West McDonnell Ranges in July

Submitted: Sunday, May 27, 2012 at 21:44
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Hi everyone.

We're travelling to Alice from Adelaide in the second week of July. Travelling in a Prado 150 series and towing a Hire Kimberly Camper Trailer, Limited Edition. Me plus one or both of our 23 yr old daughters, and maybe hubby, but work commitments may prevent him from making it yet.

We will spend a couple of days in Alice (my daughters will be with us and have a school friend who teaches there). Then we will head out to the West McDonnell Ranges and end up at Yulara before heading back to the highway for home.

We have just under two weeks, and will stop overnight at Coober Pedy on the way up and back.

Questions
1) what are the must-sees? Enjoy medium difficulty up to a couple of hours, not into any extreme stuff though ; )
2) Best camping sites - sounds like Kings Creek Station is the popular pick over Kings Canyon resort. What about Ormiston gorge vs Glen Helen or Redbanks? How long to stay at each?
3) What is the travel time between Yulara and Kings Creek - most searches come up with between 4 & 5 hours, but then one blog said it took about 3 1/2?

Sorry, lots of questions but there is such a wealth of knowledge out there, want to make the best of what time we have available.
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Reply By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 08:05

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 08:05
Carolyn
We have towed our Kimberly Kamper through there plus over two separate occasions I've walked the 230km of the Larapinta Trail (West McDonnell)

Replying to your questions
(2) We enjoyed Kings Ck over Kings Canyon Resort as if you are fair dinkum about wanting to learn something about the "white heritage" of the district plus observe how someone is trying practically to improve the future for the local communities, you can't go past it. It is more spacious and less "laid out", though the Resort has more amenities, similar to those at Uluru. We found the Station was staffed by locals and long term residents, the Resort was staffed by delightful European backpackers. I've not heard anyone complain about either on this website

Redbank, Ormiston and Glen Helen are all fairly close, I've stayed at all 3 and again depends what you are after. NT National Parks will tell you what the facilities are at those spots. The showers at Ormiston, were very clean. Glen Helen has a shop, normal basic CP facilities and noise associated with nearby road and helicopters taking off. Compared to free camping it is a resort, but don't think 5 starts!. Some have said that parking space for a camper trailer is quite limited at Ormiston, we didn't park our CT there so I couldn't remember, though do recollect seeing motor homes there. The Ormiston Pound Walk is well worth doing (see below) so it would be my preferred spot. Redbank Gorge is good, but it is about 1km from the closest camping spot into the gorge. There are few facilities at Red Bank.

(3) All I remember was that the Meerenie Loop was no where near as bad as everyone made out and we travelled quicker than I expected. But that was 4 years ago and things can change in 3 months. Certainly wasn't 5 hours though, talk to someone at either Kings spots.

(1) Probably the best walk is the Ormiston Pound walk, make sure you start heading east away from the Gorge and finish through the gorge. We did a few extra side trips so I can't remember how long it will take, depends on your walking ability, probably 3.5 hours. Nothing strenuous. There is also a good short walk up to a lookout from the Pound, about 45minutes.
The highest walk point in the Ranges is Mt Sonder from Redbank Gorge at around 1400m, but that is about 6-7 hours return. Panoramic views nothing strenuous again, just a long climb up and back around 15k return.
The most spectacular views of the lot though are from Counts Lookout (between Serpentine Gorge and Chalet) and Brinkley's Bluff from Stanley Chasm. They are both full day return walks and not difficult but hard. I did them with a 20+kg pack on my back, allow 6 hours. So it depends on your walking ability.
The best easy short walk is probably at the Desert Park in Alice for looking at and learning about the flora and fauna.
Finally there is the 7km valley of the winds walk at The Olgas (Katu Juta??) which is probably the highlight of the Uluru area.

Finally if they don't reply directly, look up the extensive blog (in this web site search under blogs) written by Explore Oz member Mother Hen on the West Macs, that will tell you a lot more.

The place should look a lot better than last year with the extensive bush fires.

Mark
AnswerID: 486967

Follow Up By: Member - Mark (Tamworth NSW) - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 12:46

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 12:46
Image Could Not Be FoundHopefully I will insert a picture of part of Ormiston pound succesfully. As always the picture doesn't do justice to the actual landscape
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Follow Up By: Carolyn L - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:00

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:00
Thanks Mark, very helpful advice. Most of it has reinforced earlier research, but the info on the walks and how long, what there is to see and how difficult is extremely helpful.

I started looking for the blog from Mother Hen last night but ran out of time.

Thanks again : )
Carolyn
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Reply By: MEMBER - Darian, SA - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 09:46

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 09:46
As an intro to the area, in my view you could do worse than - Alice >>Ormiston G >> Hermannsburg via Gosse Bluff >> Palm Valley >> backtrack onto the Mereenie Loop west to>> Kings Canyon >> Yulara >>Home (you'll need a rest - the Red Centre is amazing).

Glen Helen area
Ormiston is my pick as a base camp, but the camp area can be a little squeezy - would pay to arrive middle of the day to get a spot - plenty of room at Glen Helen usually, but a $#@^%&* very noisy tour flight helicopter is usually thumping away there all day. Various walks out of Ormiston are all great.
Gosse Bluff met. crater is well worth the stop (no camping).
Palm Valley via Hermannsburg*
Very impressive place - several walks, all excellent.
Kings Canyon
On a beautiful morning, the rim walk (couple of hours +) is a knockout !
Yulara area
A walk right round the base of Ayer's Rock is great (9k).......but the Olgas are much more impressive IMV.... a few walks out there to choose from.
If you like a drink before dinner (maybe after as well, or at any time :-o) take it with you - liquor pricing at Yulara is hell - but the supermarket is big and their goods are quite reasonably priced.
As far as nights go: Coober1, Alice3, Orm2,Palm2, Kings1, Yulara3, Coober 1 might be workable (for a decent 'taste' of those locations - you'll want to come back for sure).
*Hermannsburg staff do tours of the historic precinct there - you may have time - they have a servo and supermarket - you'll probably need to stock up.

AnswerID: 486976

Follow Up By: Carolyn L - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:05

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:05
Thanks Darian

Appreciate the comments about the noise of the helicopter flights - would definitely spoil it for me. I remember a similar experience at Wilpena, but that didn't go on all day fortunately and they weren't right on the same spot.

Might be forced to enjoy a drop or two...or three - will take supplies!

I had heard that the Olgas are more impressive so definitely have that on the agenda.

Carolyn
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Reply By: Motherhen - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 17:09

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 17:09
Hi Carolyn

We stayed at a few different camps in the area, and rather than give you scant information about each, you can see it all in my Blogs from 2008 in MyBlog. Any further questions welcomed.

We choose Parks campgrounds as we are independent with solar power.

Motherhen

Motherhen

Red desert dreaming

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AnswerID: 487009

Follow Up By: Carolyn L - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:10

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:10
Thanks Motherhen

I ran out of time to find your blog last night (and again tonight - sigh!) but will try again tomorrow.

We have battery power on the trailer that will last 2 - 4 days without recharging from driving, so can do some parks campgrounds, although I think the female members of the group will demand hot showers every now and then!

Thank you for replying, I look forward to tacking down and enjoying your blog. Will maybe have some more questions for you later!

Carolyn
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Reply By: Member - VickiW - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 19:45

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 19:45
There is free camping almost directly opposite Glen Helen, along the river. It is my favourite in West Macs (I think) but not totally sure how difficult it is for a van as it is sand and we don't tow. However,I am fairy sure that there were vans there. There are no facilities.

One of the walks out of Glen Helen is part of the Larapinta Trail. It is very quiet & has great views. Sorry I can't remember the name.

Redbank has always been quiet when we visited and a nice place to camp, and the walk into the gorge is beautiful but, as mentioned, takes a while. If you do this take some time to explore some of the small gullies off the main valley.
I've only stopped at Ormiston during the day as it was fairly busy & prefer a quiter campsite.
Enjoy your trip!
AnswerID: 487035

Follow Up By: Carolyn L - Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:14

Monday, May 28, 2012 at 23:14
Thanks Vikki

we should be all right in the sand, the kimberly camper is built to take it all, just have to adjust tyre pressure which we will do.

Might give Redbank a second look to possibly stay at.

Thanks, Carolyn
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Reply By: setsujoku - Monday, Jun 11, 2012 at 16:23

Monday, Jun 11, 2012 at 16:23
We just got back from this area yesterday and have to say there is come great camping there.

As far as camping goes our pick was Palm Valley, but Ormiston Gorge was also great as well. As previously mentioned it pays to get there early in the arvo though as it fills up. There is also a kiosk there as well. When we were there we got in abotu 1pm and by 2:30 there were only 3 spots left. It also has showers as well for when you need to refresh.
Camping at Redbanks (Woodlands) is great as well. A bit more basic, but you get a lot more space, and a lot of space between each of the areas. It also seems to be a bit quieter there as well. There are worries by some that they can't fit a van or CT in to Woodlands, but there is plenty of space despite what some of the information in the area says (different signs give conflicting information). You can't really fit much at the actual Redbanks camp ground though, but it's not too much of an issue as there is only 1-2km between the 2 camp grounds anyway and only takes a minute to drive.
Elery Creek Big hole is another good place, but there aren't as many spaces there.

We stayed at Kings canyon resort and the camp grounds were clean, there are showers and all of the normal facilities. The dingos are feral there and looked to have the mange, but they will wander around and as long as you don't provoke them they will just go away when you tell them to and leave you alone.

We didn't stay at Glen Helen, but if we had have I think we would have gone across the road instead or just gone with Ormiston Gorge for another night. It's nice, but it's just a shop/bar and some camp areas. I'd rather the area across the road to avoid the noise, etc.

I wouldn't go back to Standley chasm again though as they have damaged the place and then charge you $10 to see it! We were really dissapointed by the place.

It took us about 3.5 hours to go from Yulara to Kings canyon from memory, and this was with a stop to stretch the legs on the way.

All of the maps (google, map source, etc) said that the Merinee loop would take 5 hours, but we did it in about 3 or so. I'm not sure why they say so long??? We sat on above 80kmp/h for the majority of the road. It is fairly corrugated but it's not terrible and you can generally find a good line to take.
AnswerID: 488186

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