West MacDonnell National Park



This vast and spectacular section of the MacDonnell Ranges, located west of Alice Springs, is an outstanding example of an ancient landscape sculptured over time by climatic elements. Cool scenic gorges are important refuges for a collection of plants and animals, many of which are found only here and some are relicts of a bygone era of tropical forests. There are many opportunities for visitors to explore and appreciate the scenic beauty and history of the area. Features of the landscape are significant in the stories of Western Arrernte Aboriginal culture, and have existed for many thousands of years.


A world class bicycle path leads out from Alice Springs through the bush to this Park.


How to get there


Vehicle access to West MacDonnell National Park from Alice Springs is via Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive. From the direction of Uluru - Kata Tjuta National Park, the unsealed Mereenie Loop Road (4WD recommended) connects Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) with West MacDonnell National Park. Simpsons Gap is also accessible via a 17km sealed bicycle track beginning opposite Flynn's Grave, 7km from Alice Springs along Larapinta Drive.


When to visit
The Park is accessible all year round. The cooler months, from April to October, are the most pleasant. All roads can be impassable for short periods after heavy rain.


What to see & do
There are numerous sites for camping, picnicking, barbecueing, swimming, cycling, and bushwalking.


Visitor facilties
The facilities available within this Park include toilets, picnic areas, camp grounds, gas and wood barbecues, drinking water, lookouts, a Ranger station, a visitor centre, habitat displays, information, a medical clinic, fuel, meals, drinks and commercial accommodation and caravan sites.


Please remember
Visitors intending to undertake extended walks along the Larapinta Trail are advised to use the Walker Registration Scheme, by phoning 1300 650 730, prior to departure.


Recreational activities
Ellery Creek Big-Hole and Redbank Gorge provide basic facilities for camping. Serpentine Chalet and 2-Mile (4WD only) provide camping sites with no facilities. Ormiston Gorge has camping facilities including showers and toilets. Commercial facilities are available at Glen Helen Resort, including caravan sites and motel accommodation. Camping fees apply and are payable at each camping area. Fireplaces are provided at most sites, however at some sites free gas barbecues have been installed to replace open fireplaces. At Serpentine Gorge all fires are prohibited in this special zone.


>>4 x 4 Driving
>>Bush Walking
Sections of the Larapinta Trail travel through the Park and offer extended and overnight bushwalks.
>>Camping Permitted
>>Caravan Permitted
>>Cycle Paths
A world class bicycle path leads out from Alice Springs through the bush to this Park.
>>Picnic Tables
The Park offers a number of permanent water holes ideal for swimming during summer. The larger water holes include Ellery Creek Big-Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Redback Gorge and Glen Helen Gorge. Swimmers should be aware that most swimming holes are extremely cold. Prolonged exposure, even during summer, can result in hypothermia. Beware of submerged logs and rocks.
>>Visitor Centre
>>Walking Tracks
A good way to experience the spectacular views in this Park is by walking. There are numerous marked tracks ranging from leisurely to adventurous. Information about the natural and cultural environment of the Northern Territory is available at each site.


Scenic & cultural features
110km west of Alice Springs is the Ochre Pits, a colourful outcrop of ochre on the banks of a sandy creek.


Ochre has always been an important part of Aboriginal culture and a vital part of everyday life. For medicinal purposes red ochre can be mixed with grease and applied as an ointment and to relieve decongestion when mixed with eucalyptus leaves. White ochre was used as a magical charm, when mixed with water and blown from the mouth it is believed to abate the heat of the sun or the force of the wind. Weapons were painted with ochre to increase the success of hunting. It also protected the wooden weapons from termites.


Rungutjirpa, the Arrernte Aboriginal name for Simpsons Gap, was the mythological home of a group of giant goanna ancestors.


The Aboriginal name for Ellery Bighole is Udepata, and the permanent water made it a special meeting place for the Arrernte people on the fish and honey ant dreaming trails.


Serpentine Gorge is the site of the Carpet Snake Dreaming and some of the areas in the Gorge and western cliffs have special significance to the Traditional Western Arrernte custodians.


Plants & animals
This region is a stronghold for rare and threatened plants. An outstanding 40 rare and relict species are known from the area including the easily seen MacDonnell Ranges Cycad (Macrozamia macdonnelli), found along the Rungutjirpa Range and on the north side of the Park.


Some other rare and unlikely plants found in this area include the Maiden Hair Fern (Adiantum capillus-veniris), Skeleton Fork Fern (Psilotum nudum), the Mountain Hakea (Hakea grammatophylla) and the Glory of the Centre Wedding Bush (Ricinocarpas gloria-medii).


The Park is also a great place for wildlife, including the uncommon bird species such as the Peregrine Falcon, Dusky Grasswren and Rufous-crowned Emu-Wren.


The River Red Gum can be found in several places within the Park, including Ellery Big Hole. These trees are an important habitat for a variety of birds, bats and other animals which live in the tree's hollows. Ringneck Parrots and Butcherbirds can be found in the upper branches of these trees, while Zebra Finches, honeyeaters and pigeons can be seen at the waterholes with Grey Teals and grebes.


Ranger guided activities


Slide show - Ormiston Gorge
>>When: Wednesdays 3rd May to 4th October 2006
>>Time: 7pm for 1 hour
>>Meet: Visitor Centre
Habitats and Inhabitants - You are invited to discover the many habitats of the West MacDonnell Ranges and the secrets of the plants and animals that live in them. Bring a chair.


Chat under the Stars - Ormiston Gorge
>>When: Fridays 5th May to 6th October 2006
>>Time: 7pm for 1 hour
>>Meet: Visitor Centre
Protecting the Park - Join us to learn about the biological values of the West MacDonnell National Park and the role Rangers play in managing it. Bring a chair and a torch.


Nature talk - Ormiston Gorge
>>When: Tuesdays & Saturdays 2nd May to 7th October 2006
>>Time: 10am for 1 hour
>>Meet: Visitor Centre
Signs of Life - How good are you at spotting subtle clues left behind by wildlife? Join a Ranger and learn how to recognise animal tracks and traces.


Nature talk - Simpsons Gap
>>When: Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays 1st May to 8th October 2006
>>Time: 10am for 40 minutes
>>Meet: Information Shelter at the Gap
Secrets of the Gap Revealed - Uncover the amazing survival strategies of many plants and animals in the Desert’s unpredictable climate.


Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of The Parks and Wildlife Service NT



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