Planning a Trek


Trekkers tell us that the best parts of the National Trail are the rugged sections through remote areas.

Rugged Beauty
Rugged Beauty

The Trail has been designed to provide a balance between these rugged inaccessible areas and easier more accessible parts along quiet roads and tracks through the countryside.

Quiet Roads
Quiet Roads

Long distance treks are best planned loosely – in terms of time rather than distance. We find the most successful trekkers are those who decide to spend a certain amount of time along the Trail, without concern for how far they get. Those who set out with a fixed plan to go from A to B in a certain amount of time often find there is not enough time in their schedule to enjoy all the attractions along the way. The trekking lifestyle eventually seduces even the most organised trekker and after a couple of months strict schedules are discarded for a more relaxed approach.

Planning a long distance trek does require considerable preparation.

You can start by joining the NT. Once you are a member you can purchase the Guidebook for each section of the Trail you are interested in.

We recommend you talk to us before you go. See our Contact page for details.

If you plan on doing the entire route you have some early critical decisions to make.


By bike
By bike

On foot, with a mountain bike or riding with a pack horse are the most common modes of transport for the long distance trekker. People have trekked with donkeys, camels and in a horse drawn cart. Just a friendly reminder that the trail is not available to any form of motorised transport.


Southern Trailhead
Southern Trailhead Healesville

Here you have two choices – commence in Cooktown and travel south or commence in Healesville and travel north. The original planning for the Trail was for full length trekkers to start in Cooktown and travel south. Travelling from north to south puts the sun at your back. However many people prefer to depart from Healesville and travel south to north as they become accustomed to the heat as they travel north whilst also enjoying the southern trade wind at their backs. This this is becoming more common.


Allow plenty of time if you plan on completing the entire trail. At a very minimum allow six to seven months travelling around 25 km per day. Some people spend considerably longer!

A useful guide to best times of the year for each section.

Created by Marianne Kranenburg

Important Note

The information given on this website is, by itself, insufficient for planning a trek or for making use of the National Trail. Anyone planning a trek should join the NT and purchase the appropriate guidebook/s. While great care has been taken in compiling the guidebooks, no responsibility is accepted for any inaccuracies or for any mishap that may arise out of the use of the NT or the guidebooks or this web site.

General Principles for All Trekkers


Read and research as much as you can before you go. This website, the NT Guidebooks and our facebook page are good places to start.


Both physical and emotional fitness will be challenged. Prepare yourself as best you can.

Pack light – and make everything earn its place

Many people over pack and find they discard non-essential items along the way. On a distance trek every gram counts! Plan your equipment and dietary needs carefully.

Have a Test Run

Try a couple of shorter trips before you go. That way you know you have everything you need and nothing you don’t need.

Be Prepared for the Unexpected

As much as possible, plan for all eventualities. Fire, flood and drought are all factors you need to consider. Communications and emergencies need some planning. We recommend you take out your own insurance.

Trekking Code

A Trekking Code has been developed for Trail users.

Register Your Trek

Register your trek with the NT office. A Trekker Registration form is available from our downloads page.


A strong mountain bike is recommended as there will be significant sections of rough trails, off road paths and numerous river crossings. Speed should not be not a priority and your bike should be set up for strength and lightness with low gearing and off road tyres. Sections of the National Trail are unsuitable for bikes and the Route Notes provide general advice on these sections and offer alternative routes to bypass particularly challenging sections. The reasons for these diversions include especially steep sections over difficult terrain requiring you to push your bike up, obstacles requiring you to lift your bike over and river crossings requiring you to push your bike through.

The alternative routes usually involve public roads, mostly quiet back roads, and as these are generally close to the NT, the spirit of the NT concept is not lost. However these detours leave some cyclists with the impression that the National Trail is much less challenging than it really is.

The travel light advice is important for cyclists on the National Trail. Weight becomes a physical strength issue on sections of the Trail where you may have to lift your bike over obstacles, or push you bike up steep sections. Cyclists may like to consider travelling with vehicle support. A reminder, however, that motorised vehicles are not permitted on the NT but it is possible to plan to meet a support vehicle.

The NT endorses Mountain Bike Australia’s Code of Practice which is based on respect:

  • Respect the environment
  • Respect others
  • Respect yourself


The National Trail traverses a large variety of terrain with significant changes in altitude and weather conditions.

Hiker Colin Kemp offers advice for walkers available from our downloads page. Perhaps his most salient observation is that “the National Trail is not a traditional bushwalk: it is a long distance trek.”

Horse Trekkers

The route of the National Trail was designed with the long distance horse trekker in mind. Planning considerations included the need for feed and water for both horse and rider. When travelling with horses the welfare of your animals must come before yourself – you will be judged by the condition of your animals.

It is more important to be a good horse manager than a good rider when your start your trek. By the end you will be a good rider.

Some resources available for the horse trekker include:

  • Mike Allen’s ‘A Packhorse Trekking Manual for the Bicentennial National Trail’ is available through our shop.
  • Steve Nott’s Notes available on the downloads page

NT Section Coordinators, John and Jo-Anne Kasch, are regular presenters at pack horse trekking workshops throughout the country.