Places to go, Darwin & Surrounds, Northern Territory, Australia

Rainbow Valley, Alice Springs & surrounds

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Rainbow Valley is renowned for its sandstone bluffs and cliffs with bands of different coloured rock. An easy day trip from Alice Springs, it is at its most spectacular in the early morning light or late afternoon sun when it changes from ochre red to orange and purple, or after heavy rainfall, when the whole scene is reflected in the claypans.

The Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is located about 75 kilometres south of Alice Springs and best accessed by four-wheel drive. Or join a tour departing from Alice Springs, many of which provide insight into the Aboriginal cultural significance of the area. 

Explore on foot

The road to Rainbow Valley is lined with stands of majestic Desert Oak. Walk through the valley along the base of the cliffs and you will see large chunks of fallen rock, some of them weathered and pockmarked like coral. Take the short walk that skirts the claypan and winds around the foot of the bluff to Mushroom Rock – an unusual formation with a natural tunnel formed by millions of years of wind and rain erosion. 

Sacred site

Part of the James Range, the reserve is an important site to the southern Arrernte people. The large rock formation known as Ewerre is a registered sacred site. The Park is rich in Aboriginal history especially around the hills and ridges where petroglyphs, (rock carvings) paintings, grinding stones and stone chip tools have been discovered. 

Overnighting in the reserve

There are basic camping facilities at Rainbow Valley with toilets, gas barbecues, fire pits and a picnic area. You will need to bring your own food, firewood and water.

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