Explore Watarrka National Park: King’s Canyon & The Rim Walk

Watarrka National Park, home to the famous Kings Canyon, is one of Australia’s most diverse National Parks. Watarrka is an important conservation area and is home to creeks, springs, waterfalls, gorges and canyons, and over 600 species of flora and fauna.

Watarrka National Park is also home to one of Australia’s most renowned day walks – The Rim Walk! This guide will highlight The Rim Walk (when to go, the hike, and what to prepare), as well as other short and overnight walks. There is something for everyone in this park! 

Photo taken by @tourist_thebus on IG

Welcome to Watarrka National Park

‘Watarrka’ is a First Nations word meaning umbrella bush – a commonly found shrub in the National Park that blooms yellow flowers from July through to December.

Watarrka is jointly managed by the traditional owners (the Matutjara people) and Parks and Wildlife NT.


Map of Watarrka National Park

The Rim Walk 

There’s so much hype around The Rim Walk for a reason, and it’s so good we did it twice!

When to go: The walk is most popular at sunrise. However, it’s just as incredible (and less crowded) for sunset.

How long does it take? It takes roughly 4 hours to complete, including breaks and two short side trips (Cotterills Lookout and the Garden of Eden) that are absolutely worth doing.

The hike: The most challenging part of the Rim Walk is the beginning – a steep ascent of approximately 500 steps. Just take it slow, and don’t let this deter you. Once you catch your breath, you will be rewarded with views looking back over the Southern Wall and surrounding desert landscape. If you manage to beat the sun to the top, you will experience the weathered sandstone domes lighting up as you walk beside them. We won’t spoil anything else, but this is a day walk not to be missed. 

Come prepared: Be sure to plan your walk accordingly. This is an exposed walk with little to no shade. However, you can find some shade in the Garden of Eden. If temperatures rise above 36 degrees, the Rim Walk will be closed after 9 AM. 

Rim Walk Strava
Rim Walk Strava by @tourist_thebus on IG
Kings Creek Strava by @tourist_thebus on IG

Kings Creek Walk – An Alternative to Rim Walk

If the Rim Walk is a little too strenuous, then this walk is for you.

The hike: The Kings Creek Walk is a short and gentle track that leads you along Kings Creek to the base of Kings Canyon. This walk invokes a sense of awe as you are dwarfed by the surrounding walls above and around you. The abundance of life in the Canyon almost makes you forget you’re in the desert. 

When to go: Unlike the Rim Walk, the Kings Creek Walk remains open during high temperatures; however, it is still recommended to avoid walking between 11 AM and 4 PM.

You can also book a tour for ease here, or, click on the below.


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Other Walks in Watarrka National Park

South Wall Return Walk (4.8 km / 2 hours return )

The walk starts with a steep ascent but is a less strenuous alternative to the Rim Walk. It is suggested to start the walk before 11 AM on days when the temperature is expected to rise above 36 degrees. You also cannot access Cotterill’s Lookout and the Garden of Eden from this walk. 

Kathleen Springs (2.4 km / 1.5 hours return)

It is a family-friendly and limited mobility walk (wheelchair accessible). The short walk will lead you to a spring-fed waterhole at the beginning of Kathleen Gorge. Please do not swim in the waterhole – it is culturally significant for the Matutjara people and is an important site for native wildlife. 


Picture of a woman wearing a backpack and a cap in Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Photo of Kings Canyon Rim Walk taken by @tourist_thebus on IG
Photo of Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Kings Canyon Rim Walk taken by @tourist_thebus on IG

More Walks in Watarrka National Park & Camping

Giles Track (22 km / 1-2 days one way)

A grade 4 (moderate to difficult) track and the only overnight walk in Watarrka National Park. The track starts at Kings Canyon, finishes at Kathleen Springs, and can be walked in either direction. The recommended site to camp is at Reedy Creek (14.4 km from Kathleen Springs).

Camping: Walkers are allowed to camp anywhere along the track. A booking is required in advance if you plan to camp at Reedy Creek. The Giles Track will involve some preparation beforehand – you must carry your food, water, sleeping bag and shelter. As always, leave no trace – please take your rubbish with you.


Getting to Watarrka National Park

Watarrka National Park is located roughly 300 km from Alice Springs and is almost smack bang in the middle of Australia.

If you’re in a 4WD, you can drive the Mereenie Loop Road (a permit is required) from Larapinta Drive in Tjoritja/West MacDonnell Ranges or the Earnest Giles Road just south of Alice Springs – both of which are around 3.5 hours depending on road conditions.

In a 2WD, you’ll add another 2 hours to your journey, but you’ll get there in one piece. Be sure to do all your shopping before you leave Alice Springs, as Petermann has little in the way of groceries.

When to Visit Watarrka National Park

The National Park is open all year round, and the peak season is during the cooler months between April and September.

Google Map screenshot of Watarrka National Park
Map of Watarrka National Park by @tourist_thebus on IG
Picture of a man and a woman in Kings Canyon
Photo by @tourist_thebus on IG

Accommodation in Watarrka National Park

There are three options for staying in Watarrka National Park – Discovery Resorts, Kings Canyon Caravan Holiday Park and Ginty’s Lookout. 

If you’re looking to treat yourself, the Discovery Resorts rooms start from $380 per night. Click here to see their updated rates and to book. 

The Kings Canyon Caravan and Holiday Park has various accommodation options and all the usual comforts, including multiple showers, laundry blocks, and a swimming pool for those hot days. Click here for booking options. 

Ginty’s Lookout is a free camp 20 minutes down the road on the Mereenie Loop Road. Ginty’s Lookout is a rest area that allows you to park right on the edge of a ridge with views overlooking Watarrka National Park – it’s a fantastic spot to watch the sun rise and set.

Find accommodation options using the search box below:
Photo of Ginty's Lokout taken by @tourist_thebus on IG

We greatly value your input! Share your thoughts and experiences about Watarrka National Park in the comments below!

Norther® would like to invite you to explore more about the beauty of Watarrka National Park here. And… as always you can get more inspiration for other National Parks & Destinations to visit by following @northerhq or get your Watarrka National Park daily fix @watarrkanationalpark

Keep the spirit of adventure alive! ✌🏻

*Cover image is by @tourist_the_bus on IG

Picture of Adam and Clara

Adam and Clara

We're Adam and Clara and we've been travelling Australia for the last 1.5 years. We live in our self-converted home on wheels and don't plan on stopping anytime soon!

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