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.
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.