This 11 day tour explores the best walking tracks of Central Australia. Beginning in the East MacDonnell ranges we walk beautiful Trephina Gorge in the pretty East MacDonnell ranges. From here we explore the best sections of the famous Larapinta trail, with its magnificent gorges, high ridges with breath-taking views and peaceful waterholes. This specially designed walk includes 2 nights at stunning Ormiston Gorge and 2 nights at historic Glen Helen Homestead with its refreshing swimming pool. From Alice Springs, we avoid 4 hours of driving by flying directly from Alice Spring to Kings Canyon. We explore Watarrka National Park with a spectacular walk on the Giles Track and King Canyon’s scenic rim. We finish with a stunning walk through Kata Tjuta (the Olgas) and around magnificent Uluru (Ayers Rock). A stunning journey you will never forget.
Please note: the only equipment you will need to bring is a sleeping bag which can be hired from us for a fee of $40. Our bags are dry cleaned after every use.
FLIGHTS: Book your flights to arrive in Alice Springs any time during the day.
ITINERARY: Fly to Alice Springs. Make your way to your accommodation at the Crowne Plaza Alice Springs. Today is at leisure to explore Alice Springs on your own.
At 4.00pm guests have the option to meet our guides for a short introductory walk to Emily and Jessie Gaps ideally located 15 minutes out of Alice Springs. These significant indigenous art sites are the first noticeable features of the East MacDonnell Ranges and are amazing geographical formations containing rock paintings depicting the caterpillar dreaming story. Afterwards, we return to our accommodation with time to relax and shower before enjoying dinner including wine where you can get to know your fellow guests.
TRAIL NOTES: 12km walk. 5.5 hours
TERRAIN: One decent hill climb and decent, access to the chain of ponds rock hole will require some scrambling or climbing over rocks. expect little shade on top of the ridge.
WALK ITINERARY: After an early breakfast we drive out to Trephina Gorge in the East MacDonnell ranges, stopping along the way to view the small rocky outcrop of Corroboree Rock. Our hiking today takes us to spectacular walk along the top of Trephina Gorge walking along the beautiful Ridgetop Walk through the Chain of Ponds & John Hayes Rockhole. Ghost gums, cypress pines and fantastic vistas are all about, before you desend down towards the Chain of Pools loop walk and John Hayes Creek expect another climb smaller this time, some sandy creek beds and more bird life and the awe-inspiring permanent water hole that is the rock hole. Maybe if your luck you will rear a chorus of frogs in the desert. Later we return to the Crowne Plaza at Alice Springs to enjoy dinner served with wine and a relaxing evening.
TRAIL NOTES: Walk: Approximately 10kms. 6 hours walking with breaks. Medium grade. Climb 110 metres and descent 110 metres.
TERRAIN: This circuit track begins with a steady climb to the top of the pass. The trail is firm underfoot with loose rocks. After descending down into the Pound there is some dry sandy riverbed crossings with the last 2km of the track leading through a dry river bed which has a mix of boulders and rocks where some light rock scrambling will be required. Terrain is rocky hard surfaces requiring sturdy hiking boots with ankle support.
FLEXIBLE WALKING: After enjoying the Standley Chasm walk we travel to Ormiston Gorge, for those that don’t want to do the Ormiston Pound walk today, enjoy the flexibility to relax at camp where you can swim at Ormiston Gorge waterhole whilst the rest of the group is walking.
WALK ITINERARY: After breakfast, we head for a “Welcome to Country” with local Arrente guide at Stanley Chasm. Standley Chasm/Angkerle Atwatye is part of the dreaming and connection to country and where our Arrente guide lives with her family. They bring a fresh and modern-day perspective to cultural awareness and loves sharing her knowledge in order to facilitate understanding across cultures.
We travel to Ormiston Gorge which is one of the main highlights of the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. Enjoy a beautiful and spectacular walk up to high escarpment overlooking the pound and then we descend into the pound. The walk takes you through a spinifex covered landscape. You will be amazed at the extensive population of wildlife surrounding the many waterholes along the way. Upstream as you walk through the gorge rising spectacularly on either side are cliff faces which look like Red Lego blocks. You will see ancient pines, river red gums and you may even see the famous Sturt Desert rose.
We are very lucky to be able to take advantage of a campsite at beautiful Ormiston Gorge. Today we walk directly into our campsite to find our stand up touring tents erected and your overnight bags waiting in your tent. Take a dip in the refreshing waterhole before dinner, a great way to refresh after your day’s walk. Relax as a delicious dinner served with Australian wine is prepared for your enjoyment. Sit around the campfire, toast marshmallows and chat about the day’s adventure with your new friends.
TRAIL NOTES: Walk: Approximately 16kms. 6 hours walking with breaks. Walk: Hard grade.
TERRAIN: Expect a good physical workout even during the descent off the mountain. The trail is rocky, rugged, hard-surfaced and dry. The trail occasionally disappears although there are markers to follow. Terrain is rocky hard surfaces requiring sturdy hiking boots.
FLEXIBLE WALKING: For those that do not want to walk to the top of Mount Sonder we offer an alternative shorter walk to suit your fitness today. Our second guide will tailor-make the walk to the needs of those choosing this option with several walking options available including a Redbank Gorge walk showcasing it’s pretty chasm and gorge or a shorter version of Mt Sonder.
WALK ITINERARY: We have carefully planned your journey so that the most challenging day to Mt Sonder (the highest point of the trail) is at the start of the tour when you are fresh and more energetic, then we gradually make each day easier as the tour comes to an end. We start the day early so we can enjoy a glorious walk to Mt Sonder.
European’s were first acquainted with the mountain in the watercolour painting of the famous Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira. This section’s walk to the summit showcases the stunning colours of the range and amazing views for hundreds of miles into the distance. Initially, we climb through bushland, then the tree’s gradually become more stunted as the track rises on open spinifex covered slopes. At the top, we will enjoy sweeping views of where we have been and record our achievement in the Visitor’s book. The trip to the peak of Mount Sonder comprises an 8km walk from the gorge over rocky and steep terrain suited to fit bushwalkers.
We return to our campsite with time to have a relaxing swim in the waterhole before dinner. Tonight enjoy a wonderful dinner featuring local produce and Australia wine around the campfire.
TRAIL NOTES: Walk: Approximately 12kms. 7 hours walking with breaks. Walk: Medium grade.
TERRAIN: A windy and undulating walk from the Gorge to the hilltop lookout. From the lookout onwards the area flattens out a little. There are a number of creek and river crossings to complete, but these are almost always dry. The track is firm underfoot with less rocky sections.
FLEXIBLE WALKING: For those that don’t want to walk today, enjoy the flexibility to relax at camp and have a swim at the waterhole with the option to enjoy a stroll along the short but rewarding Ghost Gum walk at your own pace. The Ghost Gum trail meanders through sandy soil and ghost gums before gaining altitude via steps to reach a viewing platform. It is possible to continue along the path for a longer route along the gorge. Afterwards transfer to Glen Helen Homestead for an early check-in. Here you can stroll down to Glen Helen Gorge for a swim or relax around the Homestead’s swimming pool.
WALK ITINERARY: Today our walk will take us from the Ormiston Gorge to the Historic Glen Helen Homestead. Our walk starts with a magnificent Red Mallee forest, wildflowers after rains if you’re lucky and a dis-used cattle corral, which reminds us of the past pioneers of this rugged cattle country.
Mount Sonder looming in the distance and plains stretching as far as the eye can see. We descend over gently undulating terrain when we come to the junction of Ormiston and Davenport creeks which is the start of the famous Finke River. The Finke was called Larapinta by the Arentee People which means salt creek and it is one of the oldest watercourses on this planet. We cross the Finke River to the west bank and rise through a patch of river red gums to an open plain. An easy walk leads to the oasis of the Historic Glen Helen Homestead which is our accommodation for the next two nights. Upon arrival enjoy free time to stroll along pretty Glen Helen Gorge take a swim in the homestead pool. Tonight our group meets in The Homestead’s restaurant for our evening meal. Enjoy hearty pub-style meals accompanied with Australian wine. Retire to your room with ensuite and reverse cycle air conditioning/heating. (Note Glen Helen’s reopening has been delayed – accommodation will be at an Alice Springs Hotel instead).
TRAIL NOTES: Walk: Approximately 15kms. 8 hours walking with breaks. Walk: Hard grade.
TERRAIN: A gradual climb over rocky terrain before beginning a steep climb up to the top of the ridge, the climb is supported with well-constructed rock steps. Once up on the ridge this exposed track leads over a rugged rocky clearing with a slight incline all the way to the Counts Point lookout. Coming down off the ridge there is some steep switchbacks and steps. Once off the ridge, you’ll enter a mulga scrub where there are more rocky steps leading down to the valley floor where there is smoother single track, crossing through rocky creeks.
FLEXIBLE WALKING: For those that don’t want to do the Counts Point walk today, we offer an alternative easier walk to suit your fitness. Our second guide will take you on a shorter walk to Serpentine Gorge & Serpentine Gorge lookout. An easy 3km return trip takes you into the sheltered Gorge and waterhole and then onto a short sharp climb to the lookout that enables you to see up the gorge and also over the surrounding parks of the range country. After spending the morning here, you will be transferred back to Glen Helen where you can take another short walk to the Glen Helen Gorge along the Finke River with views of the towering sandstone wall.
WALK ITINERARY: Today we walk section 8 of the Larapinta Trail. We climb to Eagles landing which in the Aboriginal Dreamtime tells the story of an Eagle ancestor who patrolled the range from Ochre pits to Serpentine Gorge.
After a morning tea stop at Eagles landing, we then continue to Counts Point. This vantage point offers a wonderful opportunity to see the overall geology of the ranges. Views along this straight Quartz ridge lines give a spectacular view of Mt Sonder. To the right in the distance is the highest peak in the Northern Territory Mt Zeil. In our opinion the best view along the whole length of the trail. After lunch, we descend the range into the plains to the end of our walk at Serpentine Gorge chalet. We then transfer back to our hotel accommodation at Glen Helen Homestead. Enjoy dinner in the restaurant featuring Australian wine and chat about the day’s adventures. (Note Glen Helen’s reopening has been delayed – accommodation will be at an Alice Springs Hotel instead).
TRAIL NOTES: Walk: Approximately 8kms. 4 hours walking with breaks. Walk: Medium grade.
TERRAIN: The Trail leads up from the Ochre pits with a rise up and over a small ridge, firm underfoot with lots of loose rocky sections. Once at Inarlanga Pass there is a short section of boulders to navigate over. Following this the track is rocky and undulating with some smoother sections.
FLEXIBLE WALKING: Todays walk is an easy 6.2km from the Ochre pits to Serpentine Chalet with a spectacular morning tea stop at Inarlanga Gorge (one not to be missed) however if you are wanting an alternative option you can enjoy the Ochre pits with the group and then travel with the second guide around to Serpentine Chalet carpark where you will wait for the group to finish their hike
WALK ITINERARY: Today we hike an easy 4 km track along the Song Line of the Arrente track from Ochre pits which connect to Inarlanga Pass. The Ochre pits are still used by the traditional landowners, Arrente people. The track follows high ground to some of the best views of the whole Larapinta trail.
We enter into the Inarlanga Gorge the smoking green fronds of the McDonald ranges Cycads stand out against the glowing red walls of the gorge formed 300 million years ago. The gorge has been the ceremonial place an important watering point for the Western Arrente people for thousands of years. We walk the descent back through spinifex foothills over a low saddle through mulga back to our starting point. We travel back to Alice Springs and finish our journey with an afternoon scenic helicopter flight to see the dramatic landscapes from the air.
On the last day of our walk, we finish our journey with an afternoon scenic helicopter flight from Alice Springs. On this remarkable journey, you will fly the first section of the Larapinta trail from Alice Springs to Simpsons Gap. We take to the air and follow the Todd River to the Telegraph Station and get a bird’s eye view of Mt Gillen and Heavitree Gap before making our way to marvel at the breathtaking Simpsons Gap From the air, you will also see stunning views of the East and West MacDonnell Ranges, parallel ridges spanning out 644kms into the distance from Alice Springs. This flight is a truly remarkable way to finish our Larapinta experience. Afterwards, we head back to the the Crowne Plaza, Alice Springs.
Life’s an Adventure would like to acknowledge the original custodians of the land – The Arrente people.
TRAIL NOTES: 11kms. Grade easy. Some flat sections.
TRANSFERS: Early morning 1 hour flight from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon
ITINERARY: This morning enjoy breakfast before we transfer to Alice Springs airport for an early morning flight over the stunning desert ranges and gorges to Kings Canyon saving us almost 4 hours in driving. Today we walk a section of the Giles Track named after Ernest Giles the 19th-century explorer, the first European to visit this area. The track is one of the hidden gems of the area. We enter a labyrinth of amazing beehive rock formations that remind one of the Bungle Bungles in Western Australia. Domes of layered rock stand up to 15 metres high and the Giles Track weaves its way through these through stunning gullies. After our walk, we make our way to our accommodation at the superb Kings Canyon Resort. Enjoy drinks at their Sunset Viewing Platform as the nearby cliffs glow red and the stars emerge in a brilliant, vast sky. In the evening we enjoy a superb dinner served with wine at Carmichaels Restaurant and share our newly acquired knowledge and experiences of the Red Centre.
TRAIL NOTES: Kings Canyon Rim Walk. 6kms. 4 hours. Moderate to Hard Grade. Or optional shorter walk walk to Kings Creek. 2.6kms. 1 hour walk. Easy
TRANSFERS: Afternoon 3 hours drive from Kings Canyon to Ayers Rock Resort
TERRAIN: This walk climbs steeply to the canyon rim. The path is rocky with many steps. There are unfenced cliff edges on the entirety of the walk. On the canyon rim the track is rocky and uneven underfoot and undulating. The final descent back to the car park is steep with some formed steps.
FLEXIBLE WALKING: A shorter Kings Canyon walking option is also available today to Kings Creek for those not wanting to do the Rim walk.
WALK ITINERARY: After an early breakfast, we lace up our hiking boots and head off to make our way to the rim of the dramatic Kings Canyon. This 6km loop walk starts with its most challenging difficult section, a steep climb from the canyon floor to the rim. But, once up on the rim you will find yourself amongst an amazing landscape of weather-sculpted sandstone pagodas known as the Lost City. From here the track winds around the rim of the canyon above sheer and colourful cliffs that will take your breath away with their grandeur. The walk also passes through the picturesque Garden of Eden, a sacred waterhole filled with lush greenery. The track continues to the southern rim before descending again to the car park. From here we travel to Uluru. Enroute you will stop for a view of the impressive, but less famous, Mount Conner, known locally as ‘Fool-u-ru‘ as its towering silhouette, rising out of the desert horizon, is the first thing you see as you travel west towards its more famous neighbours, Uluru and Kata Tjuta. No brochure or photo can prepare you for the grandeur of the world’s most iconic monolith as it comes into view.
Your next two nights are spent at the beautiful Ayers Rock Resort in the Desert Gardens guest rooms. This resort features a wonderful swimming pool and a diversity of modern dining and bar options. Tonight enjoy a superb dining experience at Arnguli Restaurant enjoying a wonderful menu, that incorporates signature dishes enlivened by indigenous flavours and complemented by Australian fine wines.
TRAIL NOTES: Valley of the Winds Walk, 7.4km circuit, 4 hours. Moderate to Difficult Grade. Mala Walk, 2km, 1.5 hours. Easy Grade.
TERRAIN: The Valley of the Winds Walk starts on a well-formed, smooth dirt track. There are some short climbs and descents in and out of each valley. Further within the walk you will encounter sections of loose rock, sand and uneven ground underfoot. The Mala Walk is on flat, well-formed, dirt and sand tracks.
FLEXIBLE WALKING: For those after an easier day, skip the morning Valley of the Winds walk and join the group to visit the Cultural Centre followed by the afternoon shorter 2km Mala Walk. Alternatively, our guests have the freedom to do the 7.4km morning walk and skip the afternoon walk and relax at the resort.
ITINERARY: After breakfast, we head out on our day’s walk. Today you visit Kata Tjuta meaning ‘many heads’. The enormous domes, 36 in total, rise out of the rolling sand dunes and desert plains to the west of Uluru. Weathered over millions of years, the tallest, Mt Olga, is actually higher than Uluru! Today‘s walk takes you through the heart of these domed monoliths along the Valley of the Winds walk, which winds its way into the shady depths of narrow passages beneath the imposing heads of Kata Tjuta. The Valley of the Winds also features unparalleled views of the spectacular desert landscape from two lookout points along the track.
After experiencing the remote beauty of Kata Tjuta you have free time this afternoon at the Cultural Centre, to deepen your understanding of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Here you can learn about Anangu culture and the park’s natural environment through exhibits and free presentations with Anangu and park rangers. There are also Aboriginal art galleries and several community-owned shops and facilities.
You then enjoy a fascinating, educational ranger-guided excursion following the Mala Walk along the base of Uluru. Park rangers will stop at various sites to talk about the meaning of rock art, demonstrate tools traditionally used by Anangu and tell you the Tjukurpa (creation stories) of many rock formations. The Mala walk ends at Kantju Gorge – a dramatic, near-vertical wall that becomes a raging waterfall when it rains.
You return to your accommodation today for a relaxing dinner in the Mangata Bistro and Bar showcasing the finest Australian produce with notes of bush tucker flavours throughout perfectly matched with Australian wines.
OPTIONAL DINING EXPERIENCE: Alternatively our guests have the option of upgrading their dining experience tonight at the amazing ‘Sounds of Silence’ dinner at an additional cost of $130. This unique and award-winning dinner extravaganza begins with canapes and chilled sparkling wine overlooking the National Park and includes didgeridoo performances and an interactive chef’s station where you will be served your choice of meal from a bush tucker inspired menu. Then settle back and listen to a presentation decoding the southern night sky and constellations. This is a 4 hour experience. Please note this experience is on request at time of booking.
TRAIL NOTES: Uluru Base Walk, 10km circuit, 3.5 hours. Easy Grade.
TERRAIN: The walk is on a well-formed, smooth and flat, wide dirt track.
ITINERARY: Today you get up close and personal with the Rock and follow in the footsteps of the ancestral beings that shaped the landscape. The Uluru Base Walk is the best way to connect with the rock and learn its stories. The walk is about 10 km and that takes you around the whole circumference. The sheer scale of Uluru, when up close and personal, is really quite extraordinary. As you walk you will pass through acacia woodlands and grassed claypans and encounter bloodwoods, native grasses and waterholes. This is a beautiful and intimate way to end your Red Centre experience. After the walk, we transfer you to the Yulara airport for your return flight at the end of a grand journey to the heart of Australia.
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