Embark on the arduous five-day Jatbula Trail in Nitmiluk National Park for off-the-beaten-track scenery, waterfalls and Jawoyn Aboriginal rock art.
The Jatbula Trail is a 62 km one way walk, departing from Nitmiluk Gorge, traversing through the western edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment over sandstone plateau scrub, woodlands, monsoon forests and riverine landscapes finishing at Leilyn (Edith Falls) You will walk in the footsteps of generations of Jawoyn who traditionally travelled through parts of the trail.
The trail can be completed in 5 days/4 nights or 6 days/5 nights with each night spent at a stunning campsite close to a babbling spring, cascade or a plunging waterfall.
Jatbula Trail overview
Day 1 – Nitmiluk to Biddlecombe Cascades – 8.3 km
Day 2 – Biddlecombe to Crystal Falls – 11 km
Day 3 – Crystal Falls to 17 Mile Falls – 10 km
Day 4 – 17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp – 16.8 km
Day 5 – Sandy Camp to Sweetwater Pool 11.1 km or via Leliyn 15.6 km
Day 6 – Sweetwater (overnight) to Leliyn – 4.5 km
The Jatbula Trail is graded as medium to hard. You need to be reasonably fit with some bushwalking experience as it involves carrying heavy loads over rough ground. Read more about the walking track grading system.
The walk can be completed in five or six days. Camping is only allowed for one night at each site along the trail.
Leliyn is not a campsite on the trail and separate fees will apply if you wish to camp there.
Book your walk
The trail has a limit of 15 walkers leaving each day so you will need to book.
Bookings open on 1 November for the following year.
A camping fee needs to be paid with your booking. The fees are:
$3.30 per adult/night
$1.65 per child/night
You can book online at http://www.au.v3travel.com/cabs4/Pages/Availability.aspx?exl_dn=aaa_mywebsite&exl_psn=pawcnt&exl_prd=1,3
When to walk
The best time of year to walk the Jatbula Trail is from 1 June to 30 September.
During the cooler months, from June to August, the temperatures range from 30 degrees Celsius during the day dropping to 10 degrees Celsius at night.
Conditions on the trail start to heat up in mid-August with temperatures rising to over 40 degrees Celsius from October to late November.
From December to April the trail is difficult due to high temperatures and humidity, monsoonal rain and the risk of flooding. Increased vegetation growth in the wet season can also hide trail markers, adding to the difficulty.
It is possible to walk the Jatbula Trail between 1 October and 31 May but you must be experienced, well prepared and you will need special permission from parks.
You must apply in writing for special permission to email@example.com.
Starts at the Nitmiluk Visitor Centre, Nitmiluk National Park (Katherine Gorge), Katherine, Northern Territory
Getting to the trail
The walk is one way only and starts at Nitmiluk Gorge.
You can be picked up from the town of Katherine which is 27km from Nitmiluk Gorge.
You will then need to take a ferry from Nitmiluk Gorge to the start of the trail near 17 Mile Creek.
The ferry costs $8.50 per person.
Ferries depart daily at 7am, 9am and 11am.
To book call the Nitmiluk visitor centre on 1800146 743.
Getting from the trail
The trail finishes at Leliyn and you can be transferred to either Katherine or to the Nitmiluk visitor centre.
Leliyn to Katherine is 63km or approximately 45 minutes drive
Leliyn to Nitmiluk Gorge is 90km or approximately 1 hour drive.
How to book your transport
The following companies provide ground transfers:
Gecko Canoeing and Trekking
Phone: (08) 8972 2224
Phone: (08) 8971 9999
Remember to tell someone outside of your group of your travel plans in case of an emergency.
Cars and public parking
Public parking is available at both ends of the trail, but be sure to tell the parks desk or Leliyn kiosk your name, car details and return date.
There are a number of bus and airlines services that provide regular return travel between Darwin and Katherine.
About the region
Nitmiluk National Park
You’ll be drawn to the majestic beauty and sheer size of the spectacular Nitmiluk Gorge.
Located on the lands of the Jawoyn people, rock art sites dot the park and dreaming stories bring the silent gorge walls to life. You can learn about the Jawoyn people’s association with the land at the Nitmiluk Centre or by taking a boat cruise of the first few gorges. Take sunrise or sunset cruises and see the gorge turn all shades of mauve and red.
There are canoes for hire or you can get a permit to use your own canoe from the Nitmiluk National Park Visitor Centre. You can canoe to the fourth, sixth and ninth gorges and camp overnight, but make sure you book ahead of time by calling Nitmiluk Tours on (08) 8972 1253 or 1300 146 743.
You can use fishing lures in areas of the Katherine River, but fishing is not permitted in Edith Falls. Walkers have plenty of trails to choose from and waterfalls to see, but the ultimate trek is the 62km Jatbula Trail. To fully experience Nitmiluk Gorge, take a helicopter ride and get set down for a swim in one of the harder to reach gorges.
For more information on these trails please visit the Do the NT.