Trek Notes - Australia

Larapinta Trail

14-Day End To End

Situated in the heart of Central Australia, the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell Ranges was completed in 2002 and is divided into 12 sections, each a one to two day walk. The entire trail extends over 223km's and has acquired an international reputation as a tough challenging trek, prompting National Geographic to number it among the top 20 such experiences to be had on the planet.

The trail is made up of 12 interconnected sections which are graded between 3 and 5 according to the Australian Trail Standards and so cater for hikers of varying abilities (see map below). It provides walkers with an unequalled opportunity to experience the West MacDonnell Ranges from its snaking trails, gorges and plains on the desert floor to breathtaking vistas from its numerous peaks and ridges. Some of the key attractions of the ranges include Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Standley Chasm and Glen Helen. It is the country that the famous artist Albert Namatjira used as his inspiration with its rugged peaks, rolling hills, spinifex and all shades of red imaginable.

The MacDonnell Ranges stretch for over 400km in an east-west direction in parallel ridges with flat valleys between. From a break in the ranges called The Gap, where the Stuart Highway passes through just south of Alice Springs, they are split into the East MacDonnell and West MacDonnell Ranges. They were formed through massive earth movements some 300 million years ago, breaking up what was then a sea bed as fossil remains testify. Importantly, the ranges facilitate a number of permanent water holes and provide sanctuary to a large number of plant and animal species that make the Larapinta such an awe inspiring trek.

Arrival Day
Arrive in Alice Springs - 6.00pm Start

Arrive at leisure today and check into your hotel.

We meet at 6.00pm in the foyer of the hotel where you will meet the rest of the members of your group to discuss the coming days with your guide.

If you arrive earlier during the day you might like to enjoy the sights and sounds of the bustling heart of the Red Centre before leaving it all behind for the desolate outback. Browse Aboriginal artworks at Central Australia's best art galleries. This is also a good time to ensure you have all articles needed for your Larapinta Trail walk.

Overnight Alice Springs Accommodation.

Walking Day 1 - Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Simpson's Gap (B,L,D)

We start with a walk of approximately 20km beginning from the outskirts of Alice Springs near the Alice Springs Telegraph Station west to Simpson's Gap. This walk features superb views over Alice Springs and the surrounding lowlands and traces part of the historic Overland Telegraph Line route. Visitors also follow the Aboriginal Dreaming Track of an ancient euro (hill kangaroo), ancestor of the modern species of euro, also known as wallaroo along with superb bird watching opportunities. We arrive at our camp in the late afternoon after a long but exhilarating first days walk.

Walking Day 2 - Simpson's Gap to Jay Creek (B,L,D)

Section 2 is a 24.5km section of the Larapinta Trail. Some of the highlights for this section include passing through the home of one of the few brushtail possum colonies in central Australia and exploring a landscape of rock outcrops that is over 2,000 million years old.

Walking Day 3 - Jay Creek to Standley Chasm (B,L,D)

Today we tackle Section 3, a 13.6km section that is quite challenging and covers some of the steepest and most rugged country in the ranges.

Walking Day 4 - Standley Chasm to Birthday Waterhole (B,L,D)

Section 4 is a 17.7km section of the trail that follows the high quartzite ridges of the Chewings Range to the summit of Brinkley Bluff where walkers are rewarded with breathtaking views in all directions. Steeply descending from the bluff the trail enters Stuart's Pass, an upper branch of the Hugh River. It then follows the river valley to Birthday Waterhole, our base for the night.  

Walking Day 5 - Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge (B,L,D)

Section 5 is a challenging 16km section of the Larapinta Trail that passes through Spencer Gorge before negotiating the spine of Razorback Ridge and then down narrow Linear Valley to the junction with the Hugh River. The trail then follows natural watercourses and it may be necessary to negotiate pools of water within Hugh Gorge.

Walking Day 6 - Rest Day Hugh Gorge (B,L,D)

We take the opportunity to rest up in the spectacular surrounds of the Hugh Gorge and Hugh River with opportunities for short walks in this spectacular location. Time to recharge the batteries before the next day's big walk.

Walking Day 7 - Hugh Gorge to Ellery Creek (B,L,D)

Section 6 is a 31.2km section of the Larapinta Trail. This long and challenging section traverses across the Alice Valley from Hugh Gorge in the Chewings Range to Ellery Creek Big Hole in the Heavitree Range. It is one of the longest and most difficult sections of the Larapinta Trail.

Walking Day 8 - Ellery Creek to Serpentine Gorge (B,L,D)

Section 7 is a 13.8km section that includes some steep ascents with sharp rocks on the first part of the trail which can be hard on tender feet. It does however present an opportunity to learn something of the long and fascinating geological history of the West MacDonnell Ranges. Another highlight is the abundance of birds including the elusive spinifex bird, a unique species of warbler found only in Australia.

Walking Day 9 - Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam (B,L,D)

Section 8 is a 13.4 km section of the Larapinta Trail that offers exhilarating views of the high quartzite ridgelines that typify the West MacDonnell Ranges, including Haasts Bluff and Mt Zeil (the highest point in the Northern Territory).

Walking Day 10 - Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge (B,L,D)

Section 9 is 28.6km long and is one of the more difficult sections taking us into the rugged heart of the range country. There is no reliable surface water along the way, so we must be prepared to carry a considerable amount of drinking water for the walk.

Walking Day 11 - Ormiston to Glen Helen (B,L,D)

After breakfast we set off to walk Section 10, an easier 9.9km section of the Larapinta Trail. This is one of the shorter sections and winds through rolling limestone hills at the headwaters of the Finke River, one of the world's oldest river systems.

Walking Day 12 - Glen Helen to Redbank Gorge (B,L,D)

Section 11 is 25.2km long and begins meandering across low spinifex-covered hills with the spectacular backdrop of Mount Sonder in the background. It then crosses the Davenport River and climbs to a hilltop lookout before descending to shady, tranquil Rocky Bar Gap at the foot of Mount Sonder. We then pass through this gap and travel along the southern flank of Mount Sonder to Redbank Creek.

Walking Day 13 - Mount Sonder Ascent (B,L,D)

Today sees us tackling one of the primary goals of the Larapinta Trail, the 16km return climb to the summit of Mount Sonder (1,380m). The arduous climb to the peak is well worth the effort and walkers are rewarded with breathtaking views in all directions. Ranges, plains, valleys and salt lakes all combine to create magnificent vistas. This is a great place to experience the grandeur of the desert landscape.

Walking Day 14 - Ormiston Pound Circuit Walk to Alice Springs (B,L)

In the morning we transfer back to Ormiston Gorge where we spend our final morning on the Ormiston Pound circuit walk. Regarded by many as the "primo" small walk of the Larapinta Trail, the Ormiston Pound Walk is full of wow factor, wildlife and flora and a great finale to our walk. Starting from the Visitor Centre the trail winds around some low peaks before descending into the 'pound', a flat area enclosed by mountains all around. There are numerous species of birds and mammals such as wallabies that can be seen in the gorge. It takes about 3 - 4 hours to complete the circuit and we finally return to the Visitor Centre via the main waterhole.

After another healthy lunch, we will pack and break camp for regrettably the last time and return to normality (hot shower and life as you know it awaits). Tonight we will reminisce the past 14 days and share some banter over a refreshing ale or cool drink at one of Alice's classic outback restaurants (own expense).

Trek leader, support vehicle, swags and camping equipment, transport, park and trek fees.


  • 14 Breakfasts (B)
  • 14 Lunches (L)
  • 13 Dinners (D)


  • Hotel (1 night)
  • Basic bush camp (13 nights)

Dates 2011
12th June - 26th June
10th July - 24th July
7th August - 21st August


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