Walpa Gorge Walk

Kata Tjuta, with its 36 domes, translates as ‘many heads’ and this short walk takes you into the deep cut between two. The gorge is flanked on one side by Mt Olga, towering 546 metres above the plain, significantly higher than Uluru. Such clefts are a refuge for plants and animals in the arid environment and Walpa Gorge is rich in rare vegetation. Despite this, the gorge can seem an austere place and a visit here is quite different to the nearby Valley of the Winds.


Grade: Easy | Time 1 hour | Distance: 2.6km return


Walk directions

Step 1

The path, marked by blue arrows, leads off from the far end of the road loop, passing a couple of brushwood shelters. As you approach the gorge, take a while to sit on a bench under the bloodwood tree and survey the scene. Kata Tjuta was thought to have once been a huge monolith (much larger than Uluru is now) before wind and water eroded it into the many lumps that remain. Unlike Uluru, its bed of rock has only been tilted slightly – you can see the near-horizontal strata of the sedimentary rock. The dark vertical marks are algae and black lichen following the course of rainwater running off the domes. The wall on your left is slightly more prone to this staining, presumably as it is south facing and so more often in shade than that of Mt Olga, on the right.



Step 2

The ground underfoot changes texture as you step onto the flank of Mt Olga, littered with rubble. Large chunks of rough conglomerate – a mix of water-rounded pebbles held together with mud and sand – have carved off and fallen onto the canyon floor. There’s more conjecture about its formation to be found in Walk 25. Ramps have been built to cross patches of rougher ground.



Step 3

The route nears the creek bed. There may be only a trickle in the stony creek but it provides enough moisture under the surface for shrubs and stunted trees to grow along its course. If you are lucky enough to visit after a downpour, it should be flowing nicely. This was always an important water source for Aboriginal people arriving at Kata Tjuta, usually from the west. The path rises between thickets of spearwood, used traditionally to make spears. The tangled shrub bears clusters of creamy bell-shaped flowers in season.



Step 4

A large deck marks the end of the walk and a good spot to view the head of the gorge where huge chunks of conglomerate lie among the vegetation in the narrowing cleft. Panels provide information on the canyon’s plant and animal life. Walpa means ‘windy’ in both Pitjantjatjara and Yankunytjatjara, the two main languages spoken by the Anangu; if you’re lucky, you’ll enjoy a cooling breeze here before you make your way back. As you emerge from the gorge but before you lose height, look southwest to glimpse the distant Mann Ranges shimmering in the heat, just across the border with South Australia.

walpa gorge map

Getting there: From Yulara, drive along Uluru Road into the National Park and keep right at the fork to Kata Tjuta. Continue on for 43km then keep right to soon reach the road end and Walpa Gorge carpark.


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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