The West Mac Donnell Mountains, called West Mac's by the locals, are a bit like the big suburb of Alice Springs, but what a suburb!
Several hundred kilometers to the east and west of the city stretches a very ancient range of mountains that were once as high as the Himalayas.
Today, seen from the sky, the MacDonnell Mountains look like a long reddish scar. All the sites are placed under the protection of natural parks.
Erosion has shaped the rocks leaving gorges, cliffs and folds of rock.
The landscapes, although less known than the sites of the Center such as Uluru or Katja Tjuta, are nevertheless spectacular and the relatively luxuriant vegetation will allow you to appreciate the diversity of the flora of the Australian desert.
Favorite activity note: 3 days between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock of Uluru via Kings Canyon National Park
These landscapes, the famous Aboriginal watercolor painter Albert Namatjira, a native of the region, immortalized them in his paintings.
The West Mac's are easily accessible from Alice Springs, by a paved road for more than 130 kilometers. While there are plenty of group tours on offer, West Mac's are worth more than a day or two of visiting.
To visit the nearest site, Simpson's Gap, about twenty kilometers from the city center, it is possible to rent a bicycle to take the well-maintained path.
Nager at Glen Helen
It is by rental car that you will make the most of the place.
The park's campsites are very well laid out and allow you to spend hours out of time, watching the setting sun illuminate the surrounding reliefs. The sites of Glen Helen, Ormiston Gorge or Ellery Creek Big Hole often allow you to swim in the water holes left by the summer rains: a delight!
At Ocher Pits, you will discover the amazing colors of the ocher quarries used by the Aborigines for their body paints.
The West Mac's are a paradise for those interested in natural history as well as those who wish to learn more about the Aboriginal legends of the region, those of the Arrente tribe. High quality information panels have been set up by the park in remarkable places.
For the bravest, the Larapinta Trail, a hiking trail of more than 200 kilometers, divided into 12 sections offers a sporting challenge and an experience of life in the wilderness.
However, good physical and logistical preparation is essential before attempting the adventure. The proximity of Alice Springs can make you forget that you are in arid conditions and that the terrain is very rugged.
Between Nature and Culture, between comfort and adventure, the Western Mac Donnell Ranges are a site whose diversity and quiet beauty are worth the detour and that you take your time to discover the details.
The Western MacDonnell Ranges Park website
Larapinta Trail Information