The King’s Canyon Rim Walk in Australia

From the air the Australian ‘outback’ looks so spectacularly empty and somehow that gives the features that do appear an added significance. Patches of red earth look like open sores; gorges and the low, eroded mountains can be seem from hundreds of miles away.

For example Mount Conner is three times the size of Uluru (Ayers Rock). And a few hours drive away from the iconic big red rock is King’s Canyon, a great scar in the landscape that draws small numbers of visitors who travel many hundreds of miles further than the tourist Mecca of Uluru to experience it.

The Watarrka National Park is at the western end of the 70-kilometre-long George Gill Range in Australia’s Northern Territory. It forms a geological and ecological meeting place of the Simpson, Western and Macdonald Ranges regions.

The soaring 300-metre-high rock cliffs of Kings Canyon are layered red with touches of green and the Kings Canyon Rim Walk essentially takes you along one side of the canyon and then back along the other with spectacular views at every step.

King's Canyon Rim Walk, Australia's Red Centre-007

The first part of the walk is probably the hardest physically, which is great because once the 500-step hill climb is behind you it’s time to enjoy the day. Take your time and the views of King’s Canyon on the way up and you’ll be fine on “heart attack hill”.

This is Priscilla Queen of the Desert country for those who have seen the film and you’ll notice several places where the ‘queens’ enjoyed posing on the desert air.

King's Canyon Rim Walk, Australia's Red Centre

Some very rare species of plant are to be found in this unique ecosystem, including the Macdonalds Cycad (Macrozamia macdonnellii), a palm-like plant that turns sections of the canyon into true oases. Many plants here have survived from a time when the area was covered by rainforest – more than 50 million years ago.

The best example of this is about half way through the walk, when a detour descends to the ‘Garden of Eden’. This is no overblown moniker; in the permanent waterhole limpid pools reflect lush plant life and pretty spinifex pigeons dip their beaks into the cool water. The groves of cycads contrast strikingly with the red sandstone cliffs in this hidden paradise.

King's Canyon Rim Walk, Australia's Red Centre

Then it’s back up onto the high rim of the canyon and the trail soon plunges into a fantastical mass of red sandstone domes. In this part of the world we’re talking about rocks that can be up to 440 million years old and these beehive-like domes are the result of 20 million years of erosion.

As always, Australia will challenge and expand your concept of time! According to the Dreamtime stories of the Luritja aboriginal people of the Watarrka area the domes are Kuninga, or the little native marsupial called the Western Quoll.

King's Canyon Rim Walk, Australia's Red Centre

The precipitous return section of the Kings Canyon Rim walk follows is gentle but not for the faint hearted. Here the walls drop away sharply into the vastness of the canyon and the deepening shadows of the valley floor.

The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is around six kilometres and takes between three and four hours. Take plenty of water with you. A more relaxed alternative is the one hour (two kilometre) Kings Canyon Creek Walk along the bottom of the canyon.

You can do the Kings Canyon Rim Walk on a daytrip from Yalara (the resort near Uluru) or stay at the peaceful and pretty Kings Canyon Resort.

By Natasha von Geldern

Have you been to King’s Canyon? Did you do the Rim Walk?

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