Rainbow Valley

StartClick to Reverse the Dynamic Map and Driving NotesAlice Springs
FinishRainbow Valley
DifficultyDifficulty 1/5
Suitable ForAWD Motorhome/Van Motorbike 
Distance101.52 km
Minimum Days1
Average Speed98.35 km/hr
Travel Time1 hr 1 min
Page Updated: 21 Oct 2021


Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is accessed just 75km south of Alice Springs from a turn-off along the Stuart Highway. A 22km access road that is unsealed with sandy patches leads to the reserve, which offers vehicle access, camping and walking.

The area gets it name from the scenic sandstone bluffs and cliffs that show rainbow-coloured bands. These are particularly striking at dawn/dusk when the colours are enhanced.

How to Use this Trek Note

  • To download this information and the route file for offline use on a phone, tablet, headunit or laptop, go to the app store and purchase ExplorOz Traveller. This app enables offline navigation and mapping and will show where you are as you travel along the route. For more info see the ExplorOz Traveller webpage and the EOTopo webpage.


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The coloured rock bands in the sandstone cliffs were caused by water. In earlier, wetter times the red iron of the sandstone layers were dissolved and drawn to the surface during the dry season. The red minerals formed a dark, iron rich surface layer with the leached white layers below. This dark red capping is hard, and weathers slowly, whereas the softer white sandstone below weathers quickly into loose sand. Weathering and erosion have also produced the valley shape, where sandstone blocks have eroded into rock faces and squared towers.

Surrounding the James Range are spinifex dominated sand plains and claypans.


The traditional owners (Upper Southern Arrernte people) call the area Wurre. The Reserve has important archaelogical sites and artefacts which are evidence of ancient Aboriginal occupation in the area. A spread of black rocks at the northern base of the main rock formation is significant as is a large rock massif, known as 'Ewerre' which is a registered scared site.

TrekID: 223


MUST READ: You are strongly encouraged to read the following articles prepared by the knowledge experts at ExplorOz for your safety and preparation before undertaking any published ExplorOz Trek - Outback Safety, Outback Driving Tips, Outback Communications, and Vehicle Setup for the Outback.


Please refer to Road Reports published by the local shire and/or main roads for the area you intend to visit. Road/Track conditions can change significantly after weather events. Travellers must be responsible for their own research on current conditions and track suitability.
Firewood collection is not permitted in the reserve. Fires are only permitted in designated firepits. Bins are not provided, please
take your rubbish with you. Pets are not permitted in this
reserve. Generators are not permitted.

Fuel Usage

4cyl 14 litres4cyl 16 litres4cyl 20 litres
6cyl 16 litres6cyl 18 litres6cyl 18 litres
8cyl 16 litres8cyl 17 litres
Usage is averaged from recorded data (* specific to this trek) and calculated based on trek distance.

Best Time To Visit

Open year round.

Closest Climatic Station

Alice Springs Airport
Distance from Trek Mid Point 27.74km NE
Mean Max. °C36.435.132.628.223.019.819.722.627.230.933.635.4
Mean Min. °C21.520.717.512.
Mean Rain mm38.643.832.316.318.913.615.09.28.521.429.136.9
    Best time to travel      Ok time to travel      Travel NOT recommended


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Alice Springs to Mount Polhill Rest Area
Driving: 60.3 km
Heading: 216°
Avg Speed: 98.47 km/hr
EST Time: 36:44
  • Drive west. for: 0.11 km time: 00:25
  • Turn left at the end of the road, onto Wills Terrace for: 0.37 km time: 00:36
  • Turn left onto 87/Telegraph Terrace. for: 3.26 km time: 03:36
  • Enter Tom Brown Roundabout and take the 3rd exit onto 87/Stuart Highway. for: 8.04 km time: 07:01
  • Turn right onto 87/Stuart Highway. for: 48.44 km time: 24:46
  • Turn right onto Mount Polhill. for: 0.08 km time: 00:21
Mount Polhill Rest Area to Stuart Highway & Owen Springs Access Tk
Driving: 6.94 km
Heading: 223°
Avg Speed: 118.59 km/hr
EST Time: 03:30
  • Drive southwest on Mount Polhill. for: 0.08 km time: 00:20
  • Turn right onto 87/Stuart Highway. for: 6.86 km time: 03:11
Stuart Highway & Owen Springs Access Tk to Stuart Hwy & Rainbow Valley Access Rd
Driving: 10.55 km
Heading: 212°
Avg Speed: 102.7 km/hr
EST Time: 06:09
Stuart Hwy & Rainbow Valley Access Rd to Rainbow Valley
Driving: 23.73 km
Heading: 121°
Avg Speed: 73.64 km/hr
EST Time: 19:20
Distance is based on the travel mode shown (Driving, Straight, Cycling, Walking etc), Direction is straight line from start to end, Avg Speed & EST Time is calculated from GPS data.

What to See

Camping, photography, and walking around the bluff area and to other locations along the James Range.


Where to Stay

No Places To Stay available for this trek

Services & Supplies


Related Travel Journals

The following are links to Members' Blogs that contain the words Rainbow Valley. Creating Blogs is restricted to Members only. Not a Member? Join here.

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