Kings Canyon is one of those iconic Northern Territory landscapes, found deep in the Watarrka National Park. Explorer Conor spent a sunny afternoon checking it out.

Highlights

  • Breathtaking views from the rim walk
  • Watching the colours of the canyon transform through the afternoon 
  • Options for an easy walk through the valley or a more challenging hike around the rim

Does Kings Canyon live up to the hype?

‘Breathtaking views’, ‘out-of-this-world scenery’ and ‘paradise’ were a few descriptions I’d heard about Kings Canyon. I had very high expectations, having just visited Uluru and hiked the Larapinta Trail in the Northern Territory. After driving through the day we reached Kings Canyon and made our way to the start of the hike.   

Under the mid-afternoon sun, we hit the incline: 500 steps straight up the winding rocky path to the top. It was slow going, 10 steps up and a two-minute break to take photos. 

 

 

Once we reached the top, we knew the hard yards were behind us. We had a few hours before sunset, so we spent our time searching through every nook and cranny.

I worked my way along the northern rock face while Kate looped around to the southern side. After half an hour or more I heard a faint whistle. The sound bounced around from every direction, but I knew it was Kate. I pulled out my telephoto lens and scanned the area. Eventually I found her, looking like an ant on the opposite cliff face.

 

 

I wanted to find the best place to take a photo at sunset and the best light was going to fall on the southern wall, so I waved Kate to come back. I set up my tripod and played the waiting game. Like many locations in the outback, the whole area transformed through the late afternoon. The heat of the day evaporated, and we could hear birds chirping from the valley. My favourite was the colour of the rocks as the late afternoon sunlight passed across the dusty plains and into the valley.

 

 

I don’t like to carry expectations into adventures, but in this case, they were there. If anyone asks me what I think of Kings Canyon, all I’ll be able to tell them is that words just don’t do it justice.

Essential Gear

  • Hiking shoes
  • Hat and sunscreen
  • Water bottle – bring lots of water!
  • Camera
  • Snacks
  • Map and compass
  • Torch if you’re planning to stick around for sunset

 

How To Get There

Kings Canyon is located in the Watarrka National Park. It’s 332km from Alice Springs along the Larapinta Drive and well signposted around the turn off to the canyon.

 

Activities

  • Hiking
  • Photography

 

Skill Level

Intermediate – The full Kings Canyon rim walk is a 6km circuit that climbs up and down steep rocky staircases. 

The Kings Creek hike is a relatively flat 2.6km walk through the valley and is an easier option compared to the rim walk. 

SAFETY WARNING – Make sure to not walk during the heat of the day. Temperatures can reach staggering levels even outside of summer. Walk at sunrise or sunset and be sure to take water, a hat and a map or GPS apps.

 

Distance Covered

500 steps up and down with 6km total distance covered.