Since many travellers to the Northern Territory include a trip to Katherine Gorge in their itinerary, Jatbula Trail is well placed for those keen to escape the area’s tourist core. This five to six-day hike begins at the mouth of Katherine Gorge and snakes along the Arnhem Land escarpment, weaving its way through the territory’s signature grasslands and red rocks while providing access to some wonderfully secluded outback destinations.
Due to the intense heat in this region, the key to this trail is to start hiking every day around dawn to ensure you make it to your next campsite by midday. These campsites, which are all spaced between 11km and 16km apart, are little oases, reserved exclusively for the use of Jatbula Trail hikers. As such, only those who venture along this path will be able to enjoy camping on the edge of the 30m-high 17 Mile Falls, or next to the mirror-like waters at Sandy Camp. Each day of hiking ends at a water source, be it a stream, waterfall or lagoon-like section of the Edith River, meaning that once a hiker reaches the camp, they have a cool pool of water in which to escape the hottest part of the day.
Another highlight of this NT hike is the Amphitheatre. Situated about an hour before 17 Mile Falls, the Amphitheatre is a shaded gorge housing one of Nitmiluk National Park's finest Aboriginal rock-art sites, with ochre images of the Jawoyn people and emus clearly visible (it goes without saying, but look, don’t touch).
Perhaps one of the best things about this hike is that access is limited to 15 walkers every day. This means you are guaranteed that certain serenity you can only find in the far reaches of Australia's Top End. It also means that you’ll need to book your place in advance, which you can do online. If hiking independently, camping fees are $3.30 per adult/night and $1.65 per child/night. However, tour companies also offer guided hikes if required.