Join us on the ultimate short stay trekking experience in Central Australia. On the 3 day Larapinta Trail trek visit the must see and do things in the West MacDonnell National Park: Ormiston Gorge, Redbank Gorge, Counts Point, the Finke River and Standley Chasm. The highlight of the trek sees us summit magnificent Mount Sonder for sunrise.
The 3 day trek will appeal to the active day pack walker willing to undertake moderate to challenging walking of between 5 to 8 hours each day, across uneven terrain with some ascents and descents.
For each day’s hike on this rugged world class track, you carry just a day pack. We create these trips to be an informative experience as well as a walk through the unique terrain, as we seek to share our knowledge of the place and provide all you need to have an active yet comfortable holiday. You walk with a guide for the day’s trek, with the support guide collecting and transferring you to camp each day, where you can relax while Trek Larapinta caters for your needs.
Being a small, boutique business, we remain keenly aware that we rely on the health of our environment. It sustains us and we, in turn, seek to sustain it. On the 3 day trek a beautiful private bush camp in the Ormiston Gorge region is your home for 2 nights, offering comfortable accommodation in a secluded pristine natural setting. With spacious tents, covered kitchen and communal area, washing area, waterless composting toilets, campfires, and solar generated water heating, lighting and food refrigeration we know it’s a privilege for us to be here. We seek to tend our camps as best we can with minimal impact practices and share these ways with you.
Day 1: Pick up Alice Springs, walk Ormiston Pound/Gorge, visit Glen Helen | 8kms Day 2: Walk section 8 including Counts Point | 15kms Day 3: Summit Mt Sonder, explore Standley Chasm, return Alice Springs | 16kms
Travelling with us, you know you’re coming with a boutique business that specialises in the Larapinta Trail. The experience of being in this ancient landscape can be powerful and refreshing. By offering fully-supported camping and interpretive guiding, Trek Larapinta aims to facilitate this experience for you. All the organisation, transport, food preparation, camping and catering equipment and other logistics are taken care of for you, so you can connect with this landscape in a calm, relaxed way and get the most out of your holiday in this amazing part of Australia.
All camping equipment including sleeping bag, swag, pillow, bed linen and top of the range spacious tent.
All catering equipment.
2 breakfasts, 3 lunches, 2 dinners.
All delicious snacks on the trail.
Hotel pick up and drop off.
Transportation provided in commercially registered, expertly maintained tour vehicles.
All camping, traditional owner and national park fees.
Group first aid and emergency communication facilities.
Private wilderness eco-campsite.
2 Trek Larapinta professional wilderness guides.
Travelling with a culturally and environmentally responsible business.
Small group with a maximum of 10 participants.
Tours do not include pre or post trip airfares or accommodation.
Detailed maps of the Larapinta Trail are also available for purchase.
Notes to consider
The 3 day Larapinta Trail trek requires a moderate to high level of bushwalking/walking and general fitness. As the Larapinta Trail becomes more popular the perception of its difficulty decreases. This however is not the case. The trail remains unrelentingly rocky and hard underfoot and weather extremes can be experienced at any time of the year, so the more prepared you are the more you will enjoy the experience.
Days vary between 5 and 8 hours of easy to moderate to challenging walking, depending on the section. The climb up and down Mt Sonder is a challenging 16km return with a 750m rise in elevation.
If you engage in about one hour of aerobic activity (this might include walking, cycling, swimming etc) three to four times a week during the three months prior to your trip, you should find yourself fit enough to enjoy your days’ activities. Longer walks on uneven bush tracks with your day pack, including some ascents/descents (if you can find them) will help you prepare your body for the full days on the trail.
Collecting you from your hotel in Alice Springs at 7.30am we transfer to Simpsons Gap for a trip briefing and short walk. Driving through the West MacDonnell Ranges to Ormiston Gorge, we begin our adventure exploring the Ormiston Pound walk, one of our favourite places and a must do for anyone visiting Central Australia. This hike takes us up to the high escarpment which overlooks the natural impoundment before descending into the pound itself. We finish the loop by walking through the gorgeous Ormiston Gorge. A delicious lunch is served in the gorge before transferring to our private camp in the Ormiston Gorge region – our home for the next two nights. A camp fire and delicious meal highlights this beautiful location. Tonight you sleep under the blanket of a billion stars in our comfortable swags.
Meals: Lunch, Dinner
Day 2: Section 8
Today we are high on the ridge of the Heavitree Range hiking to one of the most iconic views of the trail – Counts Point. A challenging hike rewards us with sweeping panoramic vistas of high quartzite ridge lines, including Haast Bluff and Mt Zeil to the west. An exhilarating descent is followed by some easier walking through the beautiful Serpentine Gorge and the old Serpentine Chalet. After the walk we transfer back to our private camp in the Ormiston Gorge region. We enjoy another delicious camp fire meal in gorgeous surroundings before a very deep and relaxing sleep under the stars.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner
Day 3: Section 12
A short transfer from our camp to Redbank, where our challenging ascent of Mt Sonder begins. At 1,380 metres, it is the fourth highest peak in the Northern Territory. The hike to the summit this morning for an unforgettable sunrise (weather/group dependent) takes about 3 hours with numerous stops along the way. A challenging (but rewarding!) 16km round trip delivers world class views of this stunning Central Australian range and memories that will last a lifetime. As we approach the top of our climb the sense of achievement hits home, a vast 360 degree panorama of Central Australia surrounds us, rugged and yet from up here so very peaceful. Remote desert peaks stretch as far as the eye can see. The view north looks 100km into the Tanami Desert, and to the east we see the majority of the Western MacDonnell Ranges. To the south is the meteor crater of Gosse Bluff and to the west Mount Zeil, the Northern Territory’s highest mountain. Heading back to Alice Springs, we stop at one of the trail’s icons, Standley Chasm. We usually arrive in town between 4-5pm.
Meals: Breakfast, Lunch
The 3 day trek requires a moderate to high level of bushwalking/walking and general fitness. As the Larapinta Trail becomes more popular the perception of its difficulty decreases. This however is not the case. The trail remains unrelentingly rocky and hard underfoot and weather extremes can be experienced at any time of year, so the more prepared you are the more you will enjoy the experience. Days vary between 5 and 8 hours of easy to moderate to challenging walking, depending on the section. The climb up and down Mt Sonder is a challenging 16km return with a 750m rise in elevation.
3 days out in the bush and on the trail is a great experience. Be sure that your boots are broken in and your personal equipment is in good shape. Although we come together as individuals, we share the experience as a group. There is always time for personal space, but by helping each other out and showing consideration for your fellow walkers, we can ensure a rewarding experience for all. Your guides are always available to talk to whilst on tour to help manage the wellbeing of you and the group. For fundamental safety, group members need to be aware of each other’s location whilst walking, remembering the old bush walking rule of ‘keeping an eye on the person behind you’. This may require walkers to adjust their pace to the group. Faster walkers soon adjust to the joys of pausing in the shade, taking time to listen to the interpretive guide and absorbing the wonders of the trail.
What you carry
Because you have two guides—one on the trail to carry safety equipment and one back at camp organising the logistics of the tour—you only carry a day pack for your walk.
In your pack
Most of the weight will be water to sustain you while walking in the Central Australian climate, which (apart from the rare splashes of rain) is generally sunny and dry even on cold days. We recommend you carry at least 3 litres of water each day. In addition to water, you carry whatever snacks you’d like for the day, a windproof/ rainproof jacket, warm layer and any personal items (such as camera and binoculars) you’d like with you on the trail.
What to know about water
Keeping yourself hydrated is even more important than keeping your feet blister free. Drinking enough water while walking will help you with the stamina and clear thinking you need to walk the trail. Please bring reusable water bottles or a bladder such as a Camelbak to carry a minimum of 3 litres for the day walks. Even in the cooler months, the dry air can cause you to drink more than you realise. We can’t stress enough the importance of keeping your fluid intake up.
Health and fitness
You need to have at least a moderate level of health and fitness for the 3 day trek. The more physically ready you are the less likely you are to sustain an injury. Please talk to us if you have any health issues or other injuries which may affect your time with us, and don’t be afraid to see your GP for advice on participating in this trip before you confirm your booking.
The Larapinta Trail is physically hard and just because you are on a guided trek doesn’t mean it gets any easier! So, be as ready as you can be. Engage in aerobic activity 3-4 times a week for at least 1 hour each session during the 3 months prior to your trip; this might include walking, cycling, swimming etc.
Start to do some long bush walks as regularly as you can and do some full day bush walks with your pack weighing around 5-6kg to get you body used to walking with a load, starting at least 2 months in advance of the trek.
The Larapinta Trail is known for its unevenness and hardness under foot so make sure you do some walking over rough terrain (if you can find it). Feel free to talk to the Trek Larapinta staff about being prepared.
Good meals all day
With sustaining food for breakfast, fresh & tasty meals for lunch, quality camp-cooked food for dinner and plenty of snacks for the trail, you are bound to enjoy your meals with Trek Larapinta. We provide plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables, real coffee and tea. We pride ourselves on our fresh and healthy food.
Catering for dietary requirements
With notice, we can cater for vegetarians and meet most medical/allergy dietary requirements.
For non-medical dietary preferences, please get in touch with us. We like to do what we can to cater for your needs, but because we’re in remote areas this may not always be possible. We appreciate your consideration and understanding of these limits.
Our insurance restricts us from supplying or selling alcohol, so please purchase your requirements in Alice Springs the day prior to your departure. If you are purchasing beer try to find cans as they travel better and cool down quicker. Fresh food takes priority in our fridges, however we can keep some of your beverages cold each day.
The surface on much of the trail is hard and rocky, with sharp quartzite rock. It is very tough on boots and feet and sometimes older footwear can crack, break or fall apart. It’s good to get the balance of boots that are worn-in but not worn-out. If the boots are “worn-in”, it will reduce the chances that you’ll get blisters. But if the boots are “wornout”, they are likely to fall apart on the tough surfaces of the trail.
So it helps to check your shoes well in advance of the walk. If they don’t look certain to make the distance, it’s helpful to buy a new pair at least a few months in advance and break them in properly prior to the trip. Retailers in quality outdoor-gear should also be able to give you good advice on buying new shoes. Your feet are likely to get hot rather than cold. Simple, good-quality breathable leather or synthetic trekking boots or good-quality, low-cut walking shoes are fine. It also helps to have good quality socks to fit your footwear. We wear well-padded thinner style of Merino wool sock or a synthetic moisture-wicking sock. Another thing to consider is packing a spare pair of alternative lightweight shoes or boots which you would be able to use in case of damage or blisters.
Comfortable footwear for around camp such as sneakers or sandals are great. We like to wear Ugg boots during the cool evenings!
Temperatures do vary during the year (see temperature chart). You will know your preferred walking attire, but, as a guide, always bring clothing that can protect you from the sun during your day’s walk, like a long sleeve shirt with a collar, a hat and some sunglasses. Long pants are good to have on cooler days, but shorts are very handy for most of the year (we don’t recommend cotton or denim). Warm, lightweight jumpers for walking and a good rain coat are essential items. Ankle gaiters can help keep grass seeds and sand out off your shoes but are not essential (we wear the cotton ankle/sock protectors). Thermal layers are also very handy as they are light and warm. Think about the layering system when choosing your clothes.
For after the day’s walk, casual clothing is all you need, plus some warm layers— including a beanie and gloves— for the chilly drop-off in temperature at night.
The temperature within your boots and also the hard and uneven terrain can quickly cause blisters or exacerbate other foot problems. Before a walk like this, have any corns, calluses etc. seen to, and make sure problem nails are trimmed and all nails cut. Come prepared with some form of blister prevention and, if you are prone to blisters, always tape up before the days walk “prevention is the cure”. Your feet will be very valuable to you during this tour, and a little preparation can go a long way.
Our camp site
A lot of changes are happening to the way the park is being managed as far as campsite locations for commercial operators are concerned. We have been granted private use of a section of the beautiful Ormiston Creek. It is a bush camp and we adhere to Parks and Wildlife’s and our own strict minimal impact policies, which we have learnt through experience and observation of our interaction with these areas. It’s a privilege to be in these areas so we want to look after them.
On the 3 day trip we use one camp site for the duration of the tour. Due to our walks all being on the far western sections it means you can set up and not have to worry about relocating campsite each night. We just transfer each day to the trail heads. Sometimes people say before they get here that they hoped to be moving each night, but they soon realise the benefits of a base camp and end up being very thankful for the chance to be in one place, especially here on Ormiston Creek.
The Larapinta Trail is an extended bushwalking trail running west from Alice Springs (Telegraph Station) to Mount Sonder (Rwetyepme), along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges. It was completed in 2002, and its 223 kilometres are fast gaining a reputation for offering one of the finest walking experiences in the world.
The steep red slopes of the West MacDonnell Ranges rise dramatically from the Central Australian desert. They typify the rugged landscapes of the Red Centre with the changing hues of their mountain peaks, rolling hills and dry river valleys made famous in the paintings of Albert Namatjira.
The Macdonnell Ranges are quite high by Australian standards, and the Larapinta Trail rises above 1,000 metres 7 times along its length, from a base altitude of 600m. Mt. Sonder is 1,380m high. Many sections rise from the gorges to the ridgetops and back. This is reflected in the kilometres per day recommended. Do not underestimate the trail or the time needed to complete all or any of the individual 12 sections.
Trek Larapinta provides an unequalled opportunity to experience this living desert landscape and take in its special wild and remote places. The Larapinta Trail crosses a variety of terrain, from high ridgelines to sheltered gorges and is home to many of the arid zone’s rare plants. It also links the well known visitor attractions along the ranges of the West MacDonnell National Park (Tjoritja) where walkers can join or leave the trail.
Trek Larapinta wishes to acknowledge the Traditional Owners and Custodians of the Central and Western Arrernte Country for allowing us the opportunity to share this magnificent place – the Larapinta Trail and Western MacDonnell region.
We thank the traditional Arrernte owners for partnering with us to enable our guests to experience one of the most special and unique places on earth.
The Arrernte (pronounced Arunda) people of central Australia are the traditional owners of the country we walk on, sleep on, talk on and journey through. These ancient peoples have been connected to country for a very long time and belong to some of the longest continuing cultures on the planet. Some of the very first indigenous Australian dreaming stories ever recorded were those stories about beetles, caterpillars and travelling ancestral beings told by Arrernte people of Central Australia. Arrernte people continue to practice their culture in and around Alice Springs, ensuring that their language and customs are maintained.
The Map of Indigenous Australia is a useful representation of the language, social and national groups of Aboriginal Australia.
Trek Larapinta believes that creating an understanding of the cultural past, present and future to be a crucial part of the walking journey on country. We are passionate about being part of cultural awareness and actively incorporate this in all our journeys on the Larapinta Trail.
If you would like to know more about the Arrernte people have a look at:
Araluen Arts Centre
Alice Springs Indigenous Population
Highlights of the Trail and West MacDonnell Ranges
Standley Chasm (Angkerle)
Standley Chasm cuts through tough quartzite to form a picturesque natural alleyway formed from flood waters over thousands of years. This beautiful site is at its most impressive in the middle of a sunny day when the light displays magnificent colours and forms. The reliable trickle of water in the Chasm ensures the gully floor is lush with delicate ferns to tall gum trees and cycad palms.
Standley Chasm is located in a private flora and fauna reserve owned by the Iwupataka Land Trust and is operated by Aboriginal family members that are direct descendants from Aboriginal people that have lived in this area for thousands of years.
At an altitude of 1,140 metres, Counts Point is one of the highest points on the Heavitree Range, From the summit the ground falls away abruptly into gracefully arched valleys reaching towards the west. The view from Counts point is arguably one of the best elevated vistas along the entire Larapinta Trail. Counts Point can be undertaken as a day walk along section 8 of the trail and is rated a hard walk.
Ormiston Gorge (Kwartatuma)
Ormiston Gorge showcases the spectacular geology and landforms of the West MacDonnell Ranges. The gorge has a waterhole that is there year round and is great for swimming, especially in warmer months. The popular three to four hour circuit Ormiston Pound Walk follows the rocky slope into the flat expanse of the pound and back along the gorge by the main waterhole. Sections 9 and 10 of the Larapinta Trail pass through the Ormiston Gorge area.
Mt Sonder (Rwetyepme)
Mt Sonder is the fourth highest mountain in the Northern Territory at 1,380 metres. It is the final point on the Larapinta Trail at the end of Section 12. A vast 360 degree panorama greats you at the summit. Remote desert peaks stretch as far as the eye can see. The view north looks 100km into the Tanami Desert, and to the east we see the majority of the Western MacDonnell Ranges. To the south is the meteor crater of Gosse Bluff (Tnorala) and to the west Mount Zeil (Urlatherrke), the Northern Territory’s highest mountain.
Larapinta Trail Grading
The Larapinta Trail is divided into 12 sections that each take one or two days to walk. Each section of the trail has been rated by level of difficulty (see summary below) according to the Australian Walking Track Grading System. The Australian Walking Track Grading System is a national standard to help you work out if a walk will suit your level of fitness and experience.
As the Larapinta Trail becomes more popular the perception of its difficulty decreases. This however is not the case. The trail remains unrelentingly rocky and hard underfoot and weather extremes can be experienced at any time of the year. The more prepared you are the more you will enjoy the experience.
A Grade 3 (moderate) walk is suitable for most ages and fitness levels with some bushwalking experience recommended. Tracks may have short steep hill sections, a rough surface and many steps. Grade 4 (moderate to difficult) walks require a good level of bushwalking experience along tracks that may be long, rough and very steep. Further information about the walking track grading system can be found here.
Section 1 : Telegraph Station to Simpsons Gap – Grade 3 Moderate
Section 2 : Simpsons Gap to Jay Creek – Grade 3 Moderate
Section 3 : Jay Creek to Standley Chasm – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Section 4 : Standley Chasm to Birthday Waterhole – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Section 5 : Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Section 6 : Hugh Gorge to Ellery Creek – Grade 3 Moderate
Section 7 : Ellery Creek to Serpentine Gorge – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Section 8 : Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Section 9 : Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Section 10 : Ormiston Gorge to Finke River – Grade 3 Moderate
Section 11 : Finke River to Redbank Gorge – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Section 12 : Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder return – Grade 4 Moderate to Difficult
Trek Larapinta supplies basic trail maps as part of their fully-supported Larapinta Trail tours. Detailed Larapinta Trail maps can also be purchased.
Due to large bushfires caused by mismanagement of campfires by walkers and non-walkers, there is a total fire ban on the Larapinta Trail. Please adhere to the total fire ban, as this will help with regeneration of affected areas, provide a good balance of natural habitat and promote the future well-being of the Park.
Trek Larapinta camps in areas where fires are permitted by permit, and our firewood is sourced from outside the park. We also work at keeping our use of firewood to a minimum.
Water is generally available at most trailheads, where water tanks are installed and maintained by National Parks. Parks recommend that all water, including tank water, be treated before use. Please check with NT Parks and Wildlife for up-to date information on water and other trail facilities
Mobile phone reception is very limited along the trail, so a working emergency communication option is highly recommended (satellite phone or personal locator beacon).