Photo: Ormiston Gorge on the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. Credit Tourism Australia, Photographer: Allan Dixon
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Map showing location of Kakadu: South West Northern Territory North West.
The MacDonnell Ranges were originally formed some 350 to 300 million years ago, extending more than 644 km to the west of Alice Springs. The millions of years of erosion and the folding over of the mountain ridges over time has left a dramatic yet serene andscape.
West MacDonnell National Park runs along these mountains for more than 160 kilometres. There are deep gorges, you can find shaded cold water oases amongst the ridges where plants and native animals thrive.
There are unique plants species here, some dating back to when vast rainforests occupied these lands long ago. Rare and threatened plants such as ferns are protected here.
The iconic River Red Gum is found in places, home to birds and other animals. Birdlife is also plentiful, including the rare Peregrine Falcon.
Gorges, formed by the streams that run through them are cool places of rest and harbour desert life, particulary rare plants, remnants of forests that existed here long ago and animals. They also are picturesque, with changing colours throughout different times of the day.
There are popular swimming holes in some of the gorges. The water can be extremely cold even in summer months, so it is important to remember to not overdo the swimming, possibly exposing yourself to hypothermia.
You can visit this park any time of year, though April to October, the cooler months of the year are best. Activities enjoyed in the park include bicycling (in fact there is a path that you can take here all the way from Alice Springs), walks on one or more of the marked tracks and swimming. Or you can just come here to enjoy a picnic in the serene surrounds.
Running along from the east to west in the park is the Larapinta Trail, an extended trek, 223 kilometres long. Along the way, visit these places:
There is camping available in the park at different sites, some with limited facilities, others with none.
More information about the West MacDonnell Range National Park, located west of Alice Springs, can be found here: NT Parks and Wildlife. You can also get camping permits from them, you can only camp in designated camping areas.
The main route is via Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive approximately 1 hour and 15 minutes from Alice Springs. The Red Centre Way (unsealed) provides access for 4WD vehicles from Watarrka National Park and points further south, such as Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park.
You can find out more information about the many NT parks and reserves throughout the rest of the Territory here Northern Territory National Parks.
Main Photo: Ormiston Gorge on the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. Credit Tourism Australia, Photographer: Allan Dixon
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