Going on a ‘walkabout’ is a ritual well woven into the past of Australia. The country’s first inhabitants, the Aboriginals, went on spiritual journeys on foot. Nowadays, you can follow their traces in some of Australia’s best hikes. The Larapinta trail, located in the Northern Territory is one of those ultimate hiking trails not to miss.
A real Outback Adventure
Following the footsteps of the first inhabitants of Australia, crossing ancient desert landscapes and mountain ranges, the Larapinta trail is one goal for the experienced hiker. It is located in the Red Centre of Down Under.
The Northern Territory is a place rich of aboriginal history and has a rugged beauty. With highlights such as Darwin, Alice Springs, Uluru and Kings Canyon, the Northern Territory is a must-visit when in Australia.
About the Larapinta Trail
223 kilometers of tracks. That’s what it takes to complete the Larapinta trail, one of Australia’s most remote hiking adventures. It takes about 14 days to fully hike across the desert landscapes and the rugged peaks of the West MacDonnell Ranges, but you can easily opt for separate sections as well. The trail starts at the old Alice Springs Telegraph station and heads west towards the impressive beauty of Simpson’s Gap, Ormiston Gorge and Stanley Chasm. The highest point of the trail, Mount Sonder, offers a 360-degree view over desert landscapes. One of the highlights is sleeping under a star-studded desert sky. Or pitch your tent in one of the wilderness camps located in the rugged and remote Red Centre of Australia.
Amenities of the trail
Thought the Larapinta trail is a very remote and rugged hiking trail, it is one that is well marked with kilometer posts marking the distance to the next camping spot or section as well as the total length of the hike to go. There are notice boards as well at every transition of each section, showing elevation graphs and alerting hikers to potential perils.
Even though you are in desert territory, water can be found both in natural springs as well as storage tanks. All water should be boiled or treated with tablets.
Facts about the Larapinta Trail
The Larapinta trail is 231 kilometers long and takes about 14 days to complete. The best time to hike the trail is April to September (winter season) as the temperatures are more bearable in contrast to summer (45 degrees Celsius). Navigating the trail may not be too hard as it is well marked, it goes along very rocky and difficult terrain. It consists of 12 stages starting at Alice Springs (Telegraph station) and heading towards Mount Sonder, the highest point. The trail rises above 1000 meter of altitude at seven occasions along it’s length and has a minimum altitude of 600 meter.
Planning your trip
From a logistical/transport perspective, it’s easier to hike west to east, thereby finishing your journey at Telegraph Station, just a few kilometres away from downtown Alice Springs. The options of reaching the starting point are limited: hitching or private shuttles, which can be expensive when hiking solo. Drinking water is available at most of the designated campsites and are maintained by the Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife rangers. It is recommended to treat the water by boiling it o radding purification tablets, before drinking it. Food on the other hand, is harder to get to. Provisions can be bought in Alice Springs, but if you are not keen on carrying all food in one long haul, than you can leave resupply boxes at Ellery Creek and Ormiston Gorge.
Camping is possible along the entire trails. Most of the designated campsites have rainwater tanks as well. There are water tanks at each trailhead and at intermediate points too.
Permits and fees
There are no trail fees or permits to be purchased for the Larapinta Trail. The only costs you will have is camping fees in some places, budget for provisions and transport to the trailhead. Using a shuttle service is recommended to get to the start of the trail, as the route is lineair. Public transport is not available.
Hiking the Larapinta trail is a challenge not to be underestimated. Plan your adventure well in advance and make sure you know how to get provisions during your hike. Besides the obvious policy of Leave no Trace, there is no fire policy as well along the trail, giving hikers a gas stove as the sole option to boil water and prepare meals.
What to bring
Well worn in hiking boots are essential on any hiking adventure. Camping equipment is essential if you are going on a multi-day journey while a gas stove is strongly recommended to boil water as there is a no fire policy on the trail. Compass is not necessary as the route is well marked, but be prepared to go off-trail in case of an emergency. Bring an emergency kit as well.
How to get there
There are twelve official trailheads along the Larapinta Trail. Alice Springs Telegraph Station trailhead (Section 1) is the official start point of the trail, while Redbank Gorge Trailhead ( Section 12) is the finish point. The trail officially heads in an east to west direction, but hikers can go either way and start and finish at any trailhead. Most hikers start and finish from trailheads which are easy to access ( and is cheaper to pay for any drop offs and/or pick ups). Commercial transfers to remote trailheads can be expensive. The closest city is Alice Springs, which is close to the start (or end, depending on the direction you hike) of the trail.
Leave no Trace
When hiking in the outdoors, there are a few guidelines that should always be remembered. The Leave no Trace principles are some rules anyone in the outdoors should follow to make sure no harm is done to the environment. These include:
- Plan Ahead and Prepare
- Travel and Camp on Durable Surfaces
- Dispose of Waste Properly
- Leave What you Find
- Minimize Campfire Impacts
- Respect Wildlife
- Be Considerate of Other Visitors