MacDonnell Ranges Travel Guide

The MacDonnell Ranges are an amazing natural attraction of gorges, chasms, valleys, rivers and hold a deep historical, cultural and spiritual significance for the local Aboriginal people. Divided into East and West, the ranges are a rugged display of the Australian outback at its best. Their immense size and vibrant burnt orange, purple and maroon hues make them a truly unforgettable sight of the Northern Territory.

West MacDonnell Ranges

The West MacDonnell Ranges feature unique scenery and their own character including a natural pool at Simpsons Gap, resident rock wallabies, the firey glow of Standley Chasm lit by the midday sun as well as a number of waterholes where you are welcome to swim including Redbank Gorge, Ellery Creek Big Hole, Glen Helen Gorge and Ormiston Gorge. The Ochre Pits are another distinct attraction of the West MacDonnell Ranges and were used as pit by the Aboriginal people for the ochre that the used for painting and body adornment in traditional ceremonies. Tyler Pass also offers amazing views of the 5km crater, Tnorala / Gosse Bluff, formed 142.5 million years ago by a comet. The Finke River is another popular attraction here and is one of the oldest watercourses in the world. Also home to the Finke Gorge National Park and Palm Valley, travel is best by 4WD.

East MacDonnell Ranges

The East MacDonnell Ranges are a hidden treasure and is believed to be the dreamtime origin of the MacDonnell Ranges by the Arrernte people. According to the legend, ancestral caterpillar beings moved from Emily Gap forming Alice Springs and the MacDonnell Ranges. The area holds great cultural importance to the Aboriginal people including key sites like N'Dhala Gorge, Corroboree Rock and Jessie Gap. The East MacDonnell Ranges are home to spectacular sites like Trephine Gorge and are home to a wide range of wildlife. Although not as popular with tourists as the West MacDonnell Ranges, the East MacDonnell Ranges are well worth the trip and offer the unique opportunity to see native wildlife in its natural habitat as well as fantastic bird watching.