Australia's Toughest 4WD Tracks

Posted on: 13/03/2017

Australia's toughest and roughest 4WD tracks

Some 4WD tracks are easy, some are rough, and some live in infamy for their potential brutality and level of difficulty. If you plan on driving any of these tracks, ensure you’re well-prepared both in body and spirit.

While these tracks are either technically challenging, mechanically taxing on a vehicle and its components or otherwise (or both), all are highly enjoyable to traverse, and each rewards those who come prepared. This relates to your choice of vehicle and its preparedness, relevant supplies and fuel as well as emergency plans in place for extended remote area travel.

1. Madigan Line to Geosurveys Hill, Simpson Desert

Geosurveys Hill is a rare rocky hill in the middle of the Simpson Desert, marked in the early 1960s by Reg Sprigg on his historic vehicular Simpson Desert crossing. 

Geosurveys Hill cairn in the Simpson Desert

Isolated in the middle of the desert and far away from the Simpson’s major routes – the Colson Track, Madigan Line and French Line – the journey to Geosurveys Hill is a hard slog whichever way you slice it.

Geosurveys Hill with the Map Patrol at sunset

Reaching the hill from the Madigan Line, which is already the most remote track in the Simpson, is a cross-country mission over spinifex and soft red sand. Concentration is paramount on this trip, as a lack of visitors to the hill means wheel tracks are often faint at best.

 NOTE: Access to Geosurveys Hill is no longer accessible under current permit structures.

2. The Old Coach Road, Cape York

Now considered to be the roughest 4WD track in Cape York, the Old Coach Road straddles the Great Dividing Range west of Lakeland.

Old Coach Road Cape York

While the Palmer River Goldfields region is fascinating for its links to (and remnants of) Queensland’s gold rush history, travellers often find their attention gets taken up by the challenge put forth by the Old Coach Road.

Old Coach Road Cape York downhill
Old Coach Road Cape York uphill


As you drive up and over the range, the track dishes up an onslaught of ascents and descents combined with washed-out and rutted sections, large rocks and the prospect of disaster if you choose the wrong line.

3. Ingeegoodbee Track, High Country Victoria

Located on the edge of Victoria in the Australian Alps, the Ingeegoodbee Track is a steep scramble through beautiful alpine scenery.

Ingeegoodbee Track rocky conditions and steep climbs

The drive towards Mount Menaak is a relentless climb that steadily unveils stunning views over the surrounding ranges of Alpine National Park, making the Ingeegoodbee’s history as a nineteenth-century stock route all the more impressive.

Mountain vista Ingeegoodbee Track

Once a key connection between Monaro and East Gippsland - and essential for both economies - the Ingeegoodbee Track is now known for being a four-wheel drive challenge of a rare pedigree.

4. Talawana Track, Western Australia

The final road built by Len Beadell and the Gunbarrel Road Construction Party in 1963 is today one of most punishing tracks in Australia.

Talawana Track in the Kimberley Australia

The Talawana is full of heavy corrugations and various washouts, so while it’s not incredibly technical, it is rough – both driver, occupants and vehicle best be prepared.

Connecting Windy Corner and the Marble Bar Road in remote Western Australia, the track skirts the edge of the rugged Rudall River National Park, and intersects with the epic Canning Stock Route, which to the initiated says a lot about the conditions travellers can expect.

5. Carson River Track, The Kimberley

Connecting Home Valley and the Kalumburu Road in the furthest reaches of the Northern Kimberley, the Carson River Track is a truly wild adventure.

Carson River Track in the Kimberley

It can take 10 days to traverse the 420km length of the track, such is number of rutted areas and all manner of rocks that cover this amazingly remote part of Western Australia.

The track takes a wide bend around the eastern side of Drysdale River National Park, through reasonably flat terrain with some fantastic views of the Seppelt, Collison and Campbell ranges to the west. Demanding enough to be a single trip in its own right, the Carson River Track is an unforgettable sojourn through the Kimberley’s wildest four-wheel driving country.

The above choices are lesser-known tests of an off-roaders mettle, though honourable mentions must go to some more universal choices for this list: the Old Telegraph Track early in the Dry season, the Canning Stock Route’s 1600km of endless desert and outback driving, the Gunbarrel Highway’s similarly intimidating reputation, as well as the High Country’s Billy Goat Bluff Track, just to name a few.