Encounter the enormity of the Australian bush, as well as its secluded places, from chasms and gorges to pristine waterholes, each with its own dreamtime story.
The West MacDonnell National Park, also known as Tjoritja, is a hidden oasis in the middle of the rugged desert country of the Northern Territory. Its many spectacular waterholes and gorges are a significant part of Arrernte indigenous culture. Their creation stories tell of giant caterpillars that created the West MacDonnell Ranges.
Challenge your endurance on the 223-kilometre (138-mile) long Larapinta Trail, or choose a few sections to explore separately. This hike along the West MacDonnell Ranges is broken up into 12 sections, each taking 1-2 days.
Within the Larapinta Trail there are plenty of places to cool off with a swim. Enjoy the scenery at the Ellery Creek Bighole, a picturesque waterhole beneath the gum trees. This area is part of the Arrernte people’s Honey Ant Dreaming trail. Hike into Ormiston Gorge through a trail of small pools and swim in the large waterhole, spotting the shy marsupials that live in the shelter of the gorge.
Stay at Glen Helen, a resort within a former cattle station framed by the huge sandstone cliffs that rise above a permanent waterhole, where a sacred Rainbow Serpent is said to dwell. The region’s waterholes are vital to the survival of creatures from wallabies and dingoes to birds and reptiles. Dawn and dusk are the best times to spot them.
Climb up Mount Sonder for stunning views over the West MacDonnell Ranges. The hike takes around 6 hours return. Cool off with a swim in Redbank Gorge before camping beneath the stars at the nearby site. Don’t forget to photograph Mount Sonder at sunrise and sunset when the rock glows red and purple.
The West MacDonnell National Park can be accessed from Alice Springs by bicycle along the Simpsons Gap Bicycle Path or by car along Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive. The best time to visit is during the cooler months from April to October, as the temperatures during summer can get extreme and storms are frequent.