The Larapinta Trail – Outback Australia’s Best Long Distance Walk

Not only is the Larapinta Trail one of the most famous hiking tracks in Australia, it’s rapidly becoming popular with overseas hikers.

 The Trail is a long-distance walking track that has 12 sections stretching over 223 km from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder.

It’s located within the West MacDonnell National Park in the Northern Territory.

The Larapinta Trail has LOTS of options.

Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, outback Australia, hikingLarapinta Trail Quick Facts

  • Trail length: 223 km
  • Beginning/End Points: Alice Springs (east); Mount Sonder (west)
  • Number of sections: 12
  • Average time to walk entire trail: 10 – 14 days
  • Easiest sections: 1, 2, 6 and 10
  • Hardest sections: 3, 4, 5 and 9
  • Best sections (highly subjective!): 4, 5, 8, 9 and 12

It can be done end-to-end, in sections, or as a whole series of shorter walks, and is spectacularly diverse.

No matter how many times we walk the Trail, we still get a sense of awe as we reach a peak or ridgeline and look out across this magnificent part of central Australia.

Not only have we walked the whole Trail several times over, Gary was involved in constructing the trail and is still responsible for looking after it.

So in this section of the site, we’re going to share our behind-the-scenes knowledge of hiking the Trail with you.


Larapinta Trail Facts:

The Larapinta Trail consists of 12 stages stretching from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder, the fourth highest mountain in central Australia.

It’s a classic ‘section’ hike. Look carefully on the map below. The dotted black line of the Larapinta Trail can be readily seen from Mount Sonder back to Alice Springs.

Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, outback Australia, hiking

You can either choose to walk the whole trail completely, or walk it in sections, based on time available or your level of fitness or experience.

The Trail follows the West MacDonnell Ranges (or the West Macs as we locals call them), taking you to many of the most beautiful places in the Red Centre including:Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, outback Australia

The West MacDonnell Ranges are a proposed World Heritage area, and the Trail itself has been listed as one of the top ten walks in the world.

I’m sure you will have a thousand questions about the Trail, and we really recommend buying a Larapinta Trail package if you are seriously considering doing the walk.

The Trail Package is priced at $44 and will answer most of your questions.

The Trail package has all the info on safety, where water is available on the Trail and what guidelines you must consider when planning your trip.


 Trek Larapinta -Larapinta Trail SpecialistsSince 1998 we’ve led the way in quality small group treks on the Larapinta Trail

Frequently Asked Questions

I can still hear that you have a few questions about the Larapinta Trail, so I’ll answer the ones we get asked most often.

Q.1 Do you need to do the whole walk?

A: No. You can easily do a section or two at a time. You can even do parts of sections as short hikes from places like the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, Simpsons Gap, Ormiston Gorge and many others.

One of the most popular day hikes amongst Alice Springs locals is section 12, the Mount Sonder climb, which you can read about on our Redbank Gorge page.

Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, outback Australia

That said, a lot of people choose to walk the whole trail. If you do choose to do this then you’ll need to put aside 10-14 days to do so. (Amanda is planning an end-to-end walk of the trail in late May 2012 over 12 days).

Also, if you’re planning on doing the whole trail, be aware that this no easy walk for the inexperienced. You will need to do a number of steep ascents and descents, carry your own food and water, and plan and arrange food drops.

It really comes down to your level of fitness, experience and motivation as to what you choose to do.

The Trail has differing levels of difficulty, and whilst many stages are overnight walks many can be done in a day which means you don’t have to carry heavy backpacks full of camping gear and stuff.

Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, outback Australia, hiking

It might be a time factor or it might be a fitness or experience factor but yes you can choose to do whatever you like and plan around these things to get the most out of your experience.

If you are not driving it is possible to get dropped off at certain locations and then be picked up at others, it’s your choice.

Q.2 What are the best sections?

A: This is a hard question as it’s highly subjective, but I would have to pick sections 4,5,8,9 and 12.

Why?

Each of these sections has stunning high peak views which look out over the surrounding landscape and each provides an experience of solitude in which you can reflect on your life and where you are going in the future.

Q.3 What are the hardest sections?

A: Again, this is probably a personal thing, but to me the hardest sections are the high route on section 3, 4 and 5 (depending on which way you are walking) and finally section 9.

Section 3 has some of the most remarkable views (and BEST photography opportunities) if you take the ‘high route’ option, but it’s not for the faint-hearted or unfit.

Section 4  (pictured below) has the climb up Brinkley’s Bluff. This is either a short, sharp, tough climb (from the west) or a long slow (about 2-3 hours) from the east.

Brinkleys

And of course, what you climb up, you must descend! The descent off Brinkleys heading west is tough and not for inexperienced hikers.

Section 5 has two tough climbs, including Razorback Ridge, which again requires good fitness and experience in carrying loaded backpacks up and down steep, rocky inclines.

Sunrise on Razorback Ridge, however, will make you forget all about the climb!

Section 9 has a particularly severe hill climb that culminates in one of the most spectacular views of the Ormiston Pound and Mt. Giles you are likely to see.

Q.4 What are the easiest sections?

Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, outback Australia, hiking

A: My choice would be sections 1, 2, 6 and 10.

I guess ‘easy’ is a comparative term, but to me anyway these are easier than the rest.

However, easy doesn’t mean boring.

Each section has something that the other sections don’t have and this is the beauty of the planning behind the design of the Trail.

Section 1 does have a couple of short climbs and descents as you head out along Euro Ridge (pictured to the right) – but they’re really nothing at all if you compare them to the climbs up Brinkley’s Bluff (Section 4) or the High Route on Section 3.

Section 2 has no climbs whatsoever and just meanders along the front of the MacDonnell Ranges, and takes you to a couple of cool, shady gaps with waterholes in them.

Section 6 is long (31km) but very flat. It’s achievable as a day hike if you’ve got reasonable fitness.

Section 10 is my pick as a day walk if you’re looking for something easy with great outback scenery and an easy-to-access destination (Ormiston Gorge or Glen Helen) at either end.


Tours, Pick Ups and Food Drops

If you’re planning on hiking the Larapinta Trail end-to-end, or want to do a section or two, then you’re probably wondering about food drops, transport or even whether there’s any organised tours.

Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges, outback Australia, hiking

The good news is that we can help you with information here on all of those things.

You’ll find our insider information on food drops and transport on this page.

This page links directly to tour companies offering commerical Larapinta Trail tours. In other words, you get a guide, your transport, food and often your equipment all taken care of.

Trek Larapinta (whom we recommend) also offer a pick up and drop-off service, and can assist with food drops.

The downside is that some of these tours are very expensive, but then if you’re after an easy, hassle-free experience, the money will be well worth spending.

A Personal Message

The Larapinta Trail is a big part of our lives and we are very passionate about promoting it.

We’ve had so many good times with each other, our friends and family whilst hiking the trail, our walks on the trail are some of the best times of our lives.

Please don’t think the Trail is just for super-fit, experienced hikers.

The Trail is for families, kids and everyone – provided you take care and use the hiking safety advice we’ve written about here.

If you’re not sure whether you’d be able to manage a section, or whether your children would be able to walk a section, please contact us and we’ll be able to help.

Remember, Gary is a ranger who actually looks after the Trail, so you’ll get the best possible information that you expect from anyone.

If you’ve enjoyed reading about Larapinta Trail and found this page useful, we’d be eternally grateful if you shared it via Facebook, Twitter or Stumbleupon, using the ‘Share it’ button below.


More West MacDonnell Delights

  • West MacDonnell Ranges – Don’t miss the outback’s best gorges, waterholes and scenery
  • Ellery Creek – Visit a cool, permanent outback waterhole
  • Ormiston Gorge – The outback’s most photographed waterhole. See why.
  • Simpsons Gap – Only 20 minutes from Alice Springs. A great place for families.
  • Serpentine Gorge – Escape to one of the least known, gorges in the West MacDonnell Ranges