With 36 domes that span more than 20 square kilometres, the majestic rock formation, Kata Tjuta, is arguably more impressive than Uluru, and the Valley of the Winds walk is the best way to experience it.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Pitjantjatjara Nation, the traditional Country of the Anangu 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.
We’ve limited our use of images in this article as it’s the wish of the Anangu people that photographs taken on this hike be kept for private use only and not shared widely on social media. Close up images of flora, fauna, and people are ok, but images of the rock formations (unless from afar) should be kept to a minimum.
- A diversity of landscapes, flora, and fauna
- Having this jaw-dropping space to yourself
- Stumbling across stunning unexpected vistas
Get Yourself to Kata Tjuta
So you’ve watched the sun turn Uluru a multitude of colours, at sunrise and sunset, walked around its base and stared up at it from all sides. Now what?
Uluru is what brought you across the country, but Kata Tjuta is why you should stay a little longer. Kata Tjuta, also once known as The Olgas, is the underrated and often overlooked half of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
The highest point of Kata Tjuta is 546 metres above the ground, just shy of 200 metres taller than the highest point of Uluru. And rather than just walking around the rock, the Valley of the Winds trail takes you up, over and in between the peaks and valleys that these gorgeous, ochre red bulges create.
The trail is broken into a few sections which can be walked on their own, or joined together to create the full 4.7km loop.
In the Pitjantjatjara language, Kata Tjuta means ‘many heads’ and the area is an extremely important site for men’s business. Visitors are welcome to walk the trails, but the stories and cultural knowledge of Kata Tjuta are kept with the local Anangu people and not openly shared.
Read more: Remember to leave no trace!
Distance: 2.2km return
Duration: 30 min
From the car park (make sure you don’t park at the Walpa Gorge car park), the walk starts on flat ground before it begins to climb up onto the rock.
At the peak of this short rocky section you’ll reach Karu lookout, which peers down into the lush and flower-filled valley below, where the trail continues.
On days when the temperature reaches 36 degrees, signage urges you not to walk any further, as the rest of the trail is too strenuous and remote to continue in the heat. The best bit is just around the corner, so on days when it’s cooler than this, and if you’re feeling up to it, definitely press on.
Read more: How To Hike in Hot Weather
Distance: 5.4km return
Duration: 1.5 hours
The next section between the two lookouts is the most diverse and stunning. Trekking the path down through the valley, the towering rock walls fall away and open up to a desert haven, with a small creek, flowering cat’s tail blossoms and all.
Every direction you look, the view is unreal.
Cross the bridge over the stream and follow the path past flower fields (if you’ve timed your trip right). Keep an eye out for budgies flitting through the trees. Rock jump over the trickling creek again and take a short rock scramble to continue on the path.
It’s a good idea to time your hike in the late afternoon, as by this stage the track will be nicely hidden within the shadow of the bulges.
Follow the track as it rounds one of the bulges before a short and steep incline brings you to the main event – Karingana Lookout.
Standing on this small peak, you’re offered two drastically different but equally bewildering scenes.
Back from where you’ve just come, staggering, sacred, red rock shoots up in front of you, and surrounds you on both sides. The beautiful curve and grooves of the rock seem purposefully sculpted and the enormity of it all is impossible to get in one single photo.
Turn around and the red rock drops away to offer a valley of striking greenery below contrasted against more towering bright red bulges on the horizon.
You’ll need a few minutes to take this all in.
The path continues down into the valley and around to the left to eventually meet back up near the bridge and flower fields.
When I visited, we were short on time and desperate not to miss sunset, so turned around and followed the path back the way we came. But we certainly weren’t mad about retracing our steps! It was just as stunning the second time through.
Sunset at Kata Tjuta
The other reason it’s best to do this hike in the late arvo is so once you finish, you can drive round to the sunset viewing area and watch the rocks change colour as the sun dips below the horizon.
Photos are allowed here so long as you keep three domes within each shot, so feel free to get snap happy!
- Camera – you will never forgive yourself for forgetting it
- Water – this is the desert people, bring a few litres each
- Walking shoes
- Fly net for your face – looks dumb but you won’t regret it
How To Get There
The car park at Kata Tjuta is a 40 minute drive from Yulara, the small town just outside of Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.
The hike does involve some rock scrambling and uneven ground, but isn’t incredibly strenuous. However it gets hot here and hiking when it’s 36 degrees or higher isn’t recommended.
Distance Covered / Duration
5.4km return / 1.5 hours