The Red Centre is the heart of Australia and the location of the spectacular Larapinta Trail, one of Australia’s outstanding walking experiences. Our guided trip on the Larapinta trail gives you a good taste of the highlights of this iconic trail.
As you hike the ancient landscape, with breathtaking views over the red earth landscapes, dramatic gorges and tranquil waterholes, it is not hard to see why Australian Geographic has rated the trail as “one of the world’s best long-distance arid-zone walks” and National Geographic as one of the top 20 trekking experiences to be had on the planet.
Tackle the rugged landscape of one of Australia’s greatest multi-day walks
If you’re looking to travel to the heart of the Australian Outback, then the West MacDonnell National Park is your place. And there’s no better way to experience and immerse yourself in this unforgettable landscape than the Larapinta Trail. Hike along the red rock slopes of the West Macs and enjoy the time to truly connect to Country and appreciate the importance of this place to the local people over thousands of years. Hike to shadowed gorges, snaking riverbanks, open plains and towering mountains filled with a rich diversity of animals and plants, taking in sights like Ormiston Gorge and a rewarding ascent of Mt Sonder. One of the world’s best desert treks is waiting for you.
This trip is guaranteed to depart with a minimum of 1 passenger and a maximum group size of 16 people
Larapinta Trail highlights
Get ready for
- Spectacular Desert sunrises and even better sunsets
- Connection to the land and spiritual times of the Arrernte Aboriginal people
- A five (million) star sleeping experience in your swag
- Experience active days of hiking and gorge swimming, and nights around the campfire
- Explore the majestic Ormiston Gorge, the most spectacular chasm in the West MacDonnell Ranges
- Summit the NT’s 4th highest peak, Mount Sonder (1379m)
On the trail
Aussie outback at its finest and most rugged! Think red dirt, rocky peaks, chasms and waterholes, ghost gum trees and spiky spinifex grass. Underfoot the trail is hard and rocky with a lot of inclines and declines. It is generally well marked and easy to follow – well defined in places, while in others you will be scrambling up rocks and navigating your way carefully. The Larapinta is a desert trail, and therefore it is only safe to hike during a limited window of the year; winter and the shoulder months of September and May.
Meet your group and leader this morning at our start point location in Alice Springs (Mpartnwe), then head out to stretch your legs on section 1 of the Larapinta Trail. You begin your walk from the official start of the trail at the historic Alice Springs Telegraph Station. The Station was founded in 1871 and used for relaying messages between Darwin and Adelaide. Follow the route of the old telegraph line through the rocky, rolling country that spreads out before you, winding along a path that makes its way over creeks and gullies. Walk along the scenic spine of the Euro Ridge and take in the excellent views of the surrounding Alice Valley, with the gnarled peaks of the West MacDonnell Ranges (Tjoritja) out in the distance.
Follow the trail downhill to Wallaby Gap, home to elusive black-footed rock-wallabies and a great place for birdwatching. Upon arrival you’ll be met by your vehicle and transferred to our permanent tented camp at Glen Helen, right in the heart of the Western MacDonnell Ranges. The permanent tents are fitted out with proper beds and electricity, and bedding is provided. Of course there is also the option to sleep beneath countless stars in a swag tonight if you wish.
Walking Distance: 14km – approximately 6 hours.
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Accommodation: Permanent tented camp (1 night)
It’s very important that you are ready at 7 am in the hostel lobby for collection. Details will be given in the joining point instructions in the essential Trip Information for more details.
Accommodation: Permanent tented camp (1 night)
The next two days are the most challenging but also rewarding section of your Larapinta hike. Start today with the first part of section 11 of the track. Views are dominated by Mt Sonder (Rwetyepme), the highest point in the West MacDonnell Ranges. Cross the Davenport River then make the climb up to Hilltop Lookout, an ascent that’s rewarded with panoramic views of the peak and its surroundings. Descend through mulga woodland and past distinctive knobbly black rock to shady Rocky Bar Gap. Return by private transfer back to Glen Helen and your comfortable permanent tented camp.
Start today by transferring back to Rocky Bar Gap where you finished your hike yesterday, and tackle part 2 of section 11. The track meanders along the southern flank of Mt Sonder to Redbank Creek. It’s an undulating hike across spinifex-covered hills, making your way through the foothills of the hulking mountain looming to your right. Tonight’s overnight stay will be at a campsite in Redbank Gorge, in the shadow of the mountain itself, where you will spend the night under the stars in a swag, an experience not to be missed.
Accommodation: Swag Camping (1 night)
Hopefully, you got an early night yesterday as today you’ll be up with the possums for an early start to climb to the summit of the iconic Mt Sonder, constituting the final section (section 12) of the Larapinta Trail. The early start allows you to climb in the cool morning air before the sun begins to beat down. The mountain is known traditionally as Rwetyepme – in local Arrernte culture she’s portrayed as a pregnant woman forever doomed to lay on her back and watch the sky.
It’s not an easy climb, but the journey to the peak is worth the sweeping views in all directions of Central Australia, taking in the trails you’ve covered over the past few days, the Tanami Desert in the north, meteor craters in the south, and the NT’s highest mountain in the west. It’s the perfect way to cap off the trip. The climb is a slow and steady one, made worthwhile for the grand scale panoramic view awaiting you at the top. In fact for most of the ascent and descent, you will have exceptional 360 views. At the top, take the time to absorb the red centre laid out before you – the peaks and valleys, the outback colours, and bask in what you have just accomplished – an achievement you will remember for your lifetime. Afterward, you’ll make your return to Alice Springs for an arrival in the late afternoon, at which time the trip comes to an end. Perhaps celebrate your journey with a farewell dinner.
Walking Distance: 14km – approximately 7 hours
Meals Included: Breakfast, Lunch
Explore the Larapinta Trail
Duration: 5 days
Grade: 3–5 depending on the section
Route type: Linear trail, from A to B
Start: Alice Springs Telegraph Station (East)
End: Redbank Gorge/Mount Sonder (West)
Location: Tjoritja West MacDonnell National Park Northern Territory
Closest town: Alice Springs
Alice Springs Telegraph Station Historical Reserve,
Mount Sonder (1380m)
- 2 local walking leaders
- 4 breakfasts, 5 lunches, 4 dinners
- Private vehicle transfers
- Luggage transfers camp to camp
- 1 night Swag camping, 3 nights permanent tent camping
- Equipment provided – mattress, pillow & sleeping bag
- Campsite & national park fees
- Trip fully carbon offset
- 10% GST included
- Transfers or transport to Alice Springs
- Alice Springs accommodation
- Breakfast on day 1 and dinner day 5
Everything you need
Our essential information guides give you everything you need to know about the Larapinta Trail. It was created for our independent hikers to prepare well for one of these hikes but gives you a wealth of background information about the Larapinta Trail that is also useful for guided trips. We cover off all transport and transfers with contacts, full equipment lists tailored to each walk, and safety factors to consider that can be unique to each track. We give you the information you need to know about water and where the best accommodation is before and after your trip, plus overviews of Aboriginal & European history and wildlife you can expect to encounter. (You’ll receive this after booking)
It saves countless hours of trawling through websites, guidebooks and forums to get to the essential information you need to know, so you don’t forget to factor in anything for your adventure.
Need to Know
This trip is operated by our partner Intrepid Travel & their supplier. Travellers on Intrepid operated trips are required to produce proof of full vaccination against COVID-19. Read details here.
1. This trip starts at 7am at Alice Springs YHA with a pick up, and finishes back in Alice Springs in the late afternoon of day 5. Please take this into consideration when booking arrival and onward travel.
2. Accommodation for this trip is Swag Camping for one night, including bedrolls containing mattress, pillow and sleeping bag. After that you will be 3 nights in a permanent tented camp.
3. It is prohibited to take alcohol on this trip as the National Park is a dry zone.
4. A Passenger Self Assessment Form is required for this trip. You will be provided with this form to fill out before arrival.
Toilet facilities will be very basic and you’ll have to sacrifice hot showers as you camp out overnight along the trail, but there will be refreshing swimming opportunities along the way.
There is an early morning start on Day 5 to climb to the summit of Mt Sonder. Though it will be difficult to get up early for this trek, it will be well worth it for the stunning views.
Food and dietary requirements
Almost all meals are included on this trip and are prepared by your leader onsite. Breakfast is continental and will be taken in camp before setting off for the day. Lunches are picnic-style and will be taken in a scenic location en route. Dinners are a simple affair around the campfire in the evenings. If you have any dietary requirements please advise us at the time you make your booking. Please also advise your leader at the time of the group meeting.
Accommodation for this trip is in comfortable permanent tented camps with proper beds, bedding and electricity. The last night will be swag camping under the stars, including bedrolls containing mattress, pillow and sleeping bag. This is an amazing and authentic Australian experience!
Please note that you are camping on Aboriginal-owned land and therefore alcohol is not permitted on the trail and many campsites.
The Larapinta trail guided trip is rated by us as a challenging grade and best suited to hikers of good fitness and confidence. There are long days walking in exposed conditions and a desert environment with hard surfaces underfoot and climbs & descents. It is definitely not recommended as a beginner’s walk but for more experienced Bushwalkers.
The Larapinta is very rocky underfoot and you need sturdy walking boots with good ankle support and cushioned soles. Gaiters and Long pants are also recommended due to the sharp spinifex grass you’ll encounter on some sections of the walk. Good sun protection is also needed as this is an exposed trail.
If you’re not exercising so regularly (2-3 times a week), it’s important to start early in the weeks leading up to your departure (4-6 weeks prior at least). Your best choice would be to start walking regularly 2-3 times a week including at least one longer walk (up to 15 km). It’s important to not only walk on flat surface, so if you cannot access a hilly terrain easily, walking up and down the stairs is a good replacement. Top that up with some general fitness exercises and any other cardio-related classes and you will see a huge progress in your fitness levels.
Social and environmental
All our adventures are fully carbon offset so that you know your travel has minimal impacts. Hiking itself is a low impact activity but we offset the cost of all our office operations and food production as well, so you can be satisfied that you have chosen a form of travel that is both good for you and good for the planet. Each year we also plant trees on behalf of every customer who has travelled with us, aiming to build towards a carbon positive effect with our operations.
TRIP date selection
when would you like to travel?
Please select your preferred dates for on-demand trips or select a scheduled date for group departures. If you have booked a self-guided trip please understand that because your trip date is on demand and we must check availability of all properties on your chosen dates before it can be fully confirmed