Your guide to walking, hiking and biking in South Australia’s national parks
If you’ve got sneakers, hiking boots or a bike, there’s a national park just waiting to welcome you. Here’s where.
South Australia’s national parks provide opportunities to stay active and healthy, as well as catch up with friends and family.
They’re also perfect if you’d just prefer to head out and enjoy the great outdoors by yourself!
So, what trails should you take? We’ve spoken to the experts. If you’ve got these items, here’s what trails you should try:
If you’ve got a pair of sneakers, try:
Mount George Conservation Park – Ridge Loop Trail (loop: 2.2 km, 1.5 hours)
Head to the Adelaide Hills to the Ridge Loop Trail in Mount George Conservation Park, which is accessed at Gate 6 from the Mount George picnic ground and follows the Lewis fire track for the first part of the trail.
It then follows a single track around the western face of Mt George before winding its way back to the picnic ground at Gate 5.
A feature of this trail is the rocky outcrop just below the summit, providing panoramic views to the west of Mount Lofty, the freeway and the valley below.
Mark Oliphant Conservation Park – Bandicoot Trail Loop (loop: 4.5 km, 1.5 hours)
Also in the Adelaide Hills is Mark Oliphant Conservation Park, with its Bandicoot Trail Loop. You can access this trail from the car park off Scott Creek Road. Enter via Gate 1.
Follow the bitumen track until you get past the Camp Track sign and from there you will see a totem indicating the start of this trail, which heads up into native vegetation.
This hike heads towards Evans Drive and can be quite steep in some places. Follow Evans Drive (this is a public road, so take care) until you find a pictogram totem showing where the trail heads back into the park.
From here, head down towards the old water tank and there you will join up with Camp Track which will take you back to Gate 1.
Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park – Coral Lichen Circuit (loop: 1.1 km, 1 hour)
Between Aldinga Beach and Sellicks, south of Adelaide, you’ll find Aldinga Scrub Conservation Park, home to the Coral Lichen Circuit.
This self-guided trail is perfect for exploring the local vegetation, including a rare colony of lacy coral lichen (Cladia ferdinandii).
If you’ve got a pair of hiking boots, try:
Horsnell Gully Conservation Park – Old Coach Road Hike (one-way: 2 km, 1 hour)
Begin the Old Coach Road Hike from the gate at the end of Coach Road in Skye or at Gate 3 in Horsnell Gully Conservation Park, 10 km east of the city.
Walk along what was once the principal road into Adelaide from the east during the 1870s and 1880s.
There was a coach gate located on the highest point of ‘Coach Hill’, which is known today as the suburb of Skye. The driver blew a trumpet to tell the locals that he had been through the gate and they had to climb up to close it.
Near the spot where the power lines cross Coach Road, there was a hut for a ‘team’s keeper’ who kept fresh horses for the coaches.
Onkaparinga River National Park – Hardy’s Scrub Hike (4 km, 2 hours)
The Hardy’s Scrub Hike in southern Adelaide’s Onkaparinga River National Park traverses a very important conservation area with excellent diversity of plants created by the varied soils.
Grey box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) grows in fertile loam or clay soils, pink gums prefer soils with a sandy, well-drained surface and a clay or rocky base. Southern cypress pine grows only in sandy loam soil.
You’ll have plenty of time on this 4km hike to notice the diversity of the native vegetation.
Hale Conservation Park – Hale Walk (loop: 4 km, 2 hours)
A trip to the Barossa Valley is the perfect excuse to stop off at Hale Conservation Park for some exercise on the way.
Head off on the Hale Walk at the Warren Road Trailhead and look out for birds, termite mounds and echidna scratchings.
You might notice changes in rock or vegetation type and large tree-stumps, which suggest how big the trees were before they were cut for timber in the 19th century.
If you’ve got any sort of bicycle, try these trails:
Onkaparinga River Recreation Park – Wetlands Loop Trail (Short loop 3 km, 1 hour. Long loop 4.5 km, 1.5 hours)
Head to Onkaparinga River Recreation Park, 35 km south of Adelaide and set off on the Wetlands Loop Trail, which begins near the car park on River Road.
Follow the eastern bank of the Onkaparinga River where you’ll see two freshwater ponds, which support a variety of wildlife such as birds, frogs and fish, and some uncommon plant species.
This flat trail is a mixture of boardwalks and gravel paths and is accessible for wheelchairs and families with strollers. Dogs on lead are also welcome on this trail.
Para Wirra Conservation Park – Lake Discovery Loop (loop: 1 km, 30 minutes)
This short loop in Para Wirra Conservation Park, 41 km north-east of Adelaide, is a slow riding zone, suitable for young riders and beginners.
It’s a popular trail that is great for families and the perfect spot to soak up the tranquil setting of Para Wirra’s lake.
You’re sure to see many waterbirds and bush birds along the way, so make sure you bring your binoculars.
Sturt Gorge Conservation Park – Walk the Dog Trail (1.8 km, 40 minutes)
Head to Sturt Gorge Conservation Park, only 13 km south of Adelaide, and set off on the Walk the Dog Trail, which begins near Craigburn Farm.
This is an easy trail for the whole family with sweeping views of the hills and valleys.
If you’ve got a mountain bike, try:
Shepherds Hill Recreation Park – River Red Gum Loop (loop: 2.3 km, 30 minutes)
Get off the asphalt and back to nature. An easy trail to ride is the River Red Gum Loop at Shepherds Hill Recreation Park in Adelaide’s southern suburbs, which follows the Viaduct Creek.
This trail is best ridden in a clockwise direction.
Note: there is no access through the Archery Club when the red flag is flying.
Cobbler Creek Recreation Park – Babbler Loop (loop: 3 km, 1.5 hour return)
On bike or foot, the Babbler Loop will take you climbing to the top of Cobbler Creek Recreation Park, in Adelaide’s northern suburbs, through rare mallee box grassy woodland, weeping pittosporum and Christmas bush.
This trail has great views of Salisbury and Gulf St Vincent and is a great place to watch the late afternoon sun sink below the horizon.
Anstey Hill Recreation Park – Wednesday Loop (loop: 3.4 km, 2 to 4 hours)
Anstey Hill Recreation Park, 16 km north-east of Adelaide, has an extensive network of mountain biking trails.
The Wednesday Loop is a great trail for keen hikers and mountain bike riders alike. It traverses a variety of landscapes and showcases areas of restored vegetation carried out by the Friends of Anstey Hill volunteers. It is best travelled in a clockwise direction.
Want some extra ideas about where to go and what to do in SA’s amazing national parks? Check out our library for more ideas toSee and Door visit theNational Parks and Wildlife SA websitefor more inspiration.
This story was originally posted in May 2020 and has been updated with new information.