Australia's most exciting winter hiking trails
Far from hibernating like a grizzly bear until the cold passes, the winter months in Australia are perfect for getting your pack together and living your best outdoor life. Whether you want to road test your winter wardrobe and make snow angels, or take a dip in a secluded lagoon in the top end and soak up as much vitamin D as possible, these multi-day hikes have something for everyone.
Larapinta Trail, Northern Territory
Stretching over 223 kilometres from The Telegraph Station in Alice Springs to Mount Sonder, the Larapinta trail is recognised as one of the world's most spectacular desert hiking routes. Showcasing the Northern Territory's signature dry, red dust landscapes; visually stunning gorges with hidden waterholes; millennia-old ghost gums and geological sites, unique wildlife and the rich Indigenous cultural history of the Alice, it's not hard to understand why the Larapinta Trail is at the top of the list for winter hiking in Australia.
Part of the attraction of the Larapinta Trail is the range of options available for exploring it. Guided treks are popular with people who don't want to miss any of the highlights of the trail and are keen to learn about the cultural and geological significance of many of the sites en-route from local experts. Alternatively, there's the option of exploring Larapinta unguided and taking things at your own pace.
Along with how you navigate the trail, there are distance options too. Food drops at designated areas are available for hardcore hikers keen to do the full 10 to 12 day, 223-kilometre trek (whether guided or unguided) or you can choose to experience select stages that take three, six or nine days to complete (again, guided or unguided) with the option of camping under the stars in wilderness sites, or resting up and recharging the batteries in the relative comfort of an eco-friendly campsite.
Start from either the Telegraph Station or the Mount Sonder end of the trek - the choice is yours when it comes to hiking Larapinta. And, with temperatures in the Alice varying between the low to high 20s in the winter months, the Larapinta Trail is best explored between May to October.
Snowy Mountains Region, New South Wales
The Mt Kosciusko National Park and greater Snowy Mountains region of NSW is a Mecca for hiking fans year-round but, when the colder weather arrives, it takes on a new life as a winter wonderland.
The region has a seemingly endless supply of day hikes. From the Palliabo Walking Track near the Thredbo River to the Waterfall Walking Track in Jindabyne and Lake Crackenback (which takes advantage of Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa as a start/finish point for hikers and bushwalkers looking for some creature comforts at the end of a long day).
When planning your winter hike in the Snowy Mountains, always check for any travel warnings current for the area. The weather is also known to change quickly, so make sure you've packed for cold and icy conditions, just to be sure.
Jatbula Trail, Nitmiluk National Park, Northern Territory
Stretching over 62 kilometres in length from Nitmiluk (Katherine Gorge) to Leliyn (Edith Falls) in Australia's Top End, the Jatbula Trail is another stunning multi-day Northern Territory winter hiking trail.
Where the Larapinta Trail showcases the red, dusty and mountainous expanses of the Territory, the six-to-eight-day Jatbula Trail immerses you in a tropical walking adventure in western Arnhem Land, replete with amazing waterholes, monsoonal forests, rock art and places of cultural significance for the traditional custodians of the land, the Jawoyn people.
Jatbula Trail can be done as a guided or unguided hike. If you want to go unguided, it's essential you book your national park entry and camping passes well in advance. The longest section of Jatbula is day three's 16-kilometre stretch, with other days averaging out at 10 kilometres each over moderate terrain, making it accessible for people of all ages, fitness levels and bushwalking experience.
Experts recommend starting your day early to take in the trail's amazing sunrises and then pulling the pin by the afternoon so you can cool off in a waterhole or pool.
Walls of Jerusalem, Tasmania
If you're looking for a hiking experience that shows off south-eastern Australia's rugged winter beauty, then the 23-kilometre Walls of Jerusalem circuit in Tasmania should be placed high on your list of places to explore.
Located in the heart of a World-Heritage-listed wilderness, the Walls of Jerusalem Hike immerses you in a stunning winter landscape of alpine lakes, unique wildlife and fauna, and unforgettable views from the 1,485-metre summit of King David's Peak.
The trail can be walked within a guided small group or as a self-guided option with support provided. It has its challenges - the weather in the area can vary dramatically over just a few hours so, if you're doing a self-guided trek, it's vital you have bushwalking experience, purpose-designed winter outdoor clothing, adequate supplies and safety equipment. It's recommended that beginners undertake the hike in a guided group and have a basic fitness level.
Most walkers take three-to-four days to complete the hike, with Wild Dog Creek, Dixons Kingdom and Lake Adelaide offering great wilderness camping facilities en-route?. Parks Tasmania asks hikers to do the trail clockwise starting at Wild Dog and wrapping up at Lake Adelaide to minimise the need for walkers to pass each other on the narrow tracks, which can cause damage to the fragile alpine environment.
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory
Covering over 20,000 square kilometres, the Northern Territory's heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is an incomparable winter holiday destination in Australia. While it's popular with 4X4 and camping enthusiasts, exploring Kakadu by foot is an amazing way to enjoy this great natural wonder of the world.
As well as taking in the amazing Jin Jin Falls, experiencing unforgettable cliff views, swimming in idyllic waterholes and touring wetlands that are home to typically Australian wildlife, the Kakadu National Park Walk immerses you in more than 40,000 years of Aboriginal cultural heritage.
The trail is a 37-kilometre stretch and, if the estimated four to six days to complete the trail sounds a bit arduous, it can easily be split into shorter day treks. The National Park trek is a guided hike, so you can avoid the crowds, get access to private campsites, enjoy meals prepared by your camp guides and experience parts of Kakadu that your average tourist doesn't get to visit.
Cape to Cape Track, Margaret River, Western Australia
Stretching from Cape Leeuwin to Cape Naturaliste in Western Australia's Margaret River region, the 135-kilometre, six-to-eight-day Cape to Cape track is famous for being Australia's longest coastal walk.
The Cape to Cape trail can be completed self-guided style for the more experienced bushwalkers who want to take their time exploring the track's white sand beaches, Karri forests, limestone caves and diverse little villages that are part of the unique charm of the region. Alternatively, there are plenty of group-guided tours, some of which manage to combine sneaky visits to the local wineries.
While not as mild as the northern parts of Western Australia and the Top End, winter and early spring temperatures in the Margaret River region are still mild enough to enjoy hiking the track without needing to pack bulky winter clothing to keep warm.
Before hitting the trails, making sure you have the perfect hiking boots is a necessity, check out our hiking boot selection guide before you go.