Ormiston Pound Circuit
ONE OF THE AG Outdoor team’s all-time favourite Aussie day hikes, the three-four hour Ormiston Pound Circuit is a microcosm of its nearby (and much longer) sibling, the famous Larapinta Trail. Ormiston Pound is 135km west of Alice Springs, in the West MacDonnell Ranges, reached via a sealed road. There is also a campground (including toilets) here, and the information boards and track signage are top notch.
This day walk really has everything, from cool, shaded gorges with towering red rock cliffs looming on either side, through to the incredible pound itself, with its lunar-esque landscape. Combine these with rocky sections of the track that house a surprising amount of native fauna, and some fantastic high viewpoints, and you have a knockout one-day hike that is ideal for most age groups (kids from around nine years of age up could complete this walk easily).
The Circuit can be walked in either direction, but we’d highly recommend walking it anti-clockwise, starting from the carpark. Tackling the walk this way means the landscape and scenery build up to the awesome finish of walking (or wading/swimming) through Ormiston Gorge itself.
The land is the big attraction here; as you make your way around the circuit you move through different geological zones (limestone, quartzite, granite) and the resultant vegetation (or lack of) is unique to each section. The views at the high ridge just before you drop into the pound give you some sense of scale to the area. Walking across the floor of the pound itself is like walking across the surface of Mars, with the odd gnarled gum tree, (usually) dry creek beds, the occasional wedge-tailed eagle, and that sense of vast open space that only the outback can offer.
This vastness makes the actual entrance into Ormiston Gorge itself even more of a contrast; it is like stepping foot into a different, but equally ancient, world. Here, shaded by the immense cliffs where ghost gums cling precariously to the walls, the waterholes are like mirrors. If you’re lucky, you may even spot a dingo or wallaby (or one of the NT’s myriad bird species) drinking from these waterholes as you move deeper into the gorge. If it is warm enough, make sure you pack some swimmers as you can even go for a celebratory dip in the main waterhole back near the campground – a great way to finish the day’s walking.
This walk has everything, from cool, shaded gorges with towering red rock cliffs, to the pound’s lunar-esque landscape.
Pausing for breath after the climb up to the Ormiston Pound Walk’s high point, looking over the wide expanse of the pound below.