Boasting windswept sandy heathlands, ephemeral salt lakes, and emu-positive forests, this 75km circuit hike guides you across the full ecological spectrum of one of Victoria’s greatest conservation efforts – and all in beautiful solitude.


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Wotjobaluk people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

Little Desert Discovery Walk is a 75km circuit hike in Victoria’s Little Desert National Park that generally takes hikers four days and three nights to complete.

About the Little Desert Discovery Walk

Deep in the heart of regional Victoria, and nestled safely away from the nearby hustle and bustle of Grampians Gariwerd National Park, the Little Desert Discovery Walk is a veritable diamond in the very sandy rough.

Its wildflower carpets, brimming bird population, and open woodlands are all equally understated in totally different ways.



This nicely laid out circuit hike has three different starting points, and four campgrounds that occur roughly 20km apart from each other.

Thus, it’s best walked as a four day / three night trip – although you could also do it as a two day / one night hike if you’re speedy. But this all depends on how often you like stopping to dump all the sand out of your shoes, because oh yeah, it’s pretty much all on sand of varyingly packed degrees, heh heh.

Little Desert National Park & Discovery Walk History

The Little Desert National Park is on the traditional lands of the Wotjobaluk people. It was formed in the late 1960s when the government wanted to subdivide and sell off the land, which contained a high density of wildflowers, such as the beautiful Wimmera Spider Orchid and the totally silly yet quietly lovely Malleefowl.

Our nature-loving forefathers and mothers successfully got the area protected as a national park and the protests also resulted in the Conservation Council of Victoria (now Environment Victoria) being formed.

It also meant the government had to adopt environmental policies, such as establishing the Land Conservation Council to check the future use of public land.

Read more: Little Desert National Park is Abloom With Wildflowers in Spring

How to Get to the Little Desert Discovery Walk

Given how remote the Little Desert National Park still is, there’s sadly no real viable option in terms of public transport. But luckily, the unsealed roads aren’t too bad, so you can still make it to either trailhead in a regular beat up old car.

The two main starting points for the Little Desert Discovery Walk are from Kiata Campground and Horseshoe Bend Campground.

From Melbourne: Horseshoe Bend is 30 minutes closer, and since we came from Melbourne, we parked there. Just follow the A8 to Dimboola, then leave town over the Wimmera River and follow Horseshoe Bend Road south until you hit the campground. This takes around four hours.

From Adelaide: Kiata Campground will be half an hour closer, so it might make more sense to leave your car there. Head out of town on the M1, which becomes the A8. Just after Nihill take Winiam East Road and continue onto Kiata South Road, then turn right into Kiata Campground, which should also take about four hours.

Both campgrounds are very lovely and secluded and don’t appear to see much traffic, so you’d probably be safe leaving the car at either one.

Where to Stay Along the Little Desert Discovery Walk

There are two 4WD campgrounds and two hike-in only campgrounds on the walk, and each site has a little something different going on.

The two drive-in campgrounds are Kiata and Horseshoe Bend Campgrounds, and are probably where you will leave your car.

Horseshoe Bend Campground needs to be booked in advance if you’re camping there, but Kiata Campground doesn’t need to be booked.

Both are wide open areas with tonnes of space for a tent and pits for a fire. They also have flushing toilets and a serious abundance of rainwater tanks.

The two hike-in campgrounds are Yellow Gums Hikers Camp and Mallee Walkers Camp. They both have fire pits, primitive toilets, brimming rainwater tanks, and shelters to hang out in during bad weather.

They’re also quite secluded, and far removed from any main roads, with beautiful night skies for stargazing. When we stayed there, the logbooks in both the shelters hadn’t been signed in over two weeks.

Keep eyes peeled for feral bees at all four campgrounds!

Alternatively, if you’re feeling lush, you can always consider starting and ending your hike at the Little Desert Nature Lodge, which is a small out-and-back detour from the Little Desert Discovery Walk.

Skill Level

Beginner – Intermediate

This is a great introductory hike for somebody who’s looking to tackle their first multi-day trip, or else a good shakedown hike before a longer one.

There’s hardly any elevation, the trail is very clearly marked, and campsites are well-spaced and built in. Granted, the views might be a bit more monotonous, and the trail is indeed very sandy, but if that’s the biggest struggle then you’re probably still having a great time.


Distance / Duration / Elevation Gain of the Little Desert Discovery Walk

75km / 2-4 Days / 1,043 metres (kind of surprising it’s even this much, it certainly didn’t feel like it)

Check out Parks Victoria’s track notes or my ~approximate~ .gpx of the route.

Essential Gear to Bring on the Little Desert Discovery Walk

  • Sunscreen – the lion’s share of this hike is very exposed, so if you’re doing it on a hot day, make sure you’re re-applying liberally
  • Water filter – although all four campsites on the walk are fitted with water tanks, some of the water can definitely be a bit sporty. The bees love it too
  • Semi or freestanding tent – maybe not totally essential, but definitely recommended, as the sand can be quite soft in places and there aren’t any of those wooden camping platforms that Parks Victoria loves here yet
  • Snake gaiters??? – I’d say this is probably seasonally dependent. We hiked the loop in late April and didn’t even see a single sign of a snake – but my understanding is that things can indeed get a bit spicier in the warmer months
  • A cool and lightweight monocular – for some very essential birdwatching, naturally

What It’s Like to Hike the Little Desert Discovery Walk

A sudden updraft blowing across a desolate landscape. The martian flora of harsh environments. Those conspiratorial cumulonimbus clouds building across an afternoon, slowly drawing nearer and nearer.

A dawn chorus of new and unusual bird songs. But most of all, the precious, incidental fortune of experiencing all these things on your own.

The solitude of this walk puts you more in touch with all of Little Desert National Park’s subtleties, and feels as though it sharpens each of your senses in the process.

Day 1: Horseshoe Bend Campground to Mallee Walkers Camp

Distance: 13km
Time: 4 hours

This was the shortest day, since we left Melbourne early in the morning and didn’t get on trail till around noon. It’s a typically sandy trail, which slows you somewhat, but otherwise easy walking through tonnes of desert banksia, with occasional stands of eucalyptus and Oyster Bay pine.

If you visit the stock pond at dawn, you’ll probably have a great chance of catching a Mallefowl taking a drink like we did.

Day 2: Mallee Walkers Camp to Kiata Campground

Distance: 20km
Time: 6 hours

More sandy trail, skirting some recent burn scars – where I can verify that emus enjoy grazing on the flame heath. Later, try to take a couple extra minutes to wander around the very spacious Kiata Campground, checking out the possums in the trees and all the kangaroos on the nearby farmland.


Day 3: Kiata Campground to Yellow Gums Walkers Camp

Distance: 21km
Time: 6.5 hours

This day sees a small break from the sand as you climb up a sandstone outcrop to Trig Point for the best view of the hike.

Totally panoramic vistas of the whole park, all the way over to Mount Arapiles where your friends are probably climbing right now.



Yellow Gums Campground has some lovely eponymous trees, and is a particularly peaceful place. The bees weren’t thrilled about sharing the water tank with us though.


Day 4: Yellow Gums Walkers Camp to Horseshoe Bend Campground

Distance: 21km
Time: 6.5 hours

Leaving the campground and hut at Yellow Gums, portions of this trail have been very torn up by some intrepid dirtbikers. But all of that ends once you hit the Wimmera River and follow its banks all the way back to Horseshoe Bend.

The bird life is particularly stunning along the river – emus, Wedgetail eagles, Woodswallows, and parrots all dwelling in abundance. Definitely stop to enjoy it, but maybe don’t stop too often, or else the other people in your party will start to get impatient and wonder if you’re obsessing too much.

Tips for Hiking the Little Desert Discovery Walk

If you plan on staying overnight at Horseshoe Bend Campground, then it’s required that you book in advance (it’s free to leave a car regardless). Similarly, it’s asked that you fill out a trip intention form roughly a week before you plan on starting.

Other than that, I can’t stress enough how easy the logistics for planning this hike were. It’s so nice to just rock up to a trailhead, park your car, and set out for four days without having to worry about booking campsites, paying fees, or anything else. Two huge sandy thumbs up from these smelly backpackers.


Little Desert Discovery Walk FAQs

Where is Little Desert Discovery Walk located?

This hike is located within Little Desert National Park in Victoria’s north-west.

How do you get to Little Desert Discovery Walk?

To reach Little Desert Discovery Walk, it’s a four hour drive from both Melbourne and Adelaide. Unfortunately there are no public transport options available.

When is Little Desert Discovery Walk open?

This hike is open year round (pending updates on the Parks Victoria website) however may not be the most pleasant trail to tackle during summer.

Is Little Desert Discovery Walk good for beginners?

This hike is good for beginner multi-day walkers, as it’s well-sign posted, with little elevation, and plenty of facilities in the campgrounds. However if you’ve never hiked overnight before, a two day hike might be a better place to start.

How long does it take to complete Little Desert Discovery Walk?

Four days and three nights

How long is Little Desert Discovery Walk?


How high is Little Desert Discovery Walk?

There’s 1,043 metres of elevation gain over the whole hike.

Can you swim at Little Desert Discovery Walk?

Nope! No swimming holes out here.

Do you need a 4WD to get to Little Desert Discovery Walk?

Although the roads to get into the park and trailhead are unsealed, they’re manageable in a 2WD.

Is Little Desert Discovery Walk open?

At time of publishing, the Little Desert Discovery Walk was open! However it’s best to check the Parks Victoria page before heading out for up to date alerts.

Is Little Desert Discovery Walk free?

The only cost to walk this trail is the $14.20 booking fee at Horseshoe Bend Camping Area.