Kings Canyon Rim Walk


One of Australia’s very best half days walks! Watarrka National Park protects an uplifted sandstone range which has been cut through with vegetation-rich clefts, the best known being Kings Canyon. This dramatic walk involves clambering steeply up onto the George Gill Range, weaving through sentinel domes, ducking into a cool chasm and dancing along both cliff-tops of a 270-metre-deep gorge. It’s deservedly popular, so you won’t be alone but this is a big landscape. Start early, so you can avoid the heat, linger in the many scenic spots and soak up the atmosphere.


Grade: Moderate | Time: 3-4 hours | Distance: 7km circuit


Walk directions

Step 1

Walk past a large information shelter (offering free wi-fi), through the striking archway (offering safety advice) and along the path. Pass a high rocky spur on your right where your circuit path will descend. After the Cotterill memorial (the Cotterill family opened up the area to tourists in the 1960s) keep left where the Kings Creek path forks right and follow blue arrows to soon reach the base of another spur. Mount the challenging stone staircase, taking time to enjoy the improving views from platforms as you catch your breath.



Information Shelter

Steep staircase to the top of Kings Canyon


Step 2

From the level area at the top you have a view into the canyon. The path now rises gently and you gain views off left into a side canyon before reaching a cluster of beehive domes, often called the Lost City. These sandstone formations are an iconic feature of Watarrka; for the Luritja people, these domes are young Kuningka (or western quoll) men who travelled through here during the Tjukurrpa or Dreamtime. A short, rocky climb leads to examples and an explanation of cross bedding between the domes. There are also flowering plants here: thryptomene and pinnate goodenia. Scramble through a rocky gap and drop into an open area. The route nears the cliff edge and weaves past the twisted trunks of acacias to pass several viewpoints across the majestic canyon.


View from top of Kings Canyon


Step 3

At a junction, turn right on a 600-metre return detour. Shortly, this crosses a footbridge over a deep crevice; the old bridge lies in the chasm below. After climbing a dome, you reach what is perhaps the best viewpoint on the walk.


Footbridge over crevice


Step 4

Cotterills Lookout provides a panoramic vista of the canyon, including both the sheer south wall and an iron-stained, jutting section of the north wall. The walkers on the top of the south rim put the elements in perspective. A short way further on, you look down into the verdant upper canyon, which is next on your itinerary. First, return over the footbridge to the main circuit and turn right. A signboard explains the rippled nature of the rock underfoot. Navigate between more domes to descend a wooden staircase into the vegetated gully and cross a footbridge over Kings Creek then clamber up to a junction below another staircase.


Step 5

Here, turn right for another wonderful detour through the Garden of Eden, a haven for plants and animals. The intermittent watercourse is lined with rock figs and cycads and spinifex pigeons are often sighted along here. The easy path soon descends to end by a shady pool nestled in a red, rocky bowl.


Step 6

This perched waterhole is permanent because you are now at the level of the water table, where water that has seeped into the porous Mereenie sandstone sits stored above a layer of impermeable shale. After heavy rain, excess water runs a short way beyond to fall into the main canyon through a narrow chasm. Make your way back along the creek to the junction and climb the wooden staircase out of the gully. Back on the plateau, pass one of the circuit’s several Emergency Call Devices as the path veers southeast.


Step 7

Cross a short bridge with a one-way gate: this is as far as walkers are permitted if walking the anticlockwise South Rim walk. Not far beyond is a point opposite Cotterills Lookout, with a grand view down the canyon. Further along is another viewpoint on the lip of the south wall and then the path draws away from the escarpment edge. It weaves gently down between domes over ground dotted with cycads, eucalypts and other vegetation, and across a side gully.


Step 8

At a junction, the Giles Track joins in from the left. (This track is worthwhile on its own but if you lack the extra day and have time now, consider detouring to Watarrka Lookout.) The Rim circuit continues on to emerge into an open area at the head of Kestrel Falls, which only flows after heavy rain. The route follows this escarpment as it curves around west then south.


Step 9

A final lookout offers a view back to Kestrel Falls and the escarpment as the George Gill Range continues south. The path now becomes paved, making your steady descent to the car park quite straight -forward. It’s a good time to dwell on the day’s wonders.

KC rim map

Getting there: The Kings Canyon turn-off is 26km north along Luritja Road from the southern boundary of Watarrka National Park, or 5.5km south of Kings Canyon Resort. Turn onto the access road and drive a further 4km to the sizeable car park at the end. 


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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