Larapinta Trail, Australia
YES, WE HAVE covered the Larapinta more than a few times in Outdoor. This has been for good reason: this outback icon can be‘done’in any number of ways so it appeals to a huge cross-section of hikers. The full-monty 223km version can be done either individually, where you have to sort track transport and food drops, or via a guided trek company. However, if you have the time – between 10 and 15 days – and the nous to do it yourself, the reward is generally having that amazing outback landscape mostly to yourself each day – and it is a lifelong (and potentially life-changing) achievement.
For those who are less experienced, or simply want the logistical side of this adventure taken care of, a guided trip along the Larapinta is the perfect alternative. You can opt to tackle the full length of the trail, or you can sift through a number of shorter experiences, ranging from a luxury camping three-day sample, to a seven-day taster, or World Expeditions’ latest: the Larapinta Challenge. This guided adventure groups the track’s toughest sections together for a, er, challenging but rewarding week of hiking.
Whichever version of the Larapinta you opt for, there are numerous highlights along the track. Sunrise from the top of Mount Sonder is a must-do, as is taking a dip in the cooling waters of Ellery Creek Big Hole. The magical Ormiston Pound, with its mix of vast flat desert walking and beautiful waterholes to swim in, plus the awesome view from the top of Simpsons Gap Lookout, are also essential experiences.
Make sure you pack a tough, worn-in pair of boots; the sharp rocks in this part of Australia are particularly unforgiving of soft boot soles and weak ankles, as is the undulating, often harsh terrain. Don’t forget it gets cold in the desert, so pack shorts, a hat and long-sleeve light shirts for walking during the day, but also throw in a three-season (minimum) sleeping bag, down jacket, a few merino base layers, and beanie for after sunset when those outback nights cool right down as you sit around camp.
Our final advice: if at all possible, walk east to west. That way (excuse the pun) you have the sun behind you for most of the day and the finish-point at the Mount Sonder summit is, really, the only way to end this epic hike.