Walks in and around Alice Springs in the Northern Territory

When my family first moved to Australia we spent the first six months living in Warrego, a small mining township 45km west of Tennant Creek in the Northern Territory. I had a great time there as a young boy and as a result have always had a soft spot for the ‘Territory’.

I made my first visit back in 2010, some 30 years after we had left, flying in to Alice Springs and then driving up to Tennant Creek, and thoroughly enjoyed it. I have been back to Alice Springs several times since and have done some great walking in the area.

The major attraction for walkers are the West MacDonnell Ranges that start on the edge of Alice Springs and extend westwards. In addition to an excellent, scenic drive along Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive, there are a series of enjoyable day walks as well as a the long distance Larapinta Trail (definitely on my walking to-do list).

I’ve covered some suggested day walks in previous posts:
1. Simpsons Gap to Bond Gap (along the Larapinta Trail)
2. Woodland Trail to Rocky Gap
3. Ormiston Pound walk
4. Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder (the final stage of the Larapinta Trail)

All of these are thoroughly recommended, but if you could do only one then the Ormiston Pound walk would be my top recommendation.

In addition to these walks there is also plenty of opportunity to take some shorter walks in Alice Springs and its immediate surrounds. In particular, there are some good trails centred on the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, the site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs. Three that are worth doing, and all of which start at an undercover information board just near the entrance to the shop and Historical Reserve are:

1. Bradshaw Walk
Named after a Postmaster at the Telegraph Station in the 1890s, this is an easy walk of 2.5km that proceeds west through the carpark, climbs through acacia shrubland and eventually turns back towards the Todd river joining the Riverside walk back north to the Telegraph Station.

[nggallery id=92]

2. Trig Hill and Cemetery Loop Walk
This track proceeds from the information board to the Alice Springs Waterhole before traversing alluvial flats and low granite outcrops to the base of Trig Hill. A short, sharp climb leads to the summit and fantastic 360 degree views. Continuing northwards, the path soon turns west towards the cemetery which holds the graves of five early settlers. From here the path meanders around granite outcrops and through Acacia and Senna shrublands back to the start. Another easy walk of around 2km.

[nggallery id=93]

3. Spencer Hill and Stuart Walk Circuit
This easy walk of about 5km proceeds east from the information board, crosses the Todd River and then shortly after meets a junction with the Spencer walk (this is the return route). Continuing straight ahead (east) the path traverses ridges and gullies and turns south to the boundary of the reserve. The path proceeds through a gap in the boundary fence, turning south-west to meet another track junction signposted as the Spencer Hill walk, following this north to the first track junction and then back across the Todd River to the start.

[nggallery id=94]

The walks above are all marked with coloured trail markers that make route finding pretty simple. This fact sheet provides more information about the Telegraph Station and includes a map of the walking (and mountain biking) trails.

The Telegraph Station is about 4km north of Alice Springs, and is accessed via Herbert Heritage Drive which joins the Stuart Highway. Alternatively, you can walk from the town centre along either the west or the east bank of the Todd River.

The map below shows the starting locations of each of the walks covered in this post:

Bushwalking: Simpsons Gap to Bond Gap, Northern Territory

[singlepic=514,512,512]

This enjoyable out and back walk takes in part of section 2 of the Larapinta Trail in the West MacDonnell National Park in the Northern Territory, starting at the popular Simpsons Gap and heading west to Bond Gap.

The track begins at the main car park at Simpsons Gap and is reasonably clear and well sign-posted throughout. The path is somewhat undulating but not particularly challenging and proceeds through mulga and witchetty bush with good views of the West MacDonnell ranges and back to Simpsons Gap. Eventually a track junction will be reached (with a path that leads to Rocky Gap) – Bond Gap is not much farther on and is an excellent spot for lunch and photos. The walk then returns via the same path. You could take the path to Rocky Gap and then the Woodland trail back to Simpsons Gap, although this would require a 3.5km road bash to get from the Woodland trail car parking area back to the Simpsons Gap car park.

Distance/Time: 16kms / took me around 4.5 hrs (incl. breaks)
Grade: Moderate 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 main Simpsons Gap car park is just under 7km from the turn-off.

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. There is also a new website for the West MacDonnell National Park, although it appears to be still under construction as some of the links don’t work.

[nggallery id=91]

Fellwalking: Rannerdale Knotts/ Whiteless Pike/ Wandope/ Grasmoor

This was a very enjoyable circuit walk in the North Western Fells of the Lake District, taking in Rannerdale Knotts, Whiteless Pike, Wandope & Grasmoor.

I started at the small car park off the B5289 where the footpath down from Grasmoor over Lad Hows meets the road. I then walked down the road (or the grassy if somewhat muddy path beside the road) to the starting point of the track up to Rannerdale Knotts (starting just before Hause Point)

[singlepic=496,512,512]

The path soon starts climbing steeply and it’s not too long before the ridge line is achieved.

[singlepic=497,512,512]

From which there are great views of Buttermere and Crummock Water.

[singlepic=498,512,512]
[singlepic=499,512,512]

After descending from the ridge the path joins with another footpath that leads up to Whiteless Pike (at this point you could return via a footpath that follows Squat Beck for a short but enjoyable ramble).

[singlepic=500,512,512]

The weather was fantastic so the views just kept getting better.

[singlepic=501,512,512]

Whiteless Pike was a good place to stop for the rest…

[singlepic=502,512,512]

…before the walk along Whiteless Edge to Wandope.

[singlepic=503,512,512]

From here there a good views accross to Whiteside and up to Crag Hill.

[singlepic=504,512,512]

If you have the time and inclination you could take a detour to Crag Hill, but I took the path west to Grasmoor…

[singlepic=505,512,512]

…resting and taking in the views from the summit before returning via the path south and then west over Lad Hows and back to my car.

[singlepic=506,512,512]
[singlepic=507,512,512]

All in all a great day out. Buttermere is close by and a great spot for a post walk beer.

Time: Around 5.25 hours
Grade: Moderate day walk
My rating: A+
Map: The English Lakes: North Western Area (OS Explorer Map Series)
Wainwright Guide: The North Western Fells (50th Anniversary Edition): Book Six (A Pictorial Guide to the Lakeland Fells): 6
Access: The walk starts at a small car-parking area just off the B5289. Google street view now covers this area, here’s a view of the parking area on the right. There’s also another carpark just before this one – either one will work.