Laura shares why she loves to hike alone and what she’s learnt on Australia’s walking trails

Laura shares why she loves to hike alone and what she’s learnt on Australia’s walking trails
  • PublishedMay 12, 2024

Laura Waddell says she learns something new on every hike.

A quick scroll through the 23-year-old’s social media feeds reveals she’s learnt a lot on her many hikes — and these treks are often multi-day solo adventures.

Laura is from Northern Rivers on Bundjalung country in New South Wales and says she’s been day-hiking and bushwalking for as long as she can remember.

A woman with long brunette hair smiling at the camera. A mountainous green landscape stretches out behind her.
Laura Waddell says hiking has improved her fitness and self-confidence.(Supplied: Laura Waddell)

She began to take on longer treks after a trip to Tasmania in 2022, where she discovered longer hikes she wanted to do but didn’t have any of the overnight gear for.

Laura came home and told her mum about them.

“We decided to come back down to Tasmania the following year for her birthday and together with my dad walked the Overland Track,” she says.

“We’re all outdoorsy people but this was the first big backpacking trip for any of us, so we really had no clue about gear or what we were doing.”

Laura’s first solo overnight hike was Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk, an experience of solitude she enjoyed so much, she continues to hike that way regularly as she travels Australia working casual hospitality and retail gigs.

What’s to gain?

Laura says hiking lets her explore “incredible new places” she wouldn’t see any other way, and doing it alone allows her to be “completely selfish” with her time.

She says solo hiking means you can pick the pace, the distance and “camp up all day and relax and read a book” whenever you want.

Hikes take time compared to the “really quick sense of adventure” that comes with something like skydiving or bungee jumping, Laura says (she’s done both).

“It’s kind of like a build-up … so you get all the views along the way and each little thing just adds up to one massive finale at the end,” she says.

“You can definitely get quicker experiences, but it’s not the same level of reward.

On the quieter trails, Laura says she has gone days without seeing anyone.

But for those who worry solo hiking might not involve any interaction at all, Laura says it can actually make it easier to meet other people and groups along the way — if you’re so inclined.

‘Hike your own hike’

Laura says solo hikes are “definitely a different challenge” to hikes with others and can be as much a psychological as a physical one.

Laura says her favourite tip for others who want to try solo hiking is to ‘hike your own hike’..

“[It] quite simply means to do what feels right for you. Don’t worry about how fast, slow or far anyone else is going.”

She recommends starting with solo day hikes and building up difficulty.

“Once you’re confident with day hikes move on to an overnight hike then multi day trails.”

This is a good idea for building physical fitness and adjusting to carrying all the gear, but also for getting comfortable with solitude.

“Starting out you might feel a bit uncomfortable,” Laura says, adding that it can “feel a bit scary” at night in remote areas.

She recently discovered the sound deer make at night in breeding season, which initially “absolutely freaked [her] out”.

Planning tips

You can get a “better idea of what to expect” by “researching, reading, and watching videos”, which is part of why she began documenting and sharing her hikes on social media.

Hiking some popular trails – such as Tasmania’s Overland Track – involves booking seasons and permits, Laura explains, while others don’t require booking ahead.

She says it’s something to keep in mind for planning purposes, along with weather conditions, navigational difficulty, and whether you’ll need food drops or any transport.

“There’s always going to be uncertainties, which does add to the adventure, and it feels more rewarding that you’ve gotten through those challenges.”

Laura says she’s prone to spontaneity and spends less time planning than many but to work within your own capabilities and comfort zone.

She says to “make yourself as safe as possible” and control what you can on a hike. 

Laura mentions hanging food away from where she’s sleeping to avoid unnecessary interaction with wild animals as an example. 

She always carries a personal locator beacon (PLB) and says it’s “a must for safety”, as well as a medical kit and phone.  

It’s also important to let others know your plans. 

Because costs can add up quickly, “especially for good quality lightweight gear”, she suggests borrowing from friends, renting gear or, buying second-hand to start with.

Laura recommends

Scenic trails that are good for beginners:

  • Victoria’s Great Ocean Walk
  • Western Australia’s Cape to Cape track

A little more challenging but with “stunning views”:

  • The Northern Territory’s Larapinta Trail
  • Tasmania’s Overland track

Big ones:

  • Western Australia’s Bibbulmun Track, which Laura says could be a great introduction to “thru-hiking”, which means to hike a long-distance trail from one end to the other.
  • The Australian Alps Walking Tracks, another long option she recently hiked, which stretches across the Australian Capital Territory, New South Wales and Victoria.


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