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The Glen Helen Gorge attracts wildlife and visitors who come to swim. A permanent waterhole in the gorge is fed by the Finke River and is one of the West MacDonnell Ranges’ most beautiful waterholes. Take a swim in the refreshing waters surrounded by birds and fish. Watch the rocky slopes above the water for black-footed rock-wallabies.
The gorge was formed as the Finke River wore its way through the softer sandstone, exposing quartzite cliffs. Climb the cliffs for a spectacular view of the valley and ranges. Look out for Central Australia’s highest peak, Mount Sonder. Go swimming in the permanent waterhole or scramble over the rocks for views of Hidden Valley. You can see the incredible vertical slabs of stone known as the Organ Pipes rising out of the Finke River. Bring a pair of goggles to see the aquatic life that flourishes even in the desert, from the colourful rainbow fish to the mirror-like bony bream. Frogs, snakes and lizards are also abundant in the water.
Glen Helen is a sacred site to the Arrernte people, who call it Yapalpe. It is said that the waterhole was the home of a powerful Rainbow Serpent spirit. Local indigenous people do not swim here, but have relied on the permanent waterhole for fishing throughout the centuries.
The area was settled by pastoralists in the 1870s. It’s thought the gorge was named Helen after the niece of one of the cattle farmers. Today there is a resort on the former farming land that offers accommodation and camping.
Take a helicopter ride from Glen Helen Resort to look out over the gorge from above. Helicopter tours run from February to November. Enjoy breathtaking views over the incredible landscape, including mountain ranges and gorges carved out by the Finke River. If a helicopter ride is out of your budget, four-wheel drive tours also operate from the resort.
Glen Helen is about 130 kilometres (8 miles) west of Alice Springs. The Gorge is accessible for regular vehicles and four-wheel drives. Take the sealed section of Namatjira Drive into Glen Helen.
Situated on the riverfront, this hotel is within a 5-minute walk of West MacDonnell National Park and Glen Helen Gorge. Ormiston Gorge is 6.7 mi (10.8 km) away.