Where to go walking in the Southern Downs

Whether you’re a visitor or a local, there are plenty of choices when it comes to walking in the Southern Downs. The region is about 1 ½ to 2 hours south west of Brisbane in Queensland. The two main urban centres are Warwick and Stanthorpe, with dozens of smaller rural towns and villages across the region.

This post is an overview of just some of the many walks you can choose from. Keep an eye out for future posts that will give you heaps more detail on a selection of the bushwalks and mountain bike trails in the region like the one I wrote last year on Bushwalking in Goomburra, Main Range National Park.

Thinking about taking up hiking? My blog post How To Get Started Bushwalking will get you going!

Walks in and around Warwick

Queen’s Park River Walk

Condamine River winds through parkland
Walking in the Southern Downs – the beautiful River Walk in Warwick

The Southern Downs region promotes 5 different urban walks close to the Warwick CBD which you can follow along on this map. The popular River Walk at Queen’s Park has recently been extended past Hamilton Oval in the direction of Gillam Park. The River Walk is also suitable for bicycles, scooters, prams and wheelchairs with easy access to toilet facilities and picnic tables. There’s plenty of shade and a fenced off-leash area for dogs.

Walks in and around Stanthorpe

Quart Pot Creek

Quart Pot Creek is an absolute gem in the centre of Stanthorpe flanked by parklands on both banks with extensive walking and cycling paths, gardens, picnic tables, toilets and play equipment. You can access this beautiful green belt from many points along its length including Apex Park, Lions Park, Heritage Park and from the Stanthorpe Visitor Information Centre.

Mt Marlay

Mt Marlay is a small bushland reserve in the middle of Stanthorpe, popular for many years with locals on their regular walking routes. There are a couple of short, marked walking tracks on Mt Marlay which you can see on the map below. The regional council and the Southern Downs Mountain Bike Club have recently begun developing a small network of mountain bike trails here which are clearly marked so that you don’t accidentally wander off the dedicated walking tracks onto the mountain bike tracks.

walking in the southern downs - Mt Marlay map
Walking and MTB trails at Mt Marlay, Stanthorpe

Donnelly’s Castle

Donnelly’s Castle  is about a 20km drive to the north west of Stanthorpe. Access is from Castle Lane which comes off Donnelly’s Castle Road at Pozieres. Donnelly’s Castle is a natural formation of the locally occurring granite rocks and boulders which apparently served as a fabulous hideout for the bushranger known as Thunderbolt. You can really imagine the truth of this legend when you scramble up, around and through the rocks and peer into the distance from the lookout at the top. Kids and adults alike are bound to have a heap of fun here exploring the ‘castle’. I’d recommend close supervision of young children and keeping a keen eye out for snakes. Toilet facilities and picnic tables are available.

Girraween National Park

Rocky expanse of Girraween National Park
Walking in the Southern Downs is stunning at Girraween National Park

Girraween is about a half hour drive south of Stanthorpe. This unique national park is a landscape of stark contrasts. Girraween is famous for its abundant wildflowers and its rugged granite outcrops. The national park is also home to an extensive variety of birds, kangaroos, frogs, reptiles and other wildlife and is a popular place for day visitors and campers. As I write this article in January 2020, the camp grounds have been closed for some time due to ongoing drought, and the area has suffered from recent bushfires. As with all natural environments, Girraween changes with the seasons and I’ve loved watching the cycles of regeneration here over many years. There are signed bushwalks at Girraween ranging from 280metres to 11kms. Or simply explore the granite rock pools near the day use area. Toilet facilities, picnic tables and BBQs available.

You can read more about Girraween in my Great Backpacking Adventures series.

Sundown National Park

Sundown National Park rocky gorge
A rocky gorge at Sundown National Park

Sundown National Park can be accessed by most conventional vehicles from the south near Glenlyon Dam, or from the north off Texas Road and onto Nundubbermere Road. A third access point is along Sundown Road via Ballandean however once at the National Park the tracks become rough and steep so a 4WD is recommended along here. Sundown has several walks of varying lengths and difficulty as well as some camping areas. Look at the Sundown National Park website to plan your trip before heading out there as it is more remote than other regional parks with fewer facilities.

Walks in and around Allora and Goomburra

Dalrymple Creek Park

Dalrymple Creek Park is a shady park along the banks of Dalrymple Creek in Allora. The walking trail leads you along the banks of the creek with toilet facilities, picnic tables, BBQs, and play equipment along the way.

Goomburra Section, Main Range National Park

Waterhole in Goomburra National park
The Cascades walk in Goomburra National Park

The Goomburra section of Main Range National Park is about 40kms east of Allora. Sections of the road into the National Park are unpaved and at times can be difficult for low clearance vehicles to navigate. After rain there can be several water crossings into the entrance of the park. A day use area and camping sites are available within the National Park as well as toilets and a variety of walking tracks that begin at the camping and day use areas, as well as other walking tracks that can be accessed from Lookout Road. Goomburra walks range from less than a kilometre to 12 kilometres long. All the walks are on unpaved surfaces and can include steep sections, natural obstacles (eg tree roots) and creek crossings. Spectacular views of the surrounding valleys and ranges can be seen from the high points of some of the walks.

Walks in and around Killarney

Queen Mary Falls, Main Range National Park

Queen Mary Falls
Queen Mary Falls in Main Range National Park

Queen Mary Falls is about 45kms east of Warwick. It offers a beautiful day use area with car parking, picnic tables, toilets, water and BBQs as well as a small kiosk across the road.  The walk to The Falls is a 2 km circuit through the forest to the bottom of the Falls and back up again. The walk is steep in places, has stairs and is not suitable for prams or wheelchairs. The causeway at the bottom can be slippery.

If you’re looking for a shorter walk that’s suitable for prams, wander along to the two lookouts on either side of the Falls just a couple of hundred metres from the car park.

Browns Falls

Browns Falls is accessed from Spring Creek Road as you travel from Killarney towards Queen Mary Falls. Park your vehicle at Brown Falls Park where there is play equipment, picnic tables, BBQs and toilet facilities. Follow the track under the road and along the watercourse in an easterly direction for about 600 metres. The track is not well defined in places and you will need to scramble or rock hop along the watercourse. Take care as it can be very slippery when wet. The falls plunge into a beautiful waterhole surrounded by rock.

Walks near Maryvale

Cunningham’s Gap Section, Main Range National Park

Cunningham’s Gap is at the top of the Range on the Cunningham Highway about 90 minutes south west of Brisbane or 45 minutes east of Warwick. The closest town in the region is Maryvale only 15 minutes on the western side of the range.

There are two main access point to the walks in this section of the National park. At the top of the range known as “The Gap” there is a small car park and toilet facilities on the northern side of the highway with additional limited parking along the southern side of the highway. If you are crossing the highway to access the facilities or the walks on the other side, take great care and follow any signage that has been placed there for your safety as this is a very busy highway. Most of the walks are accessed from the northern side of the highway.

Kathryn looks amazed and wide-eyed at the rainforest in Main Range National Park
The rainforest in the Cunningham’s Gap section of Main Range National Park is stunning!

The alternative place to access The Gap walking tracks (and my personal favourite because it’s off the highway!) is via the West Gap Creek picnic area on the western side of The Gap. From Warwick, West Gap Creek picnic area is on your left just past “Stacey’s at the Gap” a couple of kilometres before you reach the The Gap. There are two small car parking areas, an extensive grassy picnic area, toilets, water, picnic tables and access to the Box Forest Walking Track which takes you about 2.5 kilometres through rainforest uphill to The Gap and the other walks. Walks here range from 1.6 kms to 12 kms long with varying levels of difficulty. Once again, check the National Parks site if you intend visiting as there were extensive bushfires through the Park in late 2019 resulting in closures of most walks throughout Main Range.

Some things to remember when walking in the Southern Downs!

There are simply SO MANY wonderful choices when it comes to walking in the Southern Downs. With so much natural beauty surrounded by a rural landscape, it’s the perfect place to relax and unwind. But safety always comes first! Here are a few reminders to help you have a truly fabulous time whilst minimising risks:

  • Always prepare by doing your research before leaving home
  • Check the National Parks ALERTS web page for closures and other advice, or contact the Rangers at the Park you plan to visit
  • Take plenty of drinking water and food for everyone in your walking group as drinking water may not be available
  • Wear comfortable closed shoes suitable for the terrain
  • Protect yourself from the sun
  • Follow signage and advice from authorities such as staying on track and taking all your rubbish with you
  • Be First Aid aware and be well prepared including knowing how to manage snake risk and other injuries
  • Mobile service may not be reliable in all areas
  • Let someone know where you are going and what time you expect to be back
  • Make sure you have plenty of fuel in your vehicle – some parks like Sundown National Park are a long way from fuel stations

For more information about walking in the Southern Downs

For more information about the parklands across the Southern Downs region, go to the Southern Downs Regional Council website or check with the Visitor Information Centres or the many tourism operators.

Let me know your favourite places and spaces for walking in the Southern Downs and further afield! And join us over on our community Facebook Group Outdoors is my Therapy where you can share ideas and inspiration no matter where you live or how you love to spend your time outside!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to keep exercising outdoors in the drought

“How CAN you keep exercising outdoors in the drought????”

I’m writing this blog post because over the past year lots of people have said they just don’t know how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. We typically think of nature as nurturing and health-giving, a place of solace and retreat. Being confronted by a shockingly dry environment with frequent bushfires, brown landscapes that used to be green, National Park closures, and dry waterways, it’s clear that nature has a shadow side as well.

flowers before the drought

“It’s REALLY tough!”

To be completely open, I’ve also questioned how I can keep exercising outdoors in the drought. The whole climatic situation has been tough. Really tough! The ripple effect of the drought has swept up farmers, wildlife, local businesses, ‘town’ people, and those in the cities. We’re all affected in various ways either directly or indirectly. There’s a pervasive and damaging sense of hopelessness, and like any emotion, it’s contagious. Yet a sense of hope is exactly what we need to survive difficult or traumatic situations. Where there’s hope, there’s life. Without it, we spiral into a self-fulfilling doom and gloom mentality.

Exercising outdoors has been very confronting. I can’t walk on my home trails without seeing or smelling death. The brown dust colours my view as if I’m looking through a sepia filter. Ticks are in plague proportions. Swarms of good ole slow country flies are driving me nuts. The heat is unbearable. And there’s not enough water for washing your hair after a workout.

My stress tank is overflowing! How about you?

My connection with nature runs very deep, as does my yearning to be active. But in this tough time, I also came down with shingles. My stress tank began to overflow. I had to do something differently. Bushwalking and bike riding whilst constantly thinking about the drought and feeling unwell was contributing to the stress.

So what CAN you do when being in nature is SO stressful?

You have to put your creative thinking hat on to find a solution when things get tough. What worked before is no longer effective. The questions people keep asking me (and that I wanted solutions for too) are:

  • How can I reconnect with the side of nature that heals and nurtures and teaches?
  • How can I enjoy my time outdoors without feeling overwhelmed?
  • What mindset shift do I need?
  • What actions do I need to take?
  • How can I keep exercising everyday?
exercising in the drought
Exercising in the drought has it’s challenges

So I set you to explore this new territory and experiment with the possibilities!

Here are 6 solutions that I’ve discovered. I hope they work for you too!

1. Podcasts

If you haven’t got on the bandwagon yet, then you really need to! Podcasts are audio shows, a bit like a radio show, that you can either stream from the Internet or download onto a device to listen to later. I download episodes from my favourite shows onto my phone, plug my ear phones in, and listen to inspiring, energising interviews while I walk. Instead of focusing my attention on my surroundings, I lose myself in the show and arrive back home with excitement for life and new ideas to put into action. Watch out for a future blog post about my favourite podcasts suitable for Android or Apple.

2. Set an Intention

Before heading out on a walk or ride, I often choose an intention – something I want to focus on or get out of my experience. This is a personal choice, so it can be anything at all. Some of the intentions I’ve set for myself go like this:
“Today I will notice new growth”
“Today I will focus on the sensations in my legs”
“Today I will find fun”
“Today I will discover colour”
“Today I will notice sounds”

3. Mindful Walking

With mindful walks I like to focus on one sense at a time and when I notice my mind has wandered away from my body, I gently bring it back to rest on my senses. I’ve especially enjoyed focusing on my sense of hearing – noticing the many different bird calls, the sounds of the breeze in the trees, my footsteps on the ground, insects buzzing around, wallabies bounding along. I usually focus on one sense for a few minutes, then move onto another one. With my sense of touch, I focus on how it feels to have clothes on my skin, feet in my shoes as I take a step, muscle movement, sunscreen on my face, leaves brushing my skin. When I focus on my sense of sight, I challenge myself to find colours and light and patterns that I don’t normally notice. You can also use a meditation app with a guided practice for mindfulness of walking.

4. Photography

I’ve discovered that taking photos along the way really helps me to bring my attention to the beautiful things. Sometimes I combine photography with an intention or a mindful walk so that I can collect images that bring me joy, and at the same time it helps my brain to collect evidence that there is hope.

5. Make it Social

Walking or riding with other people can be really helpful because the focus is on that invisible connection between myself and someone else. Give me a deep and meaningful conversation with a friend any day, plenty of laughs, a chance to debrief the stuff of life that drives me crazy, and to celebrate the rest. Sometimes, too, there’s a sneaky competitive edge that sees me running or riding faster when I’m with others. Inevitably that ends up in a heap of laughs too, gasping for air, heart pounding out of my chest, and the satisfaction that I’ve done my weekly interval training.

6. Mix it up

I’ve always said “I’m not a gym person”. I’ve built a business and identity around my outdoor adventures. BUT, being unwell and being in the drought has helped me re-set my rigid thinking about exercise. Instead of going outdoors everyday, I went to an aqua class with a friend, did loops of the river walk in town where it’s a bit greener, and took up an irresistible offer to join a gym. I’ve extended the variety of exercise I get which is a fantastic thing! It will help me enjoy and have greater success with my outdoor adventuring which I’m still doing at least a couple of times a week. Going to the gym also gets me focusing on my sadly neglected strength training (one of those things I really ‘should’ be doing at my age!), all whilst staying out of the flies and heat. I get to make new friends and pace myself sensibly (sort of) as I recuperate. At home I’ve also begun a more regular yoga practice – something I’ve been wanting to do but it’s been a lower priority until now.

To Sum Up: Choose Your Focus!

It’s really all about CHOOSING WHAT YOU FOCUS ON. When we feel like we have What's my plan of action to deal with this issue?no control or influence over a situation (like the drought), it’s important to push the pause button, think about it creatively, and choose your focus. Like many people, I’ve struggled with exercising outdoors in the drought. The ideas I’ve shared in this article have made a huge difference to me, my mental state and my physical health. My hope is that they help you too.

Let me know what works for you! Have you got some other ideas to share with our readers?

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Bushwalking in Goomburra, Main Range National Park

Regardless of your level of fitness there are plenty of options for bushwalking in the Goomburra section of Main Range National Park on the Southern Downs. As with many National Parks, it is a privilege to be able to share in the natural wonders and history of the area. There are varying stories about the meaning of the word “Goomburra” taken from the local Aboriginal language. The European history of the Darling Downs area relates to transport routes between the east and west, the logging industry, and frequently violent conflict with the Traditional Custodians of the land.

About Main Range National Park

Main Range National Park covers over 30 000 hectares in the Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage Area in south east Queensland. With an amazing diversity of plants and animals and unique terrain, Main Range is a popular place for people to picnic, bushwalk, camp and venture into the more remote areas of the Park.

Main Range National Park is divided into 3 sections including Queens Mary Falls, Cunningham’s Gap, and Goomburra. Let’s take a closer look at the Goomburra section. 

Are you new to bushwalking? Read some tips and hints on how to get started bushwalking.

Goomburra Section

bushwalking Goomburra 3
Explore the wide variety of habitats when you go bushwalking in Goomburra

The Goomburra section of Main Range National Park is about 170kms south west of Brisbane by road or about 55kms north east of Warwick. The Park offers spectacular scenery with rugged mountains, scenic lookouts, open dry forest, and rainforest. The Park habitats provide shelter to a variety of Australian flora and fauna including some endangered species.

Accommodation

Camp sites with composting toilets are provided in this section of the Park, and other private camp grounds and accommodation options are located nearby.

Access

Hidden away from the highway, access to the Goomburra section of the Park is along Inverramsay Road. Travelling along here reminds you of where your food comes from. The road meanders along the beautiful Goomburra Valley, home to grazing, dairying, vegetable and crop farms, as well as recreational enterprises such as 4WD parks and private campgrounds – very popular destinations for long weekends and school holidays.

The final approach to the Park is unfenced and unpaved so be aware of cattle wandering across the road. At times you may need a high clearance vehicle to navigate the unpaved sections. After rain there can be several water crossings as you enter the Park.

Kurrajong Picnic Area is on your left near the intersection with Lookout Road and a nearby information sign. Driving straight ahead you’ll discover two campgrounds with toilets and access to some of the walks from the car park where the road terminates.

Driving along Lookout Road you’ll wind your way up a narrow unpaved road which gives access to more walking tracks.

Bushwalking Tracks

There is a variety of walking tracks in the Park ranging from short and easy walks to steeper and more

bushwalking in Goomburra 1
Rock pool on The Cascades track

challenging half-day walks.

Dalrymple Circuit (1.2kms return) is a Class 3 walk with interpretative signs which winds through the forest and creeks. This walk is suitable for families or anyone looking for a short walk that gives you a taste of what Goomburra has to offer.

Cascades Circuit (6.5kms return) is a Class 4 track that’s a bit longer and more challenging. Wind your way up through the rainforest crossing the creek numerous times to sit by the rocky pools at the upper reaches.

The Ridge Track (5kms return) is a Class 4 track that takes you through quite steep terrain with dry forest and rainforest. Take care on the steep fire road and walking tracks as the gravel can be quite slippery whichever direction you go.

North Branch Track (7kms return) is a Class 4 track that begins off Lookout Drive near the Kurrajong

bushwalking Goomburra 2
Lush ferns growing on the Ridge Walk track

picnic area. From the picnic area, walk to the other side of Lookout Drive and cross the creek. On your left you’ll see the start of the North Branch Track which takes you through mostly dry open forest until it reaches the edge of the rainforest which is a perfect spot to rest and have a snack before returning the same way you came.

Araucaria Falls (3.6kms return) is a Class 4 track that takes you through rainforest to the base of the falls. Access to this walk is along Lookout Road.

Sylvesters Lookout (940m return) is a short and beautiful Class 3 track that can be accessed from Lookout Road. The walk takes you to a spectacular lookout.

Mount Castle Lookout (960m return) is another short, beautiful Class 3 track that can be accessed from Lookout Road. Walk through rainforest and be rewarded with amazing views below.

Winder Track (12 kms return) is a Class 4 track that goes out-and-back from the end of Lookout Road. This track is vehicle-width leading you through the forest to ‘the winder’ which was used in the bygone days of logging and timber cutting in the area. Although listed as a Class 4 track, the walk undulates fairly gently and does not generally have much in the way of obstacles. At the start of the walk keep an eye open on your right for views across the valley.

The art of not-bushwalking

If you’re not feeling up to the challenge of bushwalking in Goomburra, or maybe you have young children to care for, simply have a wander or a quiet sit-down in the campgrounds or picnic area. There’s always so much to see right on the edge of the forest, with birds flitting in and out, echidnas, wallabies and kangaroos, reptiles, and frogs and other water-based creatures along the creek. Take a book or some binoculars or a pack of cards and enjoy the peaceful surrounds as you reconnect with the natural world around you.

Things to watch out for

There are the usual things to watch out for whilst bushwalking in Goomburra including snakes, ticks, leeches, flies and mosquitoes. You may also see some stinging trees depending where you walk, so be careful not to touch these. Check the parks site for ‘alerts’ of bushfires and park closures. As always the recommendation is to be prepared with first aid knowledge, a snake bandage, sun and insect protection, wear long sleeves and trousers, slip on a hat, and take plenty of water with you as it can be quite hot and humid on the walks. Let someone else know where you are planning to go and let them know when you’ve returned so they don’t unnecessarily send out a search party. Mobile service is very poor throughout the area.     

It’s time to stop dreaming and start bushwalking in Goomburra!

bushwalkingSo….. enough reading and dreaming about it! It’s time to get organised and get out there for real!

WHICH TRACK WILL YOU BE BUSHWALKING IN GOOMBURRA?

Walking Track Classifications

This article refers to the Australian Standard for classifying the level of difficulty of walking tracks. The Goomburra Section of Main Range National Park has Class 3 and 4 walking tracks which are defined below:

Class 3 Walking Tracks

  • Well-defined, distinct tracks, variable in width. Muddy sections, steep grades and steps may be encountered. Some exposed roots and rocks.
  • All junctions signposted and may include interpretive signs.
  • May be partially overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rockfalls may be present.
  • No formed creek crossings; cliff edges and lookouts generally not fenced; appropriate caution required.
  • Reasonable level of fitness required and ankle-supporting footwear recommended.

Class 4 Walking Tracks

  • Distinct tracks, surface likely to be rough with exposed roots and rocks.
  • All junctions signposted. Markers may be used where necessary (e.g. at creek crossings).
  • Variable in width; muddy sections, steep grades and extensive steps likely to be encountered.
  • May be overgrown; hazards such as fallen trees and rockfalls likely to be present.
  • No formed creek crossings; no fences on cliff edges or lookouts; high level of caution required.
  • Moderate fitness level and ankle-supporting footwear strongly recommended.
Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

How to get started bushwalking

I meet many people who would like to take themselves or their family on outdoor adventures, but they’re not sure how to get started bushwalking. In this article, I’ll outline some simple steps you can take to get started, stay safe, and have loads of fun! Keep your eyes open for a whole series of articles on places you can bushwalk across South East Queensland and beyond.

What equipment do I need to go for a bushwalk?

The basic equipment is really quite simple:bushwalking boots
  • a comfortable and sturdy pair of covered shoes
  • a drink bottle,
  • a hat, and
  • some sun protection such as sunscreen and sun-safe clothes
  • basic first aid and medical supplies for yourself or your group such as an asthma puffer and snake bandage – I slip a snake bandage into my pocket or backpack even on short walks
If you’re bushwalking in cold or alpine areas, you’ll also need:
  • warm layers of clothing eg jacket, beanie.
And if the weather is damp, you might like to have:
  • a rain coat or poncho
What else do I need to think about for longer or more challenging walks?

As you become more experienced, you might like to go on longer or more challenging bushwalks, so it’s important to have:

  • well-fitting shoes and socks suitable for the terrain and the climate
  • a small backpack that can hold all the gear you’ll need for an awesome day out – snacks, water, extra layers of clothing, raincoat, maps, emergency devices, and a camera,
  • some people like to wear gaiters to protect against snake bites and prickly plants
What about overnight hikes and camps?

If you plan on a multi-day bushwalk you’ll also need to have:bushwalking and camping

  • a well fitting backpack large enough to hold your gear, especially if you plan to be self-sufficient,
  • a shelter such as a tent,
  • food for the duration of your expedition
  • enough water plus a bit extra to get you to your next water supply – this includes water for drinking, cooking and cleaning,
  • a water purification system if you plan to collect water from untreated water supplies,
  • a sleeping mat,
  • sleeping bag,
  • toiletry items,
  • a trowel and toilet paper,
  • extra clothes to sleep in or if you want a clean set of clothes for your second day,
  • a stove and cooking equipment,
  • maps and navigation equipment such as a compass and / GPS, and
  • emergency communication equipment such as an emergency beacon, EPIRB, or GPS communication

We’ll cover equipment for overnight hikes in more detail in a future article.

How much water will I need?

The amount of water you need to take depends on lots of things including how far and how long you’ll be bushwalking as well as the temperature and humidity, whether there is drinking water available along the way, how strenuous your walk is, and how much you as an individual need to drink. A very rough guide is usually a minimum of 2 litres per day, however I’d recommend more than that especially if the weather is hot, and just in case you stay out longer than planned. If you’re planning to cook, you’ll need extra as well.

How much food should I take on a bushwalk?

If you’re going for a short walk (less than an hour), you generally won’t need to take food. bushwalking foodHowever, I think every walk is much more fun when you stop for a little picnic along the way. Choose food that won’t easily spoil or be squashed. It also pays to think about how heavy your snacks are and take a bag or container to transport your scraps back home.

Where can I go bushwalking?

Popular public walking spaces in Australia can be found in regional or council parks, state reserves and forestry, and in national parks. There also some privately owned land holdings that are open to the public. You can search the Internet for what’s available in your local area. Regional tourist information sites and centres also provide this information. Australian walking trails are often classified according to levels of difficulty from Class 1 to Class 5. This makes it easier for you to plan the right type of walk for your group.

In future articles I’ll share some of my favourite places with you.

How much does it cost to go bushwalking?

Most walking trails in Australia are free, however there are some parklands that require you to purchase a permit for vehicle entry (such as some national parks in some states). And you need to book ahead and pay an entry fee for some multi-day walks which assists with managing and maintaining the trails and surrounding environment.

Is it safe to go bushwalking alone?

Walking solo can be a great experience if you are properly prepared. I’d recommend:

  • Tell someone where you are planning to go and when you expect to be back, and then make sure you let them know you’ve arrived home safely afterwards.
  • Be extra careful about preparing and packing for your walk because you only have yourself to bushwalking equipmentrely on.
  • Take some extra water and food, as well as first aid supplies.
  • Stick to trails that are within your level of expertise.
  • Take a phone but don’t rely on having mobile coverage everywhere. (Remember you can use your phone’s GPS to help you work out where you are even if you don’t have phone coverage. The GPS function uses a satellite system not a mobile phone system.)
  • Download navigation and emergency services apps and practise using them before you go! Some suggestions include:
    • Orux Maps
    • GPS to SMS
    • Emergency+

How can I meet other people to bushwalk with?

Here are a few ways to meet other people who like to bushwalk:

  • join a bushwalking club
  • look on Facebook and MeetUp for bushwalking groups and activities
  • find a professional guide who can lead you on an organised walk
  • ask about walking groups and organised activities at tourist information centres and national parks offices
  • say hello and strike up a conversation with other people you meet along the trails – you’ll be surprised how much information other people have!

So there you have it – a brief introduction on how to get started bushwalking. Join me for future articles where we’ll explore more details about the amazing places you can go no matter your level of fitness or experience. And send me a message if there’s a particular question or topic about bushwalking that you’d like answered.

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.

Have you failed if you don’t reach your goal?

Goals, Outcomes and Benchmarks

There is too much emphasis these days on outcomes. If you work for a government or corporate organisation, you’ll likely have KPIs (Key Performance Indicators) to aim for. Even if you work for yourself, you’ll be required at some point to reach targets related to income, funding for a project, or your client’s benchmarks. Perhaps you set specific markers for yourself in your work or personal life. Whatever label you slap on them, they’re simply ‘goals’. And success is all about reaching your goal. But have you failed if you don’t reach your goal?

The Benefits of Having a Goal

Not everyone is a fan of goal-setting. Personally and professionally I love them. However I’m very choosy about what goals I commit to, as well as the finer detail that goes with them (that is, the who, how, why, when, where, what and how of the goal). I believe that having a goal to aim for can give you purpose, focus, motivation, structure, and a feeling of success when you’ve reached it.

Failing to Reach Your Goal

I also know what it’s like to NOT reach a goal. In fact there are many goals I haven’t reached. Do I consider myself a failure because I haven’t reached those goals? Definitely not. There’s much more to a goal than the final outcome (despite what business model you might be working under!)

Goals include the nitty gritty mentioned above – the who, how, why, when, where, what and how. If you only look at the ‘what’ factor (that is, the desired outcome), then you’re selling your goal short.

Real-life Examples of Failing to Reach a Goal

Overnight Expedition Fail #1

Last year I set off on an overnight backpacking trip to reach a remote bush camp on an escarpment with a small group. We knew that others had been there before. We even had some trail maps of where they’d been although we found very little other information about the area. We began our trip on an established footpad then veered uphill very steeply off track as we navigated along a ridge line. The going was very tough. There was huffing and puffing; tears; and many self-proclaimed moments of “I can’t do this!” After hours of sweating it out we realised we were simply not going to make it. The route we’d taken was described somewhere as ‘moderate’ but it was nothing like my idea of moderate at all! My new grippy-soled Merrill’s were no match for the steepness of the terrain and I couldn’t get the image of myself sliding uncontrollably down the mountain out of my mind. As dusk arrived and we were still miles away from our destination, we chose to retrace our steps back to a small saddle and set up camp for the night.

As it turned out, camping here in the middle of nowhere was the most magical experience! Stars and night sounds accompanied our tired bodies and minds as we settled down to rest after one of the most gruelling walks I’d ever done. Disappointment called loudly, but I put it in the background, completely mesmerised by what was before me.

Did I fail? Yes, it’s true I failed to reach the destination at the time I planned, but I did not fail in every other aspect of the goal. I tried my hardest on this walk, gathered more information about the terrain, discovered that having a rope would have been handy to navigate some of the steep sections, and I accidentally uncovered the world’s most amazing remote camping spot!

Remote camping
PHOTO CREDIT: Kathryn Walton (author)

Overnight Expedition Fail #2

So gruelling was this trip that I wasn’t interested in making another attempt of this same route. However last week the opportunity arose to try a different route …. to the same destination. Hmmm ….. this could be interesting! So with backpacks on, new maps and routes, a conversation with the Park Ranger to gather more local knowledge, some added confidence, and we were off. We even organised a small water cache for ourselves about 6kms from where we left our car in case we needed it on our return trip. Lesson learned from previous trip!

This time the terrain was not steep and slippery. It was rugged in a different way. Following old logging roads through rainforest proved so slow that it was almost impossible. Our planned route was entirely overgrown with woody vines, weeds, stinging trees and thickets. Navigating using map and compass seemed impossible in the thick rainforest, and using GPS was also haphazard with the dense canopy disrupting satellite communication. Progress was terribly slow. Climbing and untangling, diverting and problem-solving, re-calibrating and double-checking. We gradually made our way through the jungle.

Once again as the sun dropped low in the western sky, we acknowledged we’d failed to reach our destination once again. We’d need at least one more full day of navigating and pushing through scrub and forest to get there at this pace.

Did I fail? Yes, it’s true I did not reach the destination in the allotted timeframe, but in every other aspect I experienced success. I’d tried something new, hadn’t given up, approached each problem that arose with calmness (well, almost!), deeply appreciated the majesty of the rainforest around me, and felt connected with all who had been here before me, and all who would come after me.

Not reaching your goal does NOT equal failure!

So in my opinion, if you set a goal and don’t achieve it in the way you planned or in the time frame you set, that does NOT mean you’ve failed. It simply means you haven’t arrived there yet. It’s an opportunity to learn, re-assess, and redesign. Sometimes it’s an opportunity to say “Actually, that goal isn’t what I want after all. I’m going to change the goal post to suit me, rather than changing myself to suit the goal post.” If you don’t reach your goal, it’s not an indication of failure at all. It’s an opportunity. Go grab it!

Daisy Spoke

Discovering mountain biking as life’s ultimate parallel universe in her middle age, Kathryn Walton shares information and reflections in ‘Daisy Spoke’ that inform, inspire and empower women to a healthy and active lifestyle.