Dust off those hiking boots… You are in for a treat!
What a way to experience the unmatched natural beauty of the Northern Territory, one of Australia’s last true frontiers.
Enjoy a cool, crisp and crystal clear desert dawn walk, or appreciate a tropical afternoon stroll… Even better, take the time and do both! The Territory has it all! From 30-minute nature walks to the challenge of a week-long trek.
This bushwalker’s paradise offers a smorgasbord of adventure, from the iconic Kakadu National Park in the north, Arnhemland to the East, unforgettable Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park in central Australia, and so many more “off the beaten track” opportunities in between.
Table of Contents
Short walks in the NT
As vast as the Northern Territory may seem, there are plenty of walks that will have you safely back at camp within the day, and yet with memories to last a lifetime…
The Red Centre
Let the walking trails of Uluru, Kata-Tjuta and Kings Canyon in the Red Centre lead you through landscapes and history lessons unlike any other. The haunting solitude of the desert reveals the secrets of an ancient culture, showcases a colour-palette of incredible beauty, and protects some of the world’s most unique flora and fauna.
1. Uluru Base Walks
Expect the unexpected… The full Uluru Base Walk of about 10km in length is surprisingly diverse.
The first section, the Mala Walk, takes you to Kantju Gorge. Surrounded by sheer red walls, this is a peaceful pause in the journey before encountering the longest open stretch of the walk.
Hike across grassed claypans and appreciate Uluru’s vastness from a distance. The spectacular North-East Face section of the walk is the side seen from Yulara and the Field of Light.
The short walk from the Kuniya carpark to Mutitjulu Waterhole is a shady green escape from the desert. And, if you’re lucky enough to visit after rain, the musical sounds of a waterfall will accompany the chorus of birdlife attracted to this water source.
Lungkata Walk, connecting the Kuniya Walk with the Mala carpark is a thrilling way to complete the circuit, as the track runs close enough for you the touch and feel the textures of Uluru, in this most geologically impressive and visually diverse section.
The base walk can be surprisingly quiet at dawn and dusk with many retreating to the viewing areas. If you have already seen the sun rise or set over The Rock from a distance, then this might be your perfect opportunity for a front-row seat to see it glowing bright red in the dying day.
2. Valley of The Winds, Kata Tjuta
Lose yourself in the Valley of the Winds Walk through the domes and into the heart of nearby Kata Tjuta. This 3-4 hour walk is a great way to start the day.
The first lookout, Karu, will have you spellbound with jaw-dropping views over these deep red domes – a landscape that will have you thinking of Mars.
Prepare for the next part of the walk to be a little more challenging, with plenty of steps and some steeper sections, but again the views from Karingana Lookout are breathtaking and well worth the effort.
Walpa Gorge Walk within the domes of Kata Tjuta is a shorter walk into a refuge for rare plants and unique animals. In the late winter, clusters of pink daisies decorate the entrance to the gorge.
It is worth taking the time to “stop and smell the flowers” in Kata Tjuta.
3. Kings Canyon Rim Walk
Six kilometres of unforgettable views in this iconic landscape, and a hidden Garden of Eden. The Kings Canyon Rim Walk will leave you wondering how Mother Nature can get much better.
Four hours – or more if you find yourself lingering over the views – beginning with the “Stairway to heaven”, leading to “Priscilla’s Crack” with a breathtaking glimpse of the canyon’s south wall, before wandering through the “Lost City” of sandstone domes, and then the descent to the “Garden of Eden” on the canyon floor.
After recharging your batteries in the cool of the garden, rise again to the rim for a trail of breath-taking, photo-worthy vantage points as you complete the walk.
The Top End
Leave the ochre tones of the desert for the lush green of the Top End wetlands and savannah country.
Kakadu and Litchfield National Parks with their rocky escarpments and towering cliffs, cascading waterfalls and tranquil billabongs are home to a vast array of birdlife including the famous jabiru stork, while the waterways provide safe-haven to the infamous saltwater crocodile. Adventure abounds in this part of The Territory!
1. Kakadu National Park
A spectacular red escarpment keeping watch over expansive emerald floodplains and life-sustaining billabongs… This ancient landscape is the gallery for an exhibition of almost as ancient Australian indigenous artworks.
With an extensive network of trails that last from 30 minutes to a whole day, you will need at least a few days to see the best that Kakadu has to offer.
Meander through a monsoon forest and scramble over large boulders to reach a deep natural plunge pool surrounded by 150m high cliffs on the Jim Jim Plunge Pool Walk, wander through woodlands to the incredible Nanguluwurr rock art site, and finish the day with a sunset at Ubirr, or Nawurlandja Lookout gazing out over Anbangbang Billabong across to Burrungkuy (Nourlangie Rock) and the Arnhem Land escarpment.
2. Litchfield National Park
The lesser known, but equally as beautiful Litchfield National Park, is only a short drive from the Northern Territory capital of Darwin.
With monsoon forests, creeks, waterfalls and waterholes, there are many walks to explore this park.
The Florence Falls walk is a great place to enjoy the incredible views and finish with a swim at the Buley Rockhole – a favourite spot for the Top End locals to cool off.
Walk between fig trees, weeping paperbarks and towering Carpentaria Palms whilst spotting geckos, lizards and frogs from the Greenant Creek bridge to the Tjaetaba Falls plunge pool, or see the spectacular Tolmer Falls cascade over two high escarpments into one deep plunge pool.
3. Nitmiluk National Park
Over 100km of walking trails wind their way through Nitmiluk National Park, ranging from 40 minutes to a full day.
Explore the ancient sandstone country and pristine waterways of the Katherine Gorge system and surrounding escarpment towards the south, or experience the western end of Katherine Gorge with the Baruwei Lookout and Loop Walks.
Edith Falls Plunge Pools are a highlight via the Leliyn Trail. The cool water is a refreshing reward after working up a sweat during the walk.
Overnight walk highlights
Get intimate with the NT!
There’s no better way than setting up a swag and bedding down, to gaze at a million stars surrounded by an ancient landscape.
If it’s a deeper connection you crave, then get ready to trek through breathtaking red gorges and striking green eucalyptus forests, or scrambling over boulders and peering out over escarpments.
The Northern Territory has spectacular treks from an easy overnighter on the Giles Track, to an extended walk along the Jatbula Trail, and the pinnacle of trekking in the Northern Territory, the Larapinta Trail.
1. Giles Track, Kings Canyon
A rugged red landscape, speckled with the dusty green of spinifex, against a backdrop of electric blue, clear cloudless sky. Imagine trekking through this picture, encompassing beautiful valleys, beehive-shaped sandstone formations and rocky watercourses.
The 2-day, 22km walk between Kings Canyon and Kathleen Springs can be done in either direction, but it is recommended you plan to finish late in the day at Kings Canyon to fully appreciate the spectacular views over the sandstone domes, and the sunset as it strikes the canyon walls.
2. Tabletop Track, Litchfield
Stretches of burnt-out arid landscape punctuated by pockets of waterfall-fed lush greenery make up this 39km of typical Top End environment.
For a somewhat challenging hike, make sure you take the time to dip your toes and “cool your heels” in the waterholes you encounter along this 3-5 day walk. After a long section of hot dry walking, you will definitely appreciate the cool and shade.
Savannah woodlands, beautiful creeks and scenic waterways are the rewards along this track, wrapping up the last part of the hike with the beautiful Florence and Wangi Falls.
3. Jatbula Trail, Nitmiluk
Follow an ancient Dreaming Trail used by the Jawoyn people.
Setting out from Nitmiluk Gorge, traversing the western edge of the Arnhemland escarpment, to finish at Edith Falls (Leliyn), this mostly unsigned 62km route takes about six days to complete.
Be prepared for magnificent waterfalls, the stunning Katherine Gorge and incredible views of the Seventeen Mile Valley, with a breathtaking Australian bush landscape that changes with every kilometre.
4. Larapinta Trail
One of the Top 20 trekking experiences, as voted by National Geographic and arguably the jewel in the crown of NT trekking, is the challenging 230km of the Larapinta Trail.
Beginning at the historic Alice Springs Telegraph Station and taking in the highlights of Simpsons Gap, Redbank Gorge, Ormiston Gorge and Standley Chasm, the trail is divided into 12 sections, so you can choose to join or leave at any point. This is definitely a longer hike for experienced trekkers.
Travelling along the spine of the West MacDonnell Ranges and culminating at the summit of Mount Sonder – the highest point of the trail – you are left with no doubt that you are treading in the footsteps of the people of an ancient land.
- Hiking in the Northern Territory is best planned for the cooler months, May to September.
- Avoid hiking in the heat of the day.
- Bring a bag to dispose of rubbish, as you will not find any bins within the parks.
- Be Croc Wise in the Top End!… Many of the NT waterways are home to saltwater crocodiles, so check for warning signs if you plan to go swimming.
- Wear sun and insect protection.
- Lightweight (waterproof) hiking shoes are recommended.
- Some walks require permits so check with local authorities.
- Stay on designated walking trails.
- Bring plenty of snacks and loads of water!
From a few hours to a few days. From the desert of the rusty dusty Red Centre to the rainforest of the lush tropical Top End, and all the spectacular wilderness en route. From an easy walk to a strenuous trek… This magnificent part of Australia will leave you hot, dusty, thirsty, sweaty… and happy!
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