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West MacDonnell Ranges

The panoramic landscapes of the West MacDonnell Ranges are easily accessed from Alice Springs. Each of the West MacDonnell’s chasms and gorges has its own unique character and scenery. Swim in the natural pool below Simpsons Gap and spot the rock wallabies that live in the Gap’s rocky ridges. View Standley Chasm as it lights up in fiery oranges reflected by the overhead sun at midday. Take a refreshing dip in the waterholes of Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge or Redbank Gorge. Or visit the Ochre Pits and gain insight into the ancient culture of the local Aboriginal people, who for thousands of years have used the area as a quarry for ochre, a traditional material for paint and ceremonial body decorations.

Continuing west, you’ll travel on a road winding to the south and come to Tyler Pass, a place to stop for spectacular views of Tnorala/Gosse Bluff, a 5 kilometre crater created by a comet 142.5 million years ago. Next, visit historic Hermannsburg, the birthplace of renowned Aboriginal artist Albert Namatjira. An exciting four-wheel-drive track leads out of Hermannsburg to the Finke River, thought to be one of the world’s oldest watercourses. The Finke Gorge National Park is best known for Palm Valley, where groves of unique and beautiful cabbage palms, that are botanic remnants from millions of years ago, adorn a hidden oasis.

One of the best ways to see the West MacDonnell Ranges is by foot. Bushwalking takes you where no roads can go and provides views that few travellers see. The Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell National Park is the showpiece of Central Australian bushwalking. Starting at the Telegraph Station in Alice Springs, the trail winds along the backbone of the West MacDonnell Ranges, finishing atop Mt Sonder. Scenic balloon or helicopter flights are another popular way to experience the West MacDonnell Ranges, or, for the more adventurous, why not try a camel trek or motorcycle tour?

Whether you plan to hike through the bush, or drive from place to place, take the time to discover the unique and ancient beauty of the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Explore Ormiston Gorge

The imposing rich, red walls were spawned by massive geological forces, creating one of the most acclaimed gorges of central Australia. The West MacDonnell Ranges National Park is rich in flora and fauna, and sets the scene for an unforgettable bushwalking trip. The gorge rises to more than 300 metres in some places, and adventure seekers can spend many hours exploring the pound, which runs east from the large waterhole at the gorge. This waterhole is around 14 metres deep, and fairly beckons the traveller at the end of a rewarding day exploring.
The gorge is dotted by the graceful river red gums and adorable wallabies that make the park their home. You will also find a fascinating collection of native fauna that includes plant species left over from a forgotten, tropical past.
Ormiston Creek runs through West MacDonnell National Park. It is a tributary of the Finke River, which some call the oldest river in the world. The area was named by explorer Peter Egerton Warburton on his 1873-74 journey from Alice Springs across the Great Sandy Desert to the Western Australian coast.
A number of walks in the area allow you to choose your way to best explore the gorge. The seven kilometre Ormiston Pound Walk leads you on a circuit from the visitor centre, across the slopes, onto the flat floor of the pound. It returns along the gorge by the main waterhole. Barbecue facilities invite you to relax and enjoy this scenic landscape.

Activites and Experiences at West MacDonnell Ranges

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  • Birdwatching
  • Bushwalking
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  • Walking
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  • Nature based
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