Our trip begins in Alice Springs in Australia's Northern Territory at 1pm today. After dropping off luggage at our hotel we visit Telegraph Station Historical Reserve. This is the original site of the first European settlement in Alice Springs and the start of the Larapinta Trail. Next, we take a loop walk with incredible views in Simpson Gap, an important spiritual place for the Central Arrernte Aboriginal people.? This is also an excellent location for spotting Black-footed rock wallabies as the sun lowers in the sky. Back in Alice Springs, we dine at a local restaurant and review our activities for the upcoming week. Dinner included.
Walking: 2 miles, 2 hours.
We begin our day with a visit to Alice Springs Desert Park, an environmental education facility that contains native animals, such as emus and kangaroos, and plants that are representative of the central Australian desert environment. We then transfer to Standley Chasm, part of a 350-million-year-old mountain range located on the edge of the West MacDonnell National Park. The chasm, created by surging flood waters over thousands of years, is a deep red cleft with slopes on either side rising over 260' above the floor. Tonight we stay at a deluxe eco-camp with a covered communal area and hot-water shower tents. The sleeping tents are canvas-sided with floor-to-ceiling windows, twin bed cots and a wooden patio in front. Our guides will share stories of this desert land over a dinner of fresh, local cuisine. All meals included.
Walking: 4 miles, 2.5 hours.
We pack up and drive to Serpentine Gorge, the starting point of our hike on the celebrated Larapinta Trail. Our hike goes up and along one of the most spectacular quartzite ridges of the West MacDonnell Ranges. After ascending the ridge, we are rewarded with remarkable 360-degree views of the surrounding peaks and ridges. The magnificent "ripple rock," evidence of the ancient shallow inland sea that existed before the mountains were formed, can be seen on a clear day. We picnic on the trail then begin our descent through mulga forest before the landscape opens up again. We finish the hike at our deluxe campsite. All meals included.
Hiking: 8 miles, 5-6 hours.
Today?s hike is on a remote circuit of Ormiston Pound, a ring of mountains that punctuates the MacDonnell Range. This is an incredibly scenic trail that traverses a diverse range of habitats including hills pockmarked with spiky spinifex grasses and tree-lined creek beds. As we delve deeper into the rocky middle of the Pound, we are on the lookout for military dragons scampering across the rocks and wedge-tailed eagles circling above. The black-footed rock wallaby may be spotted foraging in the upper reaches and rock overhangs as we approach Ormiston Gorge. Depending on water levels, sections of this hike may require water crossings. Tonight?s eco-camp is located at the foot of Mount Sonder. All meals included.
Hiking: 6.2 miles, 5 hours; Transfers: 1.5-2 hours.
A 4:30am departure brings us to the trailhead for Mount Sonder (4,528'), the fourth highest mountain in Australia's Northern Territory. Our trail winds up the rocky ridgeline to a picturesque viewpoint where we watch the first light of day illuminate the West MacDonnell Range. We descend, then transfer back to our eco-camp for a well-earned brunch. There is free time at camp or the option to visit Glen Helen Homestead Lodge located on Glen Helen Gorge. At Glen Helen we can enjoy the amenities of the resort, savor downtime with a beverage at the Glen Helen Pub, or take a scenic walk before returning to our eco-camp for dinner. All meals included.
Hiking: 3.6 mile, 5 hours, with 1,380' elevation gain/loss; Transfers: 1.5-2 hours.
The Gosse Bluff Conservation Area has a wonderful short hike to see a 20-kilometer-wide meteor crater which is registered as a sacred site for the Western Arrernte Aboriginal people. Our guide will share the Aboriginal and scientific interpretation of the site?s creation as we take in the sweeping views. We then drive to Kings Canyon and check into to our rooms at a well-appointed outback resort adjacent to the national park. This evening we watch the sun set over the rugged sandstone walls of Kings Canyon. All meals included.
Hiking: 1-2 miles, 1 hour; Transfers: 4 hours.
An invigorating start to our day, we walk up 500 stone steps to a panoramic view of Kings Canyon. We skirt the sheer 300' walls of the rim before descending to the Garden of Eden waterhole to see the fern-like cycads, which are close to 400 years old. Their pinnate leaves branch out in a fan to offer us a shaded respite. We keep an eye out for wildlife such as the wallaroo, hill kangaroo or the rare dusky grass wren. Passing through the canyon we encounter a series of striped sandstone domes known as the "Lost City." Departing the canyon, we drive towards Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park, home to the Outback?s most iconic features. We?ll check into our comfortable lodgings in Yulara and eat dinner. All meals included.
Hiking: 3.7 miles, 3 hours with elevation gain/loss 400'; Transfers: 4 hours.
We explore the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. Kata Tjuta means "many heads" and refers to the 36 rusty-red conglomerate domes which dot the endless landscape. Three-hundred million years of wind and rain have sculpted the "Valley of the Winds," resulting in a hikers' playground. Though not as well known as Uluru, Kata Tjuta is equally impressive and many find it more captivating. We walk through the Valley of the Winds and Walpa Gorge, treading deeper into the valley to explore between creek beds that weave their way between the ancient domes. In the afternoon we transfer to the Uluru-Kata Tjuta Cultural Center for optional activities, followed by appetizers and drinks as we take in the classic view of Uluru at sunset. Returning to our lodgings we have a celebratory dinner to highlight our final day in the outback. All meals included.
Hiking: 6 miles, 5 hours; Transfers: 2.25 hours.
The journey concludes with a visit to Uluru, formerly known as Ayers Rock. This sandstone monolith is revealed in brilliant shades of red. It is sacred to the Arangu people of the central Australian desert, whose occupation of the region dates back 60,000 years. We spend the morning hiking to various points around Uluru before transferring to the Connellan/Ayers Rock Airport in Yulara to bid farewell to this amazing part of the Australia. We plan to arrive at the airport between 12:30-1pm; departing flights can be scheduled any time after 2pm. Breakfast included.
Hiking: 4 miles, 1.5-2 hours; Transfers: 1 hour.