Jo and her partner Dirk went for a cross-country adventure to summit Mount Giles. Being beautifully located within the Tjoritja / West MacDonnell Ranges it’s a long and rocky path to get there. However, standing on the summit was worth every drop of sweat (and a pair of boots) and made it a truly magnificent experience!


We acknowledge that this adventure is located on the traditional Country of the Arrernte people who have occupied and cared for the lands, waters, and their inhabitants for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.

Quick Overview

The recommended route to Mount Giles starts at Ormiston Gorge. For the majority of the around 16km long track to the summit, there’s no formed track. It takes about two to three days to get there and back and you have to be fully self-sufficient to tackle this adventure.

About Mount Giles

Everyone we spoke to in preparation for this hike, mentioned the gorgeous views from the top of Mount Giles and we were truly blown away by the spectacular views from the summit.



At 1,389 metres high, Mount Giles is the third highest mountain in the Northern Territory. From the top you can see as far as Mount Sonder and even Mount Zeil. However, since this summit is not part of the Larapinta Trail not too many people come up here.

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How to Get to Mount Giles

We started the hike at Ormiston Gorge which is a place worth visiting in itself. Ormiston Gorge is 135km from Alice Springs. The roads there are all sealed and suitable for 2WDs. You can leave your car parked at the day visitor area while you’re on the hike and enjoy a refreshing swim in the gorge upon your return.

Read more: 4 Red Centre Swimming Holes You Need to Jump In

Where to Stay Along Mount Giles

In order to start early in the morning on the hike and beat the heat, we camped at the Ormiston Gorge Campground the night before.

Campsite bookings need to be made in person at the Ormiston kiosk which also offers snacks and ice cream. Bookings are on a first come, first serve basis. In order to have the full experience and see sunset and sunrise, it’s possible to camp at various spots on the mountain, near the summit.


Skill Level

Intermediate – Advanced

Since most of the hike is off track, it’s important to be completely self-sufficient and have good navigational skills. The walk up to Mount Giles can be steep in sections, so previous bushwalking experience is mandatory. To get to the summit, a bit of rock scrambling is required.

The track has Grade 5 (difficult) in the Australian Walking Track Grading System.

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Distance / Duration of Mount Giles

Approx. 32km return / 2 days

As the majority of the way is off-track the exact distance depends on the way you choose.

This handy map provided by NT National Parks should help!

We used the spur to the west of the park’s map on the way up. This led to the west summit, where we spent the night. I recommended doing further research to be well-prepared for this hike.

Read more: 10 Tips for Your First Off-Track Hike


Essential Gear for Mount Giles


What it’s Like to Hike to Mount Giles

Day 1 – Ormiston Gorge to Mount Giles West Summit

Distance: 14km
Duration: 6-9 hours

After staying the night at Ormiston Gorge and having our bags packed and ready to go, we left from the Ormiston Gorge Day parking area bright and early.

For the first 4km, the track follows the eastern half of the Ormiston Pound Track. This track is easy to follow and a good warm-up for the day. The little detour to the lookout is worth it and you get to see Mount Giles towering in the distance.

From the bottom of the valley, the actual hike starts, when you leave the Ormiston Gorge Pound walk and start the cross-country track towards Mount Giles. Given that you see Mount Giles in front of you, navigation is relatively straightforward.

However, there are better and worse choices of route. On the way in, we diverted off the loop track earlier and kept walking on the south side. The vegetation here is a bit bare at the moment. This offers some relief from the spiky spinifex.

We arrived after around four hours at the base of Mount Giles, had a break in the shade, and well-deserved lunch. To our surprise, the otherwise dry riverbed had some pools with water at the base of the mountain.

It was a relief to know that water supply wouldn’t be the issue and we wouldn’t have to hunt for the mysterious spring mentioned in a few reports.

With still a lot of energy and daylight left (and the mountain right in front of us) we decided to continue. Standing in front of Mount Giles, I questioned my ability to safely ascend and descend.

However, with encouragement from my partner Dirk, we started the approach. Taking it one step at a time, I soaked in the breathtaking landscape. The ascent was rocky but didn’t require actual rock climbing, only some scrambling. Despite carrying a 65-litre backpack, I managed well.

After about two hours, we reached a peak on the western side of the mountain. With the summit in sight and magnificent views of Mount Sonder and Mount Zeil to the west, we chose to camp at this spot for the night.



As the sun set, the surroundings transformed into a beautiful display of red and yellow hues. These views were truly remarkable, even without reaching the actual summit.


Day 2 – Mount Giles West Summit back to Ormiston Gorge via. Mount Giles Summit

Distance: 18km
Duration: 8-10 hours

We woke up early to witness the first light peaking over the horizon. The night was windy, but our thick sleeping bags kept us warm and cozy.

Watching the sun slowly illuminate the valley was a magnificent experience, complementing the previous day’s sunset beautifully.



An hour later, after a scramble up and down, we reached the summit marker and celebrated the completion of our mission. It was an emotional moment for me, as my first cross-country walk had led me successfully to the top of Mount Giles.

After taking obligatory summit photos, having a quick snack, and signing the logbook, we began the descent. We opted for the direct route south from the summit, which had fewer changes in gradient.

However, we had to ensure we stayed on the ridgeline and avoided steeper gullies.

Once we made it to the base of Mount Giles, the way back was relatively straightforward. However, this time around we followed the dry creek bed more closely, which was more challenging than expected.

With the vegetation in its natural state having not been burnt off, there was a LOT of spinifex about. We made it through and it was a relief to reach the Ormiston Pound track that made for easy walking and big smiles on our faces on the last kilometres back to our car.

Tips for Hiking Mount Giles

  • Check the weather forecast and take the season into account. It’s a strenuous hike and you’ll probably meet no other people, hence the importance of being prepared
  • As it’s a desert, there’s a big temperature difference between day and night! Take this into account, when packing
  • Take a fly net, the flies can get quite annoying
  • Take a book, if you don’t mind the extra weight, it’s quite a nice way to unwind and relax after a long day hiking


FAQs Mount Giles

How do you get to Mount Giles?

To walk to Mount Giles starts at Ormiston Gorge. Ormiston Gorge can be reached via a sealed road within a 1.5 hour drive from Alice Springs.

Is Mount Giles good for beginners?

The hike to Mount Giles is not suitable for beginners since you have to be fully self-sufficient and there’s no signed path to get to the summit.

How long does it take to complete Mount Giles?

The 32km round trip can be completed in 2-3 days.

Can you swim at Mount Giles?

The closest reliable swimming hole close to Mount Giles is at the Ormiston Gorge where you can get a refreshing swim at the beginning and end of the walk.

Do you need a 4WD to get to Mount Giles?

No, the road to Ormiston Gorge is sealed and suitable for 2WD.

Is Mount Giles free?

You’ll need a National Parks Pass to enter the Tjoritja / West MacDonnell Ranges National Park. Additionally, you have to book campsites if you want to stay on the designated campgrounds.