Their ridge lines timeworn – from Himalayan heights, some say – the MacDonnell Ranges reach east and west from Alice Springs, in Australia’s Red Centre. The roads to its spectacular gorges are well-beaten paths but there is no better way to experience these prehistoric mountains than on foot. The Larapinta Trail snakes 223km through Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park and has become the must-do trek on any Northern Territory bushwalking itinerary.
The Larapinta Trail leads through a world of blue sky and red rock, exposed ridges and sheltered waterholes, ghost gums and spinifex. With planning and training, and transfer and food-drop services, you can tread its length in 2-3 weeks; independently or with a guided group. One cracker day walk is from Jay Creek (4WD access only) to Standley Chasm, one of 12 trail sections of different grades. Another is Ormiston Pound.
The Larapinta visits headline “West Mac” sites that attract crowds of day-trippers in cooler months (summer can be dangerously hot) but the trail is more about the journey than the destination and hikers recount different highlights. Mine was swimming in a Finke River waterhole with a whistling kite hovering so close overhead I could see individual wing feathers moving!