2018 Larapinta itinerary, tips and budget

Below is a sample of my 2018 itinerary so the services and prices have likely changed.

I hope you are able to glean some useful information from this article on what to expect on the trip, useful hints and tips for planning and packing.

Trip itinerary

August 7th – Arrival

  • Flight arrival to Alice Springs Airport – taxi to YMCA
  • Arrange for Gas canisters, food to fill in back and 3 tubs for the trip
  • Pick up Food storage key from Visitors centre 

Note: Food drop tubs will be dropped off by the local transport company. We will be packing our food for the hike that night.

8th August – Hike begins

  • Taxi from YMCA to Telegraph Station (Section 1)
  • Alice wanderer transport company pick up the tubs and distribute to the 3 food storage locations in Standley Chasm Camp site, Ellery Creek Camp site and Ormiston Gorge Camp site

8th Day 1: Section 1 – Telegraph Station to Wallaby Gap | 13.9kms – 5 hours (easy)

9th Day 2: Section 1 – Wallaby Gap to Simpsons Gap, visit Alice Springs Desert Park | 10.8kms (easy)

10th Day 3: Section 2 – Simpsons Gap to Mulga camp | 13.6kms (easy)

11th Day 4: Section 2 – Mulga camp to Jay Creek | 10.8kms (easy) 

12th Day 5: Section 3 – Jay Creek to Standley Chasm | 13.6kms (Hard)

Food Drop @ Standley Chasm

  • Catered ‘pampered’ 4 course dinners
  • Alcohol free area
  • Supplemental provisions can be purchased at the kiosks

13th Day 6: Section 4 – Standley Chasm – Brinkley Buff | 10kms (Hard, best scenery)

  • Angkerle cultural experience – Half day tour with an indigenous guide (9am – 1pm)

14th Day 7: Section 4 – Brinkley Buff to Birthday Waterhole | 8kms (Hard, best scenery)


15th Day 8: Section 5 – Birthday Waterhole to Hugh Gorge | 14kms (Hard, best scenery)


16th Day 9: Section 6 – Hugh Gorge to Rocky Gully | 15.3kms (easy)


17th Day 10: Section 6 – Rocky Gully to Ellery Creek | 15kms (easy)

Food Drop @ Ellery Creek

  • Supplemental provisions can be purchased at the kiosks

18th Day 11: Section 7 – Ellery Creek to Serpentine Gorge | 13.1kms (Hard)

19th Day 12: Section 8 – Serpentine Gorge to Serpentine Chalet Dam| 13kms (best scenery)

20st Day 13: Section 9 – Serpentine Chalet to Waterfall gorge | 16kms (hard, best scenery)

Dry camping spot – Giles Lookout over Waterfall Gorge. To acesss going west it is about another 1km or so. Up a creek bed then quite a climb 300m up up up. Perfect view when we got ther with sun setting behind Sonder and the full moon rise in the east.

21nd Day 14: Section 9 – Waterfall gorge to Ormiston gorge | 15.5kms (hard, best scenery)
Food Drop @ Ormiston Gorge

  • Supplemental provisions can be purchased at the kiosks
  • Alcohol free area

22rd Day 15: Section 10 – Ormiston Gorge to Glen Helen/Finke River | 13.6kms (easy)

Glen Helen Private Camp site

  • Pub / Restaurant

23th Day 16: Section 11 – Glen Helen Junction to Rocky Bar Gap | 13.9kms (medium)
24th Day 17: Section 11 – Rocky Bar Gap to Redbank Gorge | 11.6kms (easy)
25th Day 18: Section 12– Redbank Gorge to Mt Sonder (return) | 15kms (Hard, best Scenery)

Best at Sunset OR Sunrise (allow 2-3 hours to summit Mount Sonder from Redbank campsite/Car park)

  • Regardless of whether you get of sunset or sunrise, bring something warm to eat and/or drink.
  • Bring a strong headlamp (avoid slip, trips and falls)

August 25th

  • Redbank Gorge 11am Pick up AliceWanderer transport service, will pick up the 3 tubs on the way back to Alice Springs
  • Stay at Mercure Rest Alice Springs

August 26th

  • Taxi to the Alice Springs Airport
    • If you want to stay an extra night to explore Alice Springs a bit longer, consider driving out to Uluru, kings canyon

Paid campsites: Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek, Ormiston Gorge, Glen Helen

Food drops locations: Standley Chasm, Ellery Creek, Ormiston Gorge

Accomodation resources

Standley Chasmhttp://www.standleychasm.com.au/

Camp Fees $18.50 Privately owned camp, cafes and facilities

Facilities: Kiosk (pay camp fees here), toilet, tent in carpark

Standley Chasm is in a private flora and fauna reserve owned by the Iwupataka Land Trust and is operated by Aboriginal family members that are direct descendants from Aboriginal people that have lived in this area for thousands of years. They operate the café as a profitable concern with no funding and as a training facility for their children. Angkerle Atwatye, a significant “woman’s’ dreaming” site

HALF-DAY Local Indigenous Tour of “the Jewel of the West MacDonnell Ranges NP”

From 9am (sharp) to 1pm $85 / Adult – to attend the following day

The Chasm itself is a Rock Wallaby Dreaming place that’s sacred to Arrernte women.

In traditional times, only women could come here to collect bush medicines and perform sacred rites. These stories and songs are still used by Arrernte women today – most of them cannot be revealed unless you’re a woman who’s been through the appropriate ceremonies.

Ellery Creek – http://traveloutbackaustralia.com/ellery-creek-big-hole.html/

Camping Fees $6.50

Facilities: toilet, shower, BBQ area, water (will need treating) and the waterhole feature

There is advice on several sites that recommended bringing water to this campsite. 

Feature: waterhole, advice that the water is very cold and there is a risk of hypothermia. 

Ellery is also a sacred site for the Central and Western Arrernte people. Its name in Western Arrernte is Udepata (oo-DEP-pa-tuh).

The main Dreaming story here is Honey Ant Dreaming, although there’s a Fish Dreaming story that travels through the waterhole as well.

There is a Dolomite Walk that leaves from the shed shelter in the carpark and is a 3km loop which takes about 1.5 hours.

If you look carefully on this walk, you’ll find lots of Pitchuri or Native Tobacco growing on the ridges. Ellery is a favourite place for Western Arrernte women to come and collect pitchuri (called ingwulpa in Western Arrernte).

Ormiston Gorge – http://traveloutbackaustralia.com/ormiston-gorge-west-macdonnell-ranges.html/

Camping fee $10

Facilities: Toilet, showers, Kiosk that operates 7 days and serves coffee, water* (will need treating) and the waterhole feature

*Drinking water is limited – you would be advised to bring your own, and of course, if you are taking water from the Gorge, treat prior to drinking.    

Feature – waterhole (Gorge) – the water is very cold and there is a risk of hypothermia. 

Ormiston is also a sacred site the Western Arrernte people. Its name in Western Arrernte is Kwartatuma.

The Dreaming story for the waterhole tells of the adventures of a group of Emus who came to the waterhole from the East, and the man who hunted them whilst they were there.

Something else that’s popular at Ormiston is birdwatching. An early morning stroll around the campground will reveal dozens of birds here. If you’re a keen birder or a twitcher, and a careful look at the right time of year will reveal some of Central Australia’s most sought-after birds.

Ormiston is renowned as a place to see Spinifex birds and Dusky Grass wrens.

Glen Helenhttp://www.glenhelen.com.au/camping/

Camp Fee: $12

Facilities: Enjoy hot showers, use of free BBQ, gas cooker and fridge freezer. 

Features: Swim in the swimming pool or the natural waterhole of the Glen Helen Gorge, relax in the homestead at the bar or take a night off from cooking and enjoy dinner in the Namatjira Gallery Restaurant. End the night with free live entertainment from talented Australian musicians.

The Glen Helen Story

The story of Glen Helen is one of hardship and determination dating back to the explorers of the late 19th century.

Following discovery, the property was established as a cattle station covering a much larger area between what is now Redbank Gorge and Ormiston Creek.

Pre/Post trip Accomodation

Prices from 2018, price will have inflated since then

7th/8th August: YHA Accommodation $130/4pp=$32.50

24th/25th August: Mercure Superior Room – $133 (2 x double beds) = $133/4pp = $32.25

Food drops

CompanyPhoneEmailWebsite
Alice Wanderer(08) 8952 2111info@alicewanderer.com.auwww.alicewanderer.com.au

https://alicewanderer2.rezdy.com/210128/redbank-glen-helen-ormiston-gorge-to-alice-springs

Transport and food drops – http://larapintatransfers.com.au/transfer-costs-and-online-booking/

At this point, you will need to supply your own food. We will need to pack for 4.5 days of food and potentially water depending on the availability closer to the date. There is possibly some space to include spare clothing – pending confirmation on tub size. 

Alice Wanderer will drop off three tubs for our food drops. There will be 3 official campsites (including 1 Private campsite) where we will access our food drops at – Standley, Ellery Creek and Ormiston. Standley and Ormiston have kiosks with limited food stock, so you will be able to treat yourself there. It is still recommended for everyone to carry 4.5 days of food between drop sites, as it will be dependent on our arrival time to these sites whether those kiosks will be open.

Once we have completed the End to End trail, Alice Wanderer transport will pick us up and our food tubs on the way back to Alice Springs.

[Please refer to Paid Campsites for more information on kiosks]

Adding luxury canned food (fruit), Beer and wine in the food drop boxes. (Standley Chasm and Ormiston Kiosk as alcohol free zones)

Weather

The best time to hiking the Larapinta trail is April to October. Peak season around July. Essentially avoid hiking during the official fire season (November to March).

Temperatures range from -1 to 7 degrees at night and 19 -28 degrees during the day.
Even on warm days, it’s warm in the sun but quite cool in the shaded valley.

See detailed climate and temp average here.

Water carry, access, sources

You will be hiking in warm weather even for winter, and as such you will need to bring about 3-4 litres of water with you. I recommend investing in hydrolytes in either tablet or powder form (such as Sistema) and collapsible water bottles to lighten your pack weight!

At each section there will be either a water tank or reticulated bore water for you to refill your water. The quality of these waters is not guaranteed and it is highly recommended using some sort of filtering/purification method to avoid ingesting water contaminants.

I brought 2x 1 litre plastic water bottles, a water filter (brand Hydroblu), a 2 litre collapsible water bladder (brand CNOC), and a 3 litre Nalgene collapsible bottle.

Comment on water carry from a friend which helped a lot:

“For Standley Chasm to Four-five Junction, overnighting at Brinkley Bluff, in hot May weather, I carried 7 litres but only used 5.5 litres (I discarded 1.5 litres after breakfast on the second day). For Four five Junction to Hugh Gorge Camp, overnighting at Hugh Gorge Junction, in hot May weather, I used 5.0 litres (I carried three from Four-five Junction and collected two from the waterhole). For Hugh Gorge Camp to Ellery Creek, overnighting trackside along the way, in hot May weather, I carried and used 4.0 litres. For Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge, overnighting at Waterfall Gorge, in cool weather, I carried 7.0 litres and used 5.0 litres (I discarded 2.0 litres after breakfast on the second day).

On the walk, I usually drank between 1.5 and 2.0 litres during the day’s walk, although on one exceptionally hot May day I drank 2.5 litres. Then at camp I usually used between 2.0 and 3.0 litres. On hot days, I added a couple of hydration tablets to the first litre of drinking water for the day, then drank the rest plain.

Depends on the day and the person.
Just did Serpentine Chalet Dam to Ormiston Gorge overnighting at Giles Lookout. I started with 7 litres. My 3 companion’s brought between 3 and 4 litres each.
Contributed 4 litres of my water to the group. Collectively we probably needed about 4 or 5 more. Minimalist meal and no breakfast as water was tight.
But overnighting at Giles Lookout was awesome.

I think that would be fine. Just make sure to drink lots when you are at the tanks, you can even do any cooking (i.e. eat dinner early) at the tank or soak your food there, brush your teeth there (i.e. do all your “water chores” there) so all you need is the water for the hike to the campsite and to drink in the morning. Just pay attention to the forecast and if you hike in the cool of the evening and get up early to get to the next tank before it heats up it’s easy https://static.xx.fbcdn.net/images/emoji.php/v9/f8a/3/16/1f642.png

We dry camped Brinkley Bluff, Razor Back & Hilltop Lookout.

Water holes:

No water in Fringe Lily Creek when I was there earlier this month. Lots of waterholes in Hugh Gorge, and the one at the top of the creek is permanent.

Or camp at Hugh Gorge Junction, which in my opinion is much nicer anyway.”

Hiking (distance and elevation)

Hiking distance will be between 10 to 18 km per day, with roughly 500m of ascent and descent included.

It is highly recommended that you bring new hiking shoes/trail runners for this trail as you will shred them!

Shoes or Boots? I carried the Salomon XA pro trainers. I opted against gore-tex (water proof) for the Larapinta trip because you wanted to maximise on breathability and quick drying. Gore tex tends to retain moisture for days.

Hiking Level: Moderate to Challenging.

Whilst the daily distances look easy, it’s the varying terrain that will mess with you. Larapinta trail is known for loose shale rock that will wear down your shoe treads. So its recommended to start with relatively fresh shoes.
The loose shale will make it hard to summit some sections, whilst other sections its the fixed shale jutted out of the ground that makes you focus on staying upright.

The sun’s UV is strong so definitely slip slop slap! I was sunburnt on the right side of my face (East to West) on the first day. Sun care recommendation: Wear a legionnaires caps (a baseball cap with a neck flap) or a sun hoodie and baseball cap. Protect your face, head and neck! I recommend and wore an Outdoor research Echo sun shirt plus a cap.

Drink heaps of water because the heat can impact your hiking! members of our group started at dawn, have a mid day siestas and then continued hiking when it was cooler in the afternoon.

Packing light weight (to Ultralight) weight: Aim to be 15 kg or less with consumables. A light pack with increase your walking pace, make it feel less hellish with your ascents as well!

Shelter

Tent areas are first in best dressed.

It is recommended to have a mixture of wide tent stakes for sand and wire stakes to tie around rocks.

There are three-side shelters provided at each section of the trail. They provide USB charging with solar panels on the roof. outhouses, and water tanks.  

It’s good to know where the shelters are on your trailer and take advantage of them when the weather isn’t the greatest. However, I strongly recommend dry camping when the conditions are ripe! Camping on a mountain for the expansive vistas, or camping in a dry river bed for the peace and quiet.

Mobile Reception

Mobile reception is generally restricted to ridge tops and other high points. The trail is split between Telstra and Optus.

Telstra – From Alice Springs to mountain peaks before Ormiston Gorge

Optus – Alice Springs, Ormiston Gorge to mountain peaks between Glen Helen and Mount Sonder.

Trip budget

The budget I provided below was what was agreed upon between a group of 4 people. There are costs in the table that can be omitted like camp fees, tours, and prepaid for books if you wanted an budget friendly alternatives.

Opt for the free campsites available throughout the trail, eat only the food you pack, hike longer distances for the overall trip is shorter, hitch hike back to Alice Springs or to Redbank Gorge carpark.

Actual Cost Break down Per Person (budgeting for a group of 4)

ItemsIndividual costFull cost*
YHA Alice Springs*$32.8$131.0
Standley Chasm
Camp site ($5 powered facility + $20 camp fee pp)
Tourist bonus – Indigenous Dream time tour $85
Tourist bonus – Pampered food (4 course dinner) $55
$170.0$680.1
Ellery Creek Camp Fee (cash in person)$6.5$26.0
Ormiston Gorge Camp Fee (cash in person)$10.0$40.0
Glen Helen Camp Fee (book online)$14.0$56.0
Transport Company
Storage Key $105 (refund is $50) ($55/4pp=$13.75)
Secure Luggage Storage $25
Food drop ($60*3=$180/4pp=$45)
Food Pick up (pickup $30*3 food drops=$90/4pp=$22.5)
Pick up from Redbank Gorge ($725/4pp=181.25)
$273.8$1,200.0
Mercure resort* Alice Springs
Deluxe 2xQueen beds ($310/pp)
$94.8$379.0
Cash for kiosk food and some resupplies$150.0
Total (estimated)$751.8$2,512.1

Note:

Larapinta trail permit did not exist as the time of this budget in 2018.

*Prices for the accommodations are an estimate.

*Full cost is relates to a 4 person budget breakdown.

Pack list

I have provided two links to my Larapinta pack list:

Pre-Larapinta – What I packed at the start of the trip.

Post-Larapinta – during the course of the hiking trip, I found that I was carrying a number of items that weren’t necessary for the hike. Due to fair weather, shelter provided at the trail, excess of equipment etc.