Giles Track Walk

This high-level walk allows you to experience a much less-visited section of Watarrka National Park on a path named after a 19th century explorer. You can enjoy our short version of the Giles Track carrying just a day-pack as you walk the scenic rim of the George Gill Range and descend through a maze of sandstone domes to regain Kings Canyon, however you will need to organise your transport to start and finish, perhaps using a drop-off service, a car shuffle, or a key swap with a second party walking in the opposite direction.


Grade: Moderate | Time: 6 hours | Distance 14km one-way


Walk directions

Step 1

A rough 4WD track leaves the road on the east side and a nearby sign – somewhat the worse for wear – gives an overview of the Giles Track. Follow the sandy track for almost 500 metres to where an orange arrow directs you up left onto a signed foot track. This climbs gently southeast over grassland of buffel and spinifex for a further 10 minutes of walking.



Step 2

At a signed junction on Tjintjit Tjintjit Spur, turn left to pick up the Giles Track as it heads northwest towards Kings Canyon. From here, orange arrows mark the route every 500 metres or so. It descends off the ridge and veers right to cross the head of a stony gorge then switches back to climb briskly onto the plateau. A post marked “8” alerts you to native figs that have regenerated after fire; these numbered markers relate to the official track notes. The clumps of tall, fleshy stems that grow here are known as caustic vine and its white sap – though poisonous to swallow – is used by Aboriginal people to cure itching sores.



Step 3

About an hour after starting, the path drops into the bed of Rocky Creek: a good spot for a rest break. The Lilla community is well placed to access any seasonal water from both this and Reedy Creek further on; the Luritja people know the latter as Lilla, meaning ‘sweet water’. Back up on the plateau, shortly cross another rocky creek bed. Nearby are shallow sand dunes that support a diverse range of shrubs and trees.


Dry watercourse


Step 4

Reedy Creek offers a good location for lunch and is well worth exploring if this is feasible. Downstream of the crossing point is a narrow, smooth-walled canyon; if you can scramble down to the cleft at its far end you’ll glimpse a permanent pool that attracts birds and other wildlife. Reedy Rockhole is a special place; indeed, for Aboriginal people such life-sustaining waterholes are sacred. Back at the creek crossing, the path heads towards a cluster of eroded sandstone domes and drops into a charming valley at their base.


Reedy Creek


Step 5

Reptiles and marsupials often find shelter among the domes. You might see the honeycomb of native bees high on one rock wall. The path climbs out of the valley to pass near Reedy Bluff, where there is a trig point, and then heads north, away from the escarpment. As you swing west, a web of eroded gullies off to the left conceals Penny Springs. After a gradual ascent, the path reaches an unsigned viewpoint known as Watarrka Lookout.


Honeycomb of Native bees


Step 6

From the path, you have a bird’s-eye-view over a stretch of Watarrka’s rock domes. These are the result of jointing – where deep cracks criss-cross the sandstone – and weathering, whereby wind and rain have isolated blocks and then eroded the corners. The route contours east and descends a series of ledges then contours around the steep rock slope of an infrequent watercourse. Follow the orange arrows carefully to navigate through a maze of domes. You might see euros, especially once you reach a stretch with trees.


Step 7

At a path junction, take care to turn left onto the Kings Canyon Rim Walk; the marking is a little vague here. You can always follow someone, as from now on you’re likely to have company! Shortly, the vegetation gives way to an open area where Kestrel Falls pours into the broad canyon after heavy rain. After a brief climb, the route follows the escarpment left and offers a view back. From this viewpoint, a sealed track leads you steadily downhill to the Kings Canyon car park.

giles map

Getting there: leave one car at Kings Canyon car park then drive another vehicle back along the access road and turn left onto Luritja Road. About 6.5km southeast, turn left at a sign to Lilla. Follow this for unsealed road for less than 1km and park 100m before the gate to the community. Alternatively, you can do this as a two day hike and return along the same track. 

Additionally, you can extend the walk by continuing onto Kathleen Springs. This makes it a 22km, 2 days one-way hike between Kings Canyon and Kathleen Springs.


Walks book cover 

Text, images and maps taken from the guide book, Best Walks of the Red Centre, courtesy and copyright © Woodslane Press, John & Gillian Souter. For 15% off your copy (and other great Red Centre books) visit here.


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