Hiking Heaven: 10 Great Walking Tracks Of The Top End And Red Centre

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Hiking heaven in the top end
Pic credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

The Top End and Red Centre is home to some of Australia’s most breathtaking natural landscapes and there’s no better way to explore it than on foot.

From short walks to overnight trails there’s an option for all ages, fitness levels and abilities.

While hiking you’ll stumble across picturesque gorges, lush watering holes and striking red desert, experiencing some of the country’s most colourful terrain and unique wildlife.

So dust off those boots and fill up those water bottles…as you can see below, there are a stack of stunning trails just waiting to be explored.

1. Larapinta Trail, West MacDonnell Ranges

hiking in australia
Credit: Allan Dixon/Tourism NT

Voted by National Geographic as one of the top 20 trekking experiences on the planet, the Larapinta Trail is a 223km hike through the West MacDonnell Ranges outside of Alice Springs and is one of the world’s most famed and spectacular walking trails. Hike for one day, overnight or for a full week. Whether you’re after a guided walk, a self-guided walk, or want to customise your own adventure, World Expeditions is a good place to start with everything you need from camping gear, transfers, maps and food.

2. Jatbula Trail, Nitmiluk National Park

Jatbula hiking
Credit: Peter Eve/Tourism NT

Embark on the 66km Jatbula Trail in Nitmiluk National Park for off-the-beaten-track scenery, waterfalls and Jawoyn Aboriginal rock art. The trail runs along the exposed red line of the Arnhem Land escarpment. Over five days hikers will trek from the famous Nitmiluk Gorge to Leliyn (Edith Falls) passing breathtaking waterfalls and astounding termite mounds rising from yellow spear grass. Finish each day cooling off in running streams, waterfalls, or the lagoon section of the Edith River. Locally based company Gecko Canoeing and Trekking offer fantastic guided treks and transfers from Edith Falls to Katherine or Nitmiluk, for those wishing to walk independently.

3. Maguk, Kakadu National Park

Maguk hiking
Credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

Arguably one of the world’s most visually-stunning National Parks, covering nearly 20,000 square kilometres, the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park is a true bucket-list destination. One of the most popular walks is the 1km journey through lush monsoon forest to discover a pristine waterfall and the enticing crystal clear pools of Maguk. Hikers can also choose from dozens of other walks that journey deep into the park or trail around and below the escarpment, trekking through woodland, wetlands, waterfalls and gorges. Whichever path you choose you will be greeted by the vast expanse of natural beauty, Aboriginal rock art sites and unique biodiversity. Some permits may apply in areas of Kakadu. Best contact Kakadu National park for further information.

4. Tabletop Track, Litchfield National Park

Litchfield hiking
Credit: Nick Rains/Tourism NT

The Tabletop Track is a 39km-circuit through Litchfield National Park that lets you experience the remote wilderness of the Top End. Hikers will track along trickling creeks, crystal clear pools, secluded pockets of tropical monsoon rainforest, and cascading waterfalls including the famed Florence and Wangi Falls. Taking most walkers between three and five days, the track is suited for experienced, fit and well-prepared bushwalkers who can carry supplies. Permits are needed to access the track during the wet season.

5. Ormiston Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges

hiking ormiston
Credit: Steve Strike/Tourism NT

Ormiston Gorge showcases the spectacular geology and landforms of the MacDonnell Ranges. If you’re looking for a legendary day walk or something a little shorter, this is where you’ll find it. Located 135km from Alice Springs, the gorge offers a tranquil place to swim and take in the towering rock walls, and the interesting variety of local plants and wildlife. Choose from a 5 minute, 20 minute, or 3-4 hour walk.

6. The Valley of the Winds walk, Kata Tjuta (The Olgas)

Hiking Kata Tjuta

Traditionally known as Kata Tjuta, The Olgas are made up of 36 enormous steep-sided domed rocks and are situated roughly 32km west of Uluru within the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The tallest rock, Mt Olga, sits 1066m above sea level which is a whopping 200m higher than Uluru. The Valley of the Winds walk takes trekkers roughly 3-4 hours and is an incredible way to see the Olgas. You can also choose to do the walk in smaller chunks with one hour, two hour, and 30-minute walks with wheelchair access also available, or take the one hour Walpa Gorge Walk passing rare plans and ending at a grove of spearwood trees.

7. Finke Gorge National Park

hiking finke trail top end
Credit: Steve Strike/Tourism NT

The stunning Finke Gorge National Park covers roughly 46,000 hectares including the impressive Palm Valley which is home to a diverse range of plant species, many that are rare and unique to the area. The lookout is an easy 20-minute climb with spectacular views of a rock amphitheatre encircled by rugged cliffs. Hikers can also choose from the 2km Arankaia walk or the longer 5km Mpaara walk and return alongside a lush oasis of slender palms.

8. Kings Canyon Rim Walk, Watarrka National Park

Hiking King's Canyon rim walk
Credit: Shaana McNaught/Tourism NT

The King Canyon Rim Walk is another of the more famed hikes in the NT. The canyon has enchanted people for thousands of years – some parts of the gorge are in fact sacred Aboriginal sites. The two most popular hikes are the 6km Kings Canyon Rim Walk and the 2.6km Kings Creek Walk tracing the bottom of the gorge. On top of the canyon the cliffs are more than 300 metres high and offer spectacular views of the desert. The remoteness and size of the surrounding environment is mind-blowing. Once you’ve reached the top, descend to the beautiful “Garden of Eden” and escape the heat.

9. Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve

hiking corroboree

Just 42km east of Alice Springs is the striking dolomite outcrop in the Corroboree Rock Conservation Reserve, a sacred site for the local Western Arrernte people. Formed more than 800 million years ago by salt lakes, it is a sacred men’s site that plays a significant role in culture today. The circuit walk around the base of the rock formations is relatively easy and uniquely beautiful.

10. Judbarra/Gregory National Park

hiking judbarra
Credit: Frank Woerle/Tourism NT

Judbarra National Park is the Northern Territory’s second largest national park, encompassing spectacular ranges, escarpments, gorges and eucalypt woodlands. There are some amazing walks just out of Victoria River offering sensational views of the dramatic escarpment. Just 2km out of Victoria River there are two short but spectacular walks. The moderate ‘Escarpment walk’ will provide you with great views of the Victoria River. Or opt for the breathtaking views of the Joe Creek or ‘Nawulbinbin Walk’ which follows a moderate walk, steep in some places, where you will be surrounded by Livistona palms and can follow incredible Aboriginal rock art.

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