Strapped for time but want to see what all the fuss is about? Choose from these short itineraries to experience the solitude and vastness of the world class Larapinta Trail. There are lots of entry points accessible by 2WD vehicle along the 223km trail so there’s no excuse not to check it out! The Larapinta Trail is a through walk so for most of the iteneraries listed below you may need to make arrangements with a friend or company to get back to the starting point of your walk, or just do out and back. You can also use the Larapinta Trail website for more information to plan your own itinerary.
Keep in mind that there are sometimes long distances between water tanks and you will need to carry enough water to last the time and distance between water tanks. There is no reliable water between water tanks on the Larapinta Trail.
1 Night Itineraries
Standley Chasm to Brinkley Bluff (21km return)
Challenge yourself on this demanding walk and experience some of one of the most spectacular views of the Larapinta Trail and camp on top of Brinkley Bluff. This walk begins at Standley Chasm where you can leave your car overnight for a small fee. Follow a rocky creek bed and then begin to gain some altitude where you will be rewarded with incredible views of the rugged Chewings Range. Soak up the feeling of isolation and remoteness the further you head into this ancient mountainscape. After a long ascent you will set up camp at the summit of Brinkley Bluff and be treated to 360° views. Sunset and sunrise are unmissable in this amazing location so kick back and enjoy – you’ve earned it! Brinkley Bluff can be subject to extreme winds and very cold temperatures overnight so make sure you come prepared. Return the same way the following day to end at Standley Chasm and enjoy a well-earned meal at the kiosk before venturing into the Chasm itself (entry fee applicable). There is no water available on this walk so be sure to bring enough for two days!
Terrain: Rocky, loose, uneven, hilly. This section is graded as Very Hard by NT Parks and Wildlife and is only suitable for fit, experienced walkers.
Section 1 – Telegraph Station to Simpson’s Gap (25km one way)
Alice Springs Telegraph Station is a place of beginnings – it is where the settlement of Alice Springs (then Stuart Town) began as it featured a repeater station on the Overland Telegraph Line. It is also the start of the Larapinta Trail. This section is a great introduction to multiday walking as the terrain isn’t as challenging as other sections of the trail and there is a water tank at the campsite meaning no heavy water carries necessary!
Beginning at Telegraph Station follow the blue arrows on the Larapinta Trail and leave civilisation behind. The first 2km of the Larapinta is shared with mountain bikers so keep an eye out for any fast moving cyclists. You will cross under the Stuart Highway and across the trainline and into the bush in the first day of this walk. One of the highlights is ascending Euro Ridge and being rewarded with views of the Heavitree Range ahead and you can wave goodbye to Alice Springs behind you. The trail then descends to your campsite at Wallaby Gap (13km) which has a water tank, drop toilet, and shaded area. Pitch your tent for the night and enjoy the serenity.
In the morning you will continue to head west past Scorpion Pools, over undulating hills, through Hat Hill Saddle and toward Simpson’s Gap, the end of Section 1 of the Larapinta Trail. Walk through the dry creekbed into Simpson’s Gap and relax by the waterhole (no swimming) where if you look closely you might spot some black footed rock wallabies playing on the boulders. Your walk finishes here so make sure you’ve arranged transport back to Alice Springs before heading out on this adventure.
Terrain: Rocky, loose, undulating with some higher terrain. This section is graded as Medium by NT Parks and Wildlife and is only suitable for fit walkers.
Ochre Pits to Ormiston Gorge (30km one way)
This itinerary requires some logistical planning as there is no reliable water source and will require transport at each end, but is well worth it as you venture through scenery straight out of a Namatjira painting. Starting at the Ochre Pits you will pass the sacred men’s site where Arrernte people mined ochre. The colours along the low cliff line are unique and contrast beautifully against the clear blue sky. Continue along the Arrernte walk until you get to the junction for the Larapinta Trail. Following the signage to Inarlanga Pass will start you on Section 9 of the Larapinta. As you scramble over the boulders you will see the endemic MacDonnell Range Cycads before the pass opens into a vast valley. The trail meanders through valley to camp at the secluded Waterfall Gorge which is also the approximate halfway mark for this itinerary (approx. 14km).
The next morning you will follow the switchbacks to get on the high terrain where you will be rewarded with spectacular views of Mount Giles, Mount Sonder, Ormiston Pound and more. The trail follows the ridge and then gradually descends to follow the contours of the range below until you arrive at Ormiston Gorge – one of the crown jewels of the MacDonnell Ranges. Drop your pack and take a stroll down to the waterhole in the gorge for a refreshing (read: freezing) swim and try to spot some rock wallabies on the gorge walls. You can also take a short walk up to the Ghost Gum Lookout, or if you hadn’t had enough hiking check out the 8km Ormiston Pound Walk, one of the best day walks in Central Australia.
Terrain: Rocky, loose, steep sections. This section is graded as Hard by NT Parks and Wildlife and is only suitable for experienced walkers. It is also worth noting this section is very remote and there is no road access to exit the trail anywhere along Section 9.
2-3 Night Itineraries
Sections 4-6 – Standley Chasm to Ellery Creek Big Hole (64.9km one way)
This itinerary covers some of the most challenging and spectacular terrain on the Larapinta Trail. Beginning at Standley Chasm you will venture west into the rugged terrain of the Chewings Range. Sections 4 and 5 present some of the steepest sections of the entire trail, but you will find the effort is well worth the reward of huge vistas and a sense of isolation you won’t find anywhere else. Don’t underestimate this section of trail and the time it will take you to complete it. You will need to allocate at least 1 day each to complete sections 4 (17.9 km) and 5 (16km) respectively.
Section 6 follows the expansive Alice Valley and while it has much more forgiving terrain it is the longest section of the Larapinta Trail at 31km. This can be tackled in one very long day if you’re very fit and experienced, or comfortably in two days camping half way at Rocky Gully campsite (15.3km, features water tank and drop toilet). From Rocky Gully you continue toward Ellery Creek where you have one last ascent over the Heavitree Range, walking over sections of white dolerite before descending down to Ellery Creek Big Hole (13.6 km), where you will find a water hole nestled in between a narrow gorge. This is one of the most popular swimming spots in Central Australia but be aware the water is extremely deep and can be extremely cold. Your walk through some of the best sections of the Larapinta Trail ends here, but you will have great photos and even better memories of your trip to keep with you.
Terrain: Rocky, loose, very steep with tough sections, undulating, long distances. Sections 4 & 5 are graded as Very Hard and Section 6 as Medium by NT Parks and Wildlife. This itinerary is only suitable for very fit, experienced walkers.
Sections 10 – 12 – Ormiston Gorge to Redbank Gorge (51.1km one way)
Experience the final sections of the trail ending with at the summit of the iconic Mount Sonder (Rwetyepme), the end of the Larapinta Trail. There are a few options for this itinerary:
• Easier option (total 3 nights): Head west from Ormiston Gorge along Section 10 of the Larapinta. This is the shortest section of the trail at only 9.1km. This pleasant walk follows undulating hills to the Finke River. There is a trailhead to camp at here with shelter, water, and toilet. The following day venture to Rocky Bar Gap (14.7km), about halfway along Section 11. This campsite is very nice and also has a toilet and water tank, meaning no heavy water carries required. You can then head onto Redbank Gorge the next day (11.1km).
• Harder option (total 2 nights): For a longer, more challenging first day you can walk Section 10 (fill up your water at the Finke River trailhead) and onto Section 11 to Hill Top Lookout (19.1km). Camp here and enjoy the incredible views of Mount Sonder. Don’t miss the sunrise – as the sun gets just high enough, Mount Sonder will glow a beautiful red colour. There are no facilities at this high camp but the scenery is spectacular and worth the long water carry. The next day complete Section 11 at Red Bank Gorge trailhead (15.8km), filling up your water at Rocky Bar Gap along the way.
Once you reach Redbank Gorge you can camp at the trailhead and wander down to Redbank Gorge waterhole if you’re up to it. For your final day there is only one option: summit Mount Sonder for sunrise! This 16km return walk is one of the highlights of the trail. Put some fresh batteries in your headtorch and get up early to make it to the top and enjoy 360° views and watch the early morning light burn red across the valley. The summit of Mount Sonder can be extremely windy and cold, even in the shoulder months. Bring all of your layers with you and fire up the stove for a hot cuppa at the top and enjoy the view! When you’re ready to descend you will get to see the ridgeline you followed earlier that morning in the dark. This section of the Larapinta is spectacular and is an iconic part of the trail for good reason. Finish at Redbank Gorge carpark and try to spot where you’ve been while you take your pre-arranged transport back to Alice Springs.
Terrain: Rocky, loose, undulating, steep sections, higher terrain. Section 10 is graded as Medium and Sections 11 & 12 are graded as Hard by NT Parks and Wildlife. This walk is only suitable for experienced walkers.