Stretching east and west of Alice Springs, the MacDonnell Ranges are a series of mountains with spectacular scenery, gorges and gaps, and diverse flora and fauna. West of Alice Springs, a road leads along the mountain range and to some of the gorges. An unsealed road then continues all the way to Kings Canyon.
At the far southwestern end of the range – but not part of it – stands Gosse’s Bluff (Tnorala), a crater of 5 km diameter formed by the impact of a comet or asteroid about 140 million years ago. Driving closer and with the mountain ranges behind you, the crater looks impressively out of place in the otherwise flat landscape.
An unpaved, sandy road leads to the crater and to a lookout but actually the crater looks much more impressive from further away. And I’m not just saying that because we couldn’t drive the road to the crater. We tried (walking) but gave it up before we reached the crater and drove back towards the MacDonnell ranges and to Tylers Pass lookout which offers stunning views of the crater – the best views short of a helicopter flight (which was a tiny bit too expensive for our budget).
Water, Stone, and Colors
Of all the gorges and gaps, we liked the Ochre Pits, multi-colored rock from where the Aboriginal people used to collect ochre, and Ormiston Gorge the most. A walking trail leads up Ormiston Gorge to a viewpoint from where you have amazing views over the gorge, the water below, and parts of the mountain range. The water is, as far as I’ve read, very very cold. I didn’t try it myself – thank you – but some people were actually brave enough to venture into the ice cold wet, even though it was a pretty chilly day. But it’s spring and you have to enjoy it whatever way possible!
Watch the Sun Set
Too tired to drive back to Alice Springs after a whole day of driving, exploring, and walking in the hot spring sun and cool wind, we stayed at a free campsite on a small hill. It was probably the most beautiful campsite we stayed at in Australia. As if that weren’t enough, we saw the most spectacular sunset ever – and the sunrise the next morning was equally stunning.