Classic Australian treks: Larapinta Trail, NT

This trek epitomises the Red Centre and offers a great display of the variety of flora, fauna and geography on offer in Australia’s heart
By Justin Walker December 2, 2014 Reading Time: 2 Minutes

THE LARAPINTA TRAIL encapsulates all that is Central Australia: massive star-crowded nights, ancient red rock ridges and cliffs, beautiful gorges, myriad dry creeks, a surprising number of waterholes and sublime sunrises and sunsets. For any trekker – whether Australian or from overseas – the Larapinta represents one of the best methods of experiencing the true Australian outback, at your own pace.

You can walk the Larapinta east-west or west-east, following the track as it winds its way through the spectacular West MacDonnell Ranges, just west of Alice Springs. For those starting from the east, you set off from the historic Old Telegraph Station and set your sights to the west and the end-goal of summitting Mount Sonder for the last morning’s sunrise.

Each day on the Larapinta throws up a different spectacle, ranging from the view atop the ridges surrounding Ormiston Gorge, and a relaxing swim in the cooling waters of Ellery Creek Big Hole, through to the sunrise from Mount Sonder and the random wildlife encounters throughout the journey. The Larapinta crosses two parallel mountain ranges: the Heavitree and the Chewings, and the myriad gorges, valleys and waterholes these ranges contain. Three standouts are Simpsons Gap, Standley Chasm and Glen Helen.

For independent walkers, you will need to be fit and strong (you’ll be lugging a full pack of around 15-25kg) and have to organise a food drop or two, to lessen your load. There are designated campsites (with water tanks) spaced roughly a day’s walk apart, although one section – Hugh Gorge to Ellery Creek is, at 31km, quite long but relatively flat going, as well as a number of access points along the way for food drops or if you decide to walk only a few sections of the track.

For guided walkers, World Expeditions offers 3-day and 7-day Larapinta experiences, as well as the full-length jobbie.

The best time of year is the Australian autumn and winter (April to September) and the amount of time you dedicate this fantastic trek is entirely up to you. What we can say though is that, once you take your first step on the Larapinta, you will want to stay on the track for as long as possible, just to soak up what is an awesome experience.