The Larapinta Trail
The Larapinta Trail extends over 223 kilometres west from Alice Springs along the West MacDonnell Ranges finishing on the summit of spectacular Mount Sonder. It lies almost entirely within the West MacDonnell National Park, crossing Aboriginal freehold land near Stanley Chasm.
The trail meanders through many gaps and sheltered gorges with waterholes. It also climbs steeply over the rugged ranges with spectacular vistas across the central ranges and the surrounding desert.
The trail is divided into 12 sections, each a 1-2 day walk. Most trail heads are accessible by vehicle although access to some of the more remote sections is by rough 4WD tracks only. While many people walk the entire trail over around 14 days other schedules can be accommodated on the trail including day walks or overnight walking for a shorter period. The Trail itself is made up of a range of grades catering for hikers of varying abilities. All walkers on the Trail need to have a good level of fitness and must be well prepared and equipped.
All trailheads have a water supply so you rarely need to carry more than a days supply of water. Trail heads have rudimentary camping facilities. The trail is suited to adventurous campers who are self sufficient.
No bookings are required and the trail can be walked in any direction. Camping fees apply at some of the campsites.
The best time to walk the trail is from May to August, it can be very cold during these months so be prepared. In April and September the weather is variable and hot days can be experienced. The rest of the year is too hot, people have died from complications arising from heat stress on the trail so keeping off the trail during hot weather should be taken seriously.
For those walking the entire trail there are 4 secure food drop facilities along the trail.
The Larapinta Trail is quickly establishing a reputation as one of the worlds great walks but does not experience the overcrowding associated with some popular trails. The feeling of isolation and remoteness is a big part of the attraction of trail, together with the fantastic clear desert skies. In fact, when you get to the end of your journey you may feel like turning around and doing the whole thing again.provided.
Friends of the Larapinta Trail (FOTL) is a not-for-profit community group that helps to promote community awareness and involvement in the maintaining the Trail’s 223km. The group works closely with the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife Service and the Larapinta Trail Management Committee.
The Friends of the Larapinta Trail’s (FOTL) mission is:
- to promote awareness of the Larapinta Trail
- to encourage with community engagement with the Trail
- to assist with the engagement of volunteers for basic Trail maintenance
- to manage the sales and distribution of the Larapinta Trail Package and other merchandise
- to encourage corporate and private sponsorship of Trail
Trip Preparations FAQ
Each year at Lone Dingo we receive countless enquiries about walking the Larapinta Trail, mostly gear related but also about all other aspects of walking the trail. Below we address some of the common queries as they relate to our business as a gear & information provider for Larapinta Trail walkers.
You will need to use a stove, fires are not permitted along the Larapinta Trail. We stock plenty of stove options plus fuel including: butane canisters (screw on style; 100g, 220g, 440g), shellite (1L bottles) & methylated spirits (1L bottles). We keep plenty of fuel in stock, however if you require a significant quantity (12+ units) it can be worth making your purchase online so that we can set them aside for you. You may also like to check our business hours to ensure we will be open when you arrive for collection. There are companies that can assist with fuel and food drops – see our notes below on food drops and transfers.
We stock a comprehensive range of freeze dried meals by Backcountry Cuisine & Outdoor Gourmet. We stock 1 serve, 2 serve and 5 serve meals, desserts & condiments. We also sell a large range of energy gels and bars & more. Freeze dried meals are a simple & convenient means to keep pack weight down without sacrificing nutritional and energy intake & also save many hours in the kitchen slaving over the dehydrater. We also sell individually packaged freeze dried vegetables so you can enhance and create your own meals. If you would like to put in a large food order (15+ meals) it can be worth making your purchase online so that we can set them aside for you. You may also like to check our business hours to ensure we will be open when you arrive for collection. There are companies that can assist with fuel and food drops – see our notes below on food drops and transfers.
In terms of regular, non-hiking specific food products there are two large supermarkets in town; Coles and Woolworths as well as a very good organic and specialty foods supermarket; Afghan Traders.
Lone Dingo does not arrange food drops or transfers but we can make some recommendations, see below. With regard to transfers some of the vehicle access points are easily accessed by a conventional vehicle while some of the more remote trailheads are accessed by rough 4WD track, the company you use will provide advice. Regarding food drops, secured facilities are available at several points along the trail, if you use a company to do your transfers and/or food drops they will help you out with instructions and a key, or if you do your own you can collect a key for the secured food drops from the Tourist Information office in Todd Mall not far from Lone Dingo. Find out more about the secured food drops here.
Companies offering food drops and transfers:
Larapinta Trail Trek Support: 0455 773 722, www.larapintatrailtreksupport.com.au
Outback Elite Tours: 0429263437, www.outbackelitetours.com
Outback Tour Services: (08)8 8950 9900, www.outbacktourservices.com.au
We suggest that you have capacity to carry up to 6 litres of water per person if you are doing an extended trip along the trail. It is easy to configure your walk such that you will have access to water everyday and sometimes at a couple of points through the day so you may not need to carry 6L very often, or at all, but it is good to be able to if circumstances make it necessary and to keep your options open. A practical arrangement is a 1 litre bottle for around the camp & cooking, a 2 or 3 litre hydration bladder for drinking throughout the day and another flexible container for any extra water that may need to be carried from time to time. Treatment of drinking water collected along the trail is recommended.
You should be independent in terms of first aid and safety equipment & Parks NT strongly recommended that you carry a PLB. There is very limited mobile phone service on the Trail. A GPS is not necessary, the track is pretty well marked but ensure you have the latest set of maps.
Most times you will enjoy the fine clear winter days the centre is renowned for, however cold drizzly rain and overcast conditions are not unknown during winter & usually come when you least expect it, it’s rare but it happens. By all means check the long range forecast but if you are doing an extended walk we suggest it is best to be prepared for inclement weather; protection from rain should be taken. Even without rain you may like to have the capacity to take shelter from the cold south easterly wind which can set in in winter. We recommend a tarp for ultralight enthusiasts and a lightweight tent for “normal people”, modern tents weigh little more than a tarp and groundsheet.
You’ll be surprised at how cold it actually gets in the ranges at night and in the early hours of the morning so a sleeping bag that will comfortably accommodate temperatures down to negative 5 degrees Celsius is recommended. Overnight minimums in the nearest township – Alice Springs – are often recorded in the 0 to plus 5 range but in the valleys of the ranges and at ground level it can go well below this temperature.
To keep packed size and weight under control you are probably going to have to go for a down filled sleeping bag for your Larapinta trip, and don’t forget a good insulating mattress too.
Clear sunny days are the mainstay of the walking season so lightweight longs or shorts and a lightweight wicking top for walking is ideal. Look for good sun protection as you will be exposed pretty much all day everyday which leads us to hats; make sure you bring one.
Then as evening approaches the temperature plummets and you will be reaching for thermals, a quality fleece or two or maybe your down jacket if you brought one, & of course your beanie. A down jacket can be very handy, in fact if you feel the cold we would recommend bringing one, but it will have little application throughout most of the day so some prefer synthetic fleece &/or wool insulating layers along with their thermals because it offers more flexibility throughout the day. Do you need a raincoat? On an extended walk yes; as mentioned above it is best to be prepared for inclement weather; protection from rain should be taken, you can also use it as for wind protection if that cold south easterly sets in. Overpants are not normally necessary.
If you intend to summit Mt. Sonder pre dawn in winter (well worth the effort), take all the clothing you have brought along for that leg – it’s usually arctic cold up there at dawn!
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Footwear is a highly personal piece of equipment and there is no perfect choice for everyone. You will be experiencing rough rocky terrain pretty much every step of the way so give good consideration to your footwear. Some people prefer low cuts but if you are walking over several days you will generally be carrying a pretty heavy pack so we would suggest a fairly supportive boot either leather or fabric/leather construction. Good medium thickness wool blend or synthetic wicking socks are recommended; good quality socks are worth every penny out on the trail.
The trail is very tough on footwear and even robust and reliable footwear can be overwhelmed so it’s worth taking a tube of shoe repair glue, enough tape to wrap around your shoe a few times and some spare laces or cord that can double as laces for on track repairs. Also ensure your first aid kit is up to date with blister treatment products; we sell the very popular Equip Blister Kit which has everything required for preventative and post blister treatment.
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Gaiters – not essential, but can be handy particularly if you are considering doing some side walks away from the trail, then you may like them for the spinifex (canvas best against spinifex). Many walkers are using the short sock protectors these days which helps to keep burs out of your socks and sand out of your boots.
Trekking Poles – very handy and commonly used on the trail, be sure to remove the snow/mud baskets and best to use the metal tip without a rubber stopper as they just get trashed.
Pack liner/cover – dependent on recent rain there can be some wading through waterholes in Hugh Gorge (section 5) and potentially other crossings – pack liner more useful here than a pack cover.
Fly net – not essential in winter, but then some people have a low fly tolerance so maybe. Outside of May-August; just take one, if you don’t need to use it your’e lucky. Use it as a stuff sack if you are an ultralight freak.
Compass – you probably won’t need to use it but always good to have for any contingencies.
Insect Repellent – yes, might be mossies, might not, best to be prepared.
Sunscreen – yes.
The Northern Territory Parks & Wildlife Commission manage the Larapinta Trail and the West MacDonnell National Park through which the trail runs. They have a lot of useful information on their website about trip planning, trail conditions and closures if there is any; go to the Northern Territory Parks & Wildlife website & navigate to the Larapinta Trail section.
Another very useful source of online information can be found at: www.larapintatrail.com.au., it represents a comprehensive and useful source of information.
If you intend walking the trail, the Larapinta Trail Map Package is essential. The package provides logistical and factual information required to plan the best (and safest!) walking experience. By using the package you will gain an understanding of Trail conditions, water availability, camping areas and facilities for the entire trail.
There is a comprehensive guide book available: ‘Larapinta Trail’ (Chapman, 2015) . It has full track notes for both directions along the trail. The book also includes: colour topographic maps and notes, gradient profiles and a large background section on the history of the area and notes on geology, climate, vegetation and wildlife. A comprehensive section on Safety and Trip Planning are provided.