Affectionately known as the West Macs, this spectacular mountain range offers a truly astounding range of outback attractions, walking trails and significant historical sites
Discover ancient Aboriginal sites, dramatic gorges, scenic lookouts and hiking trails in the heart the outback. Visitors to the area are overseen by the red quartzite ranges, which have looked out over the area for more than 300 million years.
Image: The view from the Neil Hargrave Lookout
The West MacDonnell Ranges are situated west of Alice Springs, and are the the overriding feature of West MacDonnell National Park. Because of this, visitors can expect to come across many other hikers, sightseers and 4WDers. The accessibility of the ranges is in part what has made this area so appealing to the public, but this is definitely not all the site has to offer.
The Standley Chasm
The Standley Chasm is a gorge located about 50km’s from Alice Springs and it is privately owned. Visitors are required to pay an entry fee to gain access to this area, which offers a range of facilities. Light from the afternoon sun causes the walls to turn orange, which makes for an astounding sight.
The Ellery Creek Big Hole
Known as the deepest waterhole in the ranges, the Ellery Creek Big Hole is a popular swimming destination and it is also a well known tourist spot for daytrips. Those looking to camp in the area can make use of onsite camping facilities, but for anyone looking to take a dip in the hole, it’s important to note that due to the water being shaded for a better part of the day, the water is very cold.
The Serpentine Gorge
The Serpentine Gorge is another waterhole that is home to a sensitive ecosystem. This area is home to fish that utilize the spot as a breeding ground and so swimming is not permitted. A lookout is located just a short climb from the gorge.
The Simpsons Gap
The Simpsons Gap is perhaps one of the most accessible gaps in the ranges and can be reached by those with or without transport. Those who require it can hire a bicycle for the day and ride the 17km’s to the gap. Upon reaching the gap, visitors will want to look out for black-footed rock-wallabies, as well as the various walking tracks on offer.
The Ochre Pits
About 11km’s from the Serpentine Gorge stands the Ochre Pits, which were originally used by Aboriginals who mined for the substance. The ochre was traditionally used in both local ceremonies and for trading.
Glen Helen is another of the waterholes within the West Macs and is perfect the most picturesque of all its competitors. It is here that visitors can book into the Glen Helen Outback Lodge, the sole accommodation within these ranges.
The Redbank Gorge
The Redbank Gorge is an award winning campground and walking trail that is situated about 156 km’s from Alice Springs. The area not only offers visitors a place to stay, but also boasts some spectacular views of the surrounding gorge.
The Ormiston Gorge
The Ormiston Gorge is located about 128 km’s from Alice Springs and it is one of the main attractions in the area. The narrow gorge is located on the Ormiston Creek and it is a very popular swimming spot for tourists.
The area offers camping grounds, as well as a visitor centre and boasts a range of walking activities, from short to medium length treks. The 7 km walk to the Ormiston Pound, which acts as a natural amphitheatre, is a popular one with visitors to the area.
The Larapinta Trail
One of Australia's most iconic long-distance walking tracks, the Larapinta Trail runs for 223km from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder along the backbone of the West Macs. The trail takes hikers into the depths of the Red Centre along ridges, across plains and through gorges that are geologically and historically significant, and is best completed in winter to avoid the scorching temperatures of summer and spring.
With so many sites to explore, it’s no wonder that the West MacDonnell Ranges are so popular with both 4WD and families looking for some fresh air.