Standley Chasm: The Views Most Tourists NEVER See

Standley Chasm, West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs

Most people who visit Standley Chasm NEVER do this.

They walk right past it, and just think it’s only for super-fit, gear-freak, outdoor adventure-heads.

They are so wrong!

So in this post, we’ll share our secret to help you escape the tourist crowds, take jawdropping photos and see Standley Chasm like you’ve never seen it before.

Our Secret Sauce: The Larapinta Trail

We’d been asked by the Friends of the Larapinta Trail (FOTL) group to lead a walk along Section 3 of the Larapinta Trail from Standley *Chasm to Angkale Junction one Sunday morning.

(*Pronounced KAS-um, not ‘chas-um’ as in ‘chair’)

Even though it was a Sunday morning and the temperature was ZERO degrees Celsius, 20 people made the drive out from Alice Springs to share this short walk with us.

Standley Chasm, West MacDonnell Ranges, Larapinta Trail

They were blown away by what they saw.

The secret?

A short 3km (1.5 hour) return walk along Section 3 of the world-famous Larapinta Trail.

We started off following the usual tourist track that leads to Standley Chasm itself. The first part of this trail skirts a lush creek line where there’s nearly always water.

This part of the walk always reminds me of hiking in the Blue Mountains in NSW – a large part of my childhood – until I look up and the blazing ochres of the West MacDonnell Ranges remind me where I really am.

After only 5 minutes of walking, we came to the Larapinta Trail Section 3 marker and turned off the Standley Chasm track.

From here, we climbed up through a short gully, surrounded by MacDonnell Range cycads, striking white quartz veins, and rare winter wildflowers blooming after autumn rains.

Gully-Climb

Three-quarters of the way up the gully, we stopped everyone and made them turn around.

For many people, this view alone was worth the bitter cold and the 50km drive out from Alice Springs:

Standley Chasm, West MacDonnell Ranges, Larapinta Trail

However, there was even better to come…

Reaching the top of the first saddle, we were able to look down into the back of the Chasm from above.

This is the back of Standley Chasm – the part few tourists take the time to see.

Standley Chasm, West MacDonnell Ranges, Larapinta Trail

The contrast of shadows and light, the sun on the bone-white trunks of Ghost Gums, the jutting veins of quartz. It’s hard to know where to point your camera.

All this – and only 15 minutes from the usual beaten path!

From there, we lead the group around a trail that winds down and up again – skirting directly behind the narrow Chasm and more stunning scenery.

Standley Chasm, West MacDonnell Ranges, Alice Springs

Midday would be the best time to visit here; unfortunately we were a little early, so the shadows were quite deep.

Finally, we followed the trail down and rejoined a creek line. We soon came to the sign marking Angkale Junction.

This was our destination, a thankfully sunny place between a gap in the ranges. Section 3 of the Larapinta Trial continued on from here, stretching about 11 km east to Fishhole Gorge.

Standley-Group

After a rest –not that we really needed a rest- and a photo, we all headed back to along the same route – this time with a little more up than down.

We passed quite a few overnight hikers with heavy packs.

Having hiked Section 3 solo two years earlier, I was secretly jealous. I knew these hikers would see country that would stay in their hearts forever. The ‘high’ route on Section 3 is worth every calf-straining step!

Re-joining the Standley Chasm trail, most of the group headed straight to the café for coffee and cake.

We were fortunate enough to have Aboriginal Traditional Owner, Deanella Mack,  to greet us and explain the significance of the Chasm to Aboriginal people.

The Chasm itself is a Rock Wallaby Dreaming place that’s sacred to Arrernte women.

Black Footed Rock Wallaby

In traditional times, only women could come here to collect bush medicines and perform sacred rites. These stories and songs are still used by Arrernte women today – most of them cannot be revealed unless you’re a woman who’s been through the appropriate ceremonies.

Deanella had to rush off as a large school group from Victoria turned up, so a few of us who were left finished our coffee and hurried off back towards the Chasm.

We reached the Chasm in time to capture photos as the sun rallied overhead and bathed the cliffs in glorious light.

Standley Chasm, West MacDonnell Ranges, Larapinta Trail

As we mingled among the ordinary tourists, oohing and ahhing at the sight, a part of me was thinking of the overnight hikers and scenery on Section 3.

For so little effort –not much more than an hour- we’d hiked into another world, and seen the other side of the Chasm, met a Traditional Owner and learned more about the living Aboriginal culture of this place.

All while most people walk the usual beaten path – with no idea what lay only 15 minutes further on.

Quick Facts:

Standley Chasm is located approximately 50km west of Alice Springs and is on privately owned Aboriginal land.

From Alice Springs, follow Larapinta Drive west for 40km, until you see the turn off signs to Standley Chasm. Turn on to this road, and there’s another 8km to the Chasm’s entrance.

All roads are sealed, and the trip is suitable for motorcycles, caravans and camper trailers.

It will take you about 35 minutes to get from Alice to the Chasm.

As the Chasm is privately owned, there is an entry fee of $10 per adult. There are pensioner and children’s rates as well.

Before you complain about the fee, remember that the cafe, the camping area, the wages of the staff and all the facilities at the Chasm are paid for by visitor fees.

Standley Chasm’s website is here. You can also phone them to book camping or guided tours: 08 8956 7440

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