A Hiker’s Guide to Trail Grades in Australia and New Zealand | Walk91

The Great Ocean Walk is not a particularly difficult hike if you have a moderate fitness level. In fact, it is often used by walkers as a ‘warm-up’ hike for harder walks they would like to tackle all over the world. However, whether you are an experienced walker or if you are a novice and the Great Ocean Walk trail is your first multi-day walk, it pays to get a good idea of what to expect before you walk.

Grading systems are designed to help you decide what tracks are appropriate for you to walk depending on your fitness and experience levels. This system works very well when comparing trails within Australia, but they can be confusing when looking into hikes overseas, or if you are used to international grading systems.

Have a look below for a rough guide to the Australian Walking Track Grading System

It helps to remember that when a hike is allocated a grade, it is based on the highest score the trail meets in any criteria. That means if the trail is 8km with a well-formed track, but has for example one short steep hill, it will be allocated at a grade 3. 

With this in mind, make sure you get all the info about a track before judging it based on the grading. It might be an easy-to-follow trail with a couple of obstacles (like a steep hill) or it might be a trail with no obstacles that just proves very hard to follow!

Below are some examples of popular hikes and their allocated grades.

A person in a hat, white shirt, and pink shorts hikes up a trail near a coastline, with ocean waves and greenery in the background.

The Great Ocean Walk Grading

The Great Ocean Walk is a grade 3-4. Easier days are regarded a Grade 3, whilst harder days are graded a 4. However, an ‘easy’ day may have some tidal beaches and river crossings you need to consider. 

If you are planning your own walk please refer to the Parks Victoria website for more information. But, if you are looking for a hassle-free hiking holiday with plenty of support, check out our walking options. They include thorough walk briefings when you arrive in town informing you of everything from tides, weather, and what to expect on-trail each day, which definitely takes the stress out of planning your walk.  There are 3-day, 4-day, 5-day, 6-day and 7-day options to choose from depending on your fitness levels and the time you have available.

Two hikers, one man and one woman, stand on a trail with walking poles. They are surrounded by lush greenery and have a distant view of water and hills.

Wilsons Promontory Circuit

Wilsons Promontory Circuit is a grade 3-4 (mostly grade 3, with some tidal beaches and steep climbs). Parks Victoria is the best place to start when planning this hike.

The Overland Track

The Overland Track is a grade 4. At times the track is very steep, rough and muddy, and highly variable with regards to weather conditions. When planning the Overland track, please visit the Parks Tasmania website.

Australian Walking Track Grading System summary:

A chart detailing the Australian Walking Track Grading System with grades from 1 to 5, describing distance, terrain difficulty, path quality, signage, time, and bushwalking experience requirements.
Walk91 rough guide to grading in Australia

New Zealand Grading System:

New Zealand uses a different grading system for their trails, however by looking at the table below you’ll notice that they are not wildly different to ours. 

The Department of Conservation does not use number grades, but they have been included here for ease of comparison. 

*When heading out on your walks, please consider the environment and adhere to ‘leave no trace’ principles. This includes planning, bringing the appropriate equipment and being prepared to walk through muddy sections of trail rather than around them. 

**Tramping and bushwalking are the same.

We hope that this guide has given you an idea of what the Grading System means, and if you would like further support whilst you are walking the Great Ocean Walk, just contact us.

We are locals living in Apollo Bay, so we are always only a ‘stone’s throw’ away if things don’t go quite as well as you thought they would. (It might just be as simple as a little help if your old knee injury is playing up, or if your walking companion is not quite as fit as they remembered!) We know at Walk91 that the unknown is all part of the fun and adventure, but it’s great to know that by having us around we are happy to come to the rescue if you need us!