Experience the Red Centre in all its glory!

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If you want to get out there, then the Northern Territory’s Red Centre is as ‘out there’ as it gets. In part one of our three-part feature on walking in the Red Centre we focus on the timeless beauty of the West MacDonnell Range, west of Alice Springs.

Speaking of Alice, this top town makes a great jumping off point for all your adventures. Stay and explore art galleries showcasing a range of indigenous artists or how about getting your hands dirty at a dot paint class while you’re at it? When not explore the Alice Springs Desert Park, the nocturnal tour is excellent, or go on an astronomy tour at Earth Sanctuary.

Get on a bike for some world-class techy and single flowy trails (the annual RedBack mountain bike event is held here), then hire a car and drive out to the national parks to explore some gorge-ous walks, spectacular views and jump into a swimming hole – or two.


Caption: Ormiston Gorge at Tjoritja, West MacDonnell NP. Tourism NT, Matt Cherubino

Orminston Pound Walk, 8.5km circuit One of the best walks in West MacDonnell Range NP, this circuit starts from the carpark at Orminston Gorge and takes you along the gorge to the waterhole. Follow the red and rocky path and cross the slopes to the waterhole where you can treat yourself to a refreshing dip before heading back.

Once you cross the main waterhole, you can choose to head back along the creek bed, but if you have the time take the Ghost Gum walk back instead. It takes you up onto the ridge with views of the gorge and the Orminston complex. Tip – on the way home stop in at the Ochre Pits.


Caption: Hiking the Larapinta Trail in the West Macs. Tourism NT/Paddy Pallin

Standley Chasm, 2.4km loop 50km west of Alice Springs is Standley Chasm and it’s worth a visit. Just imagine walking a narrow 3m path through an 80m high sandstone gorge, squeezing in between giant boulders on either side. It’s also one the whole family can enjoy on an easy in and out walk that runs along a shady gully. The chasm is sacred to Arrernte women so if you have the time, take the cultural tour to find out why.

Looking for a challenge? Try part of the Larapinta Trail, along Section 3 – a 3km walk from the Chasm to Angkale Junction and back. Follow the usual trail before turning off onto the Larapinta Trail. Its steep uphills reward you with the best views of the area, after all, what goes up, must look down.

Finke Gorge NP Just past the West Macs is Finke Gorge NP, best explored on 4WD or on two feet. If you don’t have a 4WD you can join a tour, but if you’re hiring one, check out the Parks and Wildlife office or the Visitor Information Centre in Alice Springs for some 4WD maps of the park and get exploring. You also get the chance to drive along one of the oldest rivers in the world, the Finke River which dates back some 350 million years.


Caption: Camping in the West MacDonnell Range National Park. Tourism NT/Paddy Pallin

Mpulungkinya Walk, 5km loop A green walk in a red desert. It’s the longest walk in the national park and starts at the Palm Valley parking area via 4WD track before taking you through the gorge along the Palm Valley floor, then halfway through, back up onto the plateau above for some awesome views –different to anything else in the Red Centre.

It’s famous for its cabbage palms that still call the area home from when Central Australia was covered by rainforest millions of years ago. It’s like walking through an oasis in the desert. The camping spot here really offers a ‘way from it all’ experience.

Watarrka NP Further west and a smidgen south is the go-big-or-go-home Watarrka NP that showcases some pretty BIG stuff. Most famous for the mighty Kings Canyon with its 300m high sandstone walls and panoramic views, this national park is more than just a day trip.

Check out the walks, chopper flights over the canyon, 4x4 tours, glamping or resort style accommodations, and an outback dining experience called ‘Under a Desert Moon’ by the Kings Canyon Resort.


Caption: The scenery at Kings Canyon is breathtaking. Tourism NT, Nic Morley

Kings Canyon Rim Walk, 6km circuit A walk that should be an icon. The first 500 steps are basically a vertical climb with nothing to hold onto, except for the prospect of amazing views. It’s the most challenging part of the walk but you will be rewarded with a 360-degree panoramic view before you go down to the Garden of Eden, a rockhole surrounded by rare foliage.

The sheer size of the canyon walls paired with views of deep valleys, sandstone domes, and crevices makes the climb worth it. Take some pics at Priscilla’s Crack, twin rocks with a narrow gap made famous from the Priscilla Queen of the Desert movie. If you’ve got extra time extend the Rim walk and go to the lookout at Watarrka Lookout – 1.5 hours one way.

Kings Canyon

Caption: The walks around Kings Canyon are well signposted.

Giles Track, 22km one way The longest walk in the park, this one-way trip takes you from Kings Canyon to Kathleen Springs or vice versa from one carpark to the other. It follows the southern rim of the range and passes dramatic views of a wild landscape.

Marked with orange track markers, it’s recommended that you locate the next marker before leaving your current location due to the harsh weather conditions of the area. You can complete the walk in two days with camping allowed anywhere between the 3km-20km track markers, however, a choice campsite is Reedy Creek.

For more info on exploring the Red Centre click here.

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