Palm Valley walks – Finke Gorge National Park: The ultimate guide to the walks in and around Palm Valley in the Finke Gorge National Park.
About Finke Gorge National Park and the Palm Valley area
The Finke Gorge National Park is a hidden gem located about 140km south west of Alice Springs. Accessed from the Larapinta Drive this remote park is found close to small town on Hermannsburg. And the closest and easiest part of the 460km2 park to visit is the magical Palm Valley area. Located in the top left corner of the park this little section is an outdoor lovers paradise with some particularly nice little walks. Though only short in length the walks found in this area blew us away. They were absolutely stunning and yielded some completely unexpected scenery.
About the walks in and around the Palm Valley area
There are 4 easy to follow and clearly marked tracks in this part of Finke Gorge National Park. Two are found close to the campground – Kalarranga Lookout & Mpaara Walks. These can both be accessed on foot by a 1km connecting track from the campsite, or you can drive and park at the trailhead shelter. The two other walks start about 4.5km down a rough and bumpy track at the actual Palm Valley – Arankaia & Mpulungkinya Walks. IMPORTANT this track to Palm Valley is not like the track into the Campground from Hermannsburg, it can only be accessed by high clearance 4WD vehicles.
The Arankaia Walk
|Distance: 2km loop – follow the orange arrow markers
Time: 1 hour return
Start/Finish Point: Palm Valley Parking Area
Tip: If you’re short on time or energy and just want some nice quick views over the Palm Valley, this is the one for you.
After the bumpy 4.5km drive from the campsite past Cycad Gorge to the Palm Valley parking area, which is great fun in itself, there are two walks to choose from in Palm Valley. The shorter of these two walks is the Arankaia Walk, an easy hike through the valley and then up and along the ridge.
Starting from the car park, it’s a gentle stroll along the valley. With the rugged red valley wall to your left and the lush green vegetation to your right, its certainly a walk of contrasting scenery. Dependent on recent rainfall, you’ll follow a dry creek bed, small pools or even a flowing channel along the valley gorge for about 1 km before climbing the stairs up to the sandstone plateau above.
Once up on the plateau, follow the ridge back towards the starting point. Towards the end, there are great views over the valley and back along the scenic 4WD track leading to the valley. This is also the best place to admire the groves of famous palms the track is named after. ‘Arankaia’ being the Western Arrernte name for the palms found here.
This is the perfect little walk for a taste of the Palm Valley. With views from ground level on the valley floor and then from up on the ridge line, you get the best of both worlds in a quick and easy 2km walk.
The Mpulungkinya Walk
|Distance: 5km loop – follow the blue arrow markers
Time: 2 hour return
Start/Finish Point: Palm Valley Parking Area
Tip: Although not a really busy park, the occasional tour bus does venture down here in peak season, so go early morning or late afternoon to beat any small crowds.
‘Mpulungkinya’ (pronounced ‘mool-ung-kin-yah’) is the Western Arrernte name for Palm Valley and the longer hike here. It’s a similar walk to the Arankaia Walk, but with some extra bonus bits. This trail stretches an additional 1.5km further along the bed of the Palm Valley and loops back on the plateau above the gorge.
Famous for its unique Red Cabbage Palms found no where else in Central Australia, the 2.5km walk along the Palm Valley floor is particularly spectacular after some rain. The small pools of water provides beautiful reflections of the reddy orange valley walls, green vegetation and blue skies of this Finke Gorge National Park oasis. It’s a really beautiful first half of the walk taking you right down into the thicker palm groves.
At the halfway point you ascend up to a plateau above the gorge. From here there are some great views back along the valley and beyond. Once out on the plateau the path leads you away from the gorge and through an arid section of the park. Full of interesting plants and trees including the iconic Ghost Gums, this walk is also a great spot to see some of the parks many reptiles and insects. Looping back to the ridge you rejoin the Arankaia Walk for those epic views of the Red Cabbage Palms and Cycads in the valley below to finish this 5km hike.
For the full Palm Valley experience this 5km hike is a must and was one of the most enjoyable walks on Our 14 day Red Centre Road Trip.
The Mpaara Walk
|Distance: 5km – follow the blue arrow markers
Time: 2 hour return
Start/Finish Point: Kalarranga Carpark
Tip: Go early to mid-morning to have the sun behind when you reach the viewpoint for the vistas over the Amphitheatre/Kalarranga. Mid-afternoon, the sun will be shining right at you as you look over this amazing part of the park.
The Mpaara Walk is the longer of the two walks close to the campground, starting at the Kalarranga shelter. This walk illustrates and tells of the Mpaara dreaming story of the Western Arrernte Aboriginals. So make sure to walk in a clockwise direction to learn more about this from the interpretive signage you pass along your walk.
Starting at the trailhead, follow the rocky ledge path running parallel to the 4WD park entry track. This leads you close to the old Ranger Station and toward the junction of Palm Creek and the Finke River. You are effectively circumnavigating along the outside of the massive sandstone cliffs before turning right and starting up the Mpaara Creek. From here it’s a gentle and snaking ascent up to the saddle. Keep an eye out for the several species of lizard and plentiful birdlife in this section. Shortly before the saddle, the views open up back the way you came and give you an idea of what’s to come. Reaching the saddle, there’s a small ‘Lookout Symbol’ (which could be easily missed) leading you to absolutely spectacular views.
The vistas from up here over the Amphitheatre and toward the Kalarranga Lookout were truly awesome. Some of the best views on Our 14 day Red Centre Road Trip and quite different to anything else we’d seen. Photos just don’t do it justice! With so few people around, it’s likely you’ll have this place completely to yourself. Once you drag yourself away from the panoramic views here, its a short and pretty steep descent down into the Amphitheatre. From there its a nice flat and gentle walk to finish, taking you past the Kalarranga Lookout.
In comparison to some of the other scenic walks in the area, this walk starts off slightly underwhelming, especially if there’s not been much rain and the riverbeds are dry. But trust us, the views from atop are what this walk is all about.
The Kalarranga Lookout Walk
|Distance: 1.5km loop – follow the orange arrow markers
Time: 40 minutes return
Start/Finish Point: Kalarranga Carpark
Tip: Go late afternoon and stay for sunset.
Not even sure you’d classify this as a proper walk. It’s more of a lookout which you need to walk to for a few of minutes to reach. But whatever you call it, it’s stunning and not to be missed! After a quick and gentle climb from the car park, you’re greeted with panoramic views.
Encircled by massive orange cliffs and pillars, it feels like being out in the wild west and completely different to the other scenery on Our 14 day Red Centre Road Trip. Located close to the campsite and only a short walk, this is both a practical and easy evening option. In the hour prior to sunset, the dropping sun lights up the semicircle of sandstone rock surrounding the Amphitheatre turning it a magnificent red colour.
Then as the red hues fade, find the perfect vantage point to watch the sunset on the horizon. With the interesting rock formations all around, it makes for some pretty cool twilight silhouettes. It’s an awesome place to finish off a day in this amazing part of the Northern Territory.
Short and sweet – this small walk up and around the Kalarranga Lookout is reason enough itself to travel to Finke Gorge National Park!
To quote the Kalarranga signage “walking is the best way to enjoy this extraordinary landscape of sculptured rock and hidden valleys”. And we could not agree more! All 4 of the walks in and around Palm Valley – Finke Gorge National Park were truly beautiful. Much like our experience in Trephina Gorge – East MacDonnell Ranges, exploring the parks walking tracks here also surpassed our expectations. Getting a little off track and coming to the amazing Palm Valley area was an undisputed highlight of our 14 Day Red Centre Road Trip.
Useful information and packing essentials for the walks in and around Palm Valley Area – Finke Gorge National Park
- All timings above are based on signage at park. We completed all the walks in significantly less time than the signage suggested. How long each walk talks of course depends on fitness levels, conditions and number of photo stops.
- You cannot book this campground in advance. Campsites are available on a first-come-first-serve basis. So don’t arrive too late in the day or you’ll risk missing out on a campsite. This is especially important during holidays and weekends. There is an overspill section, but it’s best to arrive early to avoid disappointment.
- Campsite payment is done via the ‘honesty box system’. So make sure you have the correct change.
- As always leave no trace and take all your rubbish out with you and dispose of it correctly. There are NO bins in this Park.
- We recommend staying at least two nights here, especially if you want to do all of the walks.
- There’s no fenced viewpoints on these walks, so use common sense when near any edges. There are some incredibly steep drops!
- Decent footwear is important for this hike. Boots aren’t required but sturdy shoes with good grip are recommended. Especially if it’s been wet.
- Consider your health and fitness when choosing a walk.
- Keep to designated roads and tracks to avoiding damaging the fragile surrounding landscape.
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