The Larapinta Trail is a 223 kilometre trail in the Northern Territory, Australia. It starts in Alice Springs and offers spectacular scenery of Central Australia. The track weaves along the MacDonnell Ranges and is (in my opinion) one of Australia’s most beautiful and historic hiking trails. I was fortunate to hike the highlights of the Larapinta trail over five days in a group with 18 other people.
The Larapinta Trail provides a small glimpse into the vast landscape of the Central Australian outback. You quickly develop an appreciation of how ancient Australia is with each step taken and gain an understanding of what it was and for some, still is, to live the nomadic life of the local Aboriginals. I am thankful to the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Central and Western Arrernte Country for allowing us to walk over this sacred land.
Exploring the highlights of the Larapinta Trail is the perfect option if you do not have the time or don’t feel experienced to complete the trail in its entirety. Each day you explore a section of the trail and learn about the history of the area. This is from a geological and cultural perspective. If you have a limited understanding of Australian Aboriginal culture, by the end of this adventure, you will leave wanting to learn more. For those who want to do self-guided hiking, be sure to read about the Dreamtime stories before you trek the Larapinta or during, as the desert comes alive when you understand its history and beginnings.
Larapinta Trail Section 1: Alice Springs – Simpsons Gap
Section 1 has you hiking through undulating land and low bush scrub for the first couple of hours. It is a gentle hike which leads into a steep climb up and along Euro Ridge. Euro Ridge has a narrow spine and offers spectacular views out to Gillan Range and Alice Springs. The hike takes you over Hat Hill Saddle and finishing at Simpsons Gap.
Larapinta Trail Section 11-10: Finke River – Ormiston Gorge
Section 11-10 of the trail is flat and an easy hike. You have the opportunity to walk over and take in the ancient geology of the area. The hike takes you over the Finke River. The Finke River is one of the world’s oldest river following its original course. Parts of the river are believed to date back over 300 millions years. The landscape through this section is layered with different textures and foliage, which is a paradise for photographers.
Larapinta Trail Section 8: Finke River – Counts Point
The hike up to Counts Point is steep and undulating. Section 8 can be challenging for inexperienced hikers and a good work out for the experienced. The ridge can be quite rocky and trekking poles recommended if you have bad knees. I was taken away by the views yet again! It was hard to take images that really showed the height and to give perspective to how expansive the valley is.
Larapinta Trail Section 12: Red Bank Gorge – Mount Sonder return
Section 12 is the only hike where you walk up and back on the same trail to Mount Sonder. It is a challenging trek as you are exposed to all of the elements. The sun can be harsh, there is minimal wind and the terrain is steep and rocky. It is a 16km return trek, with the steepest part being the first 3km. Once at the top, you will be overwhelmed by the 360 degree views of the surrounding ridges and mountains. A visitor book awaits at the top and be sure to sign it and write down your thoughts on accomplishing Mount Sonder.
Larapinta Trail Section: Ormiston Pound – Ormiston Gorge
Our last day trekking the highlights of the Larapinta Trail was my favourite. The hike was not overly challenging but the views from Ormiston Pound were (again!) incredible, as were the feelings that were conjured up when walking through Ormiston Gorge. We also visited the Ochre Pits, which is where the local Aboriginal people sought ochre, used for ceremonies and we spent time at Simpsons Gap again. The patterns on the rocks throughout Ormiston Gorge were mesmerising and it was hard to believe they were not drawn on. Each rock had unique patterns and it was surreal to be walking through and experiencing the serenity and beauty of the area.
- The best time to trek the Larapinta Trail is May-August, where the weather is cooler
- If you are planning on trekking the Larapinta Trail self-guided, there are operators available to book food drop offs along specific points of the trail if you are trekking end to end
- As with many National Parks in Australia, the Larapinta Trail is a fuel stove only National Park
- The closest airport is Alice Springs, Northern Territory