The MacDonnell Ranges are popular with hikers, as the 140-mile (223-kilometer) Larapinta Trail runs along the ridge and into the plains below. You don’t have to be a long-distance walker to enjoy the natural beauty of the ranges, however. Day trips from the town of Alice Springs show off the highlights of the range, from red rock formations and cold rock pools to the Ochre Pits where Australian Aboriginal people quarried for ochre pigment. Tours into the desert, whether on camel by day or to spot wildlife at night, typically include the MacDonnell Ranges as their backdrop.
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Things to Know Before You Go
The MacDonnell Ranges are a must-visit for outdoors enthusiasts.
Day trips from Alice Springs typically last around 10 hours, including roundtrip transportation.
Wear sturdy shoes suitable for walking over uneven surfaces and don’t forget to bring sun protection, including sunglasses, sunscreen, and a hat.
How to Get There
The MacDonnell Ranges begin 11 miles (18 kilometers) west of Alice Springs along Larapinta Drive. The park is accessible by car and via a bike path from Alice Springs. Once inside the park, you can get around on food, by bicycle, or in a 4WD vehicle.
When to Get There
The best season for weather in the mountains is from May to September. If visiting Standley Chasm, try to arrive around noon, when the sun paints the gorge walls a bright orange. Expect temperatures to peak above 95°F (35°C) during the summer months from November to April.
Wildlife in the MacDonnell Ranges
This area of the Australian Outback is excellent for wildlife viewing. The rare Centralian Tree Frog can be spotted in the MacDonnell Ranges’ cold rock pools, while bilby, echidna, and mala hang out around the foothills. Keep an eye out for black-footed rock wallaby, Pacific heron, and white-faced heron as well.