In the heart of Australia’s Red Centre lie the Western MacDonnell ranges. 1,500 kilometres south of Darwin and just west of the infamous Alice Springs, the western MacDonnell Ranges offer an enchanting look into an ancient culture and an even older landscape.
The best ways to explore the often rugged territory are by 4WD, motor-home, or even on bike -a mode of transport that is surprisingly well catered for, with even the famous Simpson’s Gap providing a seven kilometre section of sealed bike track.
Covering an area of just over 2,000 square kilometres, the canyons, gorges, and waterholes in the National Park area provide a stunning and insightful backdrop for any number of outdoor activities, including camping, swimming, and hiking, to name a few.
Hiking enthusiasts should consider the 250 kilometre Larapinta Trail, which traverses the ranges from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder. This trail can be hiked either with a guided tour or independently, but independent hikers should seek expert guidance before their tour as the conditions can be harsh. Those not wishing to undertake the full length of the famous trail can choose to do shorter sections.
Dingoes, native fish, carpet pythons, and endemic birdlife frequent most areas of the Western MacDonnell ranges, especially those that are more obscure and located off the well travelled roads. The summer months see the Ormiston Gorge, in particular, a haven for a large assortment of native reptiles.
The Ranges are rich in indigenous culture and historical locales. The Ranges, like the rest of the Territory, are most pleasant in the cooler months of April to September. Camping facilities are well maintained and modern, and the National Park is accessible year round, with the exception of short periods of sporadic road closures following heavy rain.
The Western MacDonnell Ranges’ most popular attractions are best visited via Alice Springs, from where sealed roads are available as far as Glen Helen Resort. Tours to see local attractions, or hike local trails, can also be booked from Alice Springs.