Watarrka National Park is synonymous with Kings Canyon – one of the most amazing natural sights in the Australian Outback. Located 450km from Alice Springs, Kings Canyon is a spectacular wide chasm featuring ancient, red-hued 100m sandstone walls with plateaus of rocky domes sculpted over centuries by the elements.
This sprawling site of towering red rock surprisingly also boasts fertile pockets of hidden ferns, ancient forests, waterholes and rock pools protected from the desert in sheltered gullies, the sight of which rewards walkers and hikers. There are two well-marked paths around Kings Canyon signposted on the way with sights of interest. The shorter Kings Creek Walk is a one-hour, family-friendly hike of 2.6km that meanders along Kings Creek to a lookout and doubles back.
The main path is the 6km-loop Kings Canyon Rim Walk and is suited for persons with a mid- to high-level of fitness. It's recommended to tackle this path early in the day during the months of September to May due to the high midday temperatures. The Canyon Rim Walk takes around four hours to complete and involves a steep climb to the top of the canyon, following the rim around before descending to the carpark. Midway into the walk, visitors will come across the areas known as the ‘Lost City' and the ‘Garden of Eden' featuring cool waterholes and lush vegetation. While camping overnight within the national park is not permitted, there are onsite accommodation options available including Kings Canyon Resort, which also runs helicopter tours for a stunning aerial view of the site. The tours includes return transfers from the resort from AU$95 per person for a minimum of two passengers.
Entry to Watarrka National Park and Kings Canyon is free. To visit, from Alice Springs drive 326km on Larapinta Drive through the West MacDonnell National Park to Ernest Giles Road and Luritja Road (4WD recommended).