History & Culture

History of the Larapinta Trail & West MacDonnell Ranges


LARAPINTA Trail Development

The Larapinta Trail was first conceptualised in 1989 as part of a strategy to develop a national park in the West MacDonnell Ranges. The first section of the trail was opened in 1990, and after many years of development and community consultation, the Larapinta Trail in its current form was finally completed in 2002.


Original plans for the Larapinta Trail extended from the Old Telegraph Station just outside Alice Springs to the highest peak in the Northern Territory, Mt Zeil. However due to the remoteness and the rugged terrain spanning between Mt Sonder and Mt Zeil, it was decided that the trail should end at the equally spectacular Mt Sonder. The full 223km of the Larapinta Trail today spans between the Old Telegraph Station and Mt Sonder.

World Expeditions were the first tour operators on the Larapinta Trail, beginning commercial walks in 1995. The trail has since gained international fame and attracts a growing number of walkers each year.


Indigenous history

The Larapinta Trail traverses the West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. This area is located on the traditional homelands of the Central Arrernte, Western Arrernte and Luritja peoples, who have belonged to the country for up to an astonishing 40,000 years. 


Tyurrentye (as the area is known to the Traditional Owners) is a living landscape with deep spiritual significance to the 16 traditional estates that make up the area. The country abounds with sacred sites, indigenous artworks and archaeological sites. 


The landscape is also home to many dreaming tracks (or 'song lines' as they are commonly known), such as the taye (moon man) dreaming that takes place between Mt Sonder and Glen Helen Gorge. A selection of those dreamings and their locations can be found here.

Famous contemporary Indigenous Australian artist Albert Namatjira is a Western Arrernte man, with many of his paintings and those of his descendants depicting landscapes in and around the West MacDonnell Ranges.

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