How do you choose the right hike or bushwalk for you? And how do you make sure you have fun while staying safe in nature?
To make sure you have a safe and enjoyable hike, we've pulled together a few important checks to ensure you have the most enjoyable experience in nature.
Things to know before you leave home
Check the latest conditions and park closures
Follow our safety tips and check our changed conditions and closures information for a great visit.
Search for the park you want to visit and check the latest conditions on the park page.
Visitor guides contain summary information such as suggested activities, safety and regulations and list the facilities available.
Download the VicEmergency app
The VicEmergency website (external link) and app provides Victorians with access to information and warnings about incidents including:
- shark sightings and more.
Check Fire Danger Ratings
Fire Danger Ratings (external link) are important because they help you decide what actions to take to protect yourself and others from bushfires and grassfires.
There are four levels of fire danger in the new system:
- Moderate - Plan and prepare
- High - Be ready to act
- Extreme - Take action now to protect your life and property
- Catastrophic - For your survival, leave bushfire risk areas
View more information (including Easy English and information in nine other languages)
With the help of experienced hiker Caro Ryan, we have also made it easy to remember these checks in this video:
Use this safety checklist before you go on a hike or bushwalk
Tip 1. Choose the right hike
With walks from just a few minutes, all the way up to 13-days in length in Victoria’s parks, there is definitely something to suit everyone.
Choosing the right hike means thinking about your fitness, the time you have available, what kind of things you want to see, and then picking something that is a good match for you.
To make this easier, there is a grading system used to let you know how easy or difficult a track is – the Australian Walking Track Grading System (AWTGS). Tracks are classified into five grades, with Grade 1 being the easiest and Grade 5 being the hardest.
The grades consider experience required, steps, gradient, path quality and signage.
Look out for the grade symbols online, on visitor guides and signs to let you know what to expect on the hike you are interested in and choose one that is a match for you.
Tip 2. Plan ahead
Getting out for a hike is great but it’s important to do it safely so it’s fun for everyone. Make sure you:
- Check the weather forecast. Remember to check the forecast again on the day you plan to hike in case your plans need to change
- Let someone know where you are going and when you plan to return. Fill in a trip intention form and leave a copy with a reliable friend or family member
- Be bushfire aware — if walking during warmer weather check Fire Danger Ratings, fire restrictions, and Total Fire Bans for your route and your destination. Make sure you have an emergency plan in place
- Download the VicEmergency app and set up watch zones for the areas you are planning to visit
- Check the latest conditions and park closures before you leave home.
Tip 3: Dress and pack appropriately
Wearing the right clothes, a hat and shoes to provide sun protection is so important when hiking, especially in warmer months. Make sure to also pack:
- Sunscreen (don’t forget to reapply it if you’re out for several hours!)
- Extra food like muesli bars, nuts, apples
- A first aid kit and medical supplies for allergies and bites
- Spare clothing for all weather conditions
- A fully charged smartphone. Use GPS location services and take a photo of a map before you set off or download an offline park map from Avenza.
Tip 4. Beat the heat
If walking in warmer months, the heat is one of the biggest factors to consider when planning a hike. Ensure your hike doesn’t end in disaster by:
- Considering the best time of the day for the hike. Set off early or late in the day and avoid the hottest part of the day
- Carrying enough water! For a full day hike this means 3 to 4 litres of water per person. Some hikes may have water sources, but it’s best to carry enough, just in case.
- Keeping a look out for snakes in warm and sunny weather. Wear protective shoes, and even gaiters (material shin and ankle covers) if you can
- Taking plenty of breaks and take cover in the shade when you can
- Knowing the symptoms of heatstroke and heat exhaustion.
Tip 5. Take care of our natural environment
Always stay on the marked trails while hiking. Walking off track damages sensitive vegetation, can disturb Aboriginal culture heritage artefacts, compacts the ground and can spread plant diseases. More important things to do to leave no trace while hiking:
- Observe all safety signage
- Stay behind barriers – this is for your safety too!
- Take all rubbish home
- Clean clothes and shoes before entering the park
- If you’re considering an overnight hike, make sure you are familiar with our campfire safety tips.
Tip 6. Leave it to the experts
If you like company, want a special experience, or need some support, there are more than 400 Licensed Tour Operators across Victoria who are ready to help you discover our magnificent parks and waterways.
Using their expert knowledge and experience, Licensed Tour Operators do all the planning for you, supply equipment and ensure you’re in safe hands so you get the most out of your hiking adventure.
Get the most out of your hike by reading all our visitor safety tips.
The Victorian Government is investing in new walking trail experiences, upgrading 4WD and biking tracks and improving accessibility in Victoria’s parks and reserves.