Watarrka National Park
Watarrka National Park contains the western end of the George Gill Range. This scenic landscape of rugged ranges, rockholes and gorges acts as a refuge for many plants and animals, making the Park an important conservation area and major attraction of central Australia.
Kings Canyon features ancient sandstone walls, sculptured by the elements, rising up 100m to a plateau of rocky domes.
The Park is located about 450km southwest of Alice Springs and can be reached by 2WD vehicle via Luritja Road from Yulara and Lasseters Highway (sealed road). It can also be reached: via Larapinta Drive, through the West MacDonnell National Park, linking into the new gravel Mereenie Loop Road (4WD recommended); or via Ernest Giles Road (4WD essential) and Luritja Road. Careful driving techniques should be applied at all times to accommodate changing road conditions.
The Park is accessible all year round. The cooler months (April to September) are the most pleasant.
Watarrka National Park offers multiple options for things to see and do. Just click the links below to see what they are.
There is no accommodation within the Park and camping is not permitted, however commercial accommodation can be found at nearby Kings Canyon Resort, Kings Creek Station and Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge. See Walk information and accommodation section below for further details.
Access to the Kings Canyon Rim Walk will be restricted during periods of hot weather.
When the forecast temperature for Watarrka is 36 degrees Celsius or above, visitors wishing to undertake the Rim Walk need to start their walk before 9 am and those wishing to undertake the South Wall Return Walk need to start their walk before 11 am.
Temperatures relating to these restrictions are
based on Bureau of Meteorology forecasts for Watarrka (not Alice Springs). The forecasts are publicly accessible here.
On days forecast at 35 degrees Celsius or less no access restrictions are in place. However, we encourage people at all times to start the walk early to avoid the heat as much as possible and to be well prepared; 3+ litres of water per person, hat, sturdy shoes, sunscreen and snacks.
Emergency Radios can be found along the Kings Canyon Walk and at the Canyon car park in case of emergency.
The Creek Walk and Kathleen Springs remain open at all times.
- Download 'Watarrka National Park' fact sheet (pdf 977Kb)
- Download 'Walking Tracks of Watarrka' information sheet
Most of Watarrka's visitors come to view the spectacular Kings Canyon with its towering vertical walls and pockets of 'lush' vegetation protected in sheltered gullies amidst the vast and harsh desert that surrounds the Park.
There are two permanent walking tracks at the Canyon, both offering visitors an opportunity to escape the crowds and experience first hand the beauty and solitude of the Australian bush. Signs along both tracks highlight features of interest. See 'Please Remember' section above for access restrictions and walk alternatives during hot weather.
There is also a walking track at Kathleen Springs. This walk is recommended for families and visitors with limited mobility.
All walkers are advised to carefully read the information on the two walks before starting out. Safety is your responsibility. The Kings Canyon walk has many steep sections and is recommended for fit and healthy walkers. Tracks are constructed to a suitable standard with stairs and boardwalks to make your walk safe and comfortable and to protect sensitive vegetation and waterholes. Information on other walking tracks in Watarrka is available from other Parks Commission publications. Drinking water, a hat, sunscreen and robust footwear are essential on all walks.
Watarrka, as with all National Parks, is a protected area. Disturbance of plants, animals and natural features is an offence. It is prohibited to: break branches for fly swats; break rocks; write or etch names on rocks; remove or displace the natural landscape i.e. rocks or flora. Cigarette butts, tissue paper and orange peel are three common and unsightly forms of litter.
Care should be taken after heavy rains as gravel roads and walking tracks can rise quickly and become impassable.
Walking track markers
The walking tracks of the Canyon area are well sign posted with metal trail markers. The arrows are Orange for the Kings Creek Walk and Navy Blue for the Canyon Walk.
Please travel the Canyon Walk in a clockwise direction, in accordance with management, safety and interpretive signage.
If someone is in urgent need of medical action, you can contact a Ranger in one of two ways.
- Emergency Radio Call Boxes This is the quickest, most effective way of reaching a Ranger. There are 4 call boxes located along the Canyon Walk at:
- near the carpark at the beginning of the walk;
- at the top of the northern climb;
- the eastern side above the Garden of Eden staircase; and
- at Kestrel Falls half way down the return loop section.
- Ranger Workshop/Residence
Workshop/Residence area is located 2km, east of the Canyon turn-off.
Basic first aid equipment is available from the emergency first aid boxes on the top of the Canyon.
Avoid leaving an injured person alone. Stay with them to administer first aid and send another person with careful note of your location and the problem to get help.
Walk information and accommodation
Read the 'Please Remember' section above and signs at the Park before commencing any of Watarrka's walks. Drinking water, a hat, sunscreen and robust footwear are essential on all walks.
- Walking Tracks
- The Kings Canyon Rim Walk (6 km loop. Approx. 3-4 hrs duration). This moderate - difficult walk begins with a steep climb to the top of the Canyon, then follows the Canyon rim around before descending to the carpark. Approximately half way along the walk is the 'Garden of Eden', a delightful area of cool waterholes and riverine vegetation communities. This walk requires a medium to high level of fitness with some strenuous sections. Extreme care should be taken in the hotter months (Sept - May) when walkers should consider other shorter walks as alternatives during the middle of the day. Visitors must begin this walk by 9 am on days where the forecast temperature (for Watarrka) is 36º C or above.
- The South Wall Return Walk (4.8 km return. Approx. 2hrs duration). This moderate- difficult walk begins with a strenuous climb up to the south wall of the canyon which offers stunning views of the park's geological features. At the end of the walk there is a one - way gate from which the walk returns to the carpark along the same route. The Garden of Eden and the rest of the Rim Walk cannot be accessed from the South Wall Return Walk. Visitors must begin this walk by 11 am on days where the forecast temperature (for Watarrka) is 36º C or above.
- The Kings Creek Walk (2.6 km return Approx. 1 hour duration) This easy walk meanders along Kings Creek ending at a lookout point, then returns by the same route. It can be rough underfoot, so sturdy footwear is essential. This walk has assisted wheelchair access for approximately half the walk and the remainder is suitable for walkers of all ages.
- The Giles Track is a 22km overnight walk traversing the top of the range from Kathleen Springs to Kings Canyon with an entrance/exit point at Reedy Creek/Lilla. Careful planning and preparation is required. For more information contact (08) 8951 8250.
- The Kathleen Springs Walk (2.6 km return. Approx 1.5 hours duration) This easy walk is recommended for families and visitors with limited mobility. Signs along the track tell the story of centuries of Aboriginal culture and the recent cattle industry. It leads to a delightful spring-fed waterhole at the head of Kathleen Gorge. This is a cool moist place to sit and enjoy the area's tranquility.
- Picnic Tables
Located at the sunset viewing area at Kings Canyon and at the Kathleen Springs carpark and picnic area.
Overnight camping in tents, caravans or motorhomes is not permitted in the National Park. Commercial accommodation, camping and bunkhouses are available at the Kings Canyon Resort (tel +61 (08) 8956 7442). Camping and safari style cabins are also available at Kings Creek Station (tel +61 (08) 8956 7474). Luxury tented cabins are available at Kings Canyon Wilderness Lodge (tel +61 (08) 8955 8311).
- Explore the natural and man-made features along the Kathleen Springs walk.
Territory Parks Alive
Territory Parks Alive is a program of talks and guided walks that Park Rangers conduct across the Northern Territory. The program is offered from May to September each year.
Park Access - Watarrka National ParkPhone 08 8956 7460 | Road Conditions
|Park Sites||Access||Comments||Forecast Opening|
|Watarrka National Park||Open|
|Kings Canyon Access Road||Open||Edit|
|Kings Canyon Rim Walk||Open||On days where the temperature is forecast to reach 36 degrees or above the Rim Walk will be closed after 9am and the South Wall return Walk from 11am. Access to the Creek Walk and Kathleen Springs is unaffected.||Edit|
|Kings Creek Walk||Open||Edit|
|Kathleen Springs Walk||Open||Edit|