How to experience all of Ormiston Gorge

A beach in the Australian Outback, with sand and a swimming hole too! That’s Ormiston Gorge for you.

Located in the West MacDonnell Ranges/Tjoritja, this incredible gorge in the Red Centre is famous for its towering red walls and almost-permanent waterhole. A geologist’s fantasy and a sacred site for the Western Arrernte people, Ormiston Gorge is surrounded by beautiful scenery that includes rivers, streams, panoramic lookouts, wonderful walking trails, mountains and rock formations.

Let us take a look at some of the highlight landmarks at Ormiston Gorge.

Ormiston Gorge girl

Ormiston Gorge Walks

The best way to appreciate the scenery of Ormiston Gorge is to follow one of the well-marked walking trails that cut across the Gorge’s scenic highlights. These walks range from Grade 1 easy trails with paved paths that have wheelchair access to longer loop trails that are Grade 3 moderate and overnight walks for the most-enthusiastic walker. 

For a map of the park, click here. Use the Avenza Maps App to track your walk on the interactive park map.

Waterhole Walk

The five-minute Grade 1 Easy waterhole walk is one of the easiest walking trails in Ormiston Gorge. The trail is 300 m and comes with a paved path and is wheelchair accessible. 

Ormiston Pound Walk

This 9 km loop trail is a Grade 3 moderate walk that takes around 3 to 4 hours to complete depending on how much exploring you want to do.

One of the best day treks in this region, the Ormiston Pound Walk begins from the Walks Information Shelter and takes you up and down over some scenic hills along a ridge, crosses some rivers and finally walks into the vast expanse of the Pound. The view from above the Pound is spectacular.

Ghost Gum Lookout

The Ghost Gum Lookout is a 1.5 km loop walk along the Gorge’s western wall.  This Grade 3 moderate trail takes around 45 minutes and starts from the car park and descends into the gorge and returns by rock-hopping along the creek bed. If you are looking for a sunset or sunrise location, this is the best place to be, and even if you are not, the views of the Gorge are breathtaking. A platform with stairs has been built into the lookout 

Ghost Gum Walk

From the Ghost Gum Lookout, if you continue to walk along the western side, you are on the Ghost Gum Walk. This 2.5 km loop walk takes about 1.5 hours to complete and ends in the gorge itself. You can hike back to the waterhole; you may need to negotiate over some rocky boulders on the river bed.

Ormiston Gorge Ghost Gum Lookout

Ghost Gum Lookout

Ormiston Gorge hikers

Swimming in Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge has one of the biggest, permanent waterholes that are ideal for swimming in Central Australia. Bring towels and a picnic and enjoy the sandy 'beach' and cool water, just when you need it the most. It is estimated to be 14m deep at its southern end.

It is advised to take precautions when swimming in nature, even during summer the water can be freezing cold and you should therefore prevent prolonged exposure. Jumping and diving in to the water is not recommended as the conditions under the surface are always changing, with submerged boulders, rocks and logs being a potential danger. There is however no crocodiles in Central Australia, so that is one less thing to worry about.

Ormiston Gorge swimmer

Ormiston Gorge campground

Ormiston Gorge is a popular, privately owned campground with excellent facilities. There are plenty of spots available at the Ormiston Gorge campground. The overnight fee is $6.60/adult, $3.30/child (5-15 years), and $15.40/family (2 adults and 4 children). There is no booking for a site it is a first come, first serve basis, with payments made at the kiosk on site. The drive-in campground is accessible to all vehicle types including caravans.

The other facilities available at the Ormiston gorge campground are:

  • Toilets
  • BBQ
  • Ranger stations
  • Kiosk
  • Picnic tables
  • Showers


Alice Springs to Ormiston Gorge

Ormiston Gorge is an easy day trip from Alice Springs. Located 135 kilometres west of Alice Springs, this geological wonder is accessible via sealed roads, Larapinta and Namatjira Drives.


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