The Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park is one of the top tourist attractions in the Red Center of Australia. The hike along the deep Kings Canyon is one of the most beautiful and varied walks in this part of Australia and for many people, this is one of the most impressive experiences during their trip to Australia. So if you are visiting the Red Center of Australia, the Kings Canyon definitely needs to be on your travel plans. Continue reading if you want to know more about the spectacular canyon and what you can do at Kings Canyon.
The distances in Australia are huge and the attractions are often far apart. The Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park is located southwest of Alice Springs and is at least approximately in the same direction as the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. So you can combine a visit of the two attractions well. Between Uluru and Kings Canyon are 315 km and from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon are at least 327 km you have to cover if you want to visit.
We once again try to avoid the big masses and travel a bit off the beaten track. From Alice Springs we drive westwards through the West MacDonnell National Park and have a look at the impressive gorges and rock formations. Along the Mereenie Loop Road, a dirt and sand track, we reach the Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park. For travelling on the Mereenie Loop Road we need a permit, which we can buy at the visitor center in Alice Springs or at several other places. Since the track can be corrugated and has sandy sections, it’s best to do this road with a 4WD vehicle. For our Toyota LandCruiser this is a piece of cake.
What can you do at Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park?
Kings Canyon Rim Walk
The highlight at Kings Canyon is the 6 km long Kings Canyon Rim Walk. This walk leads around and into the spectacular gorge. We really love this hike and for us it is even more beautiful than the walks in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is incredibly diverse and you get a deep insight into the spectacular scenery. Even if we do this hike for the third time, we are once more very impressed by this walk and amazed by the breathtaking variety of the landscape. You will need about three to four hours for this hike, depending on your pace.
It is best to start the hike early in the morning, to avoid the heat in the afternoon. If the weather forecast predicts temperatures above 36 degrees, part of the hike will be closed after 9 am. We have set our alarm clock and are ready for the hike at 7:30. There are not many other cars in the car park, October is the end of the season and the temperatures are getting very hot. We are glad that it is not to hot in the early morning hours. The first part of the hike is steep and strenuous but after we reach the plateau the walk is relatively easy.
After we reach the plateau the trail follows the edge of the canyon. It is unbelievable how steep the walls of the canyon are and how smooth the surface is. In some parts the canyon wall is even overhanging and it takes a little courage to get right to the edge. The walking trail is well signposted but there is no fence and you have to be careful. Especially when you are walking with children, you should pay close attention to them.
The main walking runs away from the drop off into the canyon through a labyrinth of sandstone rocks. There are several sidewalks to viewpoints from where you can look into the depth of the canyon.
Back on the main path, we get to the upper part of the canyon which is very narrow. We reach the ravine via wooden stairs, cross kings creek over a wooden bridge and on the other side climb back up to the plateau via wooden stairs.
Do not miss the side track to the Garden of Eden. The trail runs slightly hidden behind the wooden staircase to the right towards the south. Deeper and deeper were getting into the narrow canyon and it becomes increasingly clear where the name Garden of Eden comes from. We feel like in a green oasis of tranquility. Most hikers simply pass by and do not know what they miss. At the end of this side track there is a large waterhole surrounded by lush vegetation and many birds. We take a break, have a snack and enjoy the tranquility.
Back on the plateau it is getting hotter and there are hardly any trees offering some shade. Only a few trees grow between the sandstone rocks with their beautiful different colored layers. One last time we look down in the depth of the canyon before the path leads away from the canyon through the sandstone rocks back to the trail head and parking lot.
In very hot weather this walk can be closed. If the weather forecast reports temperatures above 36 degrees, the Kings Canyon Rim Walk will be closed after 9 am. So it is definitely worth getting up early.
Kings Creek Walk
The Kings Creek Walk is a short and easy walk along the creek into the Kings Canyon. From a platform at the end of the trail, you can admire the steep rock faces of the canyon from below. The walk is 2 km return and you will need less than an hour for it.
South Wall Return Walk
The South Wall Return Walk is a part of the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. The trail includes the last 2.4 km of this walk. It is an alternative for very hot days, when the rest of the Kings Canyon Rim Walk is closed and you want to start your walk after 9 am. On days with temperature forecasts over 36 degrees, this walk will also be closed after 11 am.
Kathleen Springs Walk
The starting point for the Kathleen Springs Walk is about 20 km east of Kings Canyon and is a short, easy walk and it is wheelchair accessible. You can do this 2.6 km long walk in less than one hour. Along the walk there are information panels with stories of the traditional owners and modern land use. At the end of the path is a waterhole fed by the Kathleen spring.
Information about Kings Canyon in Watarrka National Park
There is a shelter at the car park with information boards on the walks at Kings Canyon. There is also drinking water, toilets, picnic facilities, an emergency phone and even free WIFI is available at the car park. Be aware that you are far from civilization and the WIFI is very slow.
- Location: Kings Canyon in the Watarrka National Park is located southwest of Alice Springs. If you want to travel comfortably on sealed roads from Alice Springs to Kings Canyon it is 472 km. The shortest way via unsealed roads is 327 km
- Entrance fee: free of charge
- Opening hours: Watarrka National Park is open all year round. From October to March it can be very hot and therefore the months April to September are to be preferred
- Accommodation: There is no overnight accommodation at Watarrka National Park. So you have to get out of the national park and into one of the private motels or campgrounds
Have you been to the Red Center of Australia? What is the hike you liked the most in this part of Australia?