outback views in the Flinders Ranges but is one of the more challenging sections of the hike.

On the other hand, if there’s little ones in tow, the 2km trail in Bridgewater features a stop off ata fairy garden the young (and the young at heart) are sure to love.

The Best Longer Hikes

If you’re keen to test your legs, there are also some multi-day hikes as well. Not only will thesehikes take you through some beautiful places, but they’ll also win you bragging rights with your friends and family!

One of the longest and most challenging sections is the 28km between Eyre Depot andBuckaringa, however you’ll be rewarded with 360-degree views over the Mt Ardern summit and several waterfalls. For something a bit shorter and closer to metropolitan Adelaide, the 21km Mt Crawford to Pewsey Vale section offers beautiful views over the Wirra Wirra Peaks as well as adetour to the historical Freeman’s Hut.

In addition, due to the layout of the trail it is easy to add one or more sections together in order to extend your walk. Helpfully, the Friends of the Heysen Trail provide a GPS and Google Map Pack {https://heysentrail.asn.au/heysen-trail/maps/} which can help you to plan out your route. Hardcopy guide books can also be purchased from their website.

Although it is possible to walk these hikes in a day, it’s worth considering taking them at aslower pace and spending a night along the trail. There is plenty of accommodation along the way, ranging from simple unpowered camp sites (note that these cannot be booked ahead and are on a first come first served basis) through to cozy bed and breakfasts. If you do go the rustic campsite route, make sure to bring supplies so you are self-sufficient as the campsites are very basic.

Organised Events

If you fancy some company on your walk either to make some new friends or have the benefit of an experienced guide, consider joining one of the regular events. Trained ‘walk leaders’coordinate the walks, which happen pretty much every week and have the added benefit of some commentary and newfound friends to enjoy the trail with.

There is a fee to participate, but they are usually very reasonable and also includes transport to some of the more out-of-the-way locations.

Walking the Whole Trail

Although most people choose just to tackle a few of the Heysen Trail’s sections, walking the entire trail is an amazing goal that is definitely do-able. The Friends of the Heysen Trail arrange an end-to-end program of walks, allowing walkers to complete the whole 1,200km in six years –and gain a certificate of recognition at the end.

Hut accommodation along the Heysen Trail.
Hut accommodation along the Heysen Trail. © @trek_tonic (Instagram)

If you really want to do it at speed or your time is limited, there are other routes that will see you finish it off in as little as sixty days! This calls for a lot of physical fitness, however, so is recommended only for experienced bushwalkers.

Sleeping in a tent on the Heyson Trail.
Bring your own accommodation! © @trek_tonic (Instagram)

Whether you choose to walk just a section or tackle the entire 1,200km, the experience of walking the Heysen Trail is sure to be an amazing one. The trail features incredible variety of landscapes, terrains and sights, and is carefully cared for by a group of passionate volunteers. Overall, it is an awesome way to take in the amazing and varied Australian landscapes, and enjoy the fresh country air.

Coastal locations along the Heysen Trail in South Australia.
From the Flinders Ranges, through hot dry conditions, wooded forests, open fields, to coastal features. This 1,200km hike has many amazing environments to test yourself. © @antstagram_sa (Instagram)

If you want to follow some entire trek walkers on Instagram check out @trek_tonic & @trekkingwest for some inspirational images.

For more information about the Heysen Trail please refer to The Friends of the Heysen Trail.

Thumbnail image by @nicholl.matt (Instagram)

Other Walks you may be interested in.

The Coast Track Hike – A royal 2 day adventure!

About the Author

Georgie is a UK based Aussie lover of wine, history & budget travel. ???? She is a Travel blogger and writer for hire!

Check out Georgie’s travel blog journeywithgeorgie

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