The 6 things you should know before hiking Larapinta Trail

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The Larapinta Trail is one of Australia’s most underrated experiences. There’s little doubt it’s one of the best trails Australia has to offer.

Stretching 230 kilometres between Redbank Gorge and Telegraph Station in the Northern Territory’s “Red Centre”, Larapinta traverses the rocky gorges and high ridges of the West Macdonnell Ranges. It usually takes 13 to 15 days to hike end-to-end, and its spectacular views at every turn will take your breath away.

Learn more about what you can expect on our blog: What can you expect when hiking the Larapinta Trail?

hiking the larapinta trail with inspiration out

Like any trail, especially in Australia’s outback, there are a few things you’ll need to know before you start hiking.

1. Know your limits – the Larapinta trail is not easy

You might think 230 kilometres over 13 days doesn’t sound too hard, but I reckon you’ll be surprised. Section three (from Jay Creek to Standley Chasm) is only a 13-kilometre day, but it was one of the longest days of hiking I can remember.

If you’re unsure of your capabilities, guided tours of the Larapinta Trail offer the luxury of taking in the highlights of the trail over fewer days. If you’re going it alone and hiking end-to-end, you may want to consider going for 15 (or even more) days.

Either way, you need to train for months in advance, not just for fitness, but also agility. The Larapinta Trail will challenge you with plenty of rock hopping, not to mention the steep ascents and descents on loose rocky tracks.

Standley Chasm and Saddle walk
Standley Chasm and Saddle walk

2. Don’t underestimate the hot days or the cold nights.

The best months to hike Larapinta are between May and September when average daytime temperatures are 20 to 27 degrees (Celsius) and at night they come down to 6 to 10 degrees.
Even during these times, freezing conditions aren’t uncommon; nor are blaring hot days, which are particularly harsh on the more exposed sections of the trail. If you are not a fan of the cold, you might consider one our accommodated Larapinta trail tours
Make sure you pack clothes for all conditions so you can rug up at night and make sure you protect your skin from the harsh UV, especially on those exposed ridge lines. If you encounter unexpected high temperatures, plan an extended break during the hottest part of the day and make the most of the shade to cool yourself down.

3. The Larapinta trail is rugged. I mean, like, really really rugged.

I was a day and a half into my Larapinta adventure when I realised my hiking shoes weren’t up to the task. I’m not usually a hiker who has much trouble with his feet, but they already felt bruised from the near constant jagged rocky trail. A few others in our group didn’t make it through our trip because of blisters. You’ll need to think carefully about your choice of footwear for this one, and then make sure they’re well worn-in before you hike.

Our blog How to prepare your feet for a long hike is a good start to preparing yourself.

Footwear isn’t the only worry, though. This type of landscape takes its toll on your muscles and joints too. Then there’s the red dirt, which will haunt everything you have with you for months, if not years, to come.

Ormiston pound walk
Ormiston pound walk

Larapinta is no walk in the park. The landscape makes traversing carefully a necessity in order to stay safe. Unfortunately for me, it was a stupid careless mistake – tripping on a small rock because I was looking at my camera instead of where I was going – that cut my adventure short due to a torn meniscus cartilage.

But that’s not even the only reason to take your time. This landscape is immense and its finer details are just as well worth taking in. Even a couple of days on the Larapinta Trail is enough to give you a case of what I like to call ‘wow’ fatigue – that feeling you get when you’re seeing and experiencing something so incredible that you just can’t quite comprehend it. You will constantly feel like you need to pause for a while and process it all.

4. Navigation Skills

The Larapinta Trail is not easy to navigate. The signs and markers aren’t always reliable, and you’ll need to rely on your map and compass skills to stay on the right track. It’s essential that you have an up-to-date map of the trail before undertaking it, and that you take time to familiarise yourself with it. You should also take the time to learn how to use a compass if you’re unfamiliar with navigation. The NT Parks website covers some of the camping grounds and break down of the walking and camping fees.

Ellery Creek (Bighole)

5. Don’t forget the essentials

As well as your map and compass, there are a few other items that you’ll need to ensure you have with you on your Larapinta Trail adventure. A good quality water bottle and filter is essential (you can also pick up a few extra containers to store collected water from the tanks along the trail). Other important items include sunscreen, insect repellent, a hat, sunglasses, and plenty of snacks to keep your energy levels up. For more info take a peek at our Comprehensive Hiking Gear Checklist of What to Pack for Your Next Trip.

6. Safety Precautions

Although the Larapinta Trail offers an incredible experience, it is important to take safety precautions to prevent any injury or other mishaps. Make sure you let someone know your itinerary before setting out on your hike, and be aware of any wildlife which may inhabit the area – snakes and scorpions are common. It’s also a good idea to wear protective clothing and carry a first aid kit in case of any accidents. Finally, always make sure you have plenty of water with you.

7. Cultural Respect

The Larapinta Trail is located on the land of the First Nations people, so it’s important to respect the culture and heritage of this area. Be aware of any cultural sites or sacred places along the trail, and take care not to damage or interfere with them.

Tyurrentye, sacred to its Traditional Owners, encompasses 16 traditional estates rich in sacred sites, indigenous art, and archaeological finds. The landscape features dreaming tracks, like the taye (moon man) dreaming between Mt Sonder and Glen Helen Gorge. Notably, Western Arrernte artist Albert Namatjira and his descendants painted scenes from the West MacDonnell Ranges.

8. The Larapinta trail is famous for its critters.

Okay, so I’m sure the first thing you’re thinking is snakes – especially if you’re a visitor to Australia. Your concerns are valid. The threat of snakes is very real, especially King Brown (Mulga) snakes. However, the snakes aren’t going to chase you down and kill you. They just want to be left alone. As long as you watch where you’re stepping and don’t try to harm them, you’ll be fine.

The dingoes and their penchant for steeling food or even gear from our campsite was more of an issue for us. Waking up to a missing hiking boot wouldn’t make the best end to your adventure. The birds were pretty keen on our camp when there was food around, too.

Keep an eye out for the wallabies and reptiles on the trail. They’re much less likely to raid your campsite and definitely won’t kill you, but they’re beautiful creatures to observe.

9. The red dirt is addictive.

The final and possibly most important thing you’ll need to know before you hike that Larapinta Trail is that you will come back, or you will yearn for it every day until you do. You might be a little bit glad when you finally wash the last of that red dirt from your hair, clothes and gear, but you’ll still be looking for your next hit.

The Red Centre is a special place and you’ll feel different when you leave it.

10. Join Our Guided Tour for the Ultimate Experience

Embarking on the Larapinta Trail is a rewarding yet challenging endeavor. If you’re keen to experience its wonders without the added stress of navigating and planning each day, consider joining our expert fully-organised guided tour. With knowledgeable guides leading the way, you can focus on the awe-inspiring landscapes and immerse yourself fully in this once-in-a-lifetime journey. Our team ensures not only your safety but also provides insights into the rich history, culture, and unique ecology of the trail. Don’t just walk the Larapinta—experience it with us!

Ready to take on the Larapinta Trail with expert guidance? Book our Larapinta Trail Guided Tour now and make your adventure unforgettable.

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