The Larapinta Trail is a popular bushwalking trail in the Northern Territory of central Australia. Due to extreme weather conditions, it is best walked in the cooler months of the southern hemisphere. Thankfully, the park service maintains water tanks specifically for hikers of the trail. The overall difficulty of this trail is considered moderate. There are certain sections, especially from Standley Chasm to Hugh Gorge, which are more challenging and include rocky, steep terrain. Individual trail sections are rated according to difficulty, grading, and other factors.
The terrain of the Larapinta Trail is mostly characterized by its dry, rocky, and mountainous features, which are common to the West MacDonnell National Park. Certain sections are very steep, and hiking poles are a relative necessity. Due to the hard and rough ground, proper hiking boots are also especially important for this trail. Additionally, although the temperatures can get quite hot, wearing long pants is recommended to protect the skin from the harsh and prickly plantlife along the route.
Central Australia is a very dry region, and there are almost no natural water sources along the trail. Hikers will typically be completely dependant on the water tanks that are maintained by the park service. The water supplied by the tanks is clean, and can be drank straight, but it is still recommended to treat the water. Due to the high dependence on these water tanks, hikers need to be careful to align their hiking schedules according to water locations. The park services publishes the list of tanks and their locations.
There are four locations along the trail that have food available for purchase: Alice Springs, Ormiston Gorge, Standley Chasm, and Glen Helen Resort. If you need to rely on any of these places for supplies, it is important to note their hours of operation ahead of time. Additionally, there are some services available that will deliver supplies to certain designated points on the trail. Considering these options, and the relatively short length of the trail, most hikers will find that opportunities for resupply are more than adequate given proper planning.
This region of Australia is known for its extreme conditions. Even during the best hiking season, days will be pleasant but the nights can still drop below freezing. Despite the usual arid atmosphere, it does rain - sometimes very heavily, causing significant flooding. Light drizzling that lasts for several days is more common. It is imperative to get access to local weather reports whenever possible. High winds can also be dangerous, especially at higher elevations on the ridgelines.
The trail is well-marked with square reflective white signs with a blue triangle. Thanks to the maintenance by the local park service, navigation should usually be obvious. However, there are also some sections where the trail line is more difficult to distinguish - particularly in some high rocky regions. The park service website has some additional information and examples of these sections.
As with most trails, typical hazards include severe weather, poor trail conditions, and navigation issues. Some risks specific to Larapinta Trail include venomous snakes, insects, and dingoes. These risks are relatively low, but do exist, so it is important to research proper behavior ahead of time. The park service publishes more info on risks and safety concerns.
The Larapinta Trail is relatively popular during prime hiking season, due to its easy accessibility, relatively short length, and a great mix of mild weather and challenging terrain. There are some guided groups along the trail as well. During the more extreme climatic conditions of the winter (in the southern hemisphere), there are very few hikers out on the trail. Due to the moderate popularity, there are more services available for hikers, and the overall experience should be safer.
One of the primary benefits of this trail for foreigners is the easy accessibility of Alice Springs to start off the hike. There is air and rail access to the city, from which hikers can take shuttles or taxis to get to the trailhead. Other trailheads have relatively easy access as well, so check the trail site for the latest information on local transportation in the area.
A tent is necessary for most accommodation needs - but be sure to protect your sleeping gear and carry a patch kit because the grass is very sharp. There are some campsite areas along the trail that will be more pleasant than camping in the backcountry. Keep in mind that some of these will have associated fees, but the availability of facilities is very often worth the small cost. View the generic 16 itinerary with campsite information for each section.