Before people visit Alice Springs they have an image in their mind of dry, dusty desert plains; hardly the stuff of your bushwalking dreams. It’s true there are plenty of dry dusty plains in inland Australia, but for hundreds of kilometers to the east and west of Alice Springs extend the central ranges. These ranges are impressive geological structures, stripped bare by a millennia of erosion and lacking the lush vegetation found in wetter regions these ranges seem to erupt from the surrounding plain. Collectively several range sequences are referred to as the MacDonnell Ranges.
Contrasting with the exposed spinifex clad ridges are the cool dark gorges many with permanent waterholes where relict ferns, sedges and cycads create an oasis.
These ranges provide opportunities for remote walking experiences you will find difficult to replicate anywhere else in the world. This is the stuff of bushwalking dreams! And if you so wish it can all start within minutes on foot from the CBD of Alice Springs.
Some of the most accessible and arguably most spectacular walking opportunities are found immediately to the west of Alice Springs in the West MacDonnell National Park. This world class national park covers much of the Heavy Tree Range and the Chewings Range. These ranges feature several of the highest peaks in the Northern Territory and the highest peaks in Australia west of the Great Dividing Range.
To the East of Alice Springs the ranges are represented in several smaller national parks (Emily Gap and Jessie Gap, Trephina Gorge, Ndahla Gorge and others) and also extend across pastoral leasehold and Aboriginal land. Walking opportunities abound here also.
The various parks and reserves have a well developed trail network; from the Larapinta Trail, which is usually walked as an extended 12-14 day trek, to many day walks and half day walks. Off track walking adventures are also possible for those with the right skills.
It is difficult to gather information on all the walks from one source but John Daly’s book; Take a Walk in the Northern Territory’s National Parks contains good information about many of them and is a must have if you are planning some walking around Alice Springs. If you are planning on doing some or all of the Larapinta Trail take a look at our section on the Larapinta Trail on this website.