Simpson’s Gap is described in the West MacDonnell National Park fact sheet as “one of the most prominent gaps in the West MacDonnell Ranges. At dawn and dusk it is renowned as a place to see Black-footed Rock wallabies…”
A short walk leads from the carpark to the Gap and is well worth exploring. After visiting the Gap I’d recommended doing one of the other walks in the area – I decided to do the Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap.
This is an excellent and reasonably easy walk of around 10km. I was there just after the end of the wet season so the area was very green and lush. The walk itself follows a reasonably distinct track to Rocky Gap through some Mulga Woodland, with good views of the West MacDonnell ranges. If you are feeling energetic you could continue on to Bond Gap – this extends the walk to 17km return.
I only saw one other person while doing the walk – what struck me (apart from how green it was) was how quiet and peaceful it was, it also felt quite remote.
Distance/Time: 10kms / took me around 3hrs (incl. breaks)
Grade: Easy half-day walk
My rating: A
Access: From Alice Springs head west along Larapinta Drive, the turn-off to Simpsons Gap is about 16km further on. The Woodland trail is about 3km from the turn-off and there is a small parking area and information board at the start of the walk (and Simpsons Gap carpark is another 3km or so).
See this fact sheet for more information, and this budget rent-a-car map for an overview of the area and attractions around Alice Springs.
Link to full photo gallery.
A trip from Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder marks the start or end of the long distance Larapinta Trail and also provides a fantastic day’s walk. Mt Sonder, at 1380m, is the fourth highest mountain in the Territory and commands superb 360 degree views from the summit. It’s a solid day’s walk but well worth doing.
The track starts at the camping area and heads downhill to cross Redbank Creek (usually just a dry creek-bed). Soon after there is a junction where the trail is joined by the previous section of the Larapinta Trail, at this point the trail turns left uphill continuing up to a saddle with the imaginative name of ‘Saddle’, and then generally eastwards towards Mt Sonder.
The trail is generally distinct and reasonably well marked – there are however a few places where it becomes a bit indistinct and care must be taken to stay on the right path. Having said that, one of the good things about walking in the NT is that visibility is generally excellent, so it would take a bit of work to get lost.
The summit, marked with a cairn, is a good spot for lunch and a rest – and the return involves retracing the path back to the start.
Distance/Time: 15.8km / took me just under 6 hours (incl. breaks)
Grade: Moderate/hard day walk
My rating: A+
Access: From Alice Springs head west along the Larapinta Drive and after 46km turn right onto Namatjira Drive. The turn-off to Redbank Gorge is another 145km or so, and then it’s about 5km along a rather rough gravel road to the campsite. The drive itself is enjoyable, going through some great scenery. Glen Helen Resort, about 20km before the Redbank Gorge turn-off is a good place for a cold beer after the walk.
More information: See this this scan of the Budget rent-a-car map which gives a good overview of the places to see around Alice Springs as well as the type of roads that will be encountered. I also recommend ‘Take A Walk in Northern Territory’s National Parks’ by John & Lyn Daly.
Link to photo gallery on flickr.