Skip Kings Canyon and go to Finke Gorge or West Macdonnells instead?

Submitted: Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 21:51
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We are about to leave Uluru and head up towards Alice Springs. The plan was to go via Kings canyon and then either Finke Gorge or the West Macdonnell Ranges. However, our kids are scarred after a mammoth effort walking around Uluru (it was a hot day, even though we started early) and I can't see us doing the Rim Walk/Garden of Eden at Kings Canyon with them. Is Kings Canyon worth the visit even if we don't do that walk, or is it just then a crowded version of some of the less visited gorges? If we don't do KC we might be able to fit in BOTH Finke and West Macdonnell. But if we can do only one of those, which is better, Finke or the Macdonnells? We are in a 4WD towing an off-road camper trailer.
Any thoughts/advice appreciated.
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Reply By: Aussi Traveller - Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:14

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:14
I will give you the Dr Phil answer.

You are the parent, so take control and tell the kids you are doing the lot, no moaning or complaining other wise the Ipad, Ipod, Laptop ETC go for the rest of the trip, I guarantee that they will run around the ring walk and all the other places.

My kid has been doing all that and much more since he was a toddler, sure he moaned a bit but when we talk about our travels he can tell us all about each and every trip with enthusiasm.

Go on I dare you to try the no gadget trick, it works without fail, enjoy your trip and don't let them beat you or themselves.

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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 15:03

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 15:03
I know where you are coming from Phil but the word "scarred" was used for a reason. Better to suggest that they try a way to do it all and leave it up to them to manage the kids. I wouldn't want to turn the kids off our bush by telling them to suck it up.

Or just answer their question.

This is a problem that a lot of people have when they have young or not so fit and/or healthy passengers. Maybe even disabled as well.

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Reply By: Litlbalt - Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:19

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:19
We went to Kings canyon last year with our 5yr and 3yr olds however we only did the creek walk not the rim but they loved it I wouldnt of misssed going to the Canyon as we had never been out there before. We did however take a chopper ride over the Canyon and it was excellent definitely worth the money.

We then went into Palm Valley and it was gorgeous, and was somewhere we hadn't planned on stopping but did as many recommended it along the way.

Haven't done west mac ranges but we all loved both the canyon and palm valley and am glad we didn't miss either.
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Follow Up By: Litlbalt - Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:21

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:21
Will say only reason we didnt do the rim walk was because I was so worried the kids will wander off the edge otherwise if they were older yes we definitely would of done it no questions asked or whinging.
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Reply By: Motherhen - Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:23

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:23
Hi Carolyn

While the rim walk was our favourite in the area, only you can make the judgement knowing your children. It is a long walk and starts with a steep climb to the top so again start very early before the heat. Keep children on the trail and away from the edges.

The flat ground level walk into the centre of the canyon would still give you a glimpse of the size and majesty of the canyon.

The West Macdonells have a lot to see (and more walks :O), as do the east Macs. If going down the Finke, consider the lovely Palm Valley.


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Reply By: Mick O - Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:31

Sunday, Apr 21, 2013 at 22:31
Struth the Kings Canyon Walk is not hard. It's only the 90 steps at the beginning and after that it's pretty cruisy with plenty to see.Well worth the visit.

Mereenie Loop - Kings Canyon

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trip would doubtless be attended with much hardship.''
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 19:22

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 19:22
Speak for yourself. I couldn't do it Mick, me old mate. Those steps would have stuffed me.

Maybe ok for you young ones!!!


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Follow Up By: Member - Trev A (SA) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 22:16

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 22:16
90 steps. I wish. :) More like 500. But definitely worth the walk. Our dd has done it twice , at 5 and 8. Given the chance, would go again.
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Follow Up By: Member - PJR (NSW) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 22:23

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 22:23
Trev What's a "dd"?
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Reply By: gbc - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 06:06

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 06:06
I'd do finke gorge, palm valley, hermannsburg(Namatjiras house) over the West Macs if I had to make a decision.
Kings canyon is best seen at sunrise and is a bit of a trek esp if staying out at kings creek station.
Kings is the pick of the canyons imho though - you wouldn't be sorry if you went there.
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Reply By: Member - Leanne W (NSW) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 06:59

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 06:59
Hi Carolyn,

How old are your kids? Unless they are very young, I would have to agree with the others who say still do the rim walk. We went with our then almost 1yo and 7yo last year. My husband did the rim walk with our 7yo and I did the creek walk with our baby in the stroller. (It was hard yakka for me but I made it all the way to the end with the stroller). We had packed plenty of water and some snacks for our 7yo to have on the way (she loves picnics) and she had a fantastic time.

It will give the kids a memory for life.

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Reply By: baz&pud (tassie) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 06:59

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 06:59
We have done the Kings Canyon walk twice, and would prefer it to "The Rock".
Just do it.
Go caravaning, life is so much shorter than death.

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Reply By: WBS - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 08:37

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 08:37
The rim walk is only steep at the first climb while the rest of the walk is pretty straight forward. Going down into the Garden of Eden is via steps and not a problem. We did the walk in cold wet and windy conditions in 2010 and it was well worth the effort. I would not miss it. Just walking up the canyon would mean missing out on the best parts.

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Reply By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 08:37

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 08:37
Hi Carolyn,

Suggest you head out to the Olgas before leaving the Uluru area - IMHO the Olgas are much more interesting than Uluru (which I think is overrated). Have only paid a very brief visit to Kings Canyon, but if you have the time and energy try do as many of the sites out there as you can, as they are all different and amazing. Palm Valley is beautiful with a very scenic drive in down the bed of the oldest river in the world.


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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 08:43

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 08:43
For kids, the western macdonell ranges has a lot more to offer. For start, they can go swimming in the waterholes - Glen Helen Gorge, Ormiston Gorge and Ellery Gorge. Given how hot it can be at this time of year, that's what I'd be doing.

Also there are some great spots to camp in the river beds - on the north side of the road opposite glen helen, you can freecamp for the first few kilometers up the finke river (and watch the magnificent sunset over Mount Sonder) and towards ellery creek, you can follow the access tracks to the Larapinta Trail and again there are signs showing you where to bush camp.

On the way from Uluru, if you're going up the highway, spend a night at Rainbow Valley (but there's not much shade there, or call into Owen Springs National Park - camp at Redbank Waterhole for a one nighter.

I've done Kings Canyon 3 times - first time in 1978 before the tourism started, and if you're not doing the helicopter flights, then I think the kids will struggle to admire the raw beauty of the place.

I'm assuming you're also talking about the road from Alice Springs to Finke - its a fair bit of rough gravel road driving. If its you're first time up there, and you find a few days spare, then I'd check out the Eastern Macdonells, Trephina Gorge walk and Arltunga. Maybe come south from Nhala Gorge onto the finke road, and out to the highway via the Hugh River Stock Route (great waterhole just west of the railway line).
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 16:26

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 16:26
^ I agree with Phil G :) ^

Except I would never do KC 3 times, once was more than enough for me. Its at the top of my don't go back list, just above Oodnadatta lol. Others clearly love it there though.

But that's the beauty of this forum, you get to read many different views on many different subjects


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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 18:14

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 18:14
Gday Kevin,
I agree I wouldn't do it 3 times these days either! But the 3 trips I did were very different. First was in Dec 1978 - 3 of us in a Corolla in the middle of a 6 week outback adventure. We called in at Wallara Ranch where the chap behind the bar drew us a mudmap on a scrap of paper - we drove to the site of the current walk, clambered up the hill in the 38 degree heat and followed his mudmap - we climbed down the cliff into the garden of Eden, up the other side and found our car about 6 hours later. No steps - no development at all then and a long time before the resort.

Second trip was 12 months later when I'd gone back to Alice Springs for a little work experience, and went out there again with a bunch of friends. Both trips we camped at a place called Reedys Rockhole which was a great place to camp but is now off limits. It was a nice piece of permanent water just south east of the Canyon. Also it was during this trip, I met my better half!

So having not been there for 30 years, we went back 2 years ago and redid the Kings Canyon walk to see how it had changed. We also did the helicopter flight which was superb.
So like you say, its different experiences that colour what we think of a place!
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Follow Up By: KevinE - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 20:31

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 20:31
Hi Phil,

Thanks for your reply mate! :)

Your description of how it was at KC 30 odd years ago has really put it things perspective for me! I guess its like 30 years from now, places like Chamber's Pillar, the Painted desert, Dalhousie, or Rainbow Valley will most likely be a lot different to how they are now & people will be there in droves.

While you were having a ball exploring King's Canyon in 1978, I was exploring Katherine & Katherine Gorge. I fell in love with the place - the last frontier I thought at the time. I went back in 2004 & it was................ sort of OK. I went back again in 2011 & I wished I hadn't gone!

Time marches on! :(

I wish I'd gone to King's Canyon before it became a tourist destination. I'd probably have a totally different opinion of the place.

I still reckon your choices of where to take the family up there today are spot on!


Kevin.......... :)
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Reply By: Kris and Kev - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 09:03

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 09:03
Agree with others, do the walk at Kings Canyon!Kings Creek Station was a brilliant place to stay. But as it appears to be the norm now, maybe not that much to keep the kids entertained! Although we did the Quad Bike tour and had a ball.
We spent 6 weeks in the centre last year and tried to do it all but will have to go back. The Eastern Macdonells is very underrated. We will defiantly go there again.
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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 09:43

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 09:43
A few years ago my 75 year old mother in law did the Canyon Rim walk, you don't say how old your children are, as that will greatly influence people answers
I can see Uluru has had some mid 30's days recently, but for the next week is forecast to be 27-31 (max), a fair bit cooler.
If your children are under 7, then I don't think they will gain a great deal from the walk, but it will be a great shame for you or if they are older if you don't do it.
I can't help you with Finke Gorge, but I have walked 200 of the 230km Larapinta Trail through the West Macs. For a young family Ormiston Gorge is the pick of it (that you can drive to), there is limited room for camper trailers and there are showers and flushing toilets. You can walk varying distances through the gorge and into the Pound, but if you get a chance, do the first part of the gorge walk east out of the Gorge (towards Alice). After about 2km of an easy track you crest a ridge with a magnificent view of the gorge. Hopefully this picture I have tried to attach comes through.

The pools in the West Macs don't see a great deal of sunlight and are much cooler than you would expect, but have great sandy beaches.
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 09:48

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 09:48
PS our teenage kids rated the Olgas, Kings Canyon and West Macs in front of Uluru. They are all different and have different features.
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Reply By: pop2jocem - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 12:05

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 12:05
IMHO, for kids, say 7 and over, most of these walks and the degree of "I'm tired, can we go back" is centred above the neck. If the walk can hold their interest and therefor enthusiasm they will complete the distance no worries. From my own experience, at the end of a fair trek, Mum and Dad collapsed into a couple or chairs with cool drink in hand. Kids running, yes running around for a couple more hours with the kids from the camper next door. (;-))

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Reply By: Carolyn R2 - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 13:59

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 13:59
Thanks all for your advice. The kids are 9, 7 and 5 and the five year old found uluru base walk pretty hard going - we started at 8am but didn't finish until midday and the temperature by then had risen to around 36....should have got out earlier but not always that easy! Inspired to do the kc rim walk now, though also tempted by the other places. There's never enough time!
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Follow Up By: Great Divide Tours - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2013 at 11:41

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2013 at 11:41
Hi Carolyn
I've been to all of the places you mention, a few times, and usually with children in my tour groups. KC is defiinitely worth visiting, the walk into the Gorge is easy along a reasonably level concrete path for most of it. The walk around the rim is obviously much tougher due to the steep climb up, I usually go up the left side when looking up the gorge. Take it easy and you get to the top without too much effort. Once here there is quite a bit of walking over undulating rock (easy) past bee hive rock formations (a liitle like the Bungles in places). Probably another 15-30 mins before you get to the actual rim, this is spectacualr but hold tight to the children at all times, there are no fences and a long long drop! But, this view alone is worth the effort. From here the tack follows the edge with various points where you can get up close and personal and scare yourself. Eventually you come to a series of steps and bridges where the track crosses a side canyon and this leads to the Garden of Eden, quite a few wooden steps up and down. After this you are on the other side of the Rim and the views from the edge here are equally impressive, not to be missed IMHO. Then the track diverts away from the rim and drops gradually over rock back down to the car park (It may even be easier coming up this way, but I've always gone from left to right) My average time to do the rim walk, take lots of photos and really enjoy the experience is 4-5 hours. At this time of year it will be very hot still, so definitely start as early as possible. You know your children best, so are best placed to make that decision in respect of them coping with it.
The Finke Gorge National Park 4wd track through to Boggy Hole, if contemplating going that way is one of the best 4wd tracks in central Australia, but the National Park brochure says no camper trailers, due mainly to the soft sand. Allow two days to do the drive from KC to Hermannsberg and camp at Boggy Hole, but think about the restrictions by National parks in regard to camper trailers.
If you don't go via Boggy Hole you can get to Palm Valley by the relatively easy Mereenie Loop, permit availalble from the shop at the camp ground at KC. BTW, the camp ground at KC is excellent and the bistro nearby provides entertainment in the peak season or a good meal if no entertainment.
The drive into Palm Valley is a beauty too and the camp ground in the Valley is good, you will need to drop tyre pressures for the sand in Palm Valley too. There are various walks here too and they are all hot, but much shorter than KC rim. Allow at least 2 days here if you can. If you heed the National Park advice and not take the trailer into Boggy Hole, you should allow time for a day visit into Boggy Hole from Palm Valley via the northern end and back the same way.
As for the gorges in the west MacDonnell's, all good, and obviously much shorter so a lot easier for the children. If you had time to do all of the above, then that would be ideal. Hope this helps.
Vic Widman
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Reply By: Gronk - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 19:16

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 19:16
If you go to KC, you must do the walk...if not, don't bother going.
Palm Valley for me would be a must before the others, but as you have already found out, everyones opinion can be different..
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Reply By: Trustme - Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 19:34

Monday, Apr 22, 2013 at 19:34
Suck it up.
I once had a 72 yo lady do the rim walk on one of my tours.
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Reply By: Members Pa & Ma. - Tuesday, Apr 23, 2013 at 14:24

Tuesday, Apr 23, 2013 at 14:24
Carolyn R.2,
We did the K.C rim walk about 12 yrs ago so I would think it is a lot different now.
I have lung problems & vertigo. I didn't try the rock climb but marveled at the texture & the size of it.
Determined to do it we said as we always do. If I find it too stressing, we'll turn back.
I worry about the 5 yr. old to cut things short.
I really think that if you have no other alt ernative, you'd be best to wait until they're older
for the kids to get the full benefit of the experience. It is a beautiful place to visit.
Apart from the chain ladder & the fist steep steps I got on O.K but slowly & I did it with Hubby & others helping me up the chain ladder. I think you may have to carry the 5 yr. old a bit. If you had the time you could go separately with one remaining at camp with the 5 yr. old each time. Start off at dawn .Just an idea.

Finke Gorge? very soft sand in places.I think that the actual Water Hole is over rated.
The drive through the Gorge is very pretty but very slow going in places. Very .

The Olgas,& both East & W Macs are both beautiful. Ross River homestead in the east Macs used to be a good base for short walks which would suit better in the heat. They used to have a pool. The waterholes aren't as plentiful in the East Macs as they are in the west. They can get very deep & very cold. The Ross River bed has very soft sand so head tyre pressures.

We allow some R&R days so we keep the vehicle organised & don't get sick or grumpy with too much travel time .They're all worth doing so you'll need to go back to see some more another trip.
The kids would have a ball at the McDonnell Range Big 4 & give you some good R&R without too much worry. No Worries about 5 year old kids falling off of big Cliffs, or finding out suddenly that either you or one of them gets vertigo.
Take care, safe Travels.Ma.

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Reply By: Echucan Bob - Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 23:09

Wednesday, Apr 24, 2013 at 23:09

I'm sure you've been and gone by now.

The KC walk is one of the most amazing places on earth. Take your time. Just enjoy the ancient rock formations and ancient plants.

I've been there many times with many different friends. 15 years ago I went with my brother in November. It was quite warm - about 42 I recall. I was as weak as a kitten between cycles of chemo, and nearly didn't make it - just wanted to sit down and be left alone.

Often the water hole is full, and good for a dip -that's probably not allowed now.

Anyhow, don't miss it.

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Reply By: Carolyn R2 - Saturday, Apr 27, 2013 at 21:26

Saturday, Apr 27, 2013 at 21:26
Hi everyone
just to thank you all for your advice, sorry not to do so earlier but we are only just back within internet range. We did the Rim Walk and loved it! The kids were sufficiently absorbed for the first half to not really notice getting tired (I told them one guide book said 500 steps and one said 400, so could they please check which was right, which kept them occupied!). The detour to see the Graden of Eden was fantastic. After that they found the return journey a bit harder, and not as interesting, but psychologically it was easier as we were on our way out.
Thanks for all the info and tips (we've also been to Palm Valley since then, which we loved, and then having had a look at Redbank and Ormiston (which we loved but found the camping a bit crammed in) we free-camped near Serpentine and had the place to ourselves. Magic!
The next leg is up north from Alice. Any recommended camp spots apart from Devil's Marbles that aren't too far off the road?
Happy travels
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Follow Up By: Members Pa & Ma. - Monday, Apr 29, 2013 at 13:55

Monday, Apr 29, 2013 at 13:55
Congratulations to you & your family.
You mustn't miss The Daily Waters Pub.
Whickliffe Well is interesting.
Take care, Safe Travels .Ma.
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Follow Up By: Member - John and Val - Monday, Apr 29, 2013 at 14:13

Monday, Apr 29, 2013 at 14:13
Hi Carolyn,

Thank you so much for your feedback, its good to hear how you went. Going north you could look in to Lake Woods west of Elliott. Turn left off the highway on the northern edge of town. Its about 10 or 15kms out. Don't know what the official status of the place is WRT camping but a lot of people do go out there to camp.

Hope you continue to enjoy your trip.


J and V
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Follow Up By: Carolyn R2 - Monday, Apr 29, 2013 at 22:27

Monday, Apr 29, 2013 at 22:27
thanks Val, that sounds like a possibility.
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