A Guide to the Walks and Hikes at Kings Canyon

Home to the most impressive rock formations and rich cultural heritage, Watarrka National Park is very much an essential part of any Central Australian trip. At the heart of the park, is Kings Canyon which has many incredible trails that are rated among some of the best walks in Australia.

The area is the traditional land of the Luritja and Arrente people and the national park is jointly managed by the Traditional Owners and the Northern Territory government.

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

Why visit Kings Canyon?

Though the Watarrka National Park covers over 70,000 hectares, it is Kings Canyon that steals the spotlight. There are rock walls that come in different hues of red, vertical drops into the gorge and towering cliffs to lookout for, however, the best way to explore Kings Canyon is on a hike. There are a number of Kings Canyon walking tracks in this national park.

Whether it’s the flat and gentle Kings Creek walk or the iconic Rim Walk, you’re sure to experience the park’s natural beauty. The carpark at Kings Canyon is the trail head for most of the walks you can do in the area. The walks at Kings Canyon are colour coded and well-marked; all you need to do is follow the right colour arrow.

Kings Canyon Walks sign

Kings Creek Walk

One of the easiest Kings Canyon trails, the Kings Creek Walk, is a Grade 2 easy 2.6-kilometre walk that follows a trail between the two colossal canyon walls and takes you along the bottom of the gorge. The first 700m can be accessed by wheelchair-bound visitors with some assistance. 

The Kings Creek Walk starts from the car park where clear signage posts are placed and ends at a raised platform with a spectacular lookout point that treats you to scenic views and stunning canyon scenery. Using the same trail, you can walk back to the Kings Canyon carpark. It takes around an hour to complete this walk.

Kings Creek Walk

Kings Creek Walk

Rim Walk

The Rim Walk, as the name suggests, takes you along the rim of the dramatic canyon. This 6km loop takes between 3 to 4 hours to complete and is a Grade 4 easy to moderate hike. The Rims Walk is done in a clockwise direction.

The Rim Walk starts from the car park by climbing up some 500 odd steep steps up the nicknamed 'Heartbreak Hill'. There are a number of places to rest and take in the amazing views across the desert plain. And do not fret, because once you have reached the top, the trail becomes flat and much easier. There are plenty of sights to see along the way including stunning views from Cotterill’s Lookout.

The Lost City

From the top, you will cast your eyes upon a series of weathered sandstone domes. The sandstone domes are collectively known as the Lost City as they resemble an ancient walled city. A section of the trail passes between these rock domes. 

The Garden of Eden

From the main trail, cross a metal bridge and climb down via a series of staircases to a magical oasis - the beautiful Garden of Eden. This is a permanent waterhole that is shaded with some exotic plants. It is a sacred spot for the Traditional Owners, so do not swim or disrespect the place. 

Once back to the top of the canyon, the loop follows around and connects to the South Wall which is detailed in the next walk.

Kings Canyon Rim Walk stairs 3

'Heartbreak Hill'

Kings Canyon Rim Walk

View from halfway up 'Heartbreak Hill'

Kings Canyon Rim Walk Domes 2

The Lost City

Garden of Eden

Garden of Eden

South Wall Return Walk

Another popular Kings Canyon Walk, the South Wall Return, is a 4.8 km Grade 3 walk that takes around 2 hours to complete. The walk starts from the car park with a steep climb to the south wall of Kings Canyon. From the top of the canyon you'll see views over the apposing side cliff walls and the creek down below. 

The turn around point is a one-way gate, where the Rim Walk hikers continue to go along the south wall. Return to the carpark via the same route.

Kings Canyon Rim Walk 2

People walking on South Wall Walk

Giles Track

Giles Track stretches for 22km along the George Gill Range, making it the perfect trail for those with an adventurous spirit. The walk begins at Kings Canyon and ends at Kathleen Springs and can be done from either direction. A grade 3 trail, this walk can be done as a long day trek. However, it is recommended to do the Giles Track as an overnight walk, when the temperatures are cooler.

There are campsites between the 3km and 20km track markers. However, the recommended place to camp is Reedy Creek at around 8 km from the Kings Canyon car park. Carry your own food, water and sleeping gear.


Kathleen Springs

Kathleen Spring Walk is a Grade 1, 2.5km return trail that leads to a spring-fed waterhole at the head of Kathleen Gorge. This natural waterhole is an important place for Traditional Owners. Along the path there are signs to tell you about Aboriginal Culture and the pastoral history of the area.

The trail is very flat and is wheelchair accessible. The path is open and exposed with little to no shelter from the sun.

Kathleen Springs

Kathleen Springs Waterhole

Kathleen Springs walking track 1

Walking track to Kathleen Springs

Safety Precautions

A few simple safety considerations will give you an enjoyable and exciting experience in Watarrka National Park.

In the period from October to March, temperatures in the region can get quite high. In some locations, the heat has been known to go over 40 degrees Celsius. Sunscreen, a hat and enough water to keep yourself hydrated will be essential.

It is recommended to walk earlier in the day finishing by 11am to avoid the hottest part of the day, especially if the weather forecast on the day of your visit indicates extreme heat. When the weather is forecast to be 36 degrees or above visitors wishing to undertake the Rim Walk need to start their walk before 9am, and those wishing to do the South Wall Walk need to start before 11am. 

Apart from being aware of the temperature, you’ll need to focus on a couple of additional safety considerations. There are safety signs throughout the park. Pay attention to the information on those in order to avoid some common dangers. A few of the key safety precautions include:

  • There is no drinking water available once leaving the carparks
  • There are 3 Emergency Radio Call Devices (ECD) around the Rim Walk
  • Making sure your shoes are supportive and comfortable enough
  • Wearing comfortable clothing
  • Keeping to designated roads and tracks, not straying away
  • Staying 5m from the edge of the cliff


Sign up to receive the latest news, deals and travel information about the Northern Territory.

Choose to book with the Red Centre’s local experts

Need a hand choosing or booking your red centre adventure?