Top 5 Reasons to add the Larapinta Trail to your Bucket List

  1. You can choose between a few different organised tour groups or go at your own pace, by yourself.
  2. Although the terrain is rugged, it’s in the moments of struggle that you find your true strength.
  3. The nights are cold, your nose is freezing, but your body is so warm in a swag.
  4. Walking through the early morning, listening to dingoes, to get to Mt Sonder at dawn.
  5. A refreshing swim, especially after 4 days on the trail, at Serpentine Chalet dam.

Completing this walk has been one of the highlights of my life. The scenery is stunning and the walking is challenging. The Larapinta Trail is just north of Alice Springs in the desert of Australia. You walk along the ridge line of the West MacDonnell ranges, up and down, up and down …. and up and down a bit more. It is exhausting, but every time you reach the top of a ridge you’ll see a stunning landscape falling away below. The climax of the walk is making your way to the top of Mount Sonder, one of the Territory’s highest mountains, preferably to see the sunrise.

WHAT IT LOOKS LIKE

This is EXACTLY what the paths look like. You’ll need to wear your best mountain boots with good ankle support, and take a water bottle.

If you have your own compact swag you can sleep out under the stars. The skies are enormous.

Stunning scenery looking across the flats to the ridges. You will see this view, every day you walk. Take a good quality lightweight daypack, but make sure it’s not too small. You do still have to pack in a warm jumper, at least 2 litres of water, camera, sunscreen, fly net etc.

You can join the Facebook page for Friends of the Larapinta trail to get a little more information, or just take an e-tour of the trail.

Dingoes, a native Australian dog, will keep you ‘company’ along the trail. At night, and in the early morning, you’ll hear them calling out to each other. Their howls are unlike anything you’ve ever heard. When I heard them their howls sent a chill up my spine, even though I knew they are relatively harmless.


6-DAY WALKING AND CAMPING ITINERARY

Day 1: Telegraph Station to Wallaby Gap
Starts just a few kilometres out of Alice Springs at the historic Telegraph station and then walking through gentle hills, scrub, past wallabies and on to Wallaby Gap.
Day 2: Wallaby Gap to Simpson’s Gap, via Standley Chasm and Lookout Walk
The trail goes west past tall Bloodwood and Ironwood trees. Lots of creatures to see, particularly of the insect variety. Depending on the time of year you’ll also see the tiniest bush flowers blooming.
Day 3: Serpentine Gorge to Counts Point
A long day of walking over the high ridge lines, stunning views, rocky terrain and then down into the camping spots.
Day 4: Overnight camp and into the stunning Ochre Pits
Enjoy a walk across less elevated terrain and down into the valley of ochre pits, used by the Aboriginal people in ceremonies for thousands of years. Take a quick tour to the Finke River. A swim in the Serpentine Chalet dam is a welcome bath after a few days on the trail. No soap, just a refreshing swim in the clean water.
Day 5: Early morning walk to the peak of Mt Sonder
Starting at around 2am you’ll begin the day walking up ridge lines, up hills, up stairs, up rocky trails to the peak of Mt Sonder. Listen for the dingoes calling along the way.
Day 6: Ormiston Pound Walk and then back to Alice Springs
Beautiful scenery and opportunities to see wildlife on the final day. If you sit very still you’ll be able to see the Rock Wallabies scampering around on the hills. They are beautifully camouflaged, and incredible dexterous on the high cliffs.

WHO CAN TAKE YOU THERE

World Expeditions offer the Classic Larapinta Trek. It’s a 6 day walk, and very comfortable if you have a basic level of fitness. They start out at Telegraph Station, move onto Simpson Gap and Chandley Chasm, Serpentine Gorge (stunning), Ochre Pits through to the Ormiston Gorge. This is topped off on the final day by a dawn trek up Mount Sonder.
Trek Larapinta is a small local expeditions group offering organised tours of the Larapinta Trail since 1998. They focus on providing an environmentally sustainable and sensitive operation, and use their local knowledge to get to the heart of the land you’ll be walking through. Check out their guides to get a feel for who you’ll be walking with.

ALICE SPRINGS CLIMATE

The best time to visit the Larapinta Trail is during the Autumn and Spring months. You’ll get warm days and the nights won’t be quite so cold as they get in Winter. Although having said that you’ll still be able to stay warm in an insulated sleeping bag. Choose one that is rated either -5 degrees or -10 degrees if you really feel the cold. You can get the full run down on typical weather conditions from the Australian Bureau of Meteorology website.

CAMPING GEAR LIST TO PACK

  • Sturdy hiking boots, with ankle support. Make sure they have a thick sole as the rocks are like sandpaper.
  • Warm sleeping bag
  • Your own swag, with thick mattress
  • Two man tent, especially useful for keeping the mice off your head at night
  • Good quality day pack with easy to reach water bottle pockets or
  • Larger hiking pack, but still with convenient pockets for snacks and water
  • Walking poles, to reduce the strain and pressure on your knees
  • Capacity for 2 litres of water each day in either water bottles or hydration pack
  • Most organised tour groups will provide shelter, and have permanent camp spots, but if you’re walking by yourself, take a 2 man lightweight tent that is sturdy
  • A small but powerful torch so you’re not stumbling around in the dark
  • A warm hat. Even in Summer the temperature at night can get to close to freezing.
  • Warm thermal clothes, especially welcome in Winter
  • Definitely a first aid kit as the trail has a lot of slippery rock shale
  • High energy camping snacks, if you have time to make your own or ingredients for Bacon S’mores

WHAT OTHERS HAVE SAID ABOUT THE LARAPINTA TRAIL

Thanks again to Trek Larapinta for a great experience. Anyone can run a ‘no problem’ walk but it’s when things go wrong that a company shows its true colours. Trek Larapinta showed a level of support and care beyond the call of duty and I have no hesitation in recommending you (and I have been). I feel cheated that I missed the last 4 days walking and console myself that maybe one day I’ll return to do the 6 day trek which hopefully would cover those days I missed.
Mary – June 2012.

After 14 days of exploring the Red Centre, Uluru, the Olgas, Kings Canyon, and tackling sections of the Larapinta trail, NT, Here I am standing in awe after discovering this hidden treasure. Redbank Gorge, Alice Springs.

Probably the best walk is the Ormiston Pound walk, make sure you start heading east away from the Gorge and finish through the gorge. We did a few extra side trips so I can’t remember how long it will take, depends on your walking ability, probably 3.5 hours. Nothing strenuous. There is also a good short walk up to a lookout from the Pound, about 45minutes. The highest walk point in the Ranges is Mt Sonder from Redbank Gorge at around 1400m, but that is about 6-7 hours return. Panoramic views nothing strenuous again, just a long climb up and back around 15k return. The most spectacular views of the lot though are from Counts Lookout (between Serpentine Gorge and Chalet) and Brinkley’s Bluff fromStanley Chasm. They are both full day return walks and not difficult but hard. I did them with a 20+kg pack on my back, allow 6 hours. So it depends on your walking ability.


VIRTUAL WALKS, LITERALLY!

In the below two videos a nice young man takes you for a literal walk along a few sections of the Larapinta Trail. However, you can’t replace the feeling of actually being there, feeling the heat, looking at the ants, feeling the cooling wind on your face after you’ve struggled up an enormous shale hill. Anyway … enjoy the videos.
If you liked the above two videos then you can view more here.
Lots of commentary in this video from people actually walking the trail. Ignore their complaints – they don’t really mean it! Although one definite truth is the rockiness under foot. It is a lot rockier than many other trails. Take good quality hiking books (no sneakers!) with a firm grip and preferably ankle support.
Not an organised group, but two brave adventurers going it alone. It’s refreshing to see two people just getting out there and enjoying the trail. This video includes lots of images of critters.

OTHER INFORMATION FOR THE LARAPINTA TRAIL

General interest, and informative, website dedicated to walks around Australia. The elevation graphs on each walk page are useful for figuring out whether you’ll be fit enough to complete the walk.
Plenty of beautiful photographs to inspire you. Not much commentary.

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