Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell National Park, Northern Territory

Ormiston Gorge, situated in West MacDonnell National Park, is one of the most impressive gorges in Australia. With walls over 300 metres high in places, the Gorge is a fascinating place to explore. Ormiston Creek is a tributary of the Finke River. The West MacDonnell Ranges National Park itself has abundant flora and fauna, and provides a rewarding bushwalking experience. Rock Wallabies are the most easily seen mammals in the park, and rarer mammals such as the Long-tailed Dunnart and the Central Rock Rat also making their home in this fauna refuge.

The best way to enjoy Ormiston is to take some of the many marked walking tracks. Short walks include:

  • Waterhole walk – This is a short five minute walk to a near-permanent 14m deep waterhole just 500m from the Visitor Centre. The water hole is a great spot for swimming, especially after a hard days walk.
  • Ghost Gum Lookout walk – This is a 20 minute walk and one of the most popular with visitors. On the walk there is a viewing platform that juts out from one wall of the Gorge, enabling a spectacular view of the gorge, the river red gums and the rock wallabies.
  • Ormiston Pound walk – this 7km walk takes about 3-4 hours, and takes you on a circuit from the Visitor Centre, onto the flat floor of the Pound, returning along the Ormiston Gorge via the main waterhole.

There are also a number of longer walks that require overnight camp:

  • Mount Giles (15.3km one way – 2-3 days return) This is a difficult walk through spectacular scenery. You travel across the floor of Ormiston Pound and follow the Ormiston Creek bed towards Mt Giles (the third highest peak in the Northern Territory – 1389m). If you are fit, you can climb to the peak of Mt Giles. Allow 3 days return if you want to climb to the summit of Mt. Giles. The track is 13km from the Visitor Centre to the base of Mt. Giles and 2.3km from the base of Mt. Giles base to the summit. The track is unmarked after the Pound walk.
  • Bowmans Gap (9 km one way – 3-4 hours each way) This walk can be done each way in a day, or you can take your time and camp overnight. Follow the creek bed where you will pass several waterholes and see a variety of wildlife. The red walls of Bowmans Gap provide a magnificent end to this pleasant walk. You also have views of the northern Pound Wall. The track is unmarked after the Pound Walk. Follow the creek bed north through the Pound to Bowmans Gap.
  • Larapinta Trail: Ormiston Gorge lies between Section 9 and Section10 of the Larapinta Trail. The Trail starts at the old Alice Springs Telegraph Station and passes key attractions of the Ranges including Simpsons Gap, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Standley Chasm and ends at Mt Sonder, the highest point of the Trail. The Trail is divided into 12 sections; each section is a one to two day walk.

    Section 9: Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge (30km one way – 2 days)
    This is a difficult walk taking you into rugged parts of the range country and requires walkers to carry two days supply of water, as there is no reliable water along the way. The spectacular views make this tough hike worth the effort.

    Section 10: Ormiston Gorge to Finke River (13km one way – 5.5 hours)
    This is one of the shortest and most popular sections of the Larapinta Trail. The scenery is varied including a hilltop lookout and walk through the dry Finke River The track is suitable for those of average fitness used to walking long distances. The Glen Helen Resort is at the end of this section, with welcome tourist facilities. If you are organized and book ahead, you can leave your car at the Ormiston Gorge car park and take a transfer back with Glen Helen Resort. The Resort sells snacks and refreshments and is a great place to finish your walk.

There are camping facilities at Ormiston Gorge. Spaces are limited and operate on a first come, first served basis. The camp ground has gas barbecues, toilets and showers. Camping is only permitted in designated areas.

Ormiston Gorge is about 135 km west of Alice Springs. via Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive. The Visitor Centre is about 8km from the Ormiston Gorge turn-off on Namatjira Drive. Sealed roads provide good access by conventional vehicles all year round, although the cooler months are the most pleasant for walking.

Related posts:

  1. Ellery Creek Big Hole, West MacDonnell Ranges
  2. Angkerle (Standley Chasm), near Alice Springs, Northern Territory
  3. Kings Canyon Resort, Watarrka National Park, Northern Territory
  4. Alice Springs Desert Park, Red Centre, Northern Territory
  5. Territory Wildlife Park, near Darwin, Northern Territory

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