In the heart of the red centre is one of the best hikes in Australia. In fact, the Larapinta Trail was listed by National Geographic as one of the top 20 trekking experiences in the world. The 223KM bushwalking trail begins at the Alice Springs Telegraph Station, and runs west through the spectacular West MacDonnell Ranges, ending at Mount Sonder. It’s best to allow at least 13-15 days to complete the trail, and it’s not something that should be taken lightly. Planning and preparation are key. Here are the top five things to know before hiking the Larapinta Trail.
Image Source: Tourism NT/Sean Scott
1. It’s not easy
The Larapinta Trail climbs up to 1,000 metres from a base altitude of 600 metres seven times in total, with many sections rising from the deep gorges to the dramatic ridgetops and back. The off-road nature of the trail will take its toll on your muscles, your joints, your feet, and your energy levels. Ensure that you have the right hiking shoes and that they are well worn in. Only embark on the walk if you are in good physical condition, and allow yourself plenty of time.
2. Be aware of critters
The risks posed by wildlife are limited, however, they are very real. The Larapinta Trail is home to some of Australia’s deadliest snakes, including the King Brown. It is unlikely that you will see them, and a common misconception by overseas visitors is that snakes will chase you down and attack unprovoked. The reality is that they just want to be left alone, so watch where you're walking and leave them be. Another threat is dingoes, which are known for stealing food and other items. Ensure that your possessions and rubbish are secured, and never feed them.
3. Weather conditions can be harsh
The outback is known for its hot days and cold nights. The best time to tackle the trail is between May-August when weather conditions are more favourable. Even during this time, it's essential to pack warm clothes for the night time, take plenty of sunscreen and a hat to protect yourself from harsh UV, and drink at least three litres of water per day. Allow extra time so that you can take an extended break at the hottest part of the day if necessary.
4. Phone reception is limited
Phone reception is sparse, with just some of the ridges offering Telstra coverage. There is a risk that you could accidentally wander of the trail and get lost, or fall and injure yourself. Take a personal locating beacon or satellite phone in case of emergencies.
5. It’s worth the hike
Reading all of the risks involved can be enough to scare some potential trekkers away. However, with the correct planning and preparation, the danger can be significantly reduced. Despite tough conditions, this is one of the most beautiful walks you will ever take, promising to be a memorable experience with gorgeous landscapes and native wildlife such as wallabies, reptiles, and birds. The Larapinta Trail is well and truly worth the hike.