Australian Alps Walking Track

Home | Bushwalking | Ski-Touring | Photo Galleries | Published Books
Overseas Walks | External Links | The Author | What's New | Site Map
Introduction | History | Location | Access | Track Notes | Track Updates
Complete Map List | Suggested Map Set | Suggested Itinerary | Food Drops | Permits


Formerly called 'The Alpine Walking Track', the 'Australian Alps Walking Track' is a long route that passes through the mountains of Victoria and New South Wales. It is primarily a wilderness style walk as it passes through natural landscapes and there are no major facilities.

The track essentially follows the crest of the alpine range (the alps) from southern Victoria through to the Australian Capital Territory (ACT). On the way it crosses all the highest mountain regions from the Baw Baw Plateau, the Mt Howitt area, the Bogong High Plains, the Cobberras then the Kosciuszko National Park and finally into the Namadgi National Park near Canberra.

In many ways, it is the grandest and most difficult of all the long distance tracks in Australia. It is not the longest but with over 27,000 metres of climbing and descending it is indeed a tough walk (equivalent to more than 3 ascents and descents of Mt Everest!). This equates to between 550m and 800m of climbing and descending each day - definitely not a flat walk! It also crosses a lot of Australia's best alpine scenery making it a very scenic varied walk.

The official length is 650 km but most follow the route described in the guide book which in the latest edition is 659.6 km. A fair bit of planning is needed, as while there are plenty of minor roads crossing the alps, there are no towns or re-supply points along the track (see itineraries below). There are several ski resorts close to the track, which can provide a rest with a bed and a hot shower, but there are few other facilities. Most end-to-enders spend about 3 days driving and pre-placing food caches before starting the walk.

Food dumps are usually arranged for every 5 to 8 days, some choose longer sections of 12 to 14 days, it all depends on what weight you find acceptable.

The entire route takes about 30 to 60 days to complete depending on walking speed and the number of rest days. Fast walkers do the track in around 30 to 40 days. As this is an alpine area with variable weather, it is suggested to build in some extra days to wait out poor weather. Some very experienced ultra-fast walkers have attempted the track, some succeed and some fail. The fastest known trips I know of so far have been 19 days by Li Brannfors as an unsupported walker and 14 days by Beau Miles as a supported runner.

There are not just many tough climbs, the track crosses a number of rivers which have to waded or crossed by rough log bridges. Long sections of the track also have none or minimal markers as it passes through wilderness areas. The lack of markers in these regions is deliberate, as management of these zones dictate no formal marked tracks. The track has been planned for experienced bushwalkers to follow and is not suitable for the inexperienced. There are even some short sections without any track at all - you simply follow the ridges, at times pushing through scrub and occasionally may find markers confirming you are on the route. Tents are essential - there are only a couple of huts along the track. Detailed maps are also essential as this is not a walk where you can just follow markers - it does require navigation.

The track was designed by bushwalkers for bushwalkers and does require adequate walking skills. It is not suitable for travellers as a first time long walk - for such an experience, the Overland Track in Tasmania, the Bibbulmun Track in Western Australia or the Great South West Walk in Victoria are suggested. There are no official camp sites along the track - in fact there are many places suitable for camping depending on water supplies. The main needs for campsites are flat dry ground (usually easy enough to find) and water. In late summer water can be very hard to find on some sections. Late spring is the most common period chosen for end-to-end walks but even then water is hard to find particularly in the Barry Mountains and around Mt McDonald. Park managers are aware of these water short sections and water tanks have been installed at some locations.


This was the first of the extremely long distance tracks in Australia marked specifically for bushwalkers. It combined the first long walking track in Australia - part of the Yarra Track which crossed the Baw Baws - with other existing pads and tracks to form the first recognised walking track longer than a week in length.

The Bibbulmun Track has acknowledged that the idea for their track came from a Victorian who was inspired by The Alpine Walking Track (incorrectly referred to on the Friends of the Bibbulmun site as 'The Alpine Way'). Most of the other very long tracks built in Australia in the 1980's used the Alpine Walking Track as a model or inspiration.

The first suggestion of a long distance walking track in Victoria, was made in 1948, by the Field Naturalist Club of Victoria. This was accepted and proposals of routes were put forward by the Parliamentary State Development Committee in 1952. In 1954 Alam Strom walked from Mt Erica in Victoria to Tindinbilla near Canberra and proposed the route to extend all the way through to Canberra. This was published by the National Parks Association of NSW. However there was little support at the time by bushwalkers and the idea languished. Many walkers felt that the wild areas should be left the way they were and a formal track was not needed. At that stage bushwalkers felt that the wilderness would last forever and that a track would destroy wilderness values. Of course the wilderness did not stay that way, and in hindsight, a track made in the 1950's might have assisted in protecting what there was.

Over the next 14 years, forestry kept building many new roads into the forests - something they had been doing since the massive 1939 bushfire. With bulldozers and chainsaws, even the wildest areas were being tamed and bushwalkers soon began to realise there would soon be no wild natural areas left in the Alps. If they waited and did nothing, all would soon be lost. An icon style track was one way to gain attention for protecting the dwindling wild areas.

The catalyst happened in 1968 when Maurice Harkins from the Tourist Development Authority suggested a track from Mt Wellington to Mt Kosciuszko. The Federation of Victorian Walking Clubs (now called Bushwalking Victoria) responded one year later with a detailed proposal for a track from Mt Erica through to the Victorian/New South Wales border. A common myth has been that the Federation initiated the track but this was not the case. Once suggested, the Federation adopted the track and provided the impetus and support to make it happen.

Acceptance by other government departments followed and grants were obtained to finance track marking. Work on the track started in 1970 and by 1976, the Alpine Walking Track was completed. The route was marked with distinctive yellow diamond markers, some of which still exist today. Much of the track linked together existing tracks thus reducing costs.

For 20 years, the Alpine Walking Track ended at the New South Wales border. The managers of the Kosciuszko National Park were not interested. In the early 1990's, a major change occurred when the governments of Victoria, New South Wales and the ACT recognised the Australian Alps as a single entity. The resulting cooperation has seen the track extended through to Canberra as originally proposed - it has thus become a symbol of the common link between all the parks. The eastern end of the track in Victoria was re-aligned to cross the state border in a more suitable location for continuing onto Canberra.

Of course, politics intervened and the track was re-named to the current title of 'Australian Alps Walking Track'. The track markers were also changed from the distinctive yellow diamonds to a rectangular blue/grey badge. There was a lot of disagreement over the new markers as they are hard to see in scrub and poor weather. They did not satisfy the Australian Standard for track markers and the practice of placing them near ground level made them hard to find in scrub or almost impossible to find after snowfall. After much discussion the markers are being replaced with more visible yellow triangles but the problem of some marker posts being close to the ground and hidden in scrub still remains.

Another controversy also exists over the official route through the Kosciuszko National Park. The marked route follows major roads for a long distance and no campsites are provided - indeed camping is banned beside the road! Most walkers would never be interested in dodging cars while they could be walking across some of Australia's best alpine scenery. Almost all walkers ignore the official track along the ski village roads and instead follow walking tracks across the top of the Main Range. Even the guide book to the track ignores the road and recommends the track across the tops. I have suggested an alternative mid-level route using some of the aqueduct maintainence tracks plus 1km of new track around Guthega that would be more attractive to walkers than the road and still satisfy most park management problems. This avoids most of the road bashing, but I do not hold much hope of this happening. With no practical, attractive alternative most walkers will continue to cross the top of the Main Range regardless of the 'official' location. There is also another controversy in Kosciuszko National Park - in the wilderness areas, official policy is that there are to be no track markers and thats fine. However, in these wilderness areas park management has signposted every fire trail with its name and often upgraded them to roads - hardly what walkers would call 'wilderness'. So this writer questions why are these areas are designated as wilderness when they are clearly not being managed as such.

The latest change to the track are three new water tanks in the Barry Mountains. One is west of The Twins , another on Mt Selwyn South and another near East Riley Road. Refer to our update notes for the guide book for grid coordinates of the water tanks. The water tanks were installed by the ranger with the assistance of some four wheel drive volunteers - all of them deserve a big thanks for doing this in light snowfall in early winter 2010.


The southern end is at Walhalla, a small town in Victoria about 130 km east of Melbourne. The northern end of the track is at Tharwa near the outskirts of Canberra, which is Australia's capital city.


There are many access points to the track. The southern end is at Walhalla, a small town near the eastern side of the Baw Baw Plateau. There is no public transport to the town and some walkers use a combination of bus then taxi to get to the start. Another novel method to start the track is to follow the Upper Yarra Track from the outskirts of Melbourne to the Baw Baw Plateau. Currently there are no published notes for the Upper Yarra Track, it is not marked on most maps and there is no maintenance on that route.

The northern end is at Tharwa near Canberra and this is close enough to the city for a taxi to be used (about 30km). To pre-place food, private transport is needed (hire a car for three to five days) as there is no public transport along the many roads that cross the track. Most of these roads are surfaced with gravel so if hiring a car make sure you are allowed to drive along unsealed roads. Suggested drop sites are Rumpff Saddle near Mt Skene (Jamieson - Licola Road), Mt Hotham, Omeo Highway (Sunnyside), Buenba Hut, Thredbo and Kiandra. Parcels can be posted to the post offices at Mt Hotham and Thredbo.

Track Notes

The guide book for the track is 'Australian Alps Walking Track'. If walking the track you will find this book essential. The current edition was published in July 2009 and online updates keep it up-to-date. It describes the entire track in detail and also includes 1:50,000 colour topographic maps of the entire track. Sidetrips are also included as well as some alternatives to the 'official' track in the Kosciuszko National Park. The 'official' track often follows roads and the new guide provides some pleasant alternatives. The new edition of the guide book shows locations of all known water sources along the track and the track notes include comments about how reliable these sources are. While some will find the new edition will reduce the need to carry any other maps, we still recommend that maps are also carried as if you have to abandon your trip then the extra area covered by the larger maps is invaluable in finding your way out of the alps to the nearest town.

A small booklet 'Australian Alps Walking Track - Map Guide', is also available which shows the track location but it cannot be used for navigation as the scale is too small. Topographic maps are also needed as the track is not always clearly marked or defined. There is no special map set for this track. A set of 1:100,000 maps exist for the entire route but these are not ideal walking maps and leave off many details.

Complete Map List

The best scale for bushwalking are the 1:50,000 maps which are available for most of the track. For some small sections the only detailed maps are the 1:25,000 series. The Victorian maps are published by Vicmap, the New South Wales and ACT areas are published by CMA/LPI (they have had a name change to LPI). In all, about 17 maps cover the entire track. For some areas, there are also some special maps produced by bushwalkers (particularly Bush Maps) which provide useful details like campsites and water points. These maps are not essential but are well worth having.

NATMAP 1:100,000 Matlock, Howitt, Mansfield, Dargo, Bogong, Benambra, Jacobs River, Kosciuszko, Tantangara, Berridale, Michelago

VICMAP 1:50,000 - Walhalla, Aberfeldy, Skene, Moroka, Selwyn, Cobungra, Falls Creek, Leinster, Gibbo

CMA 1:50,000 - Suggan Buggan, Thredbo, Mt Kosciuszko, Khancoban, Berridale - these are no longer printed and have been replaced with 1:25,000 and they are Davies Plain, Tom Groggin, Chimneys Ridge, Perisher Valley, Geehi Dam, Jagungal, Toolong Range, Old Adaminaby. Most walkers dont find the new maps any better than the old 1:50,000 sheets and the larger scale means you have to carry more maps.

CMA 1:25,000 - Cabramurra, Denison, Ravine, Tantangara, Peppercorn, Rules Point, Rendezvous Creek, Corin Dam, Williamsdale

Bush Maps - 1:50,000 Baw Baw National Park, Watersheds of King Howqua and Jamieson Rivers, Macalister River Watershed, Round Mountain

Not every map listed above is essential. To carry the least number of maps, use the NATMAP 1:100,000 but these do have many errors in regard to the tracks location and also lack information like water points. The 1:50,000 are generally excellent and supplemented by the Bush Map series and the 1:25,000 to the sections that both these series miss gives an adequate map set. Some lists ignore the Bush Map series - while they do duplicate the other maps they are also the only ones that show water points and other useful walking information. After a fruitless 3 hour plus search for water (several groups have not found water at all on some days) carrying a map showing local water sources starts to look attractive.

Suggested Map Set

Our map set from our spring 2006 walk. In order from Walhalla to Canberra.

1:50,000 Baw Baw National Park - (Bushmaps), 1:50,000 Walhalla (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Aberfeldy (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Skene (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Moroka (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Selwyn (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Watersheds of King Howqua and Jamieson Rivers (Bush Maps - mainly used for water sources), 1:50,000 Cobungra (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Bogong Alpine Area (Vicmap - Outdoor Leisure Area), 1:50,000 Gibbo (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Leinster (Vicmap), 1:50,000 Suggan Buggan (CMA), 1:50,000 Thredbo (CMA), 1:50,000 Mt Kosciuszko (CMA), 1:50,000 Khancoban (CMA), 1:50,000 Eucumbene (CMA), 1:25,000 Denison (CMA), 1:25,000 Cabramurra (CMA), 1:25,000 Ravine (CMA), 1:25,000 Tantangara (CMA), 1:25,000 Rules Point (CMA), 1:25,000 Rendezvous Creek (CMA), 1:25,000 Corin Dam (CMA), 1:25,000 Williamsdale (CMA). Total - 25 maps, cost around A$230.

For the sidetrip to Blue Waterholes the CMA 1:25,000 Peppercorn is an extra map.

NOTE - due to maps being occasionally out-of-print, you may have to substitute others. Example take a 1:100,000 instead of two 1:50,000. It is also possible to use the 1:100,000 for some areas but the smaller scale has less information. They are also usually older maps and have many tracks either missing or incorrectly located. Some dont like my list and just use mainly the 1:100,000 and then comment that they are hard to use where the track is poorly marked. Personally I prefer to have the more detailed maps - if the detail they show is not needed - fine, they dont weigh that much - if the detail is required then its nice to have them as that can save hours of unnecessary walking. The weight of our map set for the entire track is 640g - a number of our maps have been cut down to include just the required sections and of course you only need to carry maps for each section. The guide book weighs 385g and is also needed but you can cut that up to save weight as well.

In NSW, the 1:50,000 maps are no longer printed and have been replaced with 1:25,000. For Thredbo (CMA) - get Davies Plain, Tom Groggin, Chimneys Ridge; for Kosciuszko (CMA) - get Perisher Valley, Geehi Dam; for Khancoban (CMA) - get Jagungal, Toolong Range; for Eucumbene (CMA) - get Old Adaminaby.

Suggested Itinerary 1 - fast walkers (35 days)

While the track has been walked in 20 to 24 days several times, this requires walking up to 15 hours on some days (about 12 hours average per day) and is not recommended. Runners have reduced this to 12 days. For the sections below, rest days are not included - the most common is to spend one non-walking day at each food drop and 3 to 4 rest days is common. Average daily walk for 35 days - 18.9km, 790m ascent and descent, 7.5 hours walking per day.

Walhalla to Rumpff Saddle - 6 days, 108km, gravel road, food drop in bush beside Jamieson-Licola Road
Rumpff saddle to Mt Hotham - 5 days, 113km, sealed road, food drop in Hotham Ski Village or post office
Mt Hotham to Omeo Highway - 4 days, 83km, all weather gravel road, food drop in bush near Omeo Highway
Omeo Highway to Thredbo Village - 7 days, 141km, sealed road, food drop in Thredbo Village or post office
Thredbo Village to Kiandra - 6 days, 124km, sealed road, food drop in bush near Snowy Mountains Highway
Kiandra to Tharwa - 6 days, 120km, end - take taxi to Canberra

Suggested Itinerary 2 - for average walkers (46 days)

Rest days are not included, we suggest planning for 50 days overall. The most common rest days are to spend one non-walking day at some of the food drops. The rest days we had on our 2006 trip was one at Thredbo, two at Mt Hotham and one at Mt Wills (due to heavy snowfall - on that day some ski resorts were reopened!). Average daily walk for 46 days - 14.3km, 600m ascent and descent, 6 hours walking per day.

Walhalla to Rumpff Saddle - 8 days, 108km, gravel road, food drop hidden in bush near Rumpff Saddle just off Jamieson-Licola Road
Rumpff saddle to Mt Hotham - 8 days, 113km, sealed road, food drop in Hotham Ski Village or Mt Hotham post office
Mt Hotham to Omeo Highway - 6 days, 83km, all weather gravel road, food drop hidden in bush near Omeo Highway
Omeo Highway to Thredbo Village - 12 days, 141km, sealed road, food drop in Thredbo Village or Thredbo post office
(above section can be broken into two using quiet gravel forestry roads for a food drop - Buenba Creek or Stony Creek below The Cobberas are suggested sites)
Thredbo Village to Kiandra - 8 days, 124km, sealed road, food drop hidden in bush near Snowy Mountains Highway
Kiandra to Tharwa - 6 days (8 days if sidetrip to Cooleman included - recommended and changes total days to 48), 120km, sealed road, taxi to Canberra

When to Walk

Mid spring (October) to late autumn (May) is the ideal climate for walking the track. However a major issue during summer is water or rather the lack of it. Some sections are very dry, notably Mt MacDonald and also the Razor-Viking area. We describe where water can be found but by late summer even these sources can dry up. Also as the main fire season in the alps is summer and late summer, I suggest the best time to walk the track is spring, namely October through to December. You have a better chance of finding water and have less risk of having to abandon the walk due to bushfire.

Food Drops

Many methods can be used - steel or plastic 20 to 30 litre drums (paint tins, rubbish bins or plastic boxes with clip on lids) seem to be the most popular - cardboard boxes are too easy for animals to eat into. It is suggested to enclose the containers in green plastic bags to disguise them then hide them in bush thickets, under logs or in natural hollows covered with leaves and branches. Hide them at least 100m away from all roads and tracks and draw a map of how to find it. Allow 3 days driving time to pre-place all food drops and 3 days driving after the trip to collect the remains. Cardboard boxes should be OK for food drops left at commercial accommodation at Hotham, Falls Creek and Thredbo ski villages. Do not send stove fuel through the post to Thredbo or Mt Hotham.


None are needed for walking the track. A permit is needed to camp in the Cotter River Valley in the Namadgi National Park in the ACT. Most walkers avoid the need for a permit by crossing the valley in one day - basically walk from Murray Gap to beyond Cottter Gap in one day - in reverse on our last trip we walked from Sawpit Creek to Oldfields Hut in one day. Some camping restrictions and fire bans apply in a few areas but no permits are required, such restrictions are described in the guidebook. A fuel stove is recommended for use in all the alpine areas - in most alpine areas fires are banned anyway.

AAWT Update page
Return to Victoria Bushwalking
Home | Bushwalking | Ski-Touring | Photo Galleries | Published Books
Overseas Walks | External Links | The Author | What's New | Site Map
E-Mail to -
Snail Mail Address
John Chapman, PO Box 5042, Laburnum, 3130, Australia
Photographs and text are copyright © 1999-2016 John Chapman
Last updated : April 26th 2016