Jatbula Trail

Safety briefings

Safety briefings take place at 8am and 3pm.

If you want to get the 7am ferry, you must attend the 3pm briefing the previous day.

If you're taking the 9am ferry, you can attend either session.

The Jatbula Trail is a 62km one way walk departing from Nitmiluk Gorge and finishing at Leliyn, also known as Edith Falls.

The hike follows the western edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment over sandstone plateau and through woodlands, open forest, monsoon forest and riverine landscapes.

You will walk in the footsteps of generations of Jawoyn people who traditionally travelled through parts of this trail.

The trail is named after Jawoyn Traditional Owner, Peter Jatbula, who was instrumental in securing land rights for the Jawoyn people.

The trail can be completed in 5 days and 4 nights, or 6 days and 5 nights.

Each overnight camp site is set near a spring or cascade.

Day 1 Nitmiluk Gorge to Biddlecombe Cascades - 8.3km
Day 2 Biddlecombe to Crystal Falls - 11km
Day 3 Crystal Falls to 17 Mile Falls - 10km
Day 4 17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp - 16.8km
Day 5 Sandy Camp to Sweetwater Pool - 11.1km
Day 6 Sweetwater Pool to Leliyn - 4.5km

The Jatbula Trail is a grade 4 track rated as moderate to difficult. Read about the walking track grading system.

You need to be reasonably fit with some bushwalking experience as it involves carrying heavy loads over rough ground.

The walk can be completed in 5 or 6 days.

Camping is only allowed for one night at each site along the trail.

Each camp site is restricted to a maximum of 15 people.

You can't skip to a camp site to complete the trail in less time.

Leliyn is not a campsite on the trail and separate fees will apply if you wish to camp there.

The Jatbula Trail is fully booked for the 2022 walking season.

Your walk will be all the more enjoyable if you plan well using the following resources:

You should also take a topographic map and compass and at least 1 person in your group should have the skills to use these.

The best time of year to walk the Jatbula Trail is from 1 June to 30 September.

During the cooler months, from June to August the temperatures range from 30°C during the day dropping to 10°C at night.

Conditions on the trail start to heat up in mid-August with temperatures rising to over 40°C from October to late November.

From October to March, the trail may not available due to:

  • high temperatures and humidity
  • monsoonal rain and risk of flooding
  • increased vegetation that can hide trail markers.

It is possible to walk the Jatbula Trail between 1 October and 31 May but you must be experienced and well prepared. Check availability and book online.

You can book transfers to the start of the trail, and when you want to be picked up and dropped off.

Getting to the trail

The walk is one way only and starts at Nitmiluk Gorge.

You can be picked up from the town of Katherine which is 27km from Nitmiluk Gorge.

You will then need to take a ferry from Nitmiluk Gorge to the start of the trail near 17 Mile Creek.

The ferry costs $15.00 per person.

The ferry departs twice a day at 7am and 9am. All walkers must be at the boat ramp 15 minutes prior with their permits ready.

To book your ferry, go to Nitmiluk Tours website. You can also call 1300 146 743 or email reservations@nitmiluktours.com.au.

Getting from the trail

The trail finishes at Leliyn and you can be transferred to either Katherine or to the Nitmiluk visitor centre.

  • Leliyn to Katherine is 63km or approximately 45 minutes drive
  • Leliyn to Nitmiluk Gorge is 90km or approximately 1 hour drive.

How to book your transport

The following companies provide ground transfers:

Gecko Canoeing and Trekking
Phone: 0427 067 154

Remember to tell someone outside of your group of your travel plans in case of an emergency.

Cars and public parking

Public parking is available at both ends of the trail, but be sure to tell the parks desk or Leliyn kiosk your name, car details and return date.

There are a number of bus and airlines services that provide regular return travel between Darwin and Katherine.

You will be given a detailed safety briefing from national park staff before starting the walk.

Safety briefings take place at 8am and 3pm. If you want to get the 7am ferry, you must attend the 3pm briefing the previous day. If you're taking the 9am ferry, you can attend either session.

You should tell a reliable person of your plans before you go walking, including all of the following:

  • your intended campsites
  • departure and arrival dates
  • health issues
  • any other information that may help if you need to be rescued.

You should take a satellite phone or a personal locator beacon. You will not have mobile phone reception on the walk.

Drinking water and first aid

There are natural water sources all along the Jatbula Trail and each of the campsites is located near permanent fresh water.

You should still take care and purify your drinking water using UV treatment or a filtration device.

You should take at least three litres of water with you when leaving your camp each day and continue to drink regularly during the walk.

If you are walking outside of the recommended walking season you should drink even more water.

Your first aid kit should include rehydration sachets.

Find out how to stay safe in the heat.

Water safety

The Jatbula Trail's many waterholes, creeks and cascades are safe to swim in but you should:

  • be aware of fast flowing rapids, slippery rocks and submerged objects
  • never jump or dive into waterholes and creeks
  • not get too close to cliff edges or climb waterfalls.

Even a minor injury can be very serious when walking the trail. Medical help is usually only available by helicopter which would be at your own expense.

You must respect the environment and cultural heritage by doing the following:

  • take all rubbish and food scraps with you and put in bins at Leliyn
  • wipe off insect repellent and sunscreen before swimming - wet wipes are ideal for this
  • stay on marked tracks
  • do not touch rock art and respect sacred sites
  • do not light fires, cooking is restricted to gas cookers only.

Last updated: 29 April 2022

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