Planning a Trek

General

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.

Mode

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.

Direction

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.

Time

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

Research

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.

Fitness

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. (Need to be logged in to complete the form)

Cyclists

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

Hikers

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

Hiker Colin Kemp offers advice for walkers. 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 store.
  • Steve Nott’s Notes available here

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

Cyclists

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 Bicentennial National Trail are unsuitable for bikes and the Guidebooks 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 BNT, the spirit of the BNT concept is not lost. However these detours leave some cyclists with the impression that the Bicentennial 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 BNT but it is possible to plan to meet a support vehicle.

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

  • Respect the environment
  • Respect others
  • Respect yourself

Hikers

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

Hiker Colin Kemp offers advice for walkers and 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 Bicentennial 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:

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

Support Vehicles

The National Trail can be accessed at many points by vehicle, which can allow trekkers the opportunity to arrange a support vehicle to bring feed and water for animals during drought, and company for the long distance traveller. Support persons may wish to explore nearby areas as they leap frog along between access points, enjoying their own adventure.

Section 9- Blue Mountains- Lithgow -Oberon Bird Trail, CapertreeValley Bird Guide

 

Much of the route of the NT through New South Wales follows designated Travelling Stock Reserves. Use of Travelling Stock Reserves and their campsites is controlled by NSW Local Land Service (LLS).  All trekkers intending to use a TSR campsite must obtain a Permit from the relevant LLS. In addition all trekkers must make contact with the relevant NSW Local Land Service at least 48 hours before use. The NSW Local Land Service may refuse approval if all conditions relating to the use of a TSR are not met.

National Trail Members

NT members have access to a streamlined Permit approval process.  NT Members can complete the TSR Permit Application online

“TRF and TSR” Forms are to be submitted between 4 weeks and one week of commencing your trek

Non-members
  • Non-members intending to use a TSR campsite on the  National Trail must make contact with each relevant NSW Local Land Service to make your own arrangements for Permits.
  • Access to the streamlined Permit approval process is only available to current NT members.
All users

Member’s only section follows – log in to view:

Cyclists

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 Bicentennial National Trail are unsuitable for bikes and the Guidebooks 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 BNT, the spirit of the BNT concept is not lost. However these detours leave some cyclists with the impression that the Bicentennial 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 BNT but it is possible to plan to meet a support vehicle.

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

  • Respect the environment
  • Respect others
  • Respect yourself

Hikers

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

Hiker Colin Kemp offers advice for walkers and 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 Bicentennial 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:

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

Support Vehicles

The National Trail can be accessed at many points by vehicle, which can allow trekkers the opportunity to arrange a support vehicle to bring feed and water for animals during drought, and company for the long distance traveller. Support persons may wish to explore nearby areas as they leap frog along between access points, enjoying their own adventure.

Section 9- Blue Mountains- Lithgow -Oberon Bird Trail, CapertreeValley Bird Guide

 

Description

Preparation

The  National Trail traverses wild and inaccessible terrain. Solid preparation is your best defence against health and safety risks. You will need to ensure you carry adequate food, water, clothing and shelter. We recommend you undertake first-aid training and that you carry a well equipped first aid kit and first aid information. Drink only purified water.

Safety Plan

The  National Trail is an epic adventure for the self reliant trekker. A distance trek should not be undetaken lightly. Before you go, develop a safety plan and know what you will do in an emergency.

Do not rely on mobile phone coverage

While mobile phone coverage is improving, many areas of the  National Trail do not have any mobile phone coverage at all. Do not rely on mobile coverage and consider other options for ensuring your safety.

Distress Beacons

Distress beacons save lives. We recommend you carry a personal locator beacon (PLB) which can be activated in a life threatening situation.

Many trekkers also use the services of ‘spot’ tracking devices. Private companies offer combination GPS tracking and messaging.

Visibility

When travelling on roads and in built up areas we recommend all trekkers wear a high visibility vest.

General Safety Guidelines

  • Prepare well
  • Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to get there
  • Have a plan so that your back up knows what to do if you do not make a scheduled contact
  • Prepare a contingency plan in case of accident, emergency or severe weather event
  • Carry a compass
  • Keep hydrated (drink plenty of water)
  • Be aware of the weather
  • Dress for the conditions
  • Carry an emergency kit

Your Health

If you take any medications on a regular basis, consider how you will store and replenish.

Make sure you plan to carry sufficient food to meet your daily intake requirements.

First Aid

It is a good idea to do first aid training before you go. Carry an appropriate first aid kit.

Know basic treatments for

  • cuts and abrasions
  • sprains
  • broken bones
  • snake bite

In the bush and on the Trail, treat all cuts and abrasions immediately. Even small wounds can become infected if left untreated.

If you are travelling with animals, speak to your veterinarian about an animal first aid kit before you go.

Hygiene

Self care is important in the bush.

Treat all small cuts and abrasions early to avoid infections.

Dispose of human waste thoughtfully – bury away from camp sites and water sources.

 Weather

Adverse weather events can occur at any time of the year. You may encounter

  • Fire
  • Storm
  • Cyclone
  • Flooding
  • Drought

Weather can change rapidly and it is important to be prepared for all conditions. The Maps will indicate areas where you are likely to encounter changeable weather conditions however adverse conditions can occur at any time and you need to be alert for changes in conditions.

Resources include

BNT Marker
NT Marker 
Navigation along the National Trail is by using the NT maps and route notes. It is not possible to follow the Trail without NT maps.

The Trail is marked with distinctive red and yellow striped triangles attached to trees and posts along the way. These are intended to provide occasional confirmation that you are indeed on the correct route. It is not possible to follow the Trail using markers alone.

The information below aids prospective trekkers planning a trip.

Guidebooks

There are still some Guidebooks available but these are due to be phased out as Maps and tracklines will become the standard.

NT Trail Markers

National Horse Trail Marker
Old National Horse Trail Marker

It is not possible to follow the route of the NT with markers alone. The purpose of the yellow and red striped NT trail markers is to provide occasional confirmation that you are on the correct route. They have been erected by the volunteers who have established and maintain the trail. Users are expected to navigate the route primarily by the notes and maps in the Guidebooks rather than rely solely on the trail markers. However, it is intended that markers confirm a route decision in sections of the trail where the amount of detail required is beyond the scope of the guidebook.

Trail users should be aware there are various styles of marker on the trail, however all have the distinctive triangular shape and are yellow and red in colour. Some markers are from the original National Horse Trail and some are earlier renditions of our present marker. Users should also be aware that markers can be damaged, vandalised, burnt in bushfires, removed, washed away in floods and otherwise defaced! Your Guidebook contains the navigation notes you need.

 Supplementary Topographic Maps

Although the maps in the Guidebooks should be quite sufficient to navigate the Trail, some trekkers feel comfortable with supplementary topographic maps. Usually the 1:100,000 scale maps provide sufficient detail whilst covering a large area. On a short section, 1:25,000 scale might be useful for the increased level of detail they provide. For a long trek, the number and cost of 1:25,000 scale maps would preclude their use. The best scale for trekking is about 1:50,000. One NT trekker described the 1:100,000 scale maps as her “Safety Net” and used them to find her way around problems, to explore areas and visit towns off the trail.

In some states, Queensland in particular, paper topographic maps are becoming increasingly difficult to find as more people rely on web and GPS based mapping solutions. The downside of this for trekkers is the need to carry electronic equipment that both adds weight and needs to be charged!

Map and Compass Skills

We strongly recommend that trekkers be proficient at navigating using a topographic map and compass!

You should be able to follow a bearing using a compass as some of the Guidebooks require you to do this where no natural or manmade features to define the trail. If you get yourself ‘bushed’ (lost) on one of these legs, you must be able to navigate on a ‘back bearing’ using the compass to backtrack your way out.

All these skills must be learnt and practiced at home before venturing onto the NT.

Help with map reading
Map and compass skills must be practiced!

We have a guide to the basics of compass skills – Basic map and compass navigation.

Geoscience Australia’s Map Reading Guide is a well written basic guide to navigating with map and compass and can often be obtained from camping and outdoor shops. The booklet is very moderately priced (only a couple of dollars) and comes with a plastic tool (romer) to assist in estimating grid references on topographic maps. A search of the web should find an online copy to download.

Compasses

By far the most suitable type of compass for use on the NT is a “baseplate” compass made by companies such as Silva and Suunto. Features to look for when selecting a compass include easy to read markings and scales on the edges that match the maps you will be using (1:100,000 , 1:25,000 and possibly 1:50,000). Don’t skimp when purchasing your compass as a poor quality model will cause you no end of grief long after the joy of the money saved has passed. Overseas visitors should purchase their compass in Australia to ensure that they get a model adjusted to work in Australia’s magnetic declination zone.

Prismatic compasses allow the user to take very accurate bearings and come into their own when navigating cross country on a bearing. They have a sight that allows you to pinpoint a feature whilst reading the bearing (through a prism) off the compass card at the same time. However, they are very expensive, difficult to find and bulkier than the baseplate compasses. Second hand ones (usually ex army of World War 2 vintage) regularly show up on Internet auctions but be careful to avoid cheap copies (usually in a nice shiny new brass case).

GPS

Global Positioning System (GPS) units have now matured to the point that they could be considered a useful navigation aid on the NT. A GPS should never be relied on as the primary navigation aid – a place rightly belonging to your skills, the guidebooks, topographic maps and compass. Modern GPS units now have vastly improved performance under tree cover, improved battery life and are much more affordable with good entry level units costing around $320 Australian. The down sides are that a GPS is another bit of gear to carry, needs to be fed batteries and needs knowledge and skills to be useful.

For a GPS to be useful, you need to be able to relate it’s display to topographic maps. This means that you must be able to use six figure grid references on topographic maps, determine the map’s datum, set the GPS to the same datum and set the GPS to display UTM (Universal Transverse Mercator – the grid and grid references used on topographic maps).

Please don’t be put of by any of the jargon or thought of having to learn something new. It is all surprisingly easy to learn – especially when you get out in your local patch and have a go.

Two other handy features on GPS units are waypoints and tracks. A waypoint is the location of a point of interest such as a gate or other point on the trail where you need to change direction. The ability to enter a waypoint’s location into the GPS and navigate to it is a handy feature you can use to confirm where you think you are on the topographic map. The other handy feature is the ability for the GPS to record a track and then allow you to ‘backtrack’ it if you need to retrace your steps. This is very useful in places where navigation is difficult or features difficult to find. Your GPS may be unused most of the trip and only dragged out for these types of situations. Like maps and compasses, you need to learn the skills at home before venturing out on the NT.

KMZ Files

At the moment we don’t have kmz files available for download. We are currently working on this, and will let you know if they become available.

Apps

Mapping and navigation apps for mobile phones and tablets are becoming increasingly sophisticated and may be suitable for shorter treks. We don’t recommend you rely on them as your only form of navigation for long distance treks.

Accessories

Maps can be carried in a number of ways. Some people prefer to spread all their maps out then roll them up and carry them in a piece of 90 millimetre plastic plumbing pipe with caps on each end (one glued on and one screw cap). This can be carried on the top of your pack saddle. Other people carry just the map currently in use in a transparent map bag available from camping and bushwalking stores. Your NT Guidebook and baseplate compass can be carried in the same package and kept handy for use during the day.

GPS units and Prismatic compasses can be carried in one of the small bags intended for digital or compact cameras. They come in a wide variety of sizes and are available from a camera shop or department store. They are padded, have a belt loop, can be used with a shoulder strap if preferred with some models having a compartment for spare batteries. If you select a slightly larger size and in addition to your compass you can carry your mobile phone, a basic first aid and emergency kit (multi-tool, fire starters, gas lighter, muesli bars, cord etc.) on your belt at all times.

If you use a GPS, you should always carry a spare set of charged batteries. Trekkers on the NT should consider a solar battery charger and rechargeable batteries. They can be even more useful if all your battery powered items use the same size batteries.

 

The National Trail Trekking Code supports low impact trekking and camping practices. The Code asks for a high standard of ethics and behaviour which will stand trekkers in good stead with land owners and managing agencies. The NT does not own the land through which the Trail passes. We negotiate access and maintain relationships with landowners and land managers along the length of the Trail to secure a traversable route from Cooktown to Healesville. Landowners and land managers include private landowners, leaseholders and state, territory and local governments and agencies. Your agreement to comply with the NT Trekking Code ensures that the NT experience will remain available to others who follow in your footsteps.

1. Self Reliance

You should prepare to be self reliant for much of the Trail. Detailed planning is required for long distance trekking.

2. Partnerships

The Trail exists through partnerships with many land owners and agencies across three states and the ACT. Please respect all landowners and their conditions of entry so that future generations may also enjoy the experience.

3. Private property

Where the trail passes through private property this is by a negotiated agreement with the landowner. We ask that you:-

  • Due to State and ACT Bio Security Legislation, Trekkers must make a telephone call prior to traversing the private property.
  • Leave gates as you find them.
  • No dogs, cats, firearms, camping, rubbish, camp fires or removal of vegetation.
  • Don’t wander off the track, disturb stock or crops.

4. Group Size

Group numbers are restricted by campsite facilities and some park management plans and may vary between private properties and current climate conditions

5. Your Safety

You are responsible for your own safety. This includes responsibility for undertaking adequate planning for your trip, for obtaining suitable equipment, and animals, for the task, for making provision for emergencies and for taking out your own ambulance, medical and personal property insurance. You should familiarize yourself with safe river crossing as well as bushfire safe practices. You should have adequate first aid knowledge and equipment, and should understand the dangers to health from poor diet, water and hygiene when camping. Be aware of local conditions. Advise someone of your plans and agree on what to do if you fail to make a planned contact. We recommend you carry a map, compass, NT Maps and updates. We strongly recommend you carry an emergency personal safety device (do not rely on a mobile phone).

6. The Environment

The NT supports low impact practices that minimise harm to the natural environment. Avoid washing with soap or detergent in creeks or rivers and carry water to horses. Dispose of all waste properly. If you carry it in – carry it out again. If you must, bury decomposable rubbish and remove the rest to a bin. Human faeces should be buried to a depth of 15-20cm at least 50m away from creeks and camping areas. Leave your campsite with no indication of your presence. Groom animals and pick tack, socks and clothes of noxious weeds seeds to prevent spread. Smoking is discouraged, cigarette butts should always be completely extinguished, collected and disposed of properly.

7. Fire

Always be aware of local fire conditions and respect fire warnings, particularly Total Fire Bans. Incorrect use of fire can cause bushfire, loss of property and possibly life. Carry and use a fuel stove. Only light fires in properly constructed fire places. Keep fires small and extinguish completely before leaving. You can be prosecuted for letting a fire escape.

8. Locked Gates

Locked gates must be respected. Locks must not be cut or tampered with. Maps contain instructions for obtaining keys and conditions for access. Alternatively, ask landowner or section coordinator for detour.

9. Firearms

Firearms cannot be carried through, or discharged in, many tenures along the Trail. They are best left a home.

10. Hunting and Fishing

Most land tenures restrict hunting and fishing which makes ‘living off the land’ difficult.

11. Permits

In NSW many campsites are in Travelling Stock Reserves (TSRs) and a camping permit must be obtained. Members can obtain necessary permits via the NT office before trekking, even if you have no animals. Contact with the relevant Livestock Health and Pest Authority (LHPA) 48 hours prior to travel is a condition of the permit.

12. Fees and charges

Fees and charges are sometimes charged at showgrounds and campsites where there are facilities. These must be paid to the relevant facility manager.

13. Huts

At some campsites, particularly in the high country, huts are provided for shelter. These huts should be shared with other users. Huts must be left clean and tidy, food scraps removed, and firewood replaced. Never rely on a hut being available. Some huts have visitor books, use them to record your visit.

14. Cyclists

  • Comply with road rules and laws including helmet requirements.
  • Practice low impact riding.
  • Be mindful of other trekkers and their animals.
  • Be well prepared for any eventuality (food, water, spares, puncture repair etc).

15. Horses and Pack Animals

Trekkers are responsible for their animals, for their welfare and for any damage they do. Animals should be under control at all times, and must be securely fenced in or tethered at night.

  • Minimise overnight impact by providing at least 25m2 per horse per night
  • Tether or fence animals away from water courses and watering points, camping areas, crops and vehicles
  • Remove animal droppings from day use areas and spread the rest
  • Hard feed should be cracked or processed, no hay or grain please
  • Wash and water animals away from streams and watercourses
  • Animal welfare is your responsibility and you will be judged by your animals
  • Meet spraying and animal movement requirements when passing from cattle tick declared areas to clean areas

16. Animals on the Trail

Trekking with pack animals is part of the BNT experience, however other animals, such as dogs and cats, are not permitted on the Trail.

Over the years trekkers have contributed tips that may assist others. Many of these tips have been around for years – they must be tried and true!

Health

Some thoughts on Drinking Water on the BNT contributed by Graham Crossley

Food is very important. You can cook and dehydrate your food to ensure you have delicious meals to look forward to.

Feed the Hike  and Australian Hiker, will get you started with a great range of recipes. If you have never used a dehydrator before, take a look here, for tips on success.

Hiking

Some Notes for Walkers contributed by Colin Kemp

Popular Hikes

Horses

Right from our inception minimising the environmental impacts of trekking has been important to us. We ask trekkers to comply with our Trekking Code and also ask that you tread softly.

Each of us must follow in another traveller’s footsteps. Please:

  • Keep the Trail free of litter. Carry out what you carry in
  • Stay on the Trail. Shortcuts cause erosion and may violate private property rights
  • Respect the privacy and property of landowners
  • Avoid large groups
  • Dispose of human waste at least 80 m from the Trail and 100 m from water. Dig a shallow hole and cover afterwards
  • Leave pets and firearms a home
  • Do not disturb plants or animals
  • Use a backpacker’s stove instead of building a campfire
  • Do not wash yourself or your dishes in lakes or streams
  • Empty dirty water well away from water sources
  • Use care with soaps. Even biodegradable types can pollute drinking water
  • Camp only on public lands or in designated campsites. Observe local regulations
  • Do not camp on fragile meadows or tundra
  • Restore your camp to its original condition

We thank you! Those who follow thank you!

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.

Question - How do I find the Maps and Trail Descriptions?

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 the website (purchase of updated maps maybe required, 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 GDA2020 and if unavailable 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.

Question - Do I need to register my trek?

Answer – We ask that trekkers make contact with the NT office 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 – Leave no trace of your trek through. We also require 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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Don’t Forget to Register Your Trek

Click to go to the Trek Registration form (You need to be logged in as a member to access this registration form)

“TRF and TSR” Forms are to be submitted between 4 weeks and one week of commencing your trek