Ormiston Gorge is one of the West Macs most well-loved swimming holes. But for the full experience, take on the 9km Ormiston Pound Walk and gain grandiose views over the pound and gorge itself.


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



  • Experience The Red Centre at dawn
  • An exceptional view from the lookout
  • Walk across the desolate open expanse of the Pound
  • Wade through water in the Gorge
  • Reward yourself afterwards with coffee and cake from the kiosk

Ormiston Pound Walk

Kwartatuma / Ormiston Gorge in the West MacDonnell Ranges may not have the ‘must-see’ reputation of Kings Canyon, but you’ll be grateful for this when you aren’t competing with a throng of tourists on its spectacular 9km Pound Walk.


Ormiston Pound Walk – A Stunning Introduction to Hiking in The Red Centre, Nicole Banks - Norther Territory, NT, Red Centre, Desert, hiking, trail


To better the odds of getting it all to yourself (and to beat the heat), camp overnight at the Ormiston Gorge Campground and set out on foot just before dawn. The Pound Walk takes around 3-4 hours to complete, so I recommended doing the circuit counter-clockwise, to avoid walking the unshaded parts in full sun. The path is very well-marked, just follow the orange arrows.

The hike starts with a gradual ascent, passing by native flowers and waddling spinifex pigeons enjoying the warmth of first light.


About a third of the way into the Pound Walk, you’ll reach a saddle between ridges. It’s well worth taking the slight detour up to the lookout over the Pound. This incredible view is arguably one of the Pound Walk’s greatest highlights, so take a moment to enjoy it while you refuel with a snack (make sure you take all your rubbish with you).

Read more: Remember to leave no trace!



After that, it’s time to descend into the Pound itself. The landscape of this flat stretch of Pound looks quite different from what came before, with only a few sparse trees, some boulders and spiky spinifex lining the sides of the path. It feels quite desolate, and mountain ranges loom around you.


Ormiston Pound Walk – A Stunning Introduction to Hiking in The Red Centre, Nicole Banks - Norther Territory, NT, Red Centre, Desert, hiking, trail, lookout, mountains, mountain ranges


The final stretch of the Pound Walk leads you into the Gorge itself. The path disappears at this point, as you find yourself faced with a tumble of rocks that you’ll need to hop across to make your way through. The ground becomes sandier, and pools of water appear. Depending on rainfall, it’s possible you may need to wade or swim through some of the water (which can be very cold) to continue to the end. Don’t linger in the water too long if it’s particularly cold – you don’t want to fall victim to hypothermia!

Read more: 4 Wild Swimming Holes in The Red Centre (You Need to Jump in)



You’ll know you’ve reached the end of the Pound Walk when you spot a large waterhole with a ‘beach’ beside it. You’ll probably spot some other visitors relaxing on the sand. From here, you’re very close to the campground and kiosk, so round out the perfect morning with a swim, hot beverage, and a slice of cake.

Essential Gear

  • Good walking shoes
  • A sun-safe hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Plenty of drinking water (there’s no drinking water along the path, so you should bring at least one a litre per person per hour)
  • Trail snacks
  • Swimmers 
  • Towel
  • Dry sack 
  • Light clothing 
  • Camera

How to Get There

From Alice Springs, head west along Larapinta Drive/State Route 6 and then turn right onto Namatjira Drive/State Route 2 towards Ormiston Gorge. Turn right onto Ormiston Gorge Access Road and continue to the Ormiston Gorge Campground.

Skill Level


Distance Covered / Elevation / Duration

9km / 254m / 3-4 hours