The Red Centre is the heart of Australia and the location of the spectacular Larapinta Trail – world famous in the hiking community and an achievement you will remember for your lifetime.
By definition, ‘epic’ is something that is either extremely large or extremely great – the Larapinta is both, and even that seems like an understatement! 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.
It is rugged, primitive, true Aussie outback, which can be a daunting prospect when you are starting to plan your adventure. It takes time to gather all the information, check the boxes and make sure you have all your bases covered. As spectacular as the Larapinta Trail is, it should not be underestimated and therefore imperative you totally prepared before starting out.The full length of the trail is 230km starting at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station in the east and finishing at Mount Sonder in the west.
Just need the food?
Larapinta Trail highlights
Get ready for
- Spectacular sunrises and even better sunsets
- Walking on billion-year old history
- Connection to the land and spiritual times of the Arrernte Aboriginal people
- 360 degree panorama viewpoints (and campsites)
- A five (million) star sleeping experience
- Feeling the heartbeat of our Australia in the red earth and arid desert landscape
- Absolute isolation (the good kind!)
- Mars-like landscapes of the ‘West Macs’
- Camaraderie with other hikers as well as remote solitude
- Summiting the NT’s 4th highest peak, Mount Sonder (1380m)
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 carefullyThe Larapinta is a desert trail, and therefore it is only safe to hike during a limited window of the year, namely winter along with the shoulder months of September in spring and May in autumn.
The Alice Springs Telegraph station, and the beginning of your epic adventure, is around 4km from the centre of town. If you are feeling up to some extra walking and start early enough, you can walk from town avoiding the highway by walking along the Todd River. Otherwise, you will need to arrange a transfer.
Today will be a long day – your first of many – but your day will be mostly on undulating paths through a lot of open “Australian Outback” countryside. There are a couple of steep climbs to warm up the legs, and from points along the way such as the Euro Ridge and Hat Hill Saddle, you will have some spectacular views back towards Alice and over the lowlands that surround her.
Towards the end of the day you will arrive into Simpsons Gap – one of the most prominent in the West MacDonnell Ranges and an important spiritual site for the traditional landowners. A stunning gorge carved out of the ranges, with an idyllic waterhole that looks like something out of a painting. Keep an eye out for the Black-Footed Rock-Wallabies who come out at dusk to feed along the track and live in the rocky walls either side of the creek.
An early start today, and as you leave your camp you will head out along a similar terrain as the day prior; gentle hills, mostly flat and easy going. As you walk along the rocky path, moving further and further from civilization, you will start to really feel the remoteness and silence of the desert. All around you is a landscape of billion-years-old rocky outcrops – and not much else!
Around three quarters of the way through you will come across the beautiful oasis that is Spring Gap – particularly if there has been some recent rain. Here is a good place to do some bird watching while you rest in the shade.
From Spring Creek the views start to become more impressive and will help give you a bit of a mental boost to get through the last section to Jay Creek.
While today is a shorter day on paper, it is still a challenging walk through some of the steepest and most rugged countryside in the ranges. Be prepared for rock scrambling today – including some vertical rock walls – however with that comes spectacular scenery, particularly from the high route in the Chewings Ranges.
Leaving Jay Creek you will walk along sacred ground, past ghost gums and through the rocky creek bed. The first few kilometres are easy going until you reach Tangentyere Junction and here you have two options; the standard and easier “low route” which, while not as difficult as the higher route with its plentiful ascents and descents, will still prove tough on the feet as you traverse rocky gorges and creek beds. Or the recommended high route which will reward you with 360 degree views before you reach Millers flat.
From here there are some more rocky climbs over the chasm wall and then down into the magnificent gorge of Standley Chasm, an icon of central Australia that is an impressive 80 metres high and 3 metres wide. Located in a private flora and fauna reserve, it is owned by the Arrernte people and is a place of deep cultural significance. It is also popular with day visitors so you will feel like you have returned to civilization a bit for tonight. Make the most of the chance to enjoy a fresh coffee, home baked scones and ice cream from the kiosk while you admire the brilliant red rock backdrop of your campsite tonight. Tonight you are spoiled with luxuries such as hot showers and toilets.
Please note that you are camping on Aboriginal owned land and therefore alcohol is not permitted.
More stunning views await you on this section as you follow the high ridges of the Chewings Ranges to the summit of Brinkley Bluff and the highlight campsite of the trip.
The next two days will be among the most difficult, particularly as you will need to carry 2 days of water which will add to the weight on your back. The trail becomes more rocky and has a lot of false summits so keep your wits about you and take your time.
However, all that aside, it is considered to be one of the best sections of the entire trail, and your camp tonight on Brinkley Bluff offers breathtaking views. Settle in, feeling on top of the world as you watch the colours change across the desert, before the sky overhead is transformed into a 5 billion star experience. It really will be a night to remember.
Imagine waking to a magical sunrise without having to leave your tent!
With a lighter pack and the improved trackwork, the descent from Brinkley Bluff will feel much better than the ascent. However the sharp, rocky switchbacks do require some sure-footedness until you reach Stuart’s Pass, which was named after John McDouall Stuart a scottish explorer known for navigating the harsh outback of central Australia from Darwin to Adelaide. He was also the first to climb, and name, Brinkley Bluff.
From here the trail smooths out and is relatively easy for the last few kilometers as you make your way along the river valley to Birthday Waterhole. Set up camp and relax around the semi-permanent water hole on the Hugh River, surrounded by large red river gums that you so often see recreated in iconic outback artwork, with their ghost-white trunks and twisting branches.
Today is another of the more visually spectacular sections; the entire way you will be offered great views, particularly between Linear Valley and Hugh Gorge. It is also another of the most difficult sections as you traverse along the narrow ridgetops and the trail becomes more undefined, rocky and incredibly steep. Here, there is a lot of clambering over boulders and through (usually dry) riverbeds, negotiating waterholes and thick vegetation. The trail also starts to become less obvious in places and jagged rocks make it more of a technical walk; not for the faint-hearted!
The walk starts off relatively easy, climbing over a small saddle and on to Spencer Gorge, but don’t let that fool you! While shady and picturesque, Spencer Gorge is tough – a boulder obstacle course – and your joints will feel it. The challenge continues with some strenuous rock scrambling up to Razorback Ridge, where the stunning views will invite you to rest your tired legs, and catch your breath over lunch. Follow the rocky spine of the ridge before weaving back down the narrow trail into the arid Linear valley.
Hugh Gorge will be a welcome sight with its spectacular orange walls and red cliffs reflecting in the cold pools of water, shimmering gum trees and the unique black tea-trees.
The longest section of the trail which, while not holding the same level of excitement as the previous two sections, will be a nice change from the rugged mountainous terrain. You will have more of an undulating trail as you cross the Alice Valley from the Chewing Range, towards Ellery Creek Big Hole in the Heavitree Range. Stamina and some mental toughness will be required to keep the pace through the tedious trail, though your knees and ankles will be thankful for relatively even ground underfoot.
While you have a break from the more technical walking, take the time to appreciate where you are. All around are the colours of the Australian outback – brilliant reds and oranges stretch in an expanse of earth and rocks below your feet, and through the sunrises and sunsets in the sky above; endless blue skies; pockets of green in the waterholes and gullies or dots of yellow spinifex grass and the iridescent glow of white gum tree trunks. You can quite easily see where the inspiration for many of the local Arrernte Aboriginal artwork has come from
Your final destination today will erase all thoughts of exhaustion from your mind as you reach one of the most popular destinations in the Tjoritja / West MacDonnell National Park. A spectacular gorge created by Ellery creek slicing through the West MacDonnell Ranges that, combined with years of flooding, has carved out the resulting waterhole.
Cool your feet in the water (or if you are game, your whole body!) as you ponder on the thought that for many thousands of years the area was a significant dreamtime meeting place for the Arrernte people, and still is an incredibly sacred location.
NB For those doing the shorter 8 day itinerary you will finish this morning
As you awake this morning from your camp on the sandy banks you may be lucky to see a dingo drinking out of the water hole – or if not, look for the tracks in the ground indicating they may have come through during the night. Today your legs will appreciate another day of gentle terrain, which will allow you to pick up the pace a bit and stretch your legs. Though the surroundings may seem to be bordering on ordinary, keep in mind you are walking in a place where time began – those rocks you are walking on, are some of the world’s oldest formed millions of years ago.
There are a few sections where the ground underfoot is quite rough and jagged, and at times the track seems to weave up to higher ground before returning back down, without apparent cause. You will have some nice views of the MacDonnell Ranges to the south and the rich array of typical Central Australian colours and shades will continue to follow you to your campsite at Serpentine Gorge which, as the name would suggest, is another sacred site. If you have any energy left after setting up camp, the walk up to the lookout is worth it.
Today you are back up to those iconic razor sharp ridgeline trails offering beautiful scenic views. These high trails do have some steep, but well supported sections, with rocky steps and clear paths. The highlight of today is the climb up to Counts Point, from where you can see far out across the Alice Valley and your first glimpse of Mt Sonder – your final destination. You will also see the highest point in the territory, Mt Zeil at just over 1500m.
You will need to keep your wits about you today as the trail will not be so obvious in places, so do take your time – you will need to keep those energy reserves full for tomorrow.
An early start is required to tackle the final of the more difficult sections that takes you once more into very rugged and remote territory. You will encounter a number of steep rocky ascents and descents, made more challenging by the fact that you must carry all your water for the entire section. It is also one of the most impressive and scenic sections with many 360 degree viewpoints, in particular from the Mt Giles Lookout with views to said mountain in the north, and Mt Sonder to the west. These views are your reward for the challenging trail. As you walk, you will also start to see the outline of the imposing Mount Sonder in the distance – keep your eyes focused on the end goal!
When you arrive, Ormiston Gorge will be another of those “wow” moments – a picture perfect waterhole that is estimated to be 14m deep, surrounded by towering red walls. Hikers also relish the local kiosk that serves fresh coffee and baked goodies which will be heaven after 10 days on the trail.
After yesterday’s tough walk, a day at leisure is welcome. If you do want to stretch your legs, there are loop walks through the Ormiston gorge and pound.
Note: if you want to remove this day another option is to split the previous day 10 into two sections and camp at Giles Lookout or Hermit’s Hideaway. Plan your water accordingly.
One of the shortest sections which winds through limestone hills to one of the oldest rivers in the world, the Finke River. It only flows a few times a year before the water disappears into the desert. Explorer John McDouall Stuart is once again responsible for naming this River after an Adelaide man who promoted his expedition, however the Arrernte people call it Larapinta.
Walking along the typical “red centre” landscape of dry river beds lined with old red gum trees, there are a number of creek and river bed crossings involved, but as mentioned, these are almost always dry in the trekking season. The views of Mt Sonder in the distance are intensified as you are nearing the end of your trek. The trail is mostly compacted earth – all in all a nice gentle section.
Once more Mt Sonder is the backdrop as the trail starts over spinifex-covered hills, before climbing to a hilltop lookout offering up more of those 360 degree views you have become accustomed to on the Larapinta. Your final long section of the trek, however the trail is well formed which makes it slightly kinder on the joints as you climb up and down. From the lookout, the remaining trail is relatively easy going through to Redbank creek.
Redbank Gorge is home to many endangered species of flora and fauna and, as does Mt Sonder which you will be exploring tomorrow, is a sacred site whose Dreamtime story is closely linked to the small kangaroo. Around the waterhole you will see rock wallabies, kangaroos and abundance of birds and frogs.
The grand finale is a difficult but worthwhile climb to the peak of Mt Sonder (1380m) – the highest point on the Larapinta and the Territories 4th highest mountain. From here there are breathtaking views in all directions – many people will get up in the middle of the night to be there for sunrise – but if you don’t want to get out of bed on a cold morning, the views are just as spectacular any time of day overlooking ranges, plains, valleys and lake. Just keep in mind your transfer pick up time, or alternatively stay another night and do the climb for sunset.
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.
Explore the Larapinta Trail
Duration: 12–20 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
- Our detailed guide to hiking the Larapinta Trail – contains all the essential information you need to know in advance
- 14 days worth of food for your adventure; breakfast, lunch and dinner each day – delivered straight to your home
- Our own range of Lightweight, highly nutritious meals that are locally sourced, delicious and easy to carry & cook ( freeze dried and dehydrated)
- Our ‘state of the art’ Navigation app to guide you on the track; showing huts, campsites and all points of Interest along the way
- Delivery to your door* of our ‘Adventure in a box’ food parcel
- Our ‘Get fit for hiking’ e-guide for backpacking adventures
- 10% GST included
- A key hire deposit of $70 is included for the food storerooms, of which $50 is refunded by us after you return the key locally.
Solo hikers. Our price is based on twin share for sharing the food drop & transfers. An additional charge of $110 applies for a solo hiker.
* Additional $35 food delivery charge for any locations in NT, WA and Northern Queensland
- Transfers or transport to Alice Springs & trailheads
- No equipment included
- Some campgrounds listed below have campsite fees which are paid locally, including:
- Ellery Creek Big Hole (Ellery Creek South) – $5 per person
- Ormiston Gorge – $10 per person
- Redbank Gorge – $5 per person.
You should carry the correct amount as change is not available.
- Other campsites are free for Larapinta walkers
Everything you need
Our essential information guides give you everything you need to know – and none of the information you don’t – to prepare well for one of these hikes. 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.
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.
Finding Your Way
Our unique RAW Travel walking app has been designed to help you navigate easily on the trail. Simply download your map with the link we send you and you’ll be able to follow your route with ease, showing your location in real time without any internet connection needed. The app has many great features; it shows you weather forecasts localised for each of your overnight stops, detailed information on each campsite/ hut and what facilities are available there so you don’t need to carry our trail guide. There is important reminders, safety information, videos and emergency contact information for your route. It also has a unique audio feature that can tell you about places and points of interest as you approach them on the trail.
Need to Know
The Larapinta trail is rated by us as a challenging – strenuous grade and best suited to hikers of strong 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 experienced Bushwalkers confident in finding their way and able to carry a pack for a full day. At least 1 person in your party should have experience in off-track walking and navigation. RAW Travel has a detailed guide specifically for multi-day walk training, you will receive this as part of your booking.
We recommend you fly into Alice Springs airport. Qantas and Virgin Airlines service Alice Springs with direct flights from Melbourne, Sydney, Darwin, Perth, Brisbane and Cairns.Transfers can be arranged to most of the trailheads, in conjunction with food drops. These need to be booked in advance – there are a limited number of transfer times and numbers available each day to each trailhead.
Independent adventures place you at the centre of the experience, giving you the confidence to be a self-reliant walker on the trail. We take care of the research needed and give you all the essential information relating to the trip ( a task that seasoned walkers can tell you often takes many hours to get the correct information) so you can be thoroughly prepared and confident that you have everything you need for your adventure. We give you all the contacts & details to nearby transportation, accommodation and hire services, highlight any risks to be aware of and how to mitigate them.
The food prep is a major hassle of many hikers trips and we solve that for you. We prepare all the food that you need for your trip, all pre-measured and dehydrated / freeze dried to take away the weight but keep the freshness. Our meals are reviewed by Nutritionists to provide the right daily nutrition and energy for your demands of the walk. And our ingredients are prepared from the best local ingredients here on the Mornington Peninsula, cooked to order and freeze dried fresh – not sitting on a shelf for years at a time!
Once you arrive at the trail it’s all over to you the adventure begins! You are free and independent to create your own experience the way you want it. We provide you with an app to help you navigate in real time on the trail and give you the campsite locations and points of interest but you are completely autonomous & self – supporting on the walk. These trips are best suited to people who relish that sense of liberation and freedom that comes with being self-reliant and don’t need the back up of a leader or group travel. Independent Adventures are different from our other self – guided walking trips as there are no briefings, transfers or local support from RAW Travel staff. It’s just you and nature out on the trail!
You can arrange locally at additional cost a package of food drops and transfers for the trail. Three strategically placed drops along the Larapinta Trail allow you to complete your trek in more comfort by allowing you to minimise your food weight load and resupply every 4-6 days. These are bought locally and the package includes 3 x standard 50lt tubs or containers for your three food drops. Generally, 3 x 50lt are more than sufficient for up to 2-3 hikers. The food drop services operates 7 days a week. You can also put spare gas containers in the box and drinks as long as you stay under the 15kg per box limit.
3 food drops to Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek South and Ormiston Gorge
(DDPD) Digital Proof of Delivery & Alerts
A key is issued to you as part of the trek package. It is delivered with the containers during your pre-trek stay. The key is required to open the Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Creek food storerooms. The key hire is $70 of which $50 is refunded once you return the key locally. ( The $70 hire fee is in addition to the Trek Package price).
Transfer at the end of your trek
You will be picked up from the Redbank Gorge car park, which is approx 300m from the Larapinta Trail campsite.
Morning Pick Up from Redbank Gorge
Depart Redbank Gorge: 11am
Arrive Alice Springs: Approx 2:30pm
Unless you are a very experienced walker then it is not recommended to walk this solo due to the isolation and very rugged terrain. You should carry an EPRIRB / PLB for safety. The trail is marked for its entire length and there are communal campsites to head to each evening.
You will come across three types of campsites on the Larapinta Trail: sandy creek beds, platforms at the trailheads, and sites that are mostly rock with a bit of soil thrown in. All trailhead campsites have water tanks, basic toilets (some pit, some flushing) and shelter. Most also have gas BBQs and wooden tent pads (some under shelter and some out in the open). Tables and chairs are not common. You will find bins at Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge. Showers are located at Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Resort and Standley Chasm Point.
Yes. There is a local company based in Alice Springs that can rent you camping and other equipment. They can also arrange a food drop ( mentioned above) for you to cut down on the amount of food carried for the full trail.
You can hire a satellite phone or a PLB, from Alice Springs, food drops, trailhead transfers and camping equipment for the hike. Details are included in the guide you receive after booking and RAW Travel can also help you with organizing trail head transfers and food drops to support your walk ( additional costs).
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.
As a B-Corp a focus on local community is an important part of who we are. We are committed to buying locally and source our produce from growers here on the Mornington Peninsula. We care about people in our community and for every meal pack you buy with us we donate a meal to a homeless support charity, to spread some love and share good food with those who need it most.
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