Introducing Finke Gorge National Park
With its primordial landscape, the Finke Gorge National Park, south of Hermannsburg, is one of central Australia's premier wilderness reserves. The top-billing attraction is Palm Valley, famous for its red cabbage palms, which exist nowhere else in the world. These relics from prehistoric times give the valley the feel of a picture-book oasis.
Tracks include the Arankaia walk (2km loop, one hour), which traverses the valley, returning via the sandstone plateau; the Mpulungkinya track (5km loop, two hours), heading down the gorge before joining the Arankaia walk; and the Mpaara track (5km loop, two hours), taking in the Finke River, Palm Bend and a rugged amphitheatre (a semicircle of sandstone formations sculpted by a now-extinct meander of Palm Creek). There's a popular camping ground.
Access to the park follows the sandy bed of the Finke River and rocky tracks, and so a high-clearance 4WD is essential. If you don't have one, several tour operators go to Palm Valley from Alice Springs. The turn-off to Palm Valley starts about 1km west of the Hermannsburg turn-off on Larapinta Dr.
If you are well-prepared there's a challenging route through the national park along the sandy bed of the Finke River. This is a remote and scenic drive to the Ernest Giles Rd, from where you can continue west to Kings Canyon (and Uluru) or east back to the Stuart Hwy. It pays to travel in a convey (getting bogged is part of the adventure) and get a copy of the Finke River 4WD Route notes (www.nretas.nt.gov.au).