Best times to walk the Larapinta Trail
Consistently ranked as one of the best walks in Australia, the Larapinta Trail is a stunning blend of beautiful but sometimes challenging terrain in the West MacDonnell Ranges.
The Larapinta Trail is rich in indigenous heritage, unique geography, big desert skies and spectacular gorges and chasms. It’s a demanding trek, with the complete Larapinta Trek spanning 221kms over 12 days (shorter 3, 6 and 9 day options are available too!), but the rewards speak for themselves: visit the stunning Simpson’s Gap, Standley Chasm, and ascend Mount Sonder beneath an endless sky for one of the most spectacular sunrises in Central Australia.
One of the most common questions asked by those keen on trekking along the Larapinta Trail is "when is the best time of year to do the walk?".
After all, when you have committed to training and spent money to make your goal happen, you want to know that you will experience the very best the Larapinta Trail has to offer.
From planning your trip around prime trekking conditions, to avoiding flies, catching the wildflower season or a local festival, use this handy guide to determine when your next visit should be.
BEST FOR: Prime trekking conditions
Winter is often considered the best time to walk the Larapinta Trail, with low-mid 20C temperatures, clear blue skies, cool breezes – optimal trekking conditions. However, evening temperatures can drop to -3-5C, particularly in the valleys, and the thick frost that covers the ground can create a snow-like appearance. While sleeping in an insulated sleeping bag counters the chill, trekkers need to make sure they are adequately prepared for cold nights with insulated sleeping bags, beanies, gloves and thermal underwear.
Alternatively, Autumn and Spring also provide comfortable trekking conditions, with warm days and cool nights. Temperatures average between 12-27C in Autumn and 13-30C in Spring. Evenings aren’t quite as chilly as they are in winter, so pulling your bed out from your tent to sleep under the stars can be a much more desirable option at this time of year.
Trekking along the Larapinta Trail in Summer is not recommended due to the intense heat, hot winds and high UV exposure. With daily temperatures hovering in the mid 40’s, and surface temperatures sitting 5-8C higher, trekking in Summer presents an increased risk of heat stroke.
For more information on weather and climate click here.
We’d recommend: Plan your trek between April – September for optimal trekking conditions
BEST FOR: Warm nights sleeping under the stars
The Australian Outback is a haven for stargazers and perhaps one of the best places in the world to explore the galaxies in the night sky. While star gazing along the Larapinta Trail is able to be done all year round, if you want to see the very best of the starry nights you’ll need to pick your travel time accordingly.
Winter months are typically best for star gazing as there's less humidity and clear skies give a very sharp view of the stars. In Winter, it is much easier to view the Milky Way as it passes overhead.
However, if you don’t want to brave the cold winter evening temperatures, July and August are also fantastic for stargazing as the evenings tend to be a bit warmer, with almost cloudless skies. The late Spring and Summer months tend to bring rainfall and more cloud cover.
We’d recommend: Sleep comfortably under the stars and plan your trek between late May - August.
BEST FOR: Avoiding Flies
If you’ve ever visited the outback during Summer, you’d have no doubt noticed how many flies spring to life over the warmer months. While you can wear a headnet to keep them away, the one thing that works even better to deter flies is… Frost! The colder it gets, the less flies there are, and once the night time temperatures fall below 10C the flies are nowhere to be seen.
We recommend: You’re less likely to experience those pesky flies if you plan your trek when the temperatures start to drop between late May – mid August.
BEST FOR: Avoiding the crowds
While it's rare to bump into many other trekkers along the Larapinta Trail at any time of year, the same cannot be said for your time in Alice Springs before and after your trip. If your idea of a good trip away is escaping away from the hustle and bustle of the city, then take note: Alice Springs’ peak tourist season is an absolute hive of activity. In the winter months, between June – August, plane loads of interstate and international tourists flock to the town to view and take part in some of the many local festivals. Don't let that deter you from trekking the Larapinta Trail though - once out and about on the trail the only thing that will distract you from the spectacular views is the realisation that you have them all to yourself!
If you want to dodge the peak tourist season from your time in Alice Springs, we suggest heading over in April or May, and avoid June-August. In September, the town starts to empty and by October it’s back to its original sleepy state.
We recommend: Avoid the crowds and plan your trek in April, May, late August or September.
BEST FOR: Swimming in Waterholes
One of the highlights of a trek along the Larapinta Trail is swimming in some of the numerous gorges, waterholes and rivers along the trail. While it’s not uncommon for it to rain in Central Australia at any time of the year, it typically rains more frequently between December – March, when the average rainfall sits between 33-42mms each month. This can flood the rivers and creek lines, which means that trekkers who visit in April and May can expect ‘wet crossings’ of waterholes, creeks and gorges. The water during these earlier months is also slightly warmer than in the winter months of June – August, when water temperatures can be surprisingly chilly.
We recommend: For a refreshing swim and exciting water crossings, jump on a departure in April, May, or September.
BEST for: Birdwatching
If your interests lie in birdwatching, then the months between July – October are the best as birds are in full breeding plumage. Alice Springs and it’s surrounds are perfect for bird watching, so if you are embarking on the Larapinta Trail ensure to bring your binoculars to spot Western Bowerbirds, Whistling Kites or Wedge Tailed Eagles soaring overhead.
We Recommend: Bring your binoculars and jump on any departure between July-September.
BEST FOR: Festivals
Alice Springs is home to a number of festivals throughout the year. Ranging from writers festivals, to arts and crafts, and adventure sport races, there are festivals in and around the town during almost every month of the year.
We Recommend: Plan your arrival to Alice Springs with some of the below dates in mind if you want to combine an unforgettable trek with exciting local festivals:
NT Writers Festival – 18-21 May
Tatts Finke Desert Race – 9-12 June
Alice Springs Beanie Festival – 23-26 June
Run Larapinta Stage Race – 11-14 August
Redback Mountain Bike Stage Race – 17-20 August
Rotary Henley on Tod Regatta – 19 August
Red CentreNATS – 1-3 September
Desert Song Festival – 8-17 September
BEST FOR: Wildflowers
If you’re a flower fanatic who’s keen on seeing bursts of colour along the Larapinta Trail
, you’ll be delighted to know that if you choose your season and timing right, you may be greeted with colourful pockets of yellows, purples, and blues amongst the ochre tinted colour of the desert.
With 767 species of flora, including the Mulla Mulla, Curry Wattle and Bush Tomato), the Larapinta Trail comes alive with colour at certain times of the year, particularly around the springs, waterholes and gorges that provide shelter and relief from the arid climate.
The wildflowers planted in the Alice Springs Desert Park flower during the winter months are done so just in time for the tourist season. However, spotting wildflowers in nature can be slightly more difficult as the plants are dependent on good rain at the right time. The wildflowers in the bush typically like Autumn or Winter rain, but because of the erratic nature of rainfall in Central Australia, you can’t be guaranteed to see them at any one time.
We Recommend: Plan your trek in May, typically the best month to see the wildflowers along the Larapinta Trail, or August- September, when the wildflowers have a resurgence coming out of Winter.