A Guide to Walking the Clare Valley
After being restricted on where we could go and what we could do for the last few years, or even if we could leave the house – an escape to the Clare Valley to stretch your legs and take a hike is well overdue.
But which trail to choose? The Clare Valley region is a walking destination. There are so many walks available of different lengths, difficulty factors and featuring amazing landscapes. From 40 minutes to 5 days, or through multiple regions across two months you’re sure to find your perfect adventure.
Clare Valley Wine & Wilderness Trail – 100km over 6 stages, loop
The name says it all, the new Clare Valley Wine & Wilderness Trail is a walking track that highlights the wineries and wilderness landscape around the central wine-growing valley. Stages 1 & 2 of this six-stage trail are currently open to public use. When completed, the trail will circumnavigate the entire valley for a total of 100kms. The loop will pass by 24 cellar doors, cafes, restaurants and breweries traversing some private property and road reserves. Keep your eyes open for trail markers to guide you on the track. When the trail is completed in its entirety it will begin and end at the Clare Valley Wine, Food and Tourism Centre (CVWFTC). The Centre is open daily with ample parking (including for long vehicles), public conveniences, refreshments and local produce/wine. The first two stages start at the CVWFTC and will take you to Jim Barry Wines, and finish at Jeanneret Wines and Clare Valley Brewing Co. The following four stages are expected to be completed in April 2022. Each stage is between 15 to 20km with a map available to download from their website. These maps are updated from time to time so best to check prior to you planning to complete the trail. Hardcopies are available to collect from the CVWFTC. Please note that during the summer this trail is closed (reopen from March 26th 2022).
Riesling Trail – 33km one way
The Clare Valley Riesling Trail is an iconic attraction. The Railway was officially opened in 1918 stretching from Riverton to Spalding, 86 km long. In 1983 the Ash Wednesday bushfires tore through the region destroying the rail line beyond repair. Instead of leaving it in a state of disrepair, our passionate locals had a better idea. The rail line was ripped up and in the late 1880s two winemakers had a vision and planted the seeds for the Riesling Trail which officially opened in 1994. Today it is a cruisy walking and cycling trail on relatively flat, soft gravel passing by a multitude of cellar doors and eateries. If you’re feeling adventurous, there are also three loops designed in the main for cyclists, however, they can be completed on foot coming off the trail around Spring Gully (17km, difficult), John Horrocks Loop (10.3km, moderate) and the Father Rogalski Loop (16.5km, difficult). Maps are available to download online or can be collected at most cellar doors and eateries or the CVWFTC.
Rattler Trail – 19km one way
If the Riesling Trail isn’t enough for you, keep going! The Rattler Trail, taking its name from the rattling trains that utillised its track, is an extension that starts from Mount Horrock’s Wines in Auburn (the finishing point of the Riesling Trail) and finishes at the Riverton Oval. You won’t find any wine along this route, instead, you will pass by stunning farmland which is gorgeously green during winter with pops of yellow canola in spring. When you reach the end of the line, aka Riverton, pop into the Emporium Bakehouse for some refreshments or a light lunch, or if you’ve really worked up an appetite try the Hotel Central for lunch. Explore Scholz Park Museum and if you’re lucky, catch the blacksmiths in action.
Lavender Federation Trail – 325km one way, some loops throughout
The Lavender Federation Trail was completed in May 2018, a 16 day, 325km trek between Murray Bridge and Clare, connecting existing trails such as the Riesling Trail, Rattler Trail, Heysen Trail and Murray Coorong Trail. A 21-year project run entirely by volunteers now connects much of South Australia’s countryside split into 6 shorter sections, each with its own detailed map. A great practice run for those looking to complete the Heysen Trail, the Lavender Federation Trail is generally classed as easy. However, be prepared for some steep, rocky, or uneven sections. Loop trails are available at Point Pass at a length of 14km and from the Watervale Township to Mount Horrocks at a length of 900m and a height of 570m. The Watervale Loop is part of the new Clare Valley Short Walks project developed by the Clare and Gilbert Valleys Council, read on for more information.
If you’re planning on completing the whole trail in one stint, ensure you are fully self-contained. Camping is not available on the trail itself, so be sure to plan ahead and visit the Lavender Federation Trail website for a list of available accommodations.
Maps are available to purchase from the Clare Valley Wine, Food and Tourism Centre for a cost of $10 per section.
Heysen Trail – 1200km one way
Surely you know the Heysen Trail, a 1200km long hike taking approximately 60 days walking from Cape Jervis in the Fleurieu Peninsula to Parachilna in the Flinders Ranges. This hike is not for the faint-hearted. You need to be able to fully self-cater and live off-grid for the entire trip and be able to self-navigate across changing landscapes and environments as there is limited signage. The Heysen Trail falls within classes 4-5 of the Australian Walking Tracks Classification, a rewarding challenge for the more experienced walker. Passing to the East of the Clare Valley, the trail passes through Riverton, Marrabel, Black Springs, World’s End and Burra before heading west through Hallett. This section of the Heysen Trail crosses Goyder’s Line which marks a dramatic change in the average rainfall. One minute you’re walking past green pastures and cropland, the next feels like you’re way up in the outback. Of course, you can choose to only walk a section of the trail, if 60 days of continuous hiking seems too strenuous.
Clare Valley Short Walks
From simple strolls to more serious slogs, these six short walks range from 1 to 4 hours and take in parts of the well-known Heysen, Lavender Federation and Riesling Trails, as well as the Spring Gully Conservation Park. Designed to give you a taste of the Clare Valley’s varied landscapes with many featuring a few places to eat and drink on the way. There is one to suit every skill level.
The Cascades Walk is a short moderate 1.3 km return walk through the Spring Gully Conservation Park, starting from Blue Gum Lookout where you get sweeping views from Gulf St Vincent to the Cascades, a waterfall that runs after sustained rains. Blue Gum Lookout features tables & benches so is a great place to enjoy a picnic lunch before you head off. Our hot tip is to visit during the Golden Hour at dusk or dawn when the sunlight hits the rockface creating the most incredible red glow.
The Clare to Sevenhill Short Walk is one of the most popular sections of the Riesling Trail. Call into iconic cellar doors and bakeries that are scattered along the trail, then link into the township of Sevenhill to check out the sights and sounds of the historic village or have a break and relax while your kids play at the Richardson Park Playspace. The Clare to Sevenhill Short Walk runs 7 kilometres one way and is suitable for recreational walkers, mountain and touring bikes, as well as wheelchairs and pushers.
Starting at Torr Park in the centre of the historic township of Mintaro, traverse along Mill, Wakefield and Short streets and then follow the Lavender Federation Trail to the magnificent and historic Martindale Hall located within the Martindale Hall Conservation Park. This section of the Lavender Federation Trail includes quiet, grassy back roads that take you past the Martindale Stud and through private property to show off exceptional views of rolling hills and the surrounding countryside.
Neagles Rock is 455m above sea level and in the early days of European colonisation, was a favourite picnic ground and remains a top lookout for the Clare Valley. The short walk features grassy covered hillsides with protruding red rock formations and is shaded by plenty of trees.
Follow the Riverton to Rhynie Short Walk along the old Spalding railway line and section of the Rattler Trail through beautiful open countryside. Take in the bright yellow canola fields from August to early October which offer spectacular photographic opportunities. Remember to tag us in your shots #visitclarevalley
Immerse yourself in the scenic Watervale region, well known for its world-class Riesling. Amble through the historic township of Watervale into classic Clare Valley countryside featuring vineyards, cellar doors and rolling hills, as you make your way to the Mount Horrocks lookout to enjoy the spectacular 360-degree views; some of the best in the region. This walk predominantly follows the Lavender Federation Trail and includes back roads which take you onto private property with a climb up to Mt Horrocks lookout. Unfortunately, you don’t climb Mount Horrocks itself, but the view is no less spectacular from the top! Our Regional Tourism Manager finds it easier to try this one in a four-wheel ATV!
Engage a local expert
The best way to explore any new place you visit is with a local guide. Theytake ‘love where you live’ to a whole new level. Tim Grigg has been a local for 15 years and is passionate about this region. Tim will jump at any opportunity to show visitors around, particularly by foot, whether you’re wanting a short 5km walk or 2 – 5 days hiking. Tim is so passionate, he’s actually one of the main instigators responsible for making the Wine & Wilderness Trail a highlight for the region, so naturally, his walking tours follow this route. His tours feature a number of wineries and restaurants and can be personalised to suit your needs. If you love the wine so much you have to take it home, Tim will collect it for you and drop it at your accommodation before you leave our region. How’s that for service. Get in touch with Tim to find out more.
If you want further advice, maps, or someone to talk to about your plans, drop into the Burra and Goyder Visitor Information Centre or the Clare Valley Wine, Food and Tourism Centre, passionate staff and volunteers would love to have a chat about your time in our region. If you find yourself over in Wakefield, the council office in Balaklava stocks a range of brochures.
Now that you have the latest on the fabulous walks and trails throughout the Clare Valley region, the only thing left to do is choose which one to try first!