Since completing the Heysen Trail, I have been honoured to field various questions about my solo adventure. Some queries are more prevalent than others, so I’ve collated the most frequently asked questions and listed them below.

Heysen Trail FAQ

How accessible is water along the Heysen Trail?

The availability of water was my biggest concern on the Heysen Trail, and it’s undoubtedly my most commonly asked question from aspiring end-to-end hikers. Aside from my 3L bladder busting on Day 1, I didn’t run into any water issues for the entire trail; in fact, hydration was the least of my worries. Rain tanks are positioned at regular intervals and, for the most part, were sustainably full; however, this may not always be the case—particularly in the dry northern third of the trail. Friends of the Heysen Trail receive semi-regular updates on the condition of rain tanks and have this information readily available via phone or email query.

Why did you walk North to South on the Heysen Trail?

The Heysen Trail traditionally begins at the southern Cape Jervis Trailhead and runs toward Parachilna Gorge in the north, however, due to several factors, I reversed my route. Firstly, I wanted to get the best out of South Australia’s glorious climate. Beginning in the north in mid-August meant I could enjoy the typically hot mid-north in cooler conditions. I’d then complete my hike as spring’s southern wildflowers were in full bloom. Secondly, this timing allowed the trail tanks to receive the maximum amount of winter’s rainfall. And lastly, the southerly direction allowed the afternoon sun to shine directly on the bag-fastened solar panels that recharged my tech.

Where did you sleep on the Heysen Trail?

Despite the remote nature of the Heysen Trail, there is a surprising amount of accommodation variety as the path weaves through cities, towns and abandoned settlements. Although, because of the often long distances between sites, I recommend planning an itinerary before commencing the journey. My final accommodation tally finished at 21 free campgrounds, 11 free huts/shelters, 10 commercial campgrounds, 10 hotels/motels and 2 residential addresses.

What did you eat on the Heysen Trail?

Far too many dehydrated dinners and porridge breakfasts—but, they were for the greater good. These low-weight, high energy meals fueled my days and allowed me to quickly prepare my meals without further-exhausting my weary brain cells. However, despite my Food Plan organisation, I ensured my Resupply Plan had holes in the schedule when I arrived in the trail towns. Not only was my stomach longing for deep-fried goodies, but every purchase in these communities helps support the region and maintain the Heysen Trail.

Are there items you wished you’d taken?

I think I pretty much nailed my Packing List—although my fingers craved thermal gloves from the beginning. I greatly underestimated the trail’s frosty mornings; the warm waterproof gloves I bought from the Crystal Brook Foodland on Day 22 helped immensely.

Are there items you wished you’d left behind?

Well, all of my bulky camera equipment—but, that goes without saying. The only possible change I would make, in hindsight, is to swap my gas canisters for a metho stove. Cheap methylated spirits are readily available at supermarkets, petrol stations and hardware stores along the trail. Not to mention, I was left with several burdensome half-full canisters once I’d completed the trail—incredibly wasteful and environmentally insensitive.

Is the Heysen Trail well marked?

The volunteers at the Friends of the Heysen Trail do a fantastic job marking the route, although that didn’t stop me from getting lost. As a solo-hiker, your mind will inevitably flitter in a myriad of different directions, leaving it difficult to concentrate fully on the trail. I recommend taking the full suite of Heysen Trail map sheets and uploading a GPX version of the map to an app like Galileo Guru on your mobile.

What was the hardest part of the Heysen Trail?

Okay, this is going to sound controversial—the 1,200-kilometre journey was easier than I anticipated. Despite having never attempted a long-distance hike before, I quickly acclimatised to the rigours of the trail; a testament to how speedily the body adjusts given the right preparation and nourishment. That’s not to say the trek was easy. The most challenging part of solo-hiking the Heysen Trail was the isolation. I spent days without seeing another soul, but, as a result, my resolve and independence grew immeasurably.

What was your training schedule leading up to the Heysen Trail?

I didn’t stick to a ‘schedule’ as such, but I did build my workload as Day 1 drew closer. Beach walks prepared my calves, increased pack weight strengthened my back, and endless stretching loosened my tight muscles. However, you can’t anticipate the initial monotonous consistency of the trail; no amount of training will prepare you for the continuous daily effort. Pain is a part of the process. It doesn’t matter how well you train, a long-distance hike will hurt—the sooner I came to peace with this mentality, the easier my journey became.

How did you record your daily video diaries?

My initial Facebook uploads were just me and my iPhone 7, plus a few shots from my drone (later I included shots from my DSLR and uploaded the diaries to YouTube). The footage from each diary was shot, edited and subsequently published from my iPhone while on the road. These regular updates gave viewers a realtime insight to life on the Heysen Trail all while raising donations for the Black Dog Institute.

Can I ride the Heysen Trail?

Unfortunately, no. With at least a million fences to hurdle, the Heysen Trail is built for hikers. Luckily, the state’s nearby Mawson Trail covers much the same route, occasionally crossing paths with the Heysen.

What is the length of the Heysen Trail?

Officially, the Heysen Trail runs 1,200 kilometres from Cape Jervis to Parachilna Gorge. Unofficially, it’s a little less (around 1,100 kilometres). However, 100 kilometres worth of trail spurs are available to explore.

Where does the Heysen Trail start and finish?

The Heysen Trail stretches between Cape Jervis on the southern tip of the Fleurieu Peninsula up to Parachilna Gorge in the state’s mid-north and can be completed in either direction.

When does the Heysen Trail open?

Unfortunately, no. The Heysen Trail is closed during South Australia’s Fire Danger season, typically between November and April.

How long does it take to walk the Heysen Trail?

The Heysen Trail typically takes 45-60 days to complete, depending on the walker’s pace and seasonal conditions. Don’t fancy walking the whole thing in one go? The Friends of the Heysen Trail offer an end-to-end walking program that takes six years to complete.

Questions still not answered?

Please leave any inquiries in the comments below, and I will get back to you shortly.

Still want to know more?

The Friends of the Heysen Trail FAQ contains a comprehensive list of general questions for the 1,200km journey.