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What It’s Like Trekking Larapinta Trail – Hiking Highlights

I first discovered the Larapinta Trail when googling “Australia’s Best Hikes” around the middle of 2022. I remember reading a blog post on it and thinking it looked pretty cool. A bit more reading and a few YouTube videos later, it was decided: I was absolutely doing it! I asked a mate of mine, Laurie, who I knew also loved a good walk in the bush, if he wanted to join me and to my surprise, after a very brief explanation, he said, “Sure, why not? Sounds fun!”

What It's Really Like Hiking the Larapinta Trail

Picture of trees and water
An understated beauty of Spring Gap by @mellymaggie01

Fast forward nine months, and we set out on the adventure of a lifetime (well, up until this point, at least). Neither of us really knew what we were in for. 

All the hours of research I had done, reading, listening to podcasts and watching YouTube barely scratched the surface of what hiking the Larapinta was really like. I went into this hike absolutely pumped with excitement and anticipation, and what I think was also a healthy level of trepidation; after all, this was going to be by far the longest hike I have ever done – to date.

 

Unexpected Challenges

To say I struggled on this hike would be an understatement. It was so much harder than I thought it was going to be, both mentally and physically. I honestly thought about bowing out so many times and just saying to my mate, “I can’t do this anymore. You go on, and I’ll meet you at the end”.

The number of hours I spent arguing with myself about quitting before we got to Ellery Creek South (Day 7) would have far outweighed any other thoughts I had at that point on the trail. I felt like a fraud and was letting my friend down because I was struggling so badly.

 

Two gorges with a reflection on the water
Sunset on Ellery Creek Big Hole by @mellymaggie01 on IG

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Somewhere between HIlltop Lookout and Redbank Gorge @mellymaggie01 on IG

Finding Strength

My feet were in agony (apparently, I had developed Morton’s neuroma in both my feet), and my mind was detoxing hard from the lack of stimulation I was so used to using to distract myself and keep myself ‘busy’. Out on the trail, there was nowhere to run. There were no distractions other than the incredible landscape around me.

I had to just keep moving forward, one agonising step at a time and start to face all the things I had been distracting myself from at home. I spent almost all of the time while I was walking, praying and reconnecting with my faith. I started to find that the more I prayed, the more inwardly peaceful I felt. When we got to Redbank Gorge, my spirit was at peace, even if my body certainly was not.

 

The Unforgiving Landscape of the Larapinta

Nothing about the Larapinta is gentle. The ground is hard. The rocks are sharp. The water holes are cold. The mountains are steep. The flies are enough to drive you insane (spend the $7 at the tourist centre and buy the fly net!!), and the scenery is so violently spectacular that it just assaults your senses on so many levels.

There are so many textures, colours, and smells; it’s like you’re on sensory overload the whole time and being physically exhausted. It’s hard to put it into words. It is just absolutely incredible.

 

sunset on Larapinta Trail
Night hike by @mellymaggie01 on IG
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Highlights of The Larapinta Trail

Jay Creek by @mellymaggie01 on IG

I’ve been home for a few months now, and honestly, all I remember from the hike are my highlights, Which are many. Below are just a small selection of the moments that really stood out to me:

  • Coming across Spring Gap on Day 2 
  • Taking the high route option to Standley Chasm on Day 3 
  • Descending from Brinkley Bluff as it was getting dark. Laurie attempted to distract me from the crippling pain I was experiencing by telling me 3 of the most useless and pointless stories I think I’ve ever heard. Those stories got us 3/4 of the way down the mountain!
 

Standout Moments

  • Meeting new friends at Ellery Creek and receiving our first Trail Magic
  • Making new friends with the Day Walkers between Serpentine Gorge and Serpentine Chalet Dam and receiving an absolute abundance of Trail Magic. 
  • Seeing Mount Sonder for the first time on our way to Hermit’s Hideaway
  • Meeting new friends at Hermit’s Hideaway and spending the day with them in Ormiston Gorge. They gifted us more Trail Magic. 
 

Photo of Larapinta Trail
Pravda Spur, looking East back towards Alice by @mellymaggie01 on IG
The infamous water crossing by @mellymaggie01 on IG

A Reflection on Growth

If given the opportunity again, I would jump at the chance to get back out there and do it all over again. Often, I think we have to just throw ourselves into the deep end of life to see what we’re truly capable of. So often, we underestimate our own abilities. I know for myself I seriously underestimated how resilient and strong I really am. I can’t wait to get back out there!

 

Remember to pack your sense of adventure, respect for nature, and an open mind as you set out to discover the West MacDonnell Ranges. Leave only footprints behind as you traverse the trails and immerse yourself in the pristine wilderness of the National Park! We would love your feedback – we encourage you to share your experiences, questions, and suggestions in the comments below. 

You can always get more inspiration for other National Parks to visit by following @northerhq or get your West MacDonnell National Park daily fix @westmacdonnellnationalpark.

*Cover image is by @mellymaggie01 on IG.

Picture of Melanie Sadleir

Melanie Sadleir

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