West MacDonnell Ranges: Hikes for Sunrise and Swims for Sunset

Imagine… waking up with no reception, the sun poking over the hills, the subtle sounds of kettles boiling, tent zippers opening while enjoying the serenity at camp. Easily accessible from Alice Springs or the loop from Kings Canyon (FYI 4WD or High Clearance car advised), the West MacDonnell Ranges is one spot in Australia you have to put on your bucket list. 

It has got everything. From hikes, to gorges, never ending hills and such a variety of landscapes, the sunrises and sunsets that are peaceful and quiet, no reception (this is a personal favourite). Exploring the West MacDonnell Ranges is a highlight of the Northern Territory for me. Let me give you the insight to my top tour guide spots to stop…starting at Alice Springs, you can work this clockwise or anti clockwise…


driving on the stuart highway northern territory in a troppy
ormiston gorge woman sitting in red swim suit on a rock looking at the gorge northern territory

West MacDonnell Ranges: Hike, Redbank Gorge

Start the adventure at Redbank Gorge, short little trek through to see the gorge and cool down if needed, camp the night at the Ridgetop Camping Area (be mindful of the size of your setup) for $4/adult/ night (all bookings are online, as mentioned, no phone reception so pre booking is a must!). Set those alarms for the 15.8km return hike to the peak of Mount Sonder for sunrise. That was a hefty hike, but worth the sore limbs and feet for the next few days…

West MacDonnell Ranges: Swim, Ormiston Gorge

Heading to Ormiston Gorge, another ripper spot with an even better coffee shop that runs 10am-3pm daily. Grab a spot at camp (again all online bookings or pay at the shop), make the short return walk into the gorge or up to the lookout. This one would be one for the young kiddies or those whose legs just can’t do the long distance. The walk into the gorge is paved, steady and doesn’t require too much physical effort. Spend the afternoon watching the sun go behind the incredible rocks, take a dip in the water (if you’re game, it gets chilly) or simply enjoy your surroundings on the sand. Hot showers are also including in the camp fees!

West MacDonnell Ranges: Swim, Ellery Creek

Ellery Creek is another spot highly known for its famous insta photos, another ripper spot to cool down and enjoy the warm sand, creepy crawlers and watch a few people jump in the water not realising how cold it is! Camping facilities are available here and being not too far from Alice Springs it’s a corker spot to spend your morning. 

If you are staying in Alice Springs either on your way too or from West MacDonnell National Park and you’re looking for some spots to rest in air-conditioned comfort (and have your own shower!) these are some overnight spots that the locals recommend. 

Ellery Creek West MacDonnell National Park Northern Territory
troop carrier troopy in palm valley finke gorge national park

A bonus extra is on the opposite loop and in the Finke Gorge National Park…Palm Valley. This one isn’t for the faint hearted and 100% need a 4WD to adventure in. Talking riverbed crossings, boggy sand, red dirt, rock climbing (can confirm the Troopy can rock crawl), creek crossings and diving into the valley of Palm Trees that are thought to be here from 15000 years ago. Worth the trek, laughter, and hike around to see and note the history of the Palm Trees. Noted camping is available here*.

Well, have I convinced you yet? You can explore the West MacDonnell National Park as quickly or as slowly as you would like, you can hike or you can sit and appreciate the beauty that is oozing from the Red Centre. Go and enjoy it for yourself, you won’t be disappointed!

Hey Norther Readers, my name is Indie. I am a travelling Registered Nurse exploring and working my way around Australia for the foreseeable future. In March of 2021 I left the Gold Coast in my Troopy named Zeus for the adventure of a lifetime with no plans to stop anytime soon! I like to spend 6-8 months in each state to know I have seen and explored all that I can. I write blogs over at www.lifeofindie.com and regularly post on my Instagram: _indiep_, Catch you on the road. 

Here at Norther® we hope you have an amazing time visiting the West MacDonnell Ranges in the National Park! We would love your feedback – please comment below if you’ve been or if you have any questions or suggestions.

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

Indie Priestley

Indie Priestley

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West MacDonnell National Park Tours