7 ways to prepare for the Larapinta Trail

written by Intrepid Travel March 26, 2023
A panoramic view of the rocky mountain ridges on the Larapinta Trail, Australia

The last thing you want to be muttering to yourself is, “If only I’d [hiked more with a pack/worn in my boots/insert another key preparation step here]”.

So, you’ve decided to do the Larapinta Trail yay! But now comes the hard part: deciding how you’ll do it. Maybe you’re set on organising the whole trip yourself, or perhaps you’d rather do it in a small group with a local guide. You might want to hike the entire trail from start to finish, or you could be keen on just a few sections. Regardless of how you trek the Larapinta Trail, preparation is essential with a capital E.

Spanning 223 kilometres across the Red Centre, you can’t just rock up to the Larapinta Trail and give it a crack. You need to be physically and mentally prepared. The last thing you want is to suffer an injury (in the middle of the Outback), which could’ve been avoided with proper training. We’re not trying to scare you; we’re just keeping it real.

Here are seven things you can do to set yourself up for success.

1. Start training in advance

A hiker walking a sandy section of the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory, Australia

You need to be in good shape for the Larapinta. Period. You know where you’re at, so if you’re uncomfortable walking 20+ kilometres for several days under the beaming Outback sun, you’ll need to start training long before the trek begins. Your fitness and stamina will need to be even higher if you do the whole trail or carry all your gear alone. (The beauty of Intrepid’s guided Larapinta treks is that you stay in a permanent tented camp and only need a daypack.)

If you have moderate fitness, start training at least six weeks before you depart. Aim for aerobic exercises that get you hot and sweaty three to five times per week, and do regular hikes carrying a weighted pack. If you’re not very active and expect to take on the entire trail, you’ll need a longer-term training plan for at least six months. 

2. Work towards your goal slowly

Small changes can make a big difference, especially if your fitness isn’t where it needs to be. Start taking the stairs instead of the elevator, park further away from the shops or work, and go for walks while speaking on the phone. At the minimum, you’ll want to use your free time for walks and hikes in your local area. Some sections of the Larapinta are up to 31 kilometres, so covering long distances is goal numero uno.

But simply pacing the pavement won’t cut it. The Larapinta covers a variety of terrain from open plains to snaking riverbanks and rocky mountain ridges, so practise walking over hills and rough ground. We recommend training with a weighted pack similar to what you’ll carry on the trek. By the week before you depart, you should ideally be carrying the same weight you plan to take on the trail (you’ll thank yourself later).


3. Pay equal attention to strength and agility

Two hikers walking the rugged terrain of the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory, Australia

Being able to run a marathon is well and good, but you’ll probably struggle if your mobility, strength, and agility are weak. Even the fittest hikers are sometimes shocked after a few days on Larapinta because, as stunning as it is, the environment can be unforgiving.

As well as hitting the most rugged trails you can find near home, incorporate strengthening exercises for your feet, legs and core as early as possible. Even if you haven’t had trouble with your knees, hips or ankles, it’s not a bad idea to show them some extra love (love being weight training in this case) to avoid unwanted injuries and niggles.

4. Stretch it out

Flexibility is just as important as strength. Don’t forget to stretch your muscles after your hikes and workouts, as it will help improve the range of motion in your joints and avoid injury. You’ll also want to stretch at every opportunity once you’re on the trail.

5. Hit the gym when you can’t go hiking

While you can’t prepare for an arduous trek with the gym alone, sometimes busy life or lousy weather get in the way. Head to the gym for a class or an equipment-based workout when hiking’s not an option. You could also do HIIT, pilates or body-weight workouts at home. Whatever you do, don’t make excuses to skip training. It’s just not worth it. 

If you’re unsure where to start, it might be worth speaking to a personal trainer about a training program to help you reach your goals.

6. Get ready to sweat

A hiker throwing their arms in the air with excitement on the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory, Australia

Don’t underestimate the weather in the Red Centre. With a semi-arid climate, the temperatures can be extreme on both sides of the scale with hot, sunny days and chilly nights. It’s not uncommon for the temperature to drop below freezing during winter.

Heat stroke is a very real threat in the Aussie desert as it’s all too easy not to notice that you’re sweating buckets. Buy a water bladder or bottle sling if you haven’t already, as this makes it easier to stay hydrated on the move. It might also be worth bringing some electrolyte sachets to replenish essential minerals and help your body rehydrate quicker.

7. Make sure your footwear is up to scratch

You’ll cover some serious mileage on the Larapinta Trail, so a trusted pair of hiking boots will be your best friend. If your hiking boots have seen better days (e.g. the tread is worn down, they’re ripped or cracked, the underfoot padding is gone, etc.), it’s time to buy a new pair. But please give yourself plenty of time to break them in! This is NOT the kind of place where you want to be hobbling along with painful blisters. Go for bush walks and ensure you’ve clocked a decent number of kilometres before your trip.


Preparation is critical when attempting any trek, especially when the terrain and weather are as extreme as the Larapinta Trail. So, happy training! You’ll be good to go in no time.

Itchy feet? Trek the Larapinta Trail on a small group tour with Intrepid

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