This is a 1144 km trail in South Australia which runs from the southern coast, north past Adelaide into the desert ranges. The trail is named after the famous artist, Hans Heysen, who painted many scenes of the Flinders Ranges.
The entire track takes around 55 to 70 days to walk. A tent is needed, as while some shelter huts have been built in popular areas, most campsites have no facilities or shelters. Much of the trail crosses private land and there are many restrictions on camping along the way. For some sections, commercial campsites are the only practical overnight stops. There are some huts, hostels and even farms forming part of the tracks accommodation. This is not a wilderness type walk as the track traverses a wide variety of natural and man-altered landscapes.
Unlike other long distance trails, this track is designed more for short one day walks rather than an extended end-to-end walk. The lack of campsites in many areas and the long sections where camping is banned give this writer that impression. There is also almost no data for the long distance walker. On the other hand there is some information about commercial accommodation near the track and many of the track notes are written in the form of one day walks (and do not describe permitted camping places). You can walk this track and camp along the way but this will take some planning as there is no easy to access set of track notes and information for end-to-enders. The most popular starting time to walk the entire track seems to be late April or May and most walk from north to south.
In 1969, Warren Bonython, a well known long distance walker who had walked the length of the Flinders Ranges proposed a long distance walking trail. While there was initial enthusiasm, politics from government departments and private land owners stalled planning for many years. By 1976 only 9 km of track existed and the project seemed doomed to failure. In 1978, responsibility for the track was transferred to the Department of Recreation and Sport and they soon constructed the first 50km through the Mount Lofty Ranges. This attracted public attention and support and a change in attitude by government followed with higher priority being given the track.
Slowly, more of the trail was planned and built. Then responsibility was transferred to the voluntary, 'Friends of the Heyson Trail', and the remainder of the track went swiftly ahead. They built and marked the track and it was completed in 1992. Today, it is marked along its length.
The trail runs for 1144 km from Cape Jervis, south of Adelaide through the Mount Lofty Ranges behind Adelaide and past the Barossa Valley, through Mt Remarkable National Park and Wilpena Pound in the Flinders Ranges to Parachilna Gorge in the northern Flinders Ranges. The original track was proposed to run north a further 500 km to Mt Babbage at the northern end of the Flinders Ranges. Whether this section will ever be constructed or marked is unknown.
The official length seems to be variable with totals from 900 to 1,500 km being given depending on which source you read. The Friends group website claims 1,200 km, the Government Recreation & Sport site claims 1,500km and Terry Lavender claims 1,500km (Terry was the main designer and driver for the track) - all seem exaggerated. An article that has appeared in both The Trailwalker (the magazine of the Friends of the Heysen Trail group) and Tandanya (the newsletter of the Adelaide Bushwalkers) which suggested the length to be 1060km.
To remove confusion, I have combined the two Volumes of Terrys books (only Volume 1 and 3 exist) plus used my map measurer (it’s a little wheel with a circular measuring scale) and the official set of trail maps for the missing third. I carefully measured each section and totalled 1,144 km plus about 20 km of deviations to towns and campsites. This was less than the distance others have stated. Maybe they have included all possible side trails. My estimated length of 1,144 km still makes it the longest walking track/trail in Australia (the Bicentennial Trail is NOT a walking track). Further information has been sent to me claiming that if you add up all the climbs and descents and switch-backs etc you would get 1500km. Well if you did this for every other track as well they would all get a huge bonus as well and tracks like the Australian Alps Walking Track which climb many more steeper hills would get much more. In my opinion this is not a valid way of leasuring track length and is not used by most bushwalkers. I have used the traditional method of measuring the track length horizontally which is the same method used for measuring all other tracks on this web site - using one method means it is possible to make comparisons.
Several major highways cross the trail and access is available to many places. In the north, buses run to Wilpena Pound and Parachilna. There are many access points near Adelaide and the Barossa Valley. In the south, a train and buses run to Victor Harbour.
The SA Department of Recreation and Sport (PO Box 219 Brooklyn Park, SA 5032) produce a set of 15 Heyson Trail maps. These are topographical 1:50,000 scale maps and sold for around $6.50 each. The maps are usually only available in Adelaide. An out of print (and out of date) set of 'Walker's Guide' books to the trail were once produced to some sections of the track. Also out of print, but well worth reading, is 'Walking The Flinders Ranges' by C. Warren Bonython - published in 1971, this can sometimes this can found in libraries.
A series of small strip style booklets is now being produced by Terry Lavender. Currently two booklets - Mt Crawford to Mt Magnificent and Mt Magnificent to Cape Jervis are available. These cover the southern quarter of the track from just above Adelaide to the track end at Cape Jervis. The 12 page booklets contain very rough sketch maps, brief notes on the track and a very useful list of campsites and accommodation places. Terry has also just published a guide, The Heysen Trail : A Walkers Reference. This is for the southern end of the trail from Tanunda to Cape Jervis.
Another potential source of information is the Friends of the Heysen Trail. They provide a basic web site and if contacted should be able to provide some information.
I have not walked the entire trail and have not planned to do so hence I have not yet created a full itinerary for this walk.
None are needed for walking the track. Camping permits are needed in all National and Conservation Parks and on some private lands camping is banned. The track is closed during summer from December until March. Local restrictions are also applied to some sections of the trail so read the notes on the back of the maps carefully when planning a trip. The extremely hot summer season is unsuitable for walking as the danger of bushfires is extremely high. Camp fires are totally banned from the 1st November until the 30th April. For the rest of the year fires are banned on all private land (the track crosses large sections of private land) so take a fuel stove.