Definitely one of the West MacDonnell Range’s must-do sites, Simpsons Gap is only about a 15 minute drive from Alice Springs. Even visitors who are really pushed for time can fit this magnificent gorge in a round trip of a couple of hours. However, to make the most of your visit allow some extra time to take a walk. If you can, try to be there for the early morning or late afternoon light, when the gap is painted with gorgeous reds and oranges. It’s an essential ‘to do’ for keen photographers. If you are quiet and patient, these times of day are also when you’re most likely to spot a black-footed rock wallaby.
After you turn off Larapinta Drive, the first spot to stop and explore is the ranger station. Here the short Ghost Gum Walk gives a great introduction to the area’s geology, plants and animals. Next is the trailhead for the Woodland Walk to Bond Gap. At 17km return the Woodland Walk is one for keen hikers with plenty of time, but it does provide the opportunity to explore further afield than the usual tourist spots. If you don’t have as much time, or energy, there are beautiful views of the West MacDonnell Range along the one hour return Cassia Hill Walk too. If you are up for more of a challenge, then you can tackle section one or two of the Larapinta Trail as well.
Just a bit further along from the Cassia Hill Walk trailhead you reach Simpsons Gap itself and the waterhole. Although you can’t swim in the waterhole, it is still a shady spot to sit for a while and relax in the narrow gorge.
Keen cyclists may wish to head out to Simpsons Gap along the Simpsons Gap Bike Path from Flynns Grave, 7km from Alice Springs. This sealed pathway is 17km one way. It’s a fairly easy ride, but remember to avoid the heat of the middle of the day.
Although this section of Tjoritja/West MacDonnell National Park has picnic facilities, barbecues and toilets, camping is not permitted unless you are undertaking the Larapinta Trail.