The East and West MacDonnell Ranges stretch out for hundreds of kilometres on both sides of Alice Springs. They are an adventure playground with hiking trails, four-wheel drive tracks, swimming holes, and camping spots.
Walk the West Macs
The waterholes, gorges and rocky ridges of the West MacDonnell Ranges are an easy drive from Alice Springs. Set out for a day trip or overnight stay. The Larapinta Trail is a great way to get amongst the scenery – walk an easy section or challenge yourself to hike the full 223 kilometres along the spine of the Wset MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs to Mount Sonder.
Jump on a bike and ride along the cycle path from Alice Springs to Simpsons Gap to see the permanent waterhole and the colony of rock wallabies. Standley Chasm is the next attraction west along the road – be sure to time your visit to see the rock at its fiery red best in the midday sun.
Cool swimming spots
Picturesque swimming holes are located at Ellery Creek Big Hole, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen Gorge and Redbank Gorge in the West Macs. They are great places to cool off on a warm day and relax under a shady tree.
The East Macs
The East MacDonnell Ranges are popular for bush walking, camping and four-wheel driving. At Emily and Jessie Gaps you'll see a large rock painting that depicts the caterpillar dreaming of the Eastern Arrernte Aboriginal people, as well as flocks of native budgerigars drinking from waterholes.
Further east is Trephina Gorge, most notable for its sheer quartz cliffs and rivers and creeks lined with River Red Gums. The shady N'Dhala Gorge contains over 6,000 prehistoric rock carvings, art and shelter sites, and rare plants. Make sure you stop and visit Arltunga, a ghost town that was the site of a gold rush in the 1930s.