Australian Geographic Outdoor - - World’s Greatest Walks -

IF THE LARA­P­INTA TRAIL is the per­fect NT Red Cen­tre ex­pe­ri­ence, then the Jat­bula Trail more than qual­i­fies as its Top End equiv­a­lent; the walk is mod­er­ate in level but takes you through some of the most vi­brant and en­gag­ing ter­rain in this country. It can be walked in­de­pen­dently (you need to book well ahead for park camp­ing/passes) or you can jump on board a guided ad­ven­ture with tour op­er­a­tors such as World Ex­pe­di­tions.

The Jat­bula is lo­cated in Nit­miluk Na­tional Park and winds north (you can only walk it in this one di­rec­tion) from Nit­miluk (Kather­ine Gorge), which is well worth a few days ex­plo­ration, to Leliyn (Edith Falls). The route takes you on a walk­ing ad­ven­ture along the western edges of the Arn­hem Land Es­carp­ment, ex­pe­ri­enc­ing sa­van­nah grass­lands, rocky quartzite cliffs, creek-cross­ings, and ex­plor­ing mon­soon forests, with each day end­ing at the per­fect camp­site: right be­side a cool­ing wa­ter­fall. This is Ja­woyn country, and you’ll spot bril­liant rock art in a caves and rocky over­hangs and out­crops as you trek an av­er­age of 10km each day (the long­est stretch is 16km on Day 3, from 17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp Pool) be­tween camp­sites.

The first few days are spec­tac­u­lar as walk­ers tra­verse what is known as “stone country” be­fore en­ter­ing some pock­ets of mon­soonal rain­for­est that are char­ac­ter­is­tic of the re­gion. Af­ter a few days you’ll fol­low a gen­tler track as you walk be­side the pretty Edith River to Sandy Camp Pool, where you’ll camp for the night, and then through paper­bark forests and past more wa­ter­holes to Sweet­wa­ter Pool.

The hike is bril­liant and can be done at a nice leisurely pace, but start early each morn­ing so you can take full ad­van­tage of the camp­sites’ lo­ca­tions right next to wa­ter­holes where you can swim and cool off dur­ing the afternoons. The trekking sea­son is July to Septem­ber up here, so as well as warm days and cool-ish nights, you should see plenty of stars in the clear NT skies.

In ad­di­tion to the bril­liant over­all walk­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, the fan­tas­tic camp­sites and the rich in­dige­nous his­tory, the Jat­bula’s start- and end­points are ideal if you’d like to fur­ther ex­plore Nit­miluk Na­tional Park.

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