The 6 things you should know before hiking the Larapinta Trail

written by Intrepid Travel May 16, 2023
A group of travellers traversing the terrain of the Larapinta Trail on a clear day

Discover all the do’s and don’ts before tackling the trail known as one of Australia’s greatest multi-day walks…

There are many trails in Australia worth trekking; you’ve got the Cape-to-Cape Track in Western Australia, the Overland Track in Tasmania and the Great Ocean Walk in Victoria. But none of them really compare to the Northern Territory’s Larapinta.

Spanning 230 kilometres between Redbank Gorge and Telegraph Station, this magnificent trail promises to take you on an active Aussie adventure through the rocky gorges and the high ridges of the West Macdonnell Ranges. While the 13–15 day timeframe might sound a little extreme, the breathtaking views you’ll be treated to along the way make it oh-so-worth-it.

But before you lace up your hiking boots and get going, you should know a few crucial things. The Red Centre is certainly unforgettable, but it can also be unforgiving. So, to ensure you know exactly what to expect, we’ve put together a guide on the ‘what to look out for’s’ so you don’t have to say any ‘I wish I knew that’s’. 

1.      Know your limits (and prepare accordingly)

Completing a 230 kilometre trail sounds challenging…because it is. The Larapinta Trail isn’t for the faint of heart but that doesn’t mean only the best hikers can do it. In fact, plenty of guided tours take you part of the way (us), so you don’t have to miss out on the magnificent scenery (just the blisters that come with walking the full 13 days).

But you still need to prepare correctly and that looks like hittin’ the gym and going out on smaller hikes in the hopes of increasing both your physical health and agility levels. You need to be able to withstand 20km+ walking days, climbing over rugged peaks and ridges with a daypack that, by the end of it, will feel as though it weighs more than you do.

You’ll also be treated to plenty of rock hopping and climbing up and down mountainous terrain while carrying your own water supply (3 litres minimum), so your fitness level can’t be less than excellent.

2.      Pack for all weather conditions

A group of travellers carrying backpacks along the Larapinta Trail on a clear day.

It goes without saying that you should be prepared for all weather conditions, even if you’re hiking between May and September (the best months to hike the Larapinta Trail). While temperatures can be a perfect 20°C-27°C during the day, they can drop significantly when the sun goes down with an average between 6°C-10°C. On top of this, anomalies can occur, so don’t be surprised if you experience extreme weather conditions – think scorching hot days and freezing cold nights.

Packing lots of layers often works best but you’ll want to wear clothes made out of breathable fabric when it’s warmer and those that provide plenty of warmth when it’s colder. You should also be aware of the sun’s UV rays when you’re out hiking (even if the weather’s a little overcast), so sunglasses, wide-brimmed hats and sunscreen should be at the top of your packing list.

3.      The trail isn’t all smooth terrain-ing

Before embarking on a trail as demanding as Larapinta, it’s important to have all of the correct information before you set out, and while walking the trail itself will be one of the greatest adventures you ever have, it’ll also take a toll on your body if you’re not careful. This is where picking (and packing) proper hiking shoes come in.

Your feet will bear the brunt of the work thanks to the constant jagged and rocky trail and it’s not uncommon for them to get bruised and blistered, especially when you’re walking 70km over five days on our trek the Larapinta Trail tour. To avoid this as much as possible, seek advice on the best hiking shoes for the job and ensure they’re properly worn in when your flight touches down in Alice Springs.

Unfortunately, that’s not all you have to be aware of. Your body’s likely going to feel aches and pains in places you didn’t even know it was possible to feel aches and pains in, so packing some muscle pain relief cream or something similar is a must-do.

And yes, the red dirt will be a marvellous sight at the start of your trek but trust us, it’ll get less so every day when you still can’t get it off your clothes months after your journey has ended.

4.      Slow down, there’s no rush

We’ve already established that hiking the Larapinta Trail isn’t all sunshine and rainbows – you’ll put in a lot of effort across the five days, but while concentrating on keeping up and listening to your body is super important, so is taking it all in. Like, you’re walking the freaking Larapinta Trail. That huge achievement will stay with you long after you’ve caught your flight home.

The landscapes you’ll see are truly extraordinary, from the twisting riverbanks to the limestone walls of Ormiston Gorge and it’ll be hard for your mind to comprehend all the natural beauty you’re seeing. But it will. And once you’ve taken the time to appreciate it fully, get your camera out and take a million photos.

5.      Watch out for the animals

“When you say animals, do you mean snakes” – you, probably.

No, although there are plenty of those around too (look out for the King Browns). We’re referring to the Aussie animals most of us aren’t lucky enough to see in our backyards daily; dingoes, wallabies, birds and native reptiles. While these animals are mostly harmless if you don’t provoke them, they can still show you their sneakier side by trying to steal food from the campsite and run off with one of your hiking shoes when you’re not looking.

6.      You’ll make memories that’ll last a lifetime

After the five days, you’ll be absolutely exhausted – there’s no doubt about that. But you’ll also have made some of your favourite memories. Whether you still see the rich red dirt every time you close your eyes, dream about swimming in natural pools when you go to sleep or want to relive nights spent around a campfire reminiscing over the day’s activities, hiking the Larapinta Trail will change you. In the best way possible.


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