The West MacDonnell Range, known locally as the ‘West Macs’, extends west of Alice Springs over 160 km. This vast, ancient and spectacular section of the MacDonnell Ranges, encompasses the West MacDonnell National Park, and is an important refuges for plants and animals, many of which are found only here, living side by side with relics descended from ancient tropical forests.

Explore the wonders of the region, featuring landscaped that is significant in the stories of the Arrernte Aboriginal culture, a culture that existed in the region for many thousands of year.

What to see
Departing from Alice Springs, many of the main features are accessible via the sealed roads of Larapinta and Namatjira Drives, which runs west along the valley.
The first port of call is Flynn’s Grave, then Simpsons Gap, where a early or late afternoon walk to the waterhole provide opportunities to see the local wallabies.

If you are coming from Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) access is via the unsealed road of the Mereenie Loop Road (part of the Red Centre Way tourism route – permit is required).

Ochre Pits, West MacDonnell Ranges
Ochre Pits, West MacDonnell Ranges.

When to Visit and Access
The region is accessible all year round, with the cooler months being from April to September. During heavy rain the roads can become impassable for short periods. From Alice Springs, vehicle access is via Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive. From Watarrka National Park (Kings Canyon) access to the West MacDonnell National Park is via the Mereenie Loop Road. 4WD is recommended as the road is unsealed.

Simpsons Gap is also accessible via a 17 km sealed bicycle track that starts opposite Flynn’s Grave on Larapinta Drive, about 7 km from Alice Springs.

Due to its close proximity to the town centre, Simpsons Gap is popular with tourist who have limited time to explore, providing an example of a gap, which usually has some water in it, although during long periods of no rain, this can dry to a small pool of water. It is also home to the Black-footed Rock Wallaby, numerous insects and a number of species of frogs, including the Centralian Green Frog and Desert Tree Frog.

Wild dingos at Ellery Creek Big Hole, West MacDonnell Ranges
Young wild dingos at Ellery Creek Big Hole, West MacDonnell Ranges.

West MacDonnell Ranges

Glen Helen Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges
Glen Helen Gorge, West MacDonnell Ranges.

Source: Parks and Wildlife Northern Territory – West MacDonnell National Park fact sheet.