Walking tracks policy

National parks can be explored through many types of walking tracks. Some walking tracks are used more heavily than others.

Grand Canyon walking track in Blue Mountains National ParkAustralian Standard (AS) 2156 sets out 6 classes of walking track. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) aims to provide a variety of tracks in these 6 classes to meet the needs of park users.


  1. Walking tracks must be planned in accordance with:
    • the park's plan of management or statement of interim management intent
    • the Park Visitor Facilities Policy (internal document available to staff)
    • the Park Facilities Manual (internal document available to staff), which includes technical descriptions of the 6 classes of walking track outlined in AS 2156.
  2. Tracks must be appropriately located and designed to minimise environmental impacts, and be appropriate to the setting, as noted in Sustainability Assessment Criteria for Visitor Use and Tourism in New South Wales National Parks. The planning, development and management of walking tracks should also consider:
    • public safety issues
    • how the track fits within other walking opportunities, such as off-park tracks
    • opportunities to provide access for people with disabilities
    • resources needed to keep the track maintained.
  3. Generally, only pedestrians are allowed on walking tracks unless a track has been designated as suitable for other users through a park's plan of management and the installation of signs. (People using motorised wheelchairs and other disability aids are 'pedestrians' for the purpose of this paragraph.)
  4. NPWS may close a walking track or part of a track, either permanently or temporarily, for park management or visitor safety reasons.
  5. The Australian Walking Track Grading System (AWTGS) is a means of informing the public about the features of a walking track so that visitors can confidently determine which tracks are appropriate for them. The AWTGS includes standard symbols and text for communicating walking track experiences.
  6. Information and signs to communicate walking track experiences are to be provided in accordance with the Park Signage Manual (internal document available to staff).
  7. In some places it's appropriate to use interpretative signs to help visitors learn about parks. Such signs are most often used for tracks that correspond to Grades 1 and 2 of the AWTGS. They should explain natural and cultural features and their interrelationships, rather than simply naming features.


  1. Walking track classes are used to guide:
    • the regular maintenance of existing tracks, using the NPWS Asset Management System
    • the design and construction of new tracks.
  2. Tracks must be constructed and maintained to meet:
    • requirements in the Park Visitor Facilities Manual (internal document available to staff)
    • standard environmental planning and assessment guidelines (see Review of Environmental Factors guidelines)
    • standard construction assessment and approvals process
    • standard approvals under the Heritage Act 1977 where the track, or an element of the track, is an item on the State Heritage Register.
  3. Walking tracks may be designated as multi-use if the track has suitable visibility, width, surface condition and gradient for multiple users (refer to the Cycling Policy). Multi-use tracks used primarily for walking must still be designed and classified in accordance with AS 2156.
  1. The Australian Walking Track Grading System (AWTGS) is used to inform the public of the characteristics of a walking track. The grade of a walking track is based on its difficulty. It also guides the quantity and content of information and directional signs on tracks.
  2. Signs or other material (brochures or web content) may be used to communicate information about a track. If so, the information must at least include a track's:
    • grade (difficulty) – for example, grade 1
    • length – for example, 10 kilometres
    • identifying symbol – for example, a sign indicating the track is wheelchair accessible.
  3. Identifying symbols for walking track grades can be found in the catalogue of symbols and logos in the Park Signage Manual (internal document available to staff). These should be used on signs which communicate that a range of walking track experiences are available in a park or precinct, such as:
    • minor entry signs
    • standalone entry signs
    • primary directional symbol bars.
  4. Signage is generally not appropriate in very remote settings, so signs that communicate the features of a walking track should usually be located only at trail heads (unless there are specific safety or other reasons for additional signage in those locations). The Park Signage Manual (internal document available to staff) offers further guidance on the kinds of signs appropriate for different settings.
  5. To help visitors plan their park visit, the full suite of information about a walking track should (if possible) be provided in brochures, on websites and information boards, or through other means. This information should include the minimum details listed in paragraph 12 of this policy, and may include other relevant information such as:
    • gradient
    • quality of path
    • quality of markings
    • experience required
    • time required
    • steps (if relevant).

Policy adopted June 1989
Policy last updated April 2021

Scope and application

This policy applies to all lands acquired or reserved under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974 (NPW Act) except for lands reserved under Part 4A of the Act (unless the Board of Management for those lands has adopted the policy). However, NPWS staff can use the policy as guidance in their dealings with Boards of Management.


This policy is intended to help NPWS staff:

  • meet government and industry standards in the design and classification of walking tracks
  • provide a range of walking experiences in parks that is suitable to the location and setting
  • provide a quality walking experience for park visitors that fosters public appreciation, understanding and enjoyment of natural and cultural heritage in parks
  • effectively communicate the different types of walking track experiences that are available in parks.


Australian Standard (AS) 2156 provides a classification system for walking tracks, and guidance for the design, fabrication and use of track markers and information signs for walking tracks.

Management trail means a vehicle trail maintained to facilitate park management activities and which is generally not open to public vehicular access.

Park means a reserve gazetted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act 1974, including a national park, nature reserve, historic site, Aboriginal area, state conservation area, karst conservation reserve, regional park or any land acquired by the Minister under Part 11 of the Act.

Plan of management means a plan prepared under section 72 of the NPW Act for land reserved under the Act. Where a park does not have a plan of management, a statement of management intent applies.

Walking track means a track or other access way that is not open to motorised vehicles (other than motorised wheelchairs and other mobility devices).

Walking track class means the classification of the track based on the technical descriptors prescribed by Australian Standard 2156.

Walking track grade means the term used to inform the public about the difficulty of a walking track.