As a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of Australia’s most famous landmarks, Uluru is the undeniable highlight of the Red Centre and an unmissable attraction for visitors to Alice Springs. Here’s a rundown of tour options.
West MacDonnell Ranges
West MacDonnell National Park, NT
Active travelers come to the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park to hike or mountain bike along one of the many trails, or to spot wildlife such as black-footed rock wallabies and more than 200 bird species. Venture off-road in a 4WD, cool off with a swim in one of the many waterholes—Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, and Glen Helen are among the most popular—and visit ancient Aboriginal sites belonging to the Tjoritja people, the land’s Traditional Owners. Other must-visit spots include Simpson Gap, a dramatic red rock gorge; the Ochre Pits, known for their swirling multi-colored rocks; and Redbank Gorge, a scenic waterhole at the foot of Mount Sonder.
Things to know before you go
- The West MacDonnell Ranges are a popular inclusion on multi-day tours of Australia’s Red Centre, often alongside a visit to Uluru, Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), and the Kings Canyon.
- Most tours in the West MacDonnell Ranges include outdoor activities, so bring sturdy hiking boots, your swimsuit, sunscreen, and plenty of water.
- The park has swimming areas, campsites, and BBQ areas, but you’ll need to bring all supplies with you. The only accommodation option in the area is the Glen Helen Resort.
- Some sites, including Simpsons Gap and Ellery Creek Big Hole, are accessible for wheelchairs.
How to get there
The West MacDonnell Ranges National Park lies about an hour’s drive west of Alice Springs, along Route 6. There is no public transport directly to the park so it’s best to join a tour if you don’t have your own transport.
When to get there
It’s possible to visit the park all year round, but the best time for hiking and outdoor activities is from April to August, when the weather is cooler. The hottest period, from October to March, can mean temperatures of over 104˚F (40˚C), so it’s best to plan activities for the morning or evening.
Hiking the Larapinta Trail
Running for 139 miles (223 kilometers) from Alice Springs through the heart of the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park and finishing at Mount Sonder, the Larapinta Trail is the ultimate challenge for hikers visiting the Red Centre. Split into 12 sections, each reachable by 4WD, it’s possible to enjoy day, overnight, or multi-day treks along the trail. Highlights along the way include Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, and Glen Helen, as well as the chance to camp in the outback.
Frequently Asked Questions
The answers provided below are based on answers previously given by the tour provider to customers’ questions.
What are the nearest attractions to West MacDonnell Ranges?
What else should I know about attractions in Alice Springs?
As well as visiting the West MacDonnell Ranges, check out these trip ideas to make the most of your visit:
- Ormiston Gorge
- Tnorala/Gosse Bluff Conservation Reserve
- Hermannsburg (Ntaria)
- Standley Chasm (Angkerle Atwatye)
- MacDonnell Ranges
- Mt. Gillen
- Mbantua Fine Art Gallery and Cultural Museum (Mbantua Aboriginal Art Gallery)
- Larapinta Trail
- Simpsons Gap
- Alice Springs Desert Park
- Finke Gorge National Park
- Alice Springs School of the Air Visitor Centre
- Alice Springs Reptile Centre
- Royal Flying Doctor Service Alice Springs Tourist Facility (RFDS Museum)
- Anzac Hill