Simpsons Gap

Top choice in Northern Territory

One of the prettiest corners of the West MacDonnell Ranges, Simpsons Gap, 22km by road from Alice Springs and 8km off Larapinta Dr along a paved road, combines wonderful scenery with good wildlife-watching. Towering red-rock cliffs watch over a riverbed strewn with gums, and a few pools where the canyon narrows. The bouldered slope on the eastern side is one of the best places in the region to see black-footed rock wallabies, especially in the early morning and late afternoon.

You'll also have the best chance of seeing birdlife at these times, including painted finch, zebra finch, peregrine falcon, grey-headed honeyeater and the much-sought-after dusky grasswren, which inhabits the steep western slope as you approach the gorge. The walk from the car park to the gorge takes just 15 minutes.

The visitor information centre, usually unstaffed, is 1km in from Larapinta Dr and has a few displays on local wildlife.

In addition to the short walk to the waterhole and gorge, there are three other options: Ghost Gum Walk, a 15-minute-return walk from the visitor centre to one of the oldest ghost gums in the area; Cassia Hill – a signposted, 1.5km, one-hour-return hike up a nearby hill for good panoramic views (near the top of the walk, watch out for the bird known as redthroat); and the Woodland Trail, a 17km trek to Bond Gap and back through mulga scrubland (take your swimmers as there's a rock pool at Bond Gap).

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