A Guide to Hiking the Kokoda Track, Papua New Guinea

A gruelling 96km track through the jungle of Papua New Guinea, that is so much more than just a hike. The site of a battle between Australian Soldiers and the Japanese during World War II, a hike that has so much meaning and history. Here’s a guide to hiking the Kokoda Track. 

A good 5 years ago now, 17-year-old Emma flew overseas for the very first time, and that plane took me to Papua New Guinea. Yep, you read that right. My first overseas trip was to PNG, to hike the Kokoda Track.

Armed with a 20kg backpack full of hiking gear (that I had to carry), and a bunch of other students from my school, I was naïve and thinking, hey, this will be a piece of cake. Spoiler, it wasn’t a piece of cake. But It was one of the best experiences of my life. One of those experiences that shapes who you are as a person, that changes you.

When my school announced that they would be taking 12 students to do the Kokoda Track with the Duke of Edinburgh program, no one thought I would be going. I don’t think I even thought I would be. But a whole lot of testing later, there I was.

The Kokoda Track was really my first taste of hiking, I’d never done much of it before. Particularly long, gruelling, multi day hikes. But, 6 years later, I’m an avid multi day hiker and that all stemmed from those 10 days in the jungle of Papua New Guinea. Since I’ve conquered Kilimanjaro, as well as Everest and Annapurna Base Camp, with plenty more plans for the future.

The Kokoda Track will easily be one of the most memorable, life changing things you can ever do. I can’t recommend it enough. Its easily one of the most epic hikes in the world. Here’s a guide to hiking the Kokoda Track.

Hike details

  • Length: 96km
  • Estimated time: 8-10 days
  • Altitude: 2,490m
  • Difficulty: Moderate-hard
Kokoda track Papua New Guinea
by Luke Brindley

A little bit of history of Kokoda Track

The Kokoda Track was where the Battle of Kokoda took place during World War II between 1942 and 1943, between the Japanese and Australian forces.

What to expect

Long, humid days. Mud and rain. Gruelling ascents followed by some pretty awful descents. Scrambling up and down rocks in the pouring rain. Your legs aching and lungs struggling, and everyone step makes you want to chuck that 20kg pack from your back even more.

Spending the nights camping in beautiful villages. Getting to know the wonderful locals, putting smiles on children’s faces. Swimming in the rivers after hiking 10km in a day. Most importantly, history. Walking in the footsteps of our Australian Soldiers. Remembering that no matter how hard we think it is, what was it like for them? Remembering what they gave up, for our country.

Yeah, it’s a tough hike. But it’s also moving, it’s a way to pay homage and it will be one of the best experiences of your life.

Trek details

The Kokoda Track is 96km long, and stretches through the jungle of Papua New Guinea, straight through the Owen Stanley Range, stretching from Ower’s Corner, just north of Port Moresby, and ends at Kokoda Station, just near Kokoda Village. The track passes over Mount Bellamy, at which you reach the highest altitude of the trek – 2,490m.

General trekking itinerary

Below is a general trekking itinerary which mirrors the itinerary I did, from Ower’s Corner to Kokoda.

Day 1: Ower’s Corner to Ioribaiwa

Descend from Owers Corner to the Goldie River, which is the first of many river crossings, before climbing Imita. It is here that the Australian’s turned the tide in the battle, and while camped on the ridge, forced the Japanese to retreat to. Descend and cross the river several times before ascending again to Ioribaiwa Village.

by Arthur Chapman

Day 2: Ioribaiwa to Nauro

Start the day with a short ascent to the top of Ioribaiwa, before descending and crossing Ofi Creek. Ascent to the village of Nauro for the night, which is on the hillside in the Maguli Range.

by Arthur Chapman

Day 3: Nauro to Menari

Descend and make your way through the Brown River Valley, which offers many great swimming spots. Make the difficult climb up what is referred to as ‘The Wall’, one of the steepest climbs of the trek, some of which you have to use your hands to climb up. Stop for the night at Menari Village, one of the largest villages in the area.

by Arthur Chapman

Day 4: Menari to Efogi

Start the day ascending Brigade Hill, which is a tough climb to the location of one the most famous battles of the Kokoda campaign. It was here that a night time Japanese flanking manoeuvre saw Brigadier Potts cut off from the 3 batallions under his command, where 2 of the batallions managed to regain the Australian lines, but the 3rd, 2/27thBatallion, who had only been in battle for one day, became lost in the jungle for 3 long weeks.

by Arthur Chapman

Descend to the village of Efogi which is the largest on the track, and one of the best places to spend the afternoon swimming in the nearby river.

Day 5: Efogi to Village 1990

Climb Mount Bellami, which is the highest part of the track before camping at the abandoned Village 1990.

Day 6: Village 1990 to Templeton’s crossing

Descend into the Eora Creek Valley before making camp at Templeton’s crossing. Named after ‘Uncle’ Sam Templeton, Captain of the 39thBatallion who lost his life in the early stages of the battle.

Day 7: Templeton’s Crossing to Isurava Memorial

Visit the Oila Base Japanese War Memorial before passing through Eora Creek, the site of a fierce battle which marked the last stand of the Japanese in the ranges. Camp at the Isurava Memorial Site.

Isurava Memorial
by Arthur Chapman

Day 8: Isurava Memorial to Kokoda

Wake up early for a memorial service at Isurava, which is a testament to the courage, endurance, mateship and sacrifice of the diggers. Descend to the Eora Creek Valley before Deniki, before descending through the Yodda Valley, to Kokoda, the finishing point of the trek.

How do you train for the Kokoda Trail?

Kokoda takes a couple of things. Grit, determination, strong will, and fitness. You want to be prepared for long days of hiking on up and down on the gruelling track. You want strong legs and great cardiovascular fitness.

Depending on how you plan to do the track, you may be carrying all of your gear, which can be upwards of 20kg in your backpack (this is what we did!). In this case, you want to make sure you do lots of training with a heavy backpack on hills to make sure you are prepared for the load you will be carrying on your back.

The longer you have to prepare and train, the better. I’d recommend atleast 3+ months for serious training, but the longer the better.

If you are looking for help with your training, let me know! I’m a qualified strength and conditioning coach specialising in getting you fit for long distance multi-day hikes, and I’d love to help you reach your goals. Find out more here.

Getting there and away

Papua New Guinea’s main international airport is Jacksonville International Airport, which is just outside of Port Moresby. You will need to fly in and out of here when doing Kokoda. Find the best deals for flights on Skyscanner.

All tours generally include transportation to and from the start and end of the track. The start of the track is at Owers Corner, where you will likely stay nearby the night before and make the early morning drive to the start of the track. The end of the track, at Kokoda Village, means you will need to get a tiny charter flight out back to Port Moresby.

Where to stay in Papua New Guinea

Before your trek (the outskirts of Port Moresby)

  • Kokoda Trail Motel: The perfect place to stay close to the starting point of the trek.
    After your trek (Port Moresby)

  • Crowne Plaza Port Moresby: Indulging in a little luxury after you complete the trek is necessary, and you won’t be disappointed at Crowne Plaza Residences Port Moresby. Enjoy food at the on site restaurant and bar, and get an amazing nights sleep in the super comfy beds.

Kokoda Track packing list

It is likely that your tour company will give you an in-depth packing list with everything you need. Here’s a general guide to what you need to pack for your trek.

  • Good, worn in, hiking boots
  • River crossing/camp shoes
  • Several pairs of good hiking socks plus socks to wear at night
  • Moisture wicking underwear
  • Several pairs of moisture wicking hiking shorts/pants and shirts
  • A set of thermals – Polypro or Merino.
  • A fleece or warm jacket
  • Waterproof jacket and pants
  • Hat and sunglasses
  • Gaiters
  • Trekking poles – or you can pick up a stick on the track. Black Diamond poles are my favorite.
  • A backpack and waterproof pack cover- size will depend on if you are carrying your own gear. I did, so my back was a 60L pack. If you are not carrying your own gear, you will only need a day pack, between 10-20 liters.
  • Water bladder and a water bottle – I recommend at least a 2L bladder and 1L bottle.
  • Water purification tablets or other means of purification (I like to use Aquatabs or a Steri-pen)
  • Sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Tents are usually supplied by your trekking company.
  • A quick dry towel
  • Cutlery set and a bowl + plate
  • Head torch and spare batteries
  • Sunscreen
  • Moisturiser and lip balm with SPF
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Wet wipes and toilet paper
  • Deodorant
  • Soap
  • Hair brush, hair ties etc.
  • Insect repellent
  • A good first aid kit. This should include, at a minimum: Nurofen or Panadol, cold and flu tablets, Imodium, anti-histamines, plenty of band-aids of all sizes, bandages, foot drying powder, electrolytes, vaseline and a form of Voltaren gel.
  • Camera, go-pro or phone for photos and a portable charger/spare batteries

Trip planning resources

Planning or booking a trip? Here are some of my favourite sites and resources!

  • Booking.com: My favourite for booking hotels!
  • Skyscanner: Find all the best flight deals!
  • TripAdvisor: Read reviews for just about anything.
  • Get Your Guide: The best place for booking day trips, tours and tickets.
  • Tour Radar: If group tours are more your thing, search tours here!
  • Travel Insurance: Never travel without insurance, you never know when you might need it! I recommend Travelex Travel Insurance.

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Happy travelling (and hiking!),