West MacDonnell National Park

The West MacDonnell National Park is the largest in the MacDonnell Ranges and features some of the best natural attractions in central Australia.

Simpsons Gap is close to Alice Springs and worth visiting as a daytrip from Alice even if you don’t plan on visiting Uluru. This part of the park is an good place to see the black-footed rock wallaby, particularly at dawn or dusk.

Heading west, the next major attraction is Standley Chasm, a breathtakingly narrow canyon that is a big hit with bus tours. Standley Chasm is open 8am–6pm daily and admission is $6.50.

Ormiston Gorge and Pound is located further towards the western end of the park. There is a waterhole at the southern end of the gorge that is said to be up to 14 metres deep. Hiking the Ormiston Pound Walk (7km, 3 hours) is the best way to see the area; this walk starts at the visitors’ centre and takes you through the Pound, returning along Ormiston Gorge via the waterhole. Shorter walks around Ormiston Gorge and Pound include trails tothe Waterhole (40 minutess return) and Ghost Gum Lookout (30 minutes return).

Glen Helen Gorge is nearby and is well worth visiting. The mostly dry Finke River passes through here, but the main feature of the gorge is the waterhole; a beautiful spot for a swim.

The most challenging hike in the park is the Larapinta Trail. The entire trail is not yet fully open, but will eventually be a 250km trek from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder. It is expected that most people will hike the trail in smaller sections. Eight of the 13 sections of the trail are open including Alice Springs to Simpsons Gap and Ormiston Gorge to Glen Helen.

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