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The Best Northern Territory Hikes, Australia

The Best Northern Territory Hikes, Australia

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I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Australia a couple of times yet both visits were along Australia’s Eastern Coast and in New South Wales. The Northern Territory, home to Australia’s outback, is an area that has so far eluded me but one I’d be keen to visit. 

Australia’s Northern Territory is home to wild open places and well-known regions such as Darwin, Alice Springs and Kakadu National Park. The beauty here is unmatched and as someone with a keen sense of adventure and a love of hiking, exploring these areas on foot is something I will most definitely have to do one day! 

If you’re considering a trip to Australia, check out this guide to the best Northern Territory hikes ranked from easy to strenuous (with some in between!).

Best Easy Northern Territory Hikes

northern territory hikes
Uluru, Northern Territory

These are some of the easier hikes in the Northern Territory. They have minimal elevation or are a shorter distance. 

Edith Falls Plunge Pools

The hike to the Edith Falls Plunge Pools offers not only stunning scenery but the chance to cool off after a hot hike. 

This is a short hike where you’ll follow a circular route up a steep path taking in the sights of waterfalls and several pools and there’s also a halfway swimming point too at the Upper Pool. 

One of the best times to do this trail is said to be at sunset as you can enjoy the sunset while soaking in the upper pool. Just remember a head torch for the way back down! 

  • Distance: 2.6km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 1-2 hours
  • Elevation: 176m

Standley Chasm Trail

The Standley Chasm Trail is also in the West MacDonnell Ranges of the Northern Territory near Alice Springs. 

There’s a fee to enter this area but it’s worth the price as you find yourself walking through a slot canyon. The slot canyon isn’t only a feat of natural engineering but it’s lined with gum trees and there are birds, dingos and wallabies that you might spot during the walk too.

The path is rocky, so sturdy hiking shoes or hiking boots are recommended. 

This trail is an easy trail located in West Macdonnell Ranges in Northern Territory.

  • Distance: 1. km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 30 mins
  • Elevation: 80m

Uluru Base Walk

The Uluru Base Walk is an easy hike in Australia’s Northern Territory and takes you on a circular route around the base of the infamous Uluru (Ayres Rock) on the land belonging to the Anangu Indigenous community. 

Even those who haven’t heard much about the Northern Territory surely will have heard of the 348m high red rock that’s believed to be around half a billion years old. 

During the walk, you’ll also get to learn about some of the stories behind the cave paintings and enjoy the scenery typical of the Alice Springs area of acacia woodlands, native grasses and watering holes as well as Kantju Gorge. 

To do this northern Territory hike you’ll need a park pass for Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park. These passes can be purchased online before your trip. 

  • Distance: 10.6km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation: 194m

Pound Walk Loop

This easy hike in the West Macdonnell Ranges of Australia’s Northern Territory climbs up over Ormiston Gorge. You’ll then climbs back down to the Pound before looping you back through another beautiful area of the gorge. 

In some areas, you’ll need to cross over the river (hiking sandals can be a good idea for this hike because of this!). 

  • Distance: 8.5km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation: 250m

Walpa Gorge Loop

Another great easy hike in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park is the Walpa Gorge Loop. 

This loop walk takes you into the Kata Tjuta gorge and along a rocky track through the desert. Due to a seasonal stream, this often dry area actually has plants and a spearwood tree grove.

Kata Tjuta is sacred to men from the Anangu Indigenous community and as a mark of respect, all visitors are asked to keep both sides of the gorge in the frame when taking photos, painting, filming or drawing the Walpa Gorge. 

  • Distance: 2.5 km
  • Difficulty: Easy
  • Duration: 1 hour
  • Elevation: 130m

Moderate hikes in the Northern Territory

kakadu national park northern territory australia
Kakadu National Park, Northern Territory

The moderate hikes tend to be a bit steeper or on more challenging terrain even though they may be around the same distance as some of the easy hikes in the Northern Territory mentioned above. 

Kings Canyon Rim

The Kings Canyon Rim Hike is a few hour’s drive away from Alice Springs. It’s a beautiful hiking trail that allows you to experience this unusual red rock landscape.

It starts off tricky with a steep climb and then levels out afterwards. 

One popular way to do this hike is to start in the dark, or early dawn and make it to the top of the rim for sunrise. This allows you to enjoy the beauty of the area in a magical light and helps you avoid hiking in the hottest part of the day which is especially important since there is little to no shade on this hike! 

  • Distance: 7.5 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 3-4hours
  • Elevation: 250m

Valley of the Winds

The Valley of the Winds hike in Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Parks is known for its stunning views. You’ll pass some of the area’s stunning natural wonders including Karu Lookout and Karingana Lookout. 

This area is home to the Anangu community. While on the trail, the community ask you not to commercially photograph or film or share personal photos online. This is because the Anangu culture believes these geological formations have knowledge that should only be learned in person on location by those with the cultural authority to do so.

To complete this trail, start by taking the Kata Tjuta Trail to Karingana Lookout where you can view one of the park’s impressive geological landmarks in front of you. You’ll then head down the track to the Kata Tjuta’s domes and creek beds. Take care walking downhill as this part can be steep and rocky.

You will need a park pass to do this hike. Passes can be bought online in advance of your trip. 

  • Distance: 7.4 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 3-4 hours
  • Elevation: 344m

Butterfly Gorge Walk

A beautiful 12km out and back hike, the Butterfly Gorge Walk near the city of Katherine is a must hike in the Northern Territory! 

The first third of the hike takes you along the Southern Walk before heading into the rainforest where you can sometimes see butterflies of varying species everywhere! If there aren’t any butterflies then you’ll still get to enjoy the sites of Katherine Gorge which are incredible. 

The water at the gorge is deep and perfect for swimming. There are also several rock ledges that you can jump off if you need some more adrenaline!  

The area is sometimes closed to swimmers; be sure you adhere to any signs that state it’s closed during your visit. 

  • Distance: 12 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 3-5 hours
  • Elevation: 287m

Barrk Sandstone Hike

Another beautiful hike in Kakaku is the Barrk Sandstone Walk. This loop hike takes you around Burrungkuy (Nourlangie) which is a large sandstone rock formation that seems 

to spring out of the ground from nowhere!

This moderate hike in the Northern Territory starts off steep but then levels off at around 2km in.

At the halfway point, make a short detour to the Nanguluqurr art site where you can see incredible paintings of spirits, animals, ships and more from ancient times. It’s also possible to spot wildlife and interesting plants native to the area depending on the time of year you visit.

To do this hike you’ll need a park pass for Kakadu World Heritage Site which can be purchased online and is valid for 7 days. 

  • Distance: 12 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate
  • Duration: 6 hours
  • Elevation: 310m

Yurmikmik Falls Trail

Yurmikmik Falls in Kakadu Park is a moderate hike just a few hours’ drive from Darwin. 

It starts off by following a path through the monsoon forest that’s surprisingly lush given the Northern Territory’s reputation for heat! Just before you get to the falls there’s a short scramble but after working up a sweat you can cool off in the pool!

You’ll need a park pass to complete the hike to Yurmikmik which you can purchase online before your trip. 

  • Distance: 5 km
  • Difficulty: Moderate (the scramble makes it harder)
  • Duration: 2-3 hours
  • Elevation: 114m

Multi-Day Hikes

northern territory hikes

These hikes take several days to complete but if you’re looking for adventure in the Northern Territory in Australia then completing these trails, or a section of them, could be just what you’re looking for.

​​Larapinta Trail

The Larapinta Trail is a point to point trail which was voted one of the top 20 trekking experiences by National Geographic. It could also be considered the ultimate hike in the Northern Territory. 

This 230km long trail begins in Alice Springs. The Larapinta Trail is broken up into 12 sections and over the course of the hike, you’ll take in the sites of Standley Chasm, Simpsons Gap and Redbank Gorge, some of which are possible as a day hike too (and mentioned above).  

The whole trail is in the West Macdonnell Ranges and takes you across ancient land with a lot of history. 

  • Distance: 230 km
  • Difficulty: Strenuous, multi-day
  • Duration: 12-15 days
  • Elevation: 7,230m

Jatbula Trail

Another shorter multi-day, point to point backpacking trip in the Northern Territory is the Jatbula Trail close to the city of Katherine. The Jatbula Trail takes in the sights of Nitmiluk National Park which is home to the Jawoyn People. 

Most hikers take 6 days to hike the whole Jatbula Trailcamping overnight. Campsites have a small fee and it’s recommended you book in advance as the trail can be popular and there are a limited number of sites. 

Each campsite is typically next to a water hole or waterfall so that you can cool off and get water to filter to replenish your bottles for the next day. 

As you hike the beautiful Jatbula Trail you’ll come across several different landscapes from dry savannah to rocky and sandy areas. Most of the hike is quite flat so it’s easy in that respect, but the distance and the heat make it harder than you might think.

Most hikers wake early to get the distance out of the way before the heat of the day.

The Jatbula Trail is typically broken up into the following backpacking itinerary: 

  • Day 1 – Nitmiluk Gorge to Biddlecombe Cascade 8.3km
  • Day 2 – Biddlecombe to Crystal Falls 11km
  • Day 3 – Crystal Falls to 17 Mile Falls 10km
  • Day 4 – 17 Mile Falls to Sandy Camp 16.8km
  • Day 5 – Sandy Camp to Sweetwater Pool 11.1km
  • Day 6 – Sweetwater Pool to Leliyn 4.5km
  • Distance: 64km
  • Difficulty: Strenuous, multi-day
  • Duration: 6 days
  • Elevation: 1,000m

Top Tips for Hiking in the Northern Territory

Australia’s Northern Territory is hot and if you’re outside hiking you’re going to need to take some extra precautions to make sure you stay safe both in the heat and in general.

Before hiking in the Northern Territory, make sure to read through these top tips. 

  • If you’re planning a hiking trip in the Northern Territory, plan it in the colder months  (May to September)
  • Avoid hiking in the middle of the day when it’s hottest and the sun is at its peak.
  • Remember to leave no trace while hiking. Don’t leave anything along the trail and pack out all your rubbish.
  • Stick to the assigned trails, don’t wander off as this damages the landscape, can be disrespectful to the Indigenous communities and can also be dangerous. A lot of the northern most Northern Territory waterways are home to crocodiles, don’t enter a body of water without knowing whether it’s safe or not to do so. 
  • Always pack sun cream, sunglasses, bug spray and a hat to keep the sun off you. 
  • Some of the above hikes require park passes or permits. 
  • Some walks require permits so check with local authorities.
  • Bring plenty of snacks and loads of water!