The MacDonnell Ranges stretch east and west from Alice Springs. If approaching Alice from the south, you will drive straight through a quite spectacular gap in the range. This gap is called Heavitree Gap and was named after the explorer William Mills, after his former school in the English county of Devon. Parts of the ranges offer opportunities for day trips from Alice, other parts offer opportunites for remote outback exploration, 4-wheel driving, or hiking.
The Ranges have been around for millions of years. They were formed as a result of the Alice Springs Erogony - when massive forces lifted them up above the surrounding country side. In some parts of the ranges you can actually see fossils of former sea creatures from times when these ranges were at the bottom of the ocean.
Some things are better left until you arrive in Alice Springs - so make the trip and find this out for yourself!
Flora and fauna
This region is home to 40 species of rare and threatened plants. The River Red Gum can be found in several places within the park, including Ellery Big Hole. These trees are an important habitat for a variety of birds, bats and other animals which live in the tree's hollows. The park is also a great place for wildlife, including uncommon bird species.
Winter (May to October) is usually dry with cool nights while summer (November to April) is hot (around 40°C) and usually dry.
The park has good vehicle access and also has a great bike path leading from Alice Springs. Many scenic areas of the park are accessible by a day trip from Alice Springs.
Fees and permits
Camping fees start at $7.70 for a family per night.
There are various tracks for bush walking, 4x4 driving, cycling.
Heading east from Alice Springs, you take the Ross Highway. You'll see the following points of interest (in order):
- Jesse Gap
- Emily Gap
- Corroboree Rock
- John Hayes Rock Hole
- 'Trephina Gorge
At this point there's a 4WD turnoff which cuts north, allowing access to
- Ruby Gap Nature Park
- Arltunga - Gold Mining ghost town, 4WD track only, hotel, a camp area and a tourist centre, hands on display about the area and gold mining. You can visit the old township and surrounds.
Eventually the northern dirt track meets up with another track heading east-west from Stuart Highway. If you choose to follow on Ross River instead of cutting north, you come to
- N'Dhala Gorge
- Ross River Homestead - also home to the resort
Others sights include:
- Simpsons Gap
- The Ochre Pits
- Ellery Bighole
- Serpentine Gorge
The National Park offers 4x4 driving, cycling, swimming, camping, bush walking, as well as various ranger lead activities.
Visitor facilities offer meals, but you can take your own supplies.
There are many camping spots at varying price levels.
Visitors intending to undertake extended walks along the Larapinta Trail should use the Walker Registration Scheme, by phoning 1300 650 730, prior to departure.