Lachie and Kim set out on this epic journey along the Mawson Trail in South Australia. Follow in their dusty tracks to learn how they tackled the Mawson Trail as their first bikepacking adventure.


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

Quick Overview

Connecting Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, the 877km Mawson Trail is a challenging bikepacking route that shows off all that South Australia has to offer. From desert landscapes to mountainous wine country, this trail can be taken in either direction and will take an average of 9-16 days to complete.

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!

About the Mawson Trail

The Mawson Trail is filled with spectacular scenery, taking you on a journey through the rocky desert landscapes of the Flinders Ranges, traversing forest and remote farmland before passing through the world-famous Barossa wine region.

Aside from undisturbed natural beauty, a few key highlights include:

Read more: 9 Days Bikepacking the 620km Oodnadatta Track

Mawson Trail History

Following little-used country roads, state forest trails, and farm tracks, the iconic Mawson Trail bikepacking route was first developed in 1990, when a group of ambitious cyclists first rode from Blinman, in the Flinders Ranges, back to Adelaide.

Named in honour of Australian expeditioner, Sir Douglas Mawson, this route takes you on a journey through some of the most spectacular scenery South Australia has to offer.


The Mawson Trail – Ride This Iconic Route From Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, Lachie Thomas, flinders ranges, south australia, plain

How to Get to The Mawson Trail

The Mawson Trail can be ridden in either direction, for this trip we started in the Flinders Ranges and travelled south towards Adelaide.

The easiest way to reach the starting point is using Genesis Transport. Each Thursday, Genesis sends a bus from Central Adelaide to Parchilna, retuning back to Adelaide via the same route on the Friday.

At $150 per person, plus $50 per bike, this is an affordable and simple option that allows you to be self-sufficient.

Travelling the seven hour bus ride to Parachilna at the beginning of the trip, allowed us to be flexible in our timeline as we weren’t constrained by a specific return date.

Whilst Parachilna is 30km from the official start of the trail in Blinman, the dirt road connecting the two towns was a spectacular welcome to the Flinders Ranges and served as a good warm up for the legs.

Alternatively, if starting in Adelaide, the River Torrens bike track will take you straight from the CBD to the outer suburb of Athlestone, where the trail officially starts.

Where to Stay on The Mawson Trail

The Mawson Trail caters for all levels of adventure, with plenty of options for camping (in caravan parks, campsites or wild camping) or town stays (in pubs or farm-houses). This route can also be supported by a vehicle if required.


The Mawson Trail – Ride This Iconic Route From Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, Lachie Thomas, desert campsite, south australia, bikepacking

Skill Level

Intermediate – Advanced

We rate this trail as an intermediate adventure. While the trail has some interesting moments, the majority isn’t too technical and can be completed by someone with moderate riding experience.

With at least one town to pass through each day, you’ll never be too far from help if you need.

Distance / Duration / Elevation Gain of The Mawson Trail

877km long / 9 days (at least) / 16,517m of elevation gain.

Here’s a handy GPX file for all of your navigation needs.

Essential Gear for The Mawson Trail

  • Bike (gravel or mountain bike)
  • 2L of water bottles (minimum)
  • Water bladder
  • Bike packing bags (frame bag, saddlebag, handlebar bag, panniers)
  • Cycling Chamois and anti-chaffing cream
  • Insect repellant
  • Lots of sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Snacks
  • Sunnies
  • First Aid Kit

Read more: Essential Gear for Bikepacking Adventures

What It’s Like to Ride The Mawson Trail

With no prior bikepacking experience, the Mawson Trail was a real test of physical and mental endurance. With reasonable cycling experience on road bikes, and a hearty dose of inspiration, we launched into the challenge.

Whilst our bikes had seen plenty of 60-80km road rides back home, repeated 110km days on rough terrain saw some unexpected injuries; numb hands, painful knees, and saddle sores that rubbed large parts of our butts red raw. Because of this, we’re huge advocates of having a professional bike fit (and plenty of chafing cream) to make sure that you’re set up for success.

The trail is comprised of a mixture of semi-technical riding, with rocky single track, fire trails, sandy creeks, and corrugated dirt roads a common occurrence. We chose to tackle the route on gravel bikes, which worked like a charm, albeit a little slower in some sections. Mountain bikes remain a comfortable alternative.


The Mawson Trail – Ride This Iconic Route From Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, Lachie Thomas, person riding a bike


Riding through the desert, it hopefully isn’t surprising that water isn’t always in high abundance. Within the towns water access is good and there are also a few tanks to fill up from along the way (some serviced, some not), this means that, with adequate planning, it isn’t too difficult to manage.

By far the longest section we completed without water was 85km (Quorn to Craddock), the rest of the ride was much more accessible.

Passing through towns also allows sufficient access to food, however in some of the smaller towns the general stores are understandably quite expensive and limited in their options.

We set off to tackle the route in a reasonably quick 9-day itinerary, which you can see below.

Alternatively, to plan a route that suits your pace check out this planning spreadsheet, which provides a comprehensive guide of accommodation, campsites, food and water available along the journey.

Day 1 – Parachilna to Middlesight Hut

Distance: 69km
Time: 4 hours

A stunning introduction to the ride, climbing from the flat, vast desert up into the hills of the northern Flinders Ranges. The fire track from the highway to Middlesight Hut is an epic prelude for what’s to come.


Day 2 – Middlesight Hut to Mount Little

Distance: 100km
Time: 10 hours

Utterly spectacular, weaving through the valleys and mountains of the Flinders Ranges. This day will leave you breathless – due both to the hills you climb and the views. Rough sections up to Wilpena Pound and around Mount Little will keep the pace slow at times.


The Mawson Trail – Ride This Iconic Route From Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, Lachie Thomas, person riding a bike on a dirt road


Day 3  – Mount Little to Warren Gorge

Distance: 112km
Time: 8 hours

Dry creek bed crossings and rougher tracks will get you to Hawker, and from there the long straight roads begin. A cold beer at the quirky Craddock Pub is well deserved on this section.


Day 4 – Warren Gorge to Melrose

Distance: 118km
Time: 9 hours

In one day the lunar landscapes begin to fade and you’ll start to notice your first trees. Beautiful dirt roads make up most of this day and you’ll start moving from the desert landscapes into cropping country.


Day 5 – Melrose to Jamestown

Distance: 90km
Time: 6 hours

If you’ve ever wondered where your Weet-Bix come from, this is it. Short sections of hilly forest break up the stunning, endless fields of grain that you ride through all day. Make sure to let the Golden North Ice Cream shop in Laura take good care of you for that afternoon break.


The Mawson Trail – Ride This Iconic Route From Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, Lachie Thomas, person riding a bike, south australia, rolling hills


Day 6 – Jamestown to Hallett

Distance: 93km
Time: 7 hours

From the fields you’ll climb back up into the forest on some challenging tracks. Wayfinding can be challenging at times, but a night at the old school is something to remember.


Day 7 – Hallett to Clare

Distance: 126km
Time: 6 hours

Today you can reap the rewards of all the climbing yesterday and enjoy the descent all the way down into Clare. This is a beautiful town and you’ll appreciate all the trees that give some much sought-after shade.


Day 8 – Clare to Nurioopta

Distance: 113km
Time: 6 hours

The country is becoming lusher and some great dirt roads will take you the back way to Nurioopta. Vines and paddocks line the route and call you in for happy hour at a local Barossa cellar door.


The Mawson Trail – Ride This Iconic Route From Adelaide to the Flinders Ranges, Lachie Thomas, walking bike through paddock, south australia


Day 9 – Nurioopta to Adelaide

Distance: 113km
Time: 9 hours

A beautiful end to the trip as you travel through the quaint towns, hills, and vineyards until you reach the final decent down into Adelaide. Put your feet up and pat yourself on the back for a ride well done.

Tips for Completing the Mawson Trail

  • The trail is open all year long, however summer can see some ridiculously hot temperatures. Generally, April – November are the best times to tackle the route
  • Plan your food and water stops along the trail. Having access to towns most days is great, however it’s best to carry extra food or water in case of an unexpected flat tire or longer break.
  • Keep an eye on the sky, the long, exposed sections of the ride can leave you desperate for a break from the sun, but beware if the clouds roll in dark and heavy. Rain can instantly turn the beautiful red dirt into your worst nightmare. Mud makes the route near impassable as it clogs every part of your bike and grinds you to a halt. The red dirt is the worst, but the rest isn’t so great either.

FAQs Mawson Trail

Where is the Mawson Trail?

The Mawson trail follows dirt roads and tracks that link Adelaide in South Australia to the world-famous Flinders Ranges.

How do you get to the start of the Mawson Trail?

Unless you have a friend wanting to drive seven hours to pick you up or drop you off, your best option is to use Genesis Transport, who drive from Adelaide Central Market to Parachila every Thursday and make the return journey ever Friday.

Is the Mawson Trail good for beginners?

It’s a tough initiation for beginners so previous bike packing experience is recommended before undertaking the full route.

How long does the Mawson Trail take to complete?

There’s a lot of flexibility to undertake this trail at your own pace, typically people take between 9 and 16 days to complete it.

How long is the Mawson Trail?

The full trail is 877km however you can do as much or as little of it as you’d like. Complete the full thing in one go, or across multiple shorter trips.