Larapinta Trail

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Larapinta Trail
Australia

The Larapinta Trail is a long distance path in the Northern Territory, Australia.

Stretching for 223 kilometres from east to west along the West MacDonnell Ranges, this trail offers some of the most spectacular bush-walking experiences.

This is a well-marked route through stunning scenery of Australia’s red interior.

The traditional owners of the land are Arrernte Aboriginals. They have strong connections with the area, and many places have special meaning within their culture.

The Larapinta Trail is one of the best long-distance hikes in Australia, and treading in the footsteps of the Arrernte Aboriginals is a magical experience you won’t forget!

Highlights
  • Sacred, Arrernte Aboriginal sites
  • Native plants and wildlife, including rare species of plants
  • Spectacular gorges, pools, riverbeds and rugged hill trails
  • Arid/desert ecological zone
  • Ancient geological features
Walk Map
About the route

Beginning in Alice Springs, the trail runs for 223 kilometres to the western trailhead at Mount Sonder.

Taking place in Australia’s red interior, this is an arid zone hike that follows the ridges and valleys of the West MacDonnell Ranges.

The trail is well set up for hikers, with trail markers making it easy to follow.

If you want to complete the length of the trail while camping overnight, you can arrange to have food drops at specific locations. This means you won’t have to carry all of your supplies with you. You can do this yourself, or there are companies that can arrange a food drop for you.

There are food storage rooms at Ellery Creek and Ormiston Gorge. You can place food elsewhere on the trail, but make sure it is well-hidden and secure from wildlife.

There are limited food supplies along the trail. Kiosk-style basics can be bought at Telegraph Station, Standley Chasm, Ormiston Gorge and Glen Helen.

  • Travel

The trailhead is approximately 3 kilometres from the town of Alice Springs, at Telegraph Station.

To get to Alice Spring, there are flights from Sydney and Melbourne, each taking around 3 hours.

There are no direct buses from Sydney to Alice Springs, but you can get there by bus if you go from Sydney via Adelade or Albury. This is a long journey that can take two days.

If you choose to walk the Larapinta Trail in reverse, starting at Mount Sondor, then nearest access to the trailhead is from Alice Springs. It is around a 150 kilometre drive to Redbank Gorge, where there is a car park. It may be possible to arrange a lift with a tour company, or get a bus, so you don’t have to worry about collecting your car once you have hiked to Alice Springs.

  • Length

The Larapinta Trail is a 223 kilometre route that is divided into 12 stages.

It is possible to walk a stage per day, although this can make the hike challenging. You can take an extra day on the longer stages if you prefer to take things easier.

Most hikers take 12-20 days to complete the route.

It is possible to walk preferred stages of the trail, as there is 4×4 vehicle access at each start and finish point of the 12 stages.

  • Grade and difficulty of the walk

The Larapinta Trail is graded at 3-4. Much of the terrain is moderate, while in other places there are steep climbs and descents on rough ground.

The dry climate makes it loose and stony underfoot for much of the trail, and you have to pick your path through jagged rocks. Make sure you have sturdy footwear.

While the days may be warm, the nights can be very cold. Take this into account if you are planning on camping along the route.

  • Experience

To enjoy this trail, you need to have a good level of fitness. Climbing and descending over rocks is common.

You do not need navigational skills for hiking the Larapinta Trail as it is well-marked, but navigational skills are useful as a safety precaution when hiking in the wilderness.

Water is available along the route, either by natural streams and rivers, or by water storage tanks that are situated at each end of the stages. Water must be treated by boiling or other purification before it is safe to drink.

  • Permits

No permit is required to hike the Larapinta Trail. Camping fees may apply at some campsites.

  • Guided or Self-Guided

Guided walks are available with many different tour operators. The benefit of this is that you can learn more about your surroundings by experts, you have company along the way, and you can get your bags carried to your next overnight stop.

Many hikers choose to walk the Larapinta Trail self-guided.

The trail is well-marked and easy to follow. Many hikers like the achievement of getting from point to point under their own steam.

best time to walk

The best time to hike the Larapinta Trail is during the cool winter months from June to August.

In summer, temperatures can reach a scorching 45°C, making hiking unpleasant and even dangerous. These temperatures can cause severe dehydration and heatstroke, especially when you are walking with little shade and carrying a pack.

A typical itinerary would be:

This itinerary is based on one stage of the trail per day. It can be lengthened to include shorter hiking distances and rest days.

Day 1:
Telegraph Station to Simpsons Gap – 24 kilometres

Day 2:
Simpsons Gap to Jay Creek – 24.5 kilometres

Day 3:
Jay Creek to Standley Chasm – 14 kilometres

Day 4:
Standley Chasm to Birthday Waterhole – 18 kilometres

Day 5:
Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge – 16 kilometres

Day 6:
Hugh Gorge to Ellery Creek – 31 kilometres

Day 7:
Ellery Creek to Serpentine Gorge – 14 kilometres

Day 8:
Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam – 13.5 kilometres

Day 9:
Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge – 29 kilometres

Day 10:
Ormiston Gorge to Finke River – 9 kilometres

Day 11:
Finke River to Red Bank Gorge – 26 kilometres

Day 12:
Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder return – 16 kilometres

Accommodation

Camping is available along the Larapinta Trail, and are located at every trailhead. There are also some campsites in between trailheads. No open camp fires are permitted due to the risk of bushfires.

If you prefer a more comfortable night’s sleep, there are other accommodation options off the trail. This means that once you reach the end of a stage of the trail, you will need to find transportation to your lodgings and back again if you wish to do the next stage. If you choose to hike with a tour company, this can be arranged for you.

What to do

There are many other trails that cross the Larapinta Trail, so there are options for exploring other area of the West MacDonnell National Park as side trips.

Learn about the Arrernte Aboriginal stories and culture that are linked to special places like Standley Chasm and Ellery Creek Big Hole.

Take lots of photos. The scenery along the Larapinta Trail is amazing and the rich colours of the dirt and rock glow in the morning and evening sun.

Enjoy the sense of achievement as you summit Mount Sonder, at 1380 meters elevation, at the end of the trail.

At a glance
Skills RequiredHiking, Walking
Difficulty 3/5 - 4/5
Starts at Telegraph Station, Stuart NT 0870, Australia
Finishes at Mount Sonder, Mount Zeil NT 0872, Australia
Length of route 223 Km
Average time to complete 12 - 20 Days
Possible to complete sub-sectionsYes
Permit requiredNo
Equipment neededCamping equipment, food supplies, Poles if preferred, Trekking gear, walking boots, Water Supplies
Countries visited Australia

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