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Larapinta Trail near Alice Springs


  • this is an iconic 223km long scenic mountainous desert walking trail near Alice Springs in Central Australia / Northern Territory
  • it is best walked in the southern hemisphere Winter to avoid the very hot sunny days but night temperatures can drop below zero deg C and it can be windy and dusty
  • rises above 1000m elevation 7x along the trail
  • little or no mobile phone reception
  • you will need to bring adequate water purifier tablets or similar - there are water tanks along the way at each hiker's hut and the end of each section but they do need treatment
  • you will probably not be able to peg a tent into the ground at some sites
  • you will probably not be able to have open fires - Campfires are strictly prohibited on the Larapinta Trail
  • you may encounter a snake when walking the grassy narrow paths, so a pair of gaiters in these areas (and a snake bandage and EPIRB radio beacon are wise precautions in case you step on one)
  • assuming you go in the nicer middle months of the year:
    • it will still be hot and sunny during the day without much shade so you will need a broad rim hat, long sleeves and long trousers, good boots, sunscreen, lots of water and the bush flies can be really annoying - you may wish to start walking before sunrise!
    • as you get to higher elevations section 4 and onwards you will be exposed to wind gusts and there will be a lot of wind chill in the morning
    • at night, the temperatures are likey to drop to around zero degC
  • need to book with a return transfer service at Redbank Gorge before you leave as it is a one way trail! You may wish to do the optional 16km return pre-sunrise hike up Mt Sonder at the end!
  • ~Day 6 Serpentine Gorge hut and ~Day 8, Ormiston Gorge are good spots to use as a food / gear drop point as it is close to road access (can be dropped off by a support company)

Best time of year

  • central Australia is a hot dry desert and thus you will want to avoid being there hiking in the hot sun from Sept-Apr
  • best times to hike are the “winter” months of May-Aug which are cooler, but still have little rainfall with monthly averages dropping from 17mm in May down to only 4mm in August with only 1-2 days a month in this period having rainfall > 1mm
    • this time of year also gives the best Milky Way at night time
  • in nearby Alice Springs (bear in mind that on the hike you hit 1000m elevation which will be a few degrees cooler than Alice Springs plus a lot more wind chill!):
    • May is a great time to hike as average daily maximums are much milder at 23degC, there may be some days of cloud cover and the night time minimums average at 8degC but on the hike could be down to 0degC
    • June is getting very cold at night especially on the peaks
    • July is the coldest month - with temperatures more likely to drop below zero deg C
    • August has similar temperature ranges to May but due to much less cloud, the overnight minimums average 3 degC less than May


  • toilets
    • Flushing toilets are only found at major trailheads like Simpson's Gap (S2), Standley Chasm (S4) and Ormiston Gorge (S10)
    • Bush toilets are located at all trailheads
  • water
    • water tanks can be found along all 12 of the trailheads along the trail and also along some intermediate points.
  • BBQs
    • free gas BBQ's at a number of locations along the trail.
  • food storage facilities
    • There are two official food storage points along the trail – Ellery Creek and Ormiston Gorge. These locations are locked. Keys can be obtained from the Tourism Central Australia Visitor Centre in town (Alice Springs) - will require a deposit and fee.
  • camp sites and tent platforms
    • Most of the Larapinta Trail campsites (not to be confused with the main national park campgrounds) are found at each trailhead or intermediate point.
    • Wooden Tent Pads are found along many parts of the trail. Some are under sheltered areas, others are in the open. They are a solid wood construction about 3ft off the ground and wide enough to place a two-person tend on top of it.

12 sections of the walking trail

  • Glen Helen resort offers transfer and food drop supplies to assist walkers on the trail
  • Alice Springs Telegraph Station to Simpsons Gap - 2 days, 23.8km medium
  • Simpsons Gap to Jay Creek - 2 days 24.5km medium
  • Jay Creek to Standley Chasm - 1 day 13.6km hard
  • Standley Chasm to Birthday Waterhole - 2 days 17.7km very hard
  • Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge - 2 days 16km difficult (1km per hour climb in places)
  • Hugh Gorge to Ellery Creek - 2 days 31.2km medium
  • Ellery Creek to Serpentine Gorge - 1 day 13.8km, hard - Serpentine Gorge is a good option for food/gear drop
  • Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam - 1 day 13.8km, hard
  • Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge - 2days 28.6km, hard - Ormiston Gorge is a good option for food/gear drop
  • Ormiston Gorge to Finke River = 1 day, medium 9.1km
  • Finke River to Redbank Gorge - 2 days to cover the 26 km, mainly easy but one steep climb
  • Redbank Gorge to Mount Sonder and back - hard pre-sunrise 15.8 kilometre return climb but you wont need all your hiking gear and backpack but it will be cold, 6hr return

Tent selection

  • there are several issues on this trail that need to be considered in choosing a tent:
    • pegging will often be problematic thus free-standing tents are preferred as they can be used without full pegging
    • it will likely be windy, dusty and cold at night (< 10degC and potentially sub-zero with considerable additional chill factor)
      • the fine dust may jam the zips
      • cold windy conditions would make a part fabric inner tent a good option and this would also help reduce dust entry inside (but not eradicate fine dust), and on clear nights, it is absolutely awesome to be able to have a mesh top of the inner tent to see the sky without the fly on.
      • strong winds require a fairly wind resistant tent as you will often be in quite exposed sites without pegging down - there are no forests to act as wind breaks!
      • rain is uncommon but may occur - winter rainfall is usually low
    • the ground is quite rocky and sharp in places and a protective ground sheet is worth while
    • many sections are hard to difficult ascent/descents so a light pack will make this easier and thus an ultralight tent is a must!
  • given this is a multi-day hike, your shelter should be relatively light, preferably under 1kg, but at least under 1.5kg.
  • the relative difficulty of finding suitable pegging down sites for trekking pole tents make these less favoured for this hike although creative use of rocks can make them work
  • the pegging will still make it hard to peg out the fly if you need rain or wind protection - a potential option is an ultralight 300g tarp wrapped around and under the inner tent which would also act as a ground sheet for additional protection for the inner tent floor in which case you could consider a freestanding mosquito tent + tarp which may give better sky views
  • if hiking in August when rain is extremely unlikely and relative humidity is at its lowest level, a bivy with a mesh to see the stars but ability to be almost fully closed for wind chill protection may be an option (although pegging it may need creativity at some sites and you need to protect your head from wind chill - bivy bags will make your sleeping bag damp especially if higher humidity levels):
  • a 2 door tent provides some risk mitigation if one of the door zips becoming unusable (you may be stuck inside if you only have one door and it fails!), and provides much better ventilation options if it is a warm evening
  • the general consensus for most hikers is a light freestanding hiking tent as being best suited for this hike (especially if a bivy is not ideal)
  • examples of freestanding ultralight tents with fabric bottom part inner tent and mesh upper parts for sky viewing in good weather:
    • Nemo Hornet 1P Elite Osmo - the lightest at ~0.8kg but its only semi-freestanding (one end needs pegging), narrow ceiling, no vents, not great in strong winds or heavy rains and needs care to avoid sharp rocks; Osmo fabric is less heavy when wet than full nylon.
    • Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL1 bikepacking tent
    • if you are a strong person or will be getting regular food/gear drops to lower overall pack weight:
      • Nemo Dragonfly 1P OSMO - still has the partial fly but more waterproof than the Hornet, slightly wider sky view and more spacious, larger vestibule, better ventilation, and is freestanding; ~1.2kg Like the Hornet, not great in strong winds or heavy rains and needs care to avoid sharp rocks. Adds a black mesh ceiling for better sky viewing, albeit small! But is the 50% weight increase it worth it over the Hornet?
      • Mont Moondance 1P dual wall more spacious and stronger, more waterproof than the Nemos with better vents but white mesh is not conducive to good sky viewing ~1.5kg
  • examples of suitable strong wind winter tents if you don't care about looking at the night sky and want extra warmth include:
    • if sharing weight between 2 hikers, having two doors allows much better ventilation options if you need a daytime nap (if you can find a shady spot!):
      • Mont Moondance 2P FN dual wall full fabric ~2kg
      • Mont Dragonfly 2P dual wall full fabric - ~2.65kg true 4 season alpine tent, more spacious than the Moondance with better door ventilation options
    • solo hiking strong person or getting regular gear drops to lower overall pack weight:
      • Mont Moondance 1P FN dual wall full fabric ~1.5kg

other potential issues

  • you MUST take a working radio beacon - it is a very remote area and there are many ways to die, especially if you are an older hiker (stroke, heart attack, snakebite, etc)
    • in May 2024, an experienced 64 yr old male hiker from Victoria died hiking this trail on day 8 (body was found near a water hole in Hugh Gorge - this section is the most difficult on the trail) - it has not been published his cause of death but it took a lot of searching to find his body
australia/nt/larapinta.txt · Last modified: 2024/06/03 18:13 by gary1

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