The Legendary Larapinta Trek is the first of our epic buswalks of Australia.

 

Completed in 2002 after 13 years of construction, the Larapinta was designed to take in the greatest features of the West MacDonnell Fanges and it certainly does so 

The newest (and fast becoming the most famous) of our long-distance walking tracks, the Larapinta Trail is a desert trek without desert deprivations.

Following the length of the West MacDonnell Ranges from the Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Mt Sonder, it meanders through 223km of textbook Red Centre country: big rocks, red rocks, gorges through rocks.

Completed in 2002 after 13 years of construction, the Larapinta was designed to take in the greatest features of the West MacDonnell Fanges and it certainly does so (barring Ormiston Gorge), hopping between the popular tourist sights – Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap, Glen Helen Gorge – but rarely to the detriment of the wilderness experience.

The trail is divided into 12 distinct sections, and walking its length in around 14 to 16 days is comfortable.

There are regular water sources, campsites are no more than 20km apart, and there are facilities for making food drops, meaning that walkers need carry no more than four or five days of food at a time.

The best way to facilitate food drops is to begin the walk at Mt Sonder, dropping off your boxes of food as you drive out from Alice – hiker shuttle services out of Alice and Glen Helen Resort make this an easy option.

The Larapinta is a walk that’s stunning almost in its entirety (even if Section 7 between Ellery Creek and Serpentine Gorge is dizzying in its twists and turns with no apparent reason), though there’s one stretch that’s an obvious standout. Sections 4 and 5, covering 34km between Standley Chasm and Hugh Gorge, are the Larapinta’s crux, encompassing its most rugged, exposed and spectacular areas.

 

Out of Standley Chasm, the route climbs steadily to Brinkley Bluff, propped atop the range like a cassowary’s casque, before dropping into Spencer Gorge with its tangle of boulders, cycads, gums and melaleucas.

From here the climbing begins again, onto the narrow spine of Razorback Ridge – the airiest section of the entire trail – before dipping once more into little-known Hugh Gorge with its ceramic-smooth cliffs narrowing to the point that walkers must scramble above waterholes.

Were it closer to the road, Hugh Gorge would be as popular as Simpsons Gap or Standley Chasm; instead it’s a private piece of walking paradise.

It’s worth allowing three days to complete this taxing section, camping atop Brinkley Bluff (10km from Standley Chasm) and in a creek bed on the western side of Razorback Ridge (15.5km from Brinkley Bluff).

A second stretch of note is the trail’s western end between Ormiston Gorge and Mt Sonder. This mountain shaped like a sleeping woman dominates the Larapinta’s western end, so it’s worth spending a few days admiring and climbing it.

For 42km this section criss-crosses the desert plain, detouring across to Glen Helen Gorge before following the Finke River, said to be the world’s oldest waterway, towards Redbank Gorge, in a crevice beneath Mt Sonder.

An extra day should be allowed for making the straightforward climb to the Larapinta’s lonely trailhead atop Mt Sonder.

 

For an even briefer glimpse of the Larapinta, consider a day walk from Serpentine Gorge to Counts Point, the trail’s signature lookout, or wander into Inarlanga Pass (actually a vibrant, cycad-choked gorge, not a pass) from the Ochre Pits car park. Counts Point is a 14km return walk, while Inarlanga Pass is around 10km. 

 

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