On our visit to Central Australia in 2016 we did the most of the West MacDonnell National Park over a 2 to 3 day period. If your fascinated by rocky ridges and spectacular gorges with inviting waterholes then put this place high on your to do list when you are next visiting the area.
If your an avid hiker you can challenge yourself on many of the walks throughout the park, of if your like us, you pick the ones that are best suited to your ability. We picked up a West McDonnell National Park fact sheet at the Visitors Center in Alice Springs, which was very handy so we could tick off all the places we planed to visit.
The West MacDonnell National is mostly free with the odd place you have to pay for entry and you can get to most places via 2WD. With the park being accessible all year round, is recommend to always bring appropriate clothing and footwear when you visit. Always remember to slip, slop, slap and have the fly net handy on your hikes.
Walking trails in the West MacDonnell National Park;
TYLERS PASS LOOKOUT – No walking required at this stop , simply pull up and admire the panoramic views.
REDBANK GORGE – This walk seriously was challenging, we kept thinking are we there yet!! This walk is not for the faint hearted, its a 2km walk through a dry creek bed(it was dry when we visited) climbing over many rocks! The trail goes off in different directions however that depends on the time of the year and rains. Once you are there, its a picturesque gorge. It was ideal for a spot of swimming to cool off from the harsh summer heat.
MT SONDER LOOKOUT– Is the highest point of the entire Larapinta Trail, unfortunately due to time constraints. We missed doing this lookout.
ORMISTON GORGE – We did the quick 5 minute waterhole walk which was very popular for swimming, and is a short walk from the campground. The longer walks that are there, we would love to come back to. There is the Ghost Gum Lookout and Ormiston Gorge walk.
GLEN HELEN GORGE – One of our favorites when we visited we walked through the dry creek bed which took us to the banks of the water where we were able to admire the stunning gorge. During the hot summer months this would be an ideal spot to take a quick swim and cool off. Glen Helen Gorge is a great place to view the ranges and the Glen Helen Resort offers accommodation options and meals. Ideal spot to set up base if your wanting to spend a few days out here exploring.
OCHRE PITS – A relatively short walk on a paved path that takes you down to the cliffs where ochre has been collected for thousands of years. You will admire the colorful curls and swirls of the cliffs. Ochre was collected here for decoration and ceremonial purposes.
SERPENTINE GORGE – From memory i dont think we did this walk due to our time constraints, however its recommended that the road in is unsuitable for buses and caravans. Hot tip would be to research the places you know you can visit depending on what vehicle you have.
ELLERY CREEK BIG HOLE – Ellery Creek Big Hole is a spectacular waterhole fed by the mighty Ellery Creek. It features a large waterhole ideal for swimming and is an ideal stop for a picnic.
STANLEY CHASAM– This is the only part of the West MacDonnell National Park that you will have to pay entry for. Stanley Chasam is on Aboriginal Land and is part of the Iwupataka Land Trust. It is bordered by the West MacDonnell National Park. Stanley Chasam is popular for many tourists so be prepared to walk to trails with people. Its about a 20 minute walk one way walk and there will be some wildlife about on your walk. This walk takes you right into the chasam, its an ideal spot to capture some great photography. There is a kiosk on site where you can take a break and have a bite to eat.
SIMPSONS GAP – Another of our favorites, pull into the car park and off you stroll. There is a walking trail adjacent to the creek bed which is suitable for everyone, it will take direct to the gap and if the creek bed is dry you can take the walk back to the car park through the creek bed. When we visited there was a small waterhole. The Visitors Center is just passed gate entrance it will give you points of interest with the park and provides information on the areas natural and cultural history.
A visit to the West MacDonnell National Park can be done in a full day or weeks. Depending on what time you have available, we were satisfied we were able to see as much of the park as we could in the 2 days we had. There is lots to do and see here with plenty of camping options available. If you have the chance to explore this part of the country do it, you wont be disappointed.
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