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Things to Do in the East MacDonnell Ranges

The East MacDonnell Ranges is a landscape steeped in ancient and sacred history, while also maintaining its own breathtaking beauty. Explore the sacred origins of the land while taking in ancient rock art, rare native flora and fauna, and natural waterholes. 

 

Nature Parks and Reserves

Emily Gap and Jessie Gap

Emily and Jessie Gaps are of huge cultural importance to the local Eastern Arrernte traditional owners, with Emily Gap in particular thought to be the origin of MacDonnell Ranges dreamtime creation story. The ranges are said to have been created by giant caterpillars. 

Emily Gap 2

Yeperenye / Emily Gap

Corroboree Rock

Corroboree Rock is unlikely the historical site of corroborees but the ancient rock formation is thought to have sacred importance for the safekeeping of ceremonial artefacts. 

 

Trephina Gorge

Trephina Gorge is notable for its sheer rock escarpments and picturesque waterholes, including the John Hayes Rockhole. If you hang around, you will see native wildlife come down to drink. 

 

N’Dhala Gorge

Explore N’Dhala Gorge on foot to see ancient geological formations, sacred rock carvings, and the majesty of the ranges viewed from elevated lookouts. 

Access to N'Dhala Gorge is by 4WD only from Ross River Resort.

Bindi Gallery

Corroboree Rock

Iltja Ntjarra Selma Coulthard painting

Trephina Gorge

Arltunga Historical Reserve

Arltunga is officially regarded as the first town of Central Australia, having exploded with a gold rush in 1887. Today, the Arltunga Historical Reserve is set up so that visitors can come and see the old town and surrounding mines to experience what life was like hunting for gold. 

Access from Ross Highway to Arltunga Historical Reserve is on unsealed road, and an AWD is recommended. Check with the rangers station on current road conditions, 08 8956 9770.

 

Ruby Gap

This is the site of a nineteenth-centry ruby rush—where hundreds of fortune-seekers came to hunt rubies in the river bed. They turned out to not be real rubies (just high quality garnets), but the remote landscape is still stunning. 

Access to Ruby Gap continues from Arltunga Historical Reserve. The track from Arltunga is high clearance 4WD only. Check with the rangers station on current road conditions, 08 8956 9765.

Arltunga Historical Reserve WAE Renae Saxby

Arltunga Historical Reserve (We Are Explorers/Renae Saxby)

Walks and Hikes 

Yeperenye Track

The Yeperenye track is a 7km walking and cycling track that connects Emily Gap with Jessie Gap. 

Trephina Gorge

There are a number of walking trails in the Trephina Gorge Nature Park for varying abilities. The Gorge Walk and Panorama Walk each take about an hour return and can be completed together to form a figure-8. You can follow the Trephina Ridgetop Walk to gain access to the John Hayes Rockhole and some panormaic lookouts. The walk is 9km one way (about 5 hours).

For a map and more information of the park, click here.

N’Dhala Gorge

A 1.5km (roughly 1-1.5 hour) walk will take you to N’Dhala Gorge, where you can see the ancient petroglyphs and rare plants, such as the Hayes Wattle. 

For a map and more information of the park, click here.

Ruby Gap

The trails in Ruby Gap are difficult and a high degree of walking experience is advised. It is a 4km, 2-hour round trip to Glen Annie Gorge and an 8km, 4-hour round trip to Fox’s Grave.

For a guide to walking Glen Annie Gorge to Fox's Grave, see more here. For a map and more information of the park, click here.

Mountain Biking

Yeperenye Trail Path

Simpsons Gap Cycling Path

Trephina Gorge Panorama Walk

Cycling

It is possible to take your bike out on the 7km Yeperenye Track if you want to go a bit faster than walking. It’s an exciting way to absorb the beauty of the ancient landscape. 

 

Fossicking 

The Arltunga Historical Reserve has been set up so that visitors can fossick for gold at the visitors centre.

Fossicking, including the use of metal detectors, is not permitted in Arltunga Historical Reserve. However, fossicking is permitted in the adjoining Fossicking Reserve for holders of a current NT Fossickers Permit. Permits are available online.

For information about Arltunga Historical Reserve, click here.

 

Dining & Accommodation 

The Ross River Resort is located 83km out of Alice Springs and gives you an excellent base camp from which to do your exploring in the East MacDonnell region. The resort offers a bar and dining room, and guests can either stay at the resort campsite, in shared bunkhouses, or in private cabins.

Rock Art

Emily Gap

At Emily Gap you can see rock art depicting the dreaming story of the creation of the MacDonnell Ranges by giant caterpillars.

N’Dhala Gorge

There are some 6,000 ancient petroglyphs, or rock carvings, at N’Dhala Gorge. Some of these carvings date as old as 10,000 years, while a newer section dates from 3,000 years. 

Day Tours

You can set out to explore the region on your own or you can also sign up for guided day tours with a range of local operators. This can be a particularly good option if you don’t have access to your own 4WD vehicle. 

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