Australia, a land of diverse landscapes and natural wonders, boasts a vast network of hiking trails that cater to adventurers of all levels. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner looking for a leisurely stroll through the bush, understanding the Australian Walking Track Grading System is essential to plan your hiking adventure.
The Australian Walking Track Grading System
The Australian Walking Track Grading System is a comprehensive classification scheme that rates hiking trails based on their difficulty, terrain, and the level of fitness and experience required to complete them. Developed by various state and territory authorities, this system ensures hikers can select a trail that aligns with their capabilities and expectations. The grading system ranges from Grade 1 (easy) to Grade 5 (very difficult), allowing you to tailor your hiking experience to your preferences.
Grade 1 – Easy
Grade 1 trails are designed for beginners and families. They are generally short, well-marked, and have a smooth, even surface. These trails are suitable for all fitness levels and can be enjoyed by people of all ages. They are also suitable for wheelchair uses who have someone to assist them. You can expect minimal elevation changes and no technical challenges on Grade 1 trails. They’re the perfect choice for a casual nature walk or a family outing.
Walks are no longer than 5km.
A Grade 1 trail is the Three Sisters walk in Katoomba in the Blue Mountains in New South Wales. This picturesque trail, which is only 0.8km return, gives you some of the most iconic views in the Blue Mountains National Park.
Do you want to start hiking? Check out my article on 10 Tips to Get Started Hiking here.
Grade 2 – Easy to Moderate
Grade 2 trails are slightly more challenging than Grade 1 and again no bushwalking experience is required. The have hardened or compacted surfaces and gentle to moderate inclines and steps. It’s a great way to connect with nature while getting some exercise.
Walks are no longer than 10km.
A beautiful Grade 2 trail is the Rainforest Circuit in the Binna Burra section of Lamington National Park. This short but beautiful trail, which is 1.2km, gives you an introduction to the beautiful rainforests of Southeast Queensland.
Grade 3 – Moderate
Grade 3 trails are for hikers seeking a bit more adventure and willing to tackle moderately challenging terrain. Expect steeper inclines, uneven surfaces, and the possibility of encountering obstacles such as tree roots or rocks and minor river crossings. These trails may also be longer in duration, requiring a reasonable level of fitness.
Walks are no longer than 20km.
The Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory has Grade 3 category sections. Spanning over 223 km, this iconic trek offers a deep dive into the rugged beauty of the outback, with multiple waterholes and campsites along the way.
Grade 4 – Difficult
Grade 4 trails are designed for experienced hikers who are ready to conquer more demanding and technical routes. These tracks often feature steep and rough terrain, river crossings, and potentially hazardous sections. A higher level of fitness and hiking expertise is necessary to navigate Grade 4 trails safely. Users may require maps and navigation equipment to successfully complete the track. Users need to be self-reliant, particularly in regard to emergency first aid and possible weather hazards.
If you’re up for the challenge, consider the Overland Track in Tasmania, a famous Grade 4 trail that takes you through the stunning Tasmanian wilderness. Be prepared for unpredictable weather conditions and challenging terrain. The Overland Track is 65km one way and takes 6 days. For more information on the Overland Track, click here.
Grade 5 – Very Difficult
Grade 5 trails are reserved for the most seasoned adventurers. These tracks are extremely demanding, both physically and mentally. Expect to encounter steep ascents and descents, remote locations, and the potential need for specialised equipment or navigation skills. Hikers need to be self-reliant in relation to emergency first aid and protection from weather events.
The Western Arthurs Traverse in Tasmania is a prime example of a Grade 5 trail. This gruelling trek will test your limits and reward you with breathtaking alpine scenery if you dare to conquer it. It is a 58km loop and takes between 5 and 7 days.
The Australian Walking Track Grading System is your key to unlocking the beauty and adventure of Australia’s diverse landscapes. By understanding the grading system and selecting a trail that matches your fitness level and experience, you can embark on a memorable hiking journey that suits your preferences. Whether you’re a novice or an expert hiker, Australia’s hiking trails offer something for everyone. So, lace up your hiking boots, pack your backpack, and start exploring the vast and remarkable world of Australian hiking.