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Published December 12th 2014
Walk it short or walk it long, and see the real SA
It was 40 years ago when an intrepid Adelaide conservationist named Warren Bonython suggested that it might be possible to join hundreds of short bush and nature walks together and to create one long distance walking trail that would suit walkers of all abilities, and provide options for walkers to walk for 2 hours, 2 days, 2 weeks or 2 months at a time. This concept was delegated to a team in the Department of Recreation and Sport who created a linear walking trail by joining existing walking trails in South Australia's recreation, conservation and national parks with little known road corridors, verges, farmers properties and rail lines.
The end result was a long distance walking trail stretching from Cape Jervis through the Fleurieu Peninsula to the Adelaide Hills, Barossa Valley, Southern Flinders Ranges, across the Goyder's Line and ultimately to Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges National Park is known as the Heysen Trail.
The Heysen Trail consists of numerous 5km, 10km, 15km or any other distance walks that walkers most like to do. Most shorter walks are completed within a few hours, and typically occur around the Adelaide Hills. In fact many bushwalkers walking through Cleland Conservation Park or Morialta in Adelaide walk on or near the Heysen Trail, and possibly don't realise that they are walking on one of Australia's longest and most popular trails.
With towns located in relative close proximity to each other between Cape Jervis and Burra, it is possible to do several weekend or overnight walks and to stay in an accommodation house or alternatively to carry and pitch a tent in a reasonably comfortable location.
Beyond Burra, the distances between towns gets a bit larger and the terrain is often a bit tougher. To accommodate this, the Friends of the Heysen Trail have installed campsites at numerous and strategic locations along the northern part of the trail to enable walkers to have access to some respectable facilities.
The Heysen Trail stretches a total of 1,200 km, which is conservatively estimated to take an average walker about 60 days to complete if they were travelling end to end. End to end can be achieved in several ways including walking 60 days continuously from Cape Jervis. Alternatively, and the way I completed the trail, was to arrange a two car shuttle which enabled the walkers to do 15-25km each day, with only 2 or 3 overnight treks required.
The final way is to join an End-to-End group as part of the Friends of the Heysen Trail. These groups typically do single day bus tours for the first few hundred kilometres of the Trail before breaking in to weekend walks (staying at country accommodation houses) for the remainder of the Trail.
The most popular parts of the Heysen Trail are in the Adelaide Hills, mainly due to its proximity to the city of Adelaide. Many walkers can be seen each weekend on parts of the Trail through Hahndorf, Bridgewater, Mt George, Mt Lofty Botanic Gardens, Cleland, Morialta and Mt Crawford.
Some of the popular walks outside of the greater Adelaide region include Deep Creek, Waitpinga, Mt Magnificent, Mylor, World's End, Burra, Bundaleer Channel, Mt Remarkable, Alligator Gorge, Mt Brown, Dutchman's Stern and Wilpena Pound and often pass significant land features that are never seen by tourists in cars, and rarely seen by hikers.
The Friends of the Heysen Trail publish two excellent guidebooks which contain maps and highlights for the entire trail. These are available from most good outdoor shops for $30 each which is money well spent.
Notwithstanding the shorter route options, the full length Heysen Trail is a significant walking trail in South Australia and should only be considered by persons with a reasonable level of fitness, and when travelling with friends especially in the Northern areas. Further details on the Heysen Trail is available from the Friends of the Heysen Trail website or their facebook page.