The Beautiful Western MacDonnell Ranges

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The MacDonnell Ranges stretch east-west across Central Australia. They are a rugged spine of low mountains known to the Aboriginal of the arOchre Pitsea as ‘yeperenye’, or caterpillar. The ranges are easy accessible from Alice Springs with locations being as close as 18 km from town. The ranges offer amazing outback scenery, significant landmarks, and a day or days of outdoor adventure for the active traveler.

During a stay at Alice Springs or within the Ranges which do have basic and bush camping available at a number of places you can explore many spectacular spots. Some spots can be quite busy during peak season, but still worth a go.

Places To Explore

Simpsons Gap

Simpsons Gap is surrounded by towering cliffs and is one of the best known destinations in the ranges featuring a number of walking tracks. Walk through the jagged cleft to the permanent waterhole, keeping an eye out for the elusive black-footed wallabies hiding among the rocks. Early morning or late afternoon are the best for a chance to spot them as well as birds and other small wildlife.

Standley Chasm

A bit further on is one of the busiest and best know gorges. A short walk along the stony watercourse leads to the striking chasm. The way is rich with plant and bird life and for about one hour during the middle of the day the sun casts a shaft of light, illuminating the golden red walls.

Ellery Creek Big Hole

A permanent waterhole nestled in the midst of the ranges is a significant geological site. The waterhole is formed by runoff from the ranges. The waters meet up against a white sandy beach surround by gum trees and dramatic red rock walls. The water is cool anytime of year, but it is a popular swimming spot during the heat of the summer months. And the ‘Dolomite Walk” provides opportunity to view some of the amazing rock formations.

Ormiston Gorge-Ormiston Gorge

Lying west of Alice Springs, the rugged flanks of the gorge walls were carved out by the Finke River. Often dry, the Finke River is the oldest watercourse in the world. There are a number of walks to select from and enjoy the changing colors of the walls as the sunlight shifts. Be on the lookout for wallabies and ample bird life.

Glen Helen Gorge

Here you will find an old homestead, now a pub with a verandah that looks out onto a towering cliff of crumpled sandstone. The area includes views of the much-painted Mount Sonder which is one of the highest points in Central Australia. Glen Helen Gorge has a permanent waterhole, which is home to many species of animals including a variety of water birds and fish. Accommodations are very basic here, but it makes a good base from which to we explore the West MacDonnell Ranges.

Remember when walking to carry plenty of drinking water. Dress in sensible walking shoes and clothes. Be sure to wear hat, sunblock, and insect repellent. Walkers taking extended walks are advised to check in with local rangers. Best to visit during the spring and fall to avoid the extremes of summer and winter. Spring is also the best time for wildflowers and bird photography.

Consider extending your journey with a visit to Uluru and Kings Canyon. Both also wonderful for incredible rock formations and walking expeditions.


Lisa Rossmeissl is the owner of Boomerang Escapes, a home-based agency located in Old Bridge, New Jersey with agents in TN, MS, and WI. 

She has been a professional travel consultant since 2008 and specializes in Australia and the South Pacific. Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, and Cook Islands are among the specialist certificates she holds.  Her agency’s focus is on creating custom itineraries with their client’s wants, desires, and budgets in mind.  She and her planners believe in getting to know the traveler to ensure they have a vacation to remember.  With each planner specializing in a different market area, Boomerang Escapes can offer a wide variety of leisure vacation planning.

Lisa RossmeisslThe Beautiful Western MacDonnell Ranges

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