Trek Planning

General

Rugged Beauty
Rugged Beauty

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

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.

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.

Quiet Roads
Quiet Roads

You can start by joining the BNT. 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

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.

By bike
By bike

Direction

Here you have two choices – commence in Cooktown and travel south or commence in Healseville and travel north. The original planning for the Trail was for trekkers to start in Cooktown and travel south. Travel from north to south puts the sun at your back. However many people prefer to depart from Healesville and travel south to north. This this is becomming 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!

Important Note

The information given on this website is, by itself, insufficient for planning a trek or for making use of the Bicentennial National Trail. Anyone planning a trek should join the BNT 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 BNT or the guidebooks or this web site.

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.

 

Much of the route of the BNT 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.

BNT Members

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

Non-members
  • Non-members intending to use a TSR campsite on the Bicentennial 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 BNT 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.

 

Description

Preparation

The Bicentennial 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 Bicentennial 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 Bicentennial 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 Guidebooks will indicate areas where you are likely to encounter changable weather conditions however adverse conditions can occur at any time and you need to be alert for changes in conditions.

Resources include

  • The Bureau of Meterology (BOM) website
  • Your local ABC Radio
  • Apps for your phone or tablet
  • Local advice

Navigation along the Bicentennial National Trail is by the maps and route notes contained in each Guidebook. It is not possible to follow the Trail without a Guidebook.

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.

BNT Marker
BNT Marker new style

The information below aids prospective trekkers planning a trip.

Guidebooks

There are 12 Guidebooks that contain instructions and maps to guide trekkers along the Bicentennial National Trail.

Each Guidebook

  • contains detailed sketch maps of the route
  • lists planning contacts
  • give details of distances, sources of provisions, services and so on
  • nominates the best campsites and offers alternatives campsites
  • gives information on water sources
  • details special permits you may require

Guidebooks also provide you with historical information on the significance of your chosen route.

Within each Guidebook are route notes which

  • use distance travelled in kilometres to identify an intersection or other feature, and an instruction about which way to continue on the Trail
  • contain contact information for private land owners to contact before you pass through their property
  • contain contact information for any National Parks, Travelling Stock Reserves and other areas where access or camping arrangements must be made in advance
  • link to a map showing the route and other roads and features used for navigation
  • show recommended campsites on each map

In order to fit the days trek on one map the scale may vary between 1:80,000 and 1:110,000.

There are 20-25 days trekking in each book, and most days cover between 15 and 30 kilometres.

Guidebooks are numbered 1 to 12 with Guidebook 1 being in northern Queensland and Guidebook 12 in Victoria. You can read an overview of each of the twelve sections of the Bicentennial National Trail under the Discover the BNT  tab.

BNT members can purchase Guidebooks from our shop.

Guidebook Updates

Guidebook Updates identify changes that have occurred since the printing of the Guidebook. Guidebook Updates are reviewed from time to time as properties change hands, the people you must contact to arrange access permission change, or as the route changes due to temporary or permanent detours. These changes are listed on Guidebook Updates until they can be incorporated into a new edition of the guidebooks.

Guidebook Updates are found here (members only).

It is always wise to check back regularly to make sure you have the latest update.

BNT Trail Markers

National Horse Trail Marker
Old National Horse Trail Marker

It is not possible to follow the route of the BNT with markers alone. The purpose of the yellow and red striped BNT 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 BNT 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 BNT.

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 BNT 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 BNT. 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 BNT.

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 BNT 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 BNT 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 Bicentennial 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 BNT 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 BNT Trekking Code ensures that the BNT 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, BNT Guidebooks and updates. We strongly recommend you carry an emergency personal safety device (do not rely on a mobile phone).

6. The Environment

The BNT 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. Guidebooks 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 BNT 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

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!

 

 

Don’t Forget to Register Your Trek

Click to go to the Trek Registration form