A Guide to Walking the Clare Valley

After being limited in where we could go and what we could do for the last several years, or even whether we were allowed to leave home, a trip to the Clare Valley to stretch our legs and go on a walk is long overdue.

But which path should you take? The Clare Valley is a popular walking area. There are several hikes to choose from, each with its length, difficulty level, and breathtaking scenery. You’ll discover your ideal trip anywhere from 40 minutes to 5 days or across numerous areas over two months.

The Clare Valley Wine & Wilderness Trail is a 100-kilometre circle that spans six phases.

The new Clare Region Wine & Wilderness Trail, as its name suggests, is a walking trail that showcases the vineyards and wilderness terrain around the core wine-growing valley. The first and second stages of this six-stage path are now available to the public. The track will eventually wrap around the whole valley, covering 100 kilometres. The circle will take you through 24 cellar doors, cafés, restaurants, and breweries while also passing through private land and road reserves. Keep an eye out for trail signs to help you stay on track. The route will begin and conclude at the Clare Valley Wine, Food, and Tourism Centre once completed (CVWFTC). The Centre is open every day, with plenty of parking (even for long cars), public restrooms, snacks, and local vegetables and wine. The first two phases begin at the CVWFTC and lead to Jim Barry Wines, followed by Jeanneret Wines and Clare Valley Brewing Company. The next four phases should be finished by April 2022. Each stage is 15 to 20 kilometres long, and a map may be downloaded from their website. These maps are updated regularly, so double-check before setting out to finish the path. The CVWFTC has hard copies available for pickup. This path is closed during the summer (reopen from March 26th, 2022).

The Riesling Trail is 33 kilometres long one way.

The Clare Valley Riesling Trail is a well-known tourist destination. The 86-kilometer Railway from Riverton to Spalding was formally inaugurated in 1918. The Ash Wednesday bushfires ripped across the area in 1983, destroying the rail route. Instead of letting it fall into decay, our dedicated residents had a better idea. The rail line was torn up, and two winemakers had a vision in the late 1880s, so they sowed the seeds for the Riesling Trail, which opened in 1994. It is now a pleasant walking and cycling path on somewhat level, smooth gravel that passes through several cellar doors and cafés. If you’re feeling daring, there are three loops meant mostly for bikes but which may also be completed on foot from the route around Spring Gully (17km, tough), John Horrocks Loop (10.3km, moderate), and the Father Rogalski Loop (16.5km, difficult). Maps may be downloaded online or picked up at most cellar doors and cafes and the CVWFTC.

19-kilometre One-Way Rattler Trail

Continue if the Riesling Trail isn’t enough for you. The Rattler Trail is a continuation of the Riesling Trail that begins at Mount Horrock’s Wines in Auburn and ends at the Riverton Oval. It gets its name from the rattling trains that used its route. You won’t find any wine along this road, but you will drive through beautiful countryside lush green in the winter and bright yellow in the spring. When you get to Riverton, stop at the Emporium Bakehouse for some refreshments or a small meal, or try the Hotel Central for lunch if you’ve worked up an appetite. Explore Scholz Park Museum and see the blacksmiths in action if you’re fortunate.

The Lavender Federation Trail is a 325-kilometre one-way trail with occasional loops.

The Lavender Federation Trail, a 16-day, 325-kilometre walk between Murray Bridge and Clare that connected existing paths including the Riesling Trail, Rattler Trail, Heysen Trail, and Murray Coorong Trail, was completed in May 2018. A 21-year volunteer-run effort has connected most of South Australia’s countryside, with each piece having its comprehensive map. The Lavender Federation Trail is a nice warm-up run for people planning to hike the Heysen Trail. It is rated as easy. Prepare for some steep, rough, or uneven areas, however. There are 14-kilometre loop trails at Point Pass and 900-meter and 570-meter loop trails from Watervale Township to Mount Horrocks. The Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council’s new Clare Valley Short Walks program includes the Watervale Loop; read on.

If you intend on doing the whole path in one go, be sure you have everything you need. Because camping is not permitted on the path, prepare ahead and check the Lavender Federation Trail website for a list of possible options.

For $10 per part, maps may be purchased at the Clare Valley Wine, Food and Tourism Centre.

1200km One Way on the Heysen Trail

Surely you’ve heard of the Heysen Trail, a 1200km trek from Cape Jervis on the Fleurieu Peninsula to Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges that takes around 60 days to complete. This is not a trek for the faint of heart. Because there is minimal signage, you must be able to completely self-cater and live off-grid for the duration of the journey. You must also be able to self-navigate through different landscapes and surroundings. The Heysen Trail is challenging for more experienced walkers, falling into grades 4-5 of the Australian Walking Tracks Classification. The path runs via Riverton, Marrabel, Black Springs, World’s End, and Burra before proceeding west through Hallett, passing to the east of the Clare Valley. The Heysen Trail passes across Goyder’s Line, representing a significant difference in average rainfall. You’re walking through green pastures and cropland one minute, and then you’re in the outback the next. If 60 days of continuous trekking sounds too difficult, you may choose to walk just a segment of the path.

Short Walks in Clare Valley

These six short walks vary in length from 1 to 4 hours and include sections of the well-known Heysen, Lavender Federation, Riesling Trails, and the Spring Gully Conservation Park. Designed to offer you a sample of the Clare Valley’s many sceneries, with a few stops along the route for food and drink. There’s one for everyone’s skill level.