The Heysen trail is South Australia’s longest bushwalking or hiking trail. It is 1200 km (720 miles) long and runs from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula to Parachilna Gorge in the Flinders Ranges, and passing through a number of conservation parks, national parks, and forests.
The trail was marked out and completed in 1992, although sections (such as those in the Mount Lofty Ranges above Adelaide) were opened earlier. It was named after Sir Hans Heysen, a well-known German born Australian landscape artist.
The Heysen Trail is one of the country’s greatest long-distance trails, and one of the most beautiful, passing through diverse countryside such as the spectacular coastal sections between Cape Jervis and Victor Harbor, through rugged gorges such as the Onkaparinga gorge and the gorges in the Flinders Ranges, forests such as Kuitpo (pronounced Kypo) and the forested hills overlooking Adelaide. It also passes through the Barossa valley (one of Australia’s greatest wine areas) and the amazing Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges.
Walking the entire trail takes around two months, but most people do the trail in sections, and many parts of the trail offer short sections of between 5 and 20 km that can easily be walked in a few hours or less.
Parts of the trail are closed during the summer fire danger season. This is usually between December and March, but dates vary from year to year and section to section, depending on the bushfire danger determined by the country fire service (CFS). All sections that run through private farms are closed during the bushfire season, but there are other sections that can be walked throughout the entire year.
The trail offers challenging sections for experienced bushwalkers, especially in the northern end, but there are also many sections (mostly in the southern sections) that are suitable for inexperienced casual walkers, and for the elderly and young children. Some sections of the trail are multi-use and are used by cyclists and horse riders as well as walkers.
The more challenging sections of the trail are isolated and have no accommodation, and it is necessary to carry everything including a tent, sleeping bag, food and water. Since the trail passes through some quite arid regions, you cannot assume you will be able to find water. It is also recommended that the smallest party of walkers through the difficult and dangerous section should be three people: one to stay with an injured person and one to go for help. It is vital to be fully prepared for the challenging sections because there are no nearby towns or roads, no phones, and mobile phone coverage is non-existent or unreliable.
There is some accommodation on or near many sections of the trail, including huts, campsites, and shelters. Some of the latter are very basic indeed, consisting of sheltered sleeping platforms and a water tank. Huts are usually fully enclosed and offer bunks, table and chairs, toilet facilities and a water tank. Huts and shelters cannot be pre-booked, however, so it is important to have camping gear in case they are already occupied.
Some sections of the trail have opportunities to stay in B & Bs and motels, hotels at nearby towns. Others have nearby farm-stays available.
For more information to help plan your walk, see the Government’s Heysen Trail website or the Friends of the Heysen Trail website. Maps are available for all sections of the trail.
Heysen Trail: http://www.environment.sa.gov.au/parks/heysen/
Friends of the Heysen Trail: http://www.heysentrail.asn.au/