Australian thru-hikes may not have the international fame of the Appalachian Trail, the PCT, or Te Araroa, but that doesn’t stop them from being bloody spectacular! Explorer Kate found this out when she soloed the 680km Australian Alps Walking Track.

We acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Countries on which this adventure takes place who have occupied and cared for these lands and waters for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Australian Alps Walking Track

The Australian Alps Walking Track, is a challenging 680km trail through the alpine areas of Victoria, New South Wales and ACT. It’s a cracking way to immerse yourself in the beauty of our high country. Tick a bunch of Australian national parks off your list, climb more than 30 mountain peaks, and lose yourself in the beauty of the quintessential Aussie bush. It’s a chance to conquer an incredible thru-hike – one of only four thru-hikes in Australia.

How long does the AAWT take?

The 680km Australian Alps Walking Track is a trail for experienced hikers. It generally takes 5 to 8 weeks to complete. It’s a Grade 4-5 trail that requires hikers to have highly developed navigation skills – as there are many areas that the trail is not marked. Yep, a map and compass or GPS will be necessary here!

The track starts in Walhalla, Victoria and it finishes in Tharwa, ACT – however it can be walked in either direction. The Victorian section typically follows spurs and ridges, while the NSW section typically follows fire trails/tracks – so pick what you’d like to conquer first and then you’ll know which end to start at!

A Trail To Link Our Alpine Regions

The trail is an extension of the Victorian Alpine Walking Track – created by Victorian walking clubs in the 1970s. It was a long distance track through Victoria’s spectacular High Country and its many peaks.

It was extended across the New South Wales border to allow for a traverse of the entire length of the Australian Alps. The track now ascends thirty peaks including Mount Kosciuszko, Mount Bogong, and Bimberi Peak – the highest points in NSW, Victoria, and the ACT respectively.

Read More: Mt Bogong – A Guide to Hiking The Huts and Spurs of Victoria’s Highest Peak

Get a Taste With These Shorter Hikes

There are plenty of options for a day trip or multi-day hike to get a taste of what this long distance walking track has to offer. Try cutting your teeth on these sections of the trail.

  • The Cross-Cut Saw in Alpine National Park
  • The Falls Creek to Hotham Alpine Crossing
  • Mountain Creek to Mount Bogong via the Staircase Spur and Eskdale Spur
  • The Main Range Track in Kosciuszko National Park
  • Razorback and Bungalow Spur to Mount Feathertop

Planning Your Hike

This is a hike that requires a lot of advanced planning. The trail passes close to ski resorts, but no towns – so you’ll need to arrange food drops or a support crew to get you through its entire length. Factor in a few days of driving if you’re going to do food drops prior to starting out.

The best reference for planning to hike this alpine walking track is John Chapman’s book. It includes maps, trail notes and updates, water sources and a plan for food drops. Spring is the ideal time to hike this trail – although snowmelt can make for some icy river crossings!

If it’s inspiration you need, check out Explorer Kate’s story below. It’s guaranteed to get you dreaming of an alpine adventure!

I’ve Always Been Drawn To The Mountains

My heart belongs above the tree line, lost in the layers of hazy mountains extending out to the horizon. My dreams are filled with a long traverse across a sharp ridgeline, a final summit push onto a rugged snow-capped peak. I long to walk along the boundless open plains, scattered with wild brumbies grazing in front of forgotten huts.

The Australian Alps Walking Track (AAWT) is made for us mountain lovers. It connects the alpine zones of three states, crossing the highest summits in the country and descending down into the overgrown bush. It is one of Australia’s greatest thru-hikes, yet few people have even heard of it.


An Ode To The Australian Alps Walking Track by Kate Donald “Alpine Track” trail marker

The First Encounter

Three years ago, on my first overnight hike, I came across a yellow diamond marker nailed to a gum tree. Hanging for so long, the tree had engulfed the marker into its very core, appearing as if the trunk’s jaws were trying to eat it.

It wasn’t this that held my curiosity, but the strange image of a mountain with two little legs and big black printed words, ‘Alpine Track’. I continued hiking, but couldn’t shake off the intrigue as to where this track may lead.

The AAWT trail Bible

Returning home, I was told by colleagues that this was the old marker for the Australian Alpine Walking Track, one of the perks of living in the mountain community. I bought John Chapman’s book, basically the AAWT bible.

It breaks the AAWT down, explaining the elevation profile, water sources, distance between campsites and insight into the historic sights and huts along the way. This ‘bible’ began to paint a picture of the hike I’d been dreaming of.


An Ode To The Australian Alps Walking Track by Kate Donald Summiting Victoria’s highest peak, Mount Bogong

Summiting Victoria’s highest peak, Mount Bogong

Australia’s Most Challenging Long Distance Trail

The Australian Alps Walking Track is the ultimate wilderness experience. It’s a combination of 4WD tracks, logging roads, fire trails, old grazing paths, brumby trails, well-used hiking routes, and sometimes no sign of a track at all. You can go days, sometimes weeks without seeing another human being.

You’ll walk through lush ferny forests in Baw Baw National Park, overgrown bush and rocky peaks in the Alpine National Park, and wander through open grassy plains in Kosciuszko National Park.


An Ode To The Australian Alps Walking Track by Kate Donald Camp on The Viking Saddle, Crosscut Saw visible in the background

Camp on The Viking Saddle, Crosscut Saw visible in the background – can you spot the tent?

Reaching Australia’s Alpine Summits

On the AAWT, waking up before sunrise, hiking up peaks and starting your day with the sun becomes the norm. Summiting over 30 mountains along the way, you realise the uniqueness of every mountain. The peaks will add a new challenge to your journey on the AAWT, but the memories, unforgettable.

The sheer rock face of the Viking, coming vertically up from the ground – making for a steep ascent that is worth every step when you reach its rocky peak. The undulating ridge of the razorback to Mount Feathertop – with its many promising false summits.

The giant rock cairn marking Victoria’s highest peak, Mount Bogong – with its sea of clouds in the valleys below. The first sight of a city as you follow the footpad marked only by rock cairns to ACT’s highest summit – Mount Bimberi.

Huts and History Along the Australian Alpine Walking Track

Imagine a backdrop of mountain peaks, an open field divided by a fast flowing creek. In the distance stands a small structure. Pulling closer and closer, it’s a high country hut. Nestled amongst the gum trees with the sound of the trickling stream nearby; a place of refuge, hidden from the outside world.

Each hut tells its own story. Some built by Graziers, herding cattle across the roof of Australia; our high country. Others have been built by backcountry skiers, wanting a place to dry their clothes and rest their exhausted bodies. A few built to commemorate the first European explorers to walk these mountains, creating their own path, discovering new peaks.

Along the Australian Alps Walking Track you’ll pass over 30 huts on the actual trail, with options of side trips to visit more. They became sanctuaries for a wet day, serene lunch spots and a place to pause in an ever-changing environment.

Embracing the Hiking Mindset

A thru-hike is not only a test of your fitness, but a journey through your deepest thoughts and memories as the silence leaves you with only self-talk. Mental strength grows as you find trust in self, persistence and the will to continue when you return from that wrong turn.

It all multiplies your senses. The sound when you pause cannot be replicated. The views seem endless, never quite captured by a photo. When walking for hours with images merging, trees seemingly indifferent. You find your thoughts wandering and looping, but eventually settling into the present. Thoughts dive inwards and you unintentionally explore every inch of your being.

Adventure Awaits on the AAWT

By reading this article the seed has already been planted. The AAWT is waiting for you, a trail that shifted me, will yield an impact for all. It may be the whole track, a section or two, a day trip here and there. My vision is to see others trying the track with clarity, as I take on my next adventure!


An Ode To The Australian Alps Walking Track by Kate Donald AAWT infographic created by @saltysummits

Check out this sweet infographic about Kate’s hike – created by @saltysummits