Spanning an epic 1200km, the Heysen Trail’s landscapes offer greater variety than any other hiking trail in Australia. Don’t believe us? Josh solo hiked the South Australian icon to show us why.

We acknowledge and respect the Traditional Custodians whose ancestral lands are located along the Heysen Trail: the Ngarrindjeri, the Kaurna, the Peramangk, the Ngadjuri, the Nukunu, the Banggarla and the Adnyamathanha. We pay our respects to these Traditional Custodians and recognise that their sovereignty was never ceded.

Named for the renowned landscape artist Hans Heysen, it’s little surprise Australia’s longest-marked trail is awash with the full spectrum of a painter’s palette. The Heysen Trail highlights South Australia‘s sunburnt Outback, prolific farmland, native and plantation forests, and weathered coastline.

On my thru-hike, the scenery changed quickly (well, quickly for such a bloody long trail), but hikers remained few, leaving me alone with my thoughts, my camera and the state’s spectacularly diverse backdrop.

Read more: Heysen Trail: What It’s Like Thru-Hiking Australia’s Longest Walking Trail

Flinders Ranges’ Arid Beauty

Heading south, my journey began in the red dirt of Parachilna Gorge. The northern trailhead leads to a gum-lined creekbed, shadowed by the ABC Range until arriving at the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park (the first of 23 NPWSSA reserves along the route).

The Heysen’s first big reveal came as I clambered outside the Park to the outermost ridgeline of Wilpena Pound.

The rocky outcrop delivered one of my favourite Australian panoramas, an audacious view of the Bunbinyunna, Elder, and Red Ranges.


Grandstand viewing from Bridle Gap


The following week to Quorn highlighted the parched conditions of the South Australian Outback, featuring only the most drought-tolerant vegetation scattered across its parched plains.

Often, my fast-withering frame was the only visible speck against the barren terrain. There was little life out here that hadn’t already endured for centuries, underlined by the fact I didn’t pass anybody carrying a backpack until leaving Crystal Brook on day 23.

If you’re a card-carrying extrovert, take a mate; you’ll need them.

There’s Green in Them Hills

The winter rains I’d somehow eluded came in a hurry once I passed Goyder’s Line – a geographical phenomenon marking crop-friendly rainfall. With it, the umbers and ambers of the north ripened into a rich emerald green.


Sunrise over Melrose

The transformation was rapid. Even the wildlife evolved – crows became magpies; goats turned into sheep; kangaroos, well, stayed kangaroos (they’re a constant throughout). However, the exposed peaks remained, and I soon found myself walking beneath towering wind turbines near Hallett.


Waymarkers and wind turbines on Mundunnie Hill


The undulating path soon led me to the highest elevation on the Heysen, the 929m Mount Bryan. From this viewpoint, I could see much of where I’d been and what was to come, including a brief return to semi-arid country in Caroona Creek Conservation Park.

Fertile Farmland of the Mid-North

South Australia’s endless sea of green was eventually interrupted by bright parcels of buttery canola. This splash of yellow energised the endless fields and fences and powered my journey through the farmland.

Podcast listening is crucial, and remember to download your uptempo hiking playlist before leaving Burra.


Climbing Tothill Range

By the time I’d reached the Barossa Valley, I’d collected as many red markers as I’d accumulated freckles on my increasingly shaggy face.

The Valley’s famous vineyards bordered the trail as I shuffled through Tanunda and beyond the pastoral districts.


Looking back over the Barossa

Rolling into the Adelaide Hills

The terrain bellowed sharply as I began my ascent through the Adelaide Hills. Each day’s ripples felt steeper as the trail took in pine plantations and native bushland.


Pine plantations from Wirra Wirra Peaks

After five forest-filled days, I emerged at the top of Morialta Conservation Park to discover Adelaide’s sprawling cityscape.

The contrast was astonishing, but I didn’t linger; the Scenic Hotel and the second half of the AFL Grand Final awaited in Norton Summit. However, once inside, I missed most of the action with my face buried in the pub’s tray of complimentary snags.

Read more: Road Tripping Adelaide & Surrounds

The Final Seachange

Salty sea spray met my nostrils several hours before the Southern Ocean view crawled over the horizon. Tears filled my weary eyes; I’d reached my final landscape. The following four days along the Wild South Coast Way would be the trail’s magnum opus.


The Waitpinga Cliffs money shot

After 59 days of epiphanies, aches, and weight loss, the Heysen Trail spat me out at its southern terminus. I collapsed into the arms of my loved ones, relieved to have me on the other side of the Cape Jervis finish line. Little did they know, the Heysen had set me on a path of life-long landscape hunting.