FAQs

Important Note

The information provided on this website is, by itself, not sufficient for planning a trek or using the National Trail. Anyone planning a trek should join the NT and purchase the appropriate Maps and Trail Descriptions. While great care has been taken in compiling the Maps and Trail Descriptions, no responsibility is accepted for any inaccuracies or for any mishap that may arise out of the use of the NT, Maps or this web site. Please make sure you Contact us before you embark on a major trek.

We have divided the Frequently Asked Questions into six sections:

General Information

Question - What does self reliant trekking mean?

Answer – Self reliant trekking means you are entirely responsible for all your needs and the decisions you make. The route of the NT has been planned to provide a unique experience and generally stays away from major towns. You will need to plan for all your needs, including food, water, shelter, safety, health and welfare. If you are planning on trekking with animals you will need to plan for their needs as well. In some places you may need to plan for up to two weeks between resupply points. You will need to be physically fit, have a high degree of expertise in your chosen mode of travel and carry and be able to use a map and compass.

Question - Is the NT a constructed Trail?

Answer – The NT has been designed with the long distance trekker in mind. It is Australia’s longest recreational trail however, unlike some trails, it has not been specifically constructed for this purpose. Rather, the NT links existing tracks, stock routes and legal rights-of-way, including roads, to form a continuous track from Cooktown in Queensland to Healesville in Victoria.

Question - How do I find the Trail?

Answer – The route of the NT is contained in the Maps and Trail Descriptions which are available to members of the NT.

Answer – Maps and Trail Descriptions are available for purchase by members of the NT. Members can purchase these from our Shop.

Question - What is a multi-use Trail?

Answer – The NT is a multi-use Trail which means you may encounter different users – hikers, horses and cyclists (and the occasional ultra marathon runner or cameleer). It is not available for any form of motorised transport.

Question - If there are multiple users, who has right of way?

Answer – General trail courtesy asks that cyclists yield to both hikers and horses and hikers yield to horses. However horse riders can often hear cyclists before cyclists see the horses, so common sense prevails.

Question - Can I use a car, 4WD or motorbike on the NT?

Answer – No. The NT is not a route for any form of motorised transport. In some places the route does follow roads, however vehicles and motorbikes can not follow the Trail for very long. Except where the route follows formed roads, the BNT should not be attempted by cars, 4wd, motor bikes or even motorised bikes. We ask that you respect this restriction to make sure the Trail remains available into the future.

Question - Can I drive to campsites?
Answer – The ability to get a vehicle to a campsite varies. Check Trail Descriptions and road maps for information on the areas you are interested in.
Question - Can I get a comfortable bed each night?

Answer – No. You need to be totally self reliant. Many campsites have no facilities.

Question - Why does the NT follow so many roads, particularly in Queensland?

Answer – The NT links many existing tracks, including stock routes and bush mail runs. Wherever possible these routes have an historical purpose. Notes are provided in the Trail Descriptions and Historic Notes

Question - Does the route change?

Answer The NT traverses many different land tenures, including private property. Access has been negotiated with land managers, however from time to time we need to change the route to take account of local conditions. Where the route changes, information on an alternative routes will be available in the form of Trail Updates available for download from this website, from the section coordinator, from the Trail Coordinator or NT office. Be prepared to be flexible.

Question - Can I take my dog?

Answer – No. Dogs are not permitted on the Trail. Please leave dogs and other domestic pets at home.

Question - Can I take my cat?

Answer No. Please leave cats and other domestic pets at home.

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Maps and Navigation

Question - How do I follow the Trail?

Answer – Maps and Trail Descriptions are the primary means of navigation for the Trail. There are Maps and Trail Descriptions for each section of the Trail. These contain route information and other planning considerations. Local information on history and heritage can be found on the website.  You must be a member of the NT to purchase Maps.

Question - Is the route marked?
Answer – Triangular trail markers, similar to the NT logo, have been placed at strategic places along the route. Markers are strategically placed to confirm a route. It is not possible to follow the Trail using markers alone.
Question - Do I need maps?

Answer –Yes. Maps and Trails Descriptions are being updated to replace Guidebooks, to be available for purchase on the website as they are completed. By end of 2021, the entire Trail will be available in this format. Where new maps are not yet available, the most current Guidebook will be available for purchase.

Question - I can see the NT marked on my map, do I need the Maps and Trail Descriptions?

Answer – Routes marked on commercial maps do not contain sufficient information to navigate the Trail. You should obtain Maps and Trail Descriptions for those sections of the Trail you intened travelling. These contain important local information, directions and details not available on commercial maps.

Question - I have a GPS, do I need a Map and Trail Description?

Answer – GPS doesn’t have the detailed route information you need to follow the trail. Your Maps and Trail Description are the primary means of navigation.

Question - I have a GPS, do I need a paper map?

Answer – The decision to use a paper map is entirely yours. The Map and Trail Description contain route instructions.

Question - What GPS settings should I use?

Answer – You should always check your map for correct settings, however for 2020 Maps, you should set your datum to GDA94, your position format to UTM and your north to grid.

Question - Where can I find information on using a map and compass?

Answer – An article on basic use of a compass is available here.

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Preparations

Question - Does the NT have a trail rating?

Answer – No. The NT is not a formed trail and crosses various land tenures. If you are considering a distance trek, consider it a challenging activity. A challenging activity requires you to have a high level of fitness, above average expertise in your chosen field and a high level of outdoor skills such as navigation, first aid and survival.

Question - How long will it take to travel the NT?
Answer – The Trail is over 5,300 km from end to end. Sections have been planned to travel around 25 – 30 km per day. Most people should allow at least six to seven months, however many people prefer to take a slower pace and allow up to a year. Our fastest time has been ultra marathon runner, Richard Bowles, who took just five and a half months, and we have had people on the Trail for over two years. There is no one way to ‘do’ the NT. You should assess your own goals and plan accordingly.
Question - I don't have much time, how far can I go?

Answer – Many people only ever do short sections or day trips. Some people do sections of the Trail as they have time. We recommend people determine the amount of time they have available and plan their treck accordingly. Ultimately it is your journey.

Question - Is there mobile phone coverage?

Answer – You should not rely on having mobile phone coverage for all of the Trail. You should not rely on a mobile phone as your only means of contact in an emergency or as your only means of navigation.

Question - My mobile phone has a GPS. Do I need to carry another unit?

Answer – Despite advances in mobile phone technology, experience shows mobile phones should not be relied on for navigation on the NT. We strongly recommend you carry a GPSR and at least one compass.

Question - Should I go north to south or south to north?
Answer – Initially the route notes were developed to undertake the Trail from north to south, which generally allowed distance trekkers to keep the sun at their backs. However many people prefer to do the Trail from south to north so there is no right way. Ultimately, it is your decision.
Question - What is the best time to travel?

Answer – If you a planning a north to south trek, we recommend commencing after the wet season and plan to be south of Townsville by the end of September.

If you are planning a south to north trek, you need to take account of the winter closure of the alpine areas. You also need to take account of possible fire danger in summer. You will also want to avoid travel in north Queensland in summer months.

Question - What will the weather be like?
Answer – The Trail passes through five climatic zones each with the possibility of variable and extreme weather events. You should use the resources of the Bureau of Meteorology along with the information contained here and in the Trail Description to assess the likely weather conditions.

Question - Where can I get the most up to date information?
Answer – The website , the Trail Updates, Section Coordinators, the NT office.
Question - What level of fitness do I need?
Answer – You should have a high level of fitness before you set off.
Question - Why can't I take a car or motorbike?

Answer – The Trail relies on the good will of private property owners and government departments for continued access. We ask that people with four-wheel-drives and motorbikes respect the wishes of land managers and not attempt to follow the Trail. Loss of access to a single area would sever the entire trail and have a devastating impact on the viability of the trail.

Question - What about support vehicles?

Answer – Trekkers are encouraged to have a back up team support their journey. On public land it may be possible for support vehicles can reach overnight camp sites. However, where the trail or campsites are on private land, support vehicles are not permitted without the express permission of the landowner. Trekkers should be aware that motorised vehicles are not covered by NT insurances and some landowners may deny permission to enter their land.

Question - What happens in an emergency?

Answer – The NT is a self-reliant Trail and you should have an emergency response plan prepared before you leave. If you have an accident, are injured or your animals require emergency attention, you are responsible for any costs. See the page on Safety for more information.

Question - Do I need to register my trek?

Answer – We ask that trekkers make contact with the NT office (1300 138 724) and register their plans before they commence.

Question - Are there facilities at campsites?

Answer – Often there are no facilities at campsites. Some campsites have basic shelter. Facilities at most campsites are minimal to encourage development of bushcraft skills and to minimise the impact on the environment.

Question - How can I minimise my impact on the environment?

Answer – We ask that all trekkers tread softly – if you pack it in, pack it out again. We also ask trekkers to abide by the Trekkers Code of Conduct.

Question - What about water?

Answer – The route of the Trail has been established to provide access to water at least once each day. In dry seasons you will need to check local conditions. In some of the drier areas we recommend water conservation practices be followed. You will need to plan for water purification for human consumption. Make sure you carry enough water drinking water and drink plenty of water each day to avoid dehydration. Don’t underestimate the amount of water you will need.

Question - Will I see snakes and spiders?

Answer – Most likely. You should also be on the lookout for crocodiles in some north Queensland rivers.

Question - Will there be insects?
Answer – Yes. You will encounter flies and mosquitoes and other annoying insects. You should consider insect control that suits your needs.
Question - Are fires allowed?

Answer  At some campsites the use of an open fire is permitted, however the use of open fires depends on the land manager and the fire conditions on the day. You should not rely on using an open fire. You should always use common sense and assess the prevailing conditions before lighting a fire. Fire bans must be respected.

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Considerations for horse riders

Question - What biosecurity measures do I need to to take?

Answer – Cattle Tick. The NT in Queensland is within the cattle tick zone. Before moving any horses, donkeys, camels or any other host animal from Queensland to New South Wales or to the tick free zone in Queensland, trekkers must ensure they comply with the rules concerning the movement of animals from the cattle tick infested zone to the tick free zone. To minimise the risk of spreading this serious external parasite, horses and pack animals must be inspected and treated before leaving the infected area in Queensland. For details see Section 6, the Queensland Department of Agriculture and Fisheries website and the NSW Department of Primary Industries website.

Hendra Virus. We recommend horses be vaccinated against Hendra Virus. Due to serious OH&S considerations, veterinarians may decline to attend horses not vaccinated.

Question - Is there feed for horses?

Answer – Availability of feed will depend on the season and the time of year.

Question - Is there a limit on the number of horses in a group?

Answer – For long distance treks, we recommend no more than eight horses in the group. This is due to the availability of feed and facilities.

Question - Do I need to be a good rider?

Answer – It is more important to be a good horse manager.

Question - What does my horse need to know?

Answer – Horses used as pack animals should be trained in carrying a loaded pack saddle. If you plan on using hobbles, get horses used to this before you go. Train your horses to cross water, and make sure they can swim.

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Considerations for hikers

Question - Is the Trail suited to hikers?
Answer – The National Trail is not a traditional bushwalk – it is a long distance trek. Walkers and runners have successfully completed the full length of the Trail.

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Considerations for cyclists

Question - What type of bicycle should I use?

Answer – Stamina rather than speed is the prime consideration. Road bikes are not robust enough to cope with the rigours of the Trail. A Mountain Bike, modified for touring, is the way to go!

Question - Is the Trail suited to cyclists?

Answer – Parts of the Trail are not suited to bicycles. The Trail Descriptions and Maps give alternative routes for cyclists where the route is too steep or too rough to be travelled safely by bike.

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