Although somewhat of a side attraction to the world famous Ayres Rock in the Northern Territory, Kings Canyon is a worthy detour. The highlight of Watarrka National Park, found between Alice Springs and Ayers Rock, the mighty Kings Canyon is often included on a multiday tour of the red centre region of central Australia.
The canyon lies in the west of the sizeable George Gill Range, southwest of Alice Springs in the southwest of the Northern Territory and for more than 20,000 years has been home to the Arrente and Luritja people.
The Northern Territory’s Watarrka National Park is around 71,000 hectares (274 square miles) and the canyon, carved by the creek over 440 million years, has 300m cliffs and several decent walks for those looking to stretch their legs. The main two hikes are the one hour-long walk along the base and the four-to-five hour Rim Walk.
Kings Creek Walk
The Kings Creek Walk is suitable for people looking for an easier walk and young families. The walk covers 2.6km (return trip), takes around an hour, and is graded as an easy walk.
Kings Canyon Rim Walk
The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is 6km (loop to return) and takes around 3-4 hours. It is graded as a moderate to difficult walk.
For those looking for a six-kilometer hike that promises to reveal hidden gems like a sandstone-domed lost city, a rock amphitheatre, walking through the famous Priscilla’s Crack is a highlight along these walking trails, and the watering hole in the Garden of Eden, Canyon Rim Walk is a great option.
The last half of the walk passes through a maze of weathered sandstone domes on the land, with a slow descent bringing the visitor back to refuge, where they started.
Sunrise over the Lost City
When you get to the top of Kings Canyon at sunrise, the first thing you should do is look out over the canyon rim as the sun rises over Australia’s red centre. The scenery is spectacular from every vantage point along this route. Priscilla’s Crack, which featured in the film Priscilla Queen of the Desert, is located not far into the Rim Walk.
Between banded rock domes, you’ll find the Lost City segment of the route. Different colour bands particularly pop when the light first comes out in the morning and shines on them. Because you’ll want to explore the environment and soak in the beauty for a long time, your stroll may be slowed down by sights like these. You’ve been warned!
Go as part of a tour group, and experience the stunning canyon and its scenic walks, stress-free. The Rim Walk is a must for those who have the time. It takes in the so-called ‘Heartbreak Hill’ – a tough climb at the start – the Garden of Eden waterhole, and pretty rocky domes scenery. There is also a longer walk, the 22kms Giles Track, which links Kathleen Springs with Kings Canyon.
Getting To Kings Canyon
Most people come to Kings Canyon from Alice Springs, aaround four or five hours away. The journey can be done on a daytrip from Alice Springs, but it’s best to put the time aside for three-day tour across Australia’s red centre which will also take in the famous Ayres Rock, three or four hours to the south.
To get to Kings Canyon from Alice Springs, it takes about 4-5 hours drive, and it takes roughly 3-4 hours drive to get to Kings Canyon from Ayers Rock. The Stuart Highway and Lasseter Highway and Luritja Road are all sealed and suitable for two-wheel drive (2WD) however other routes would require a four wheel drive.
Where is Kings Canyon?
Kings canyon is at the western end of the George Gill Range, and is 323 km southwest of Alice Springs and 1,316 km south of Darwin.
Where to stay at Kings Canyon
There are a couple of great accommodation options for those who are not on daytrips and wish to stay near the canyon for a night or two.
The thing about the accommodation at Kings Canyon, is that you can’t camp in the Watarrka national park itself. Kings Canyon Resort is a well known popular choice, along with Kings Creek Station. From sunrise to sunset, both of these are a great choice to explore the region.
Kings Canyon Resort
Kings Canyon Resort, just outside the Watarrka National Park boundary, is a popular accommodation choice that has hotel rooms, cheaper rooms and camping available. There is a blend of natural surrounds with different styles and facilities to meet the needs of various budgets and traveler preferences.
One of the highlights, is to dine under the stars at Kings Canyon Resort, with a dinner at under the Desert Moon at Kings Canyon Resort and enjoy canapés as the sun goes down and a seasonal five-course dinner by flickering firelight. There’s nothing more special than the experience of dining under the canopy of stars in outback Australia.
There truly is something for everyone who visit Kings Canyon Resort. All of the wonders of Kings Canyon are located on your door step to for you explore.
Kings Creek Station
Kings Creek Station, located about 36kms to the east, is a cattle station with a range of accommodation options from camping to luxury tents. Unpowered and powered campsites are available at the station, as well as safari-style canvas-sided cabins with power and shared facilities .
This popular accommodation in Australia’s red centre offers cultural tours, helicopter flights, buggy station tour, and swimming at the station. It also offers quad biking and camel rides.
Camping at Kings Canyon
Camping is available at Kings Canyon Resort – visitors camping or towing a caravan have some of the best views of the Watarrka national park. Unpowered and powered campsites are also available at Kings Creek Station.
Can you free camp at Kings Canyon?
There are no free camping areas or facilities, and bush camping is forbidden. Although some people do camp, they are risking a fine from the national park rangers if they are caught.
Can you swim at Kings Canyon?
It’s an extraordinary place of peace and contemplation – an oasis if you like. And it’s an important place to the original landholders who ask that visitors don’t swim in the waterhole.
Other than this, guests are invited to experience the true beauty of this scenic landscape, the rugged ranges, climb Kings Canyon and the national park, feel the canyon walls, enjoy the breathtaking views, see the plant life in the gorges valley and explore canyons as respectfully as possible to its history and natural surroundings.
How high is Kings Canyon in Australia?
The creek cuts through layers of sandstone, deposited about 440 million years ago, now forming cliffs with spectacular views over the garden of Eden oasis below. Kings Creek is 650 metres above sea level.
How big is Kings Canyon, Australia?
Kings Canyon cliff walls range from 100 to 150 metres above the creek. The highest point of the range is near Carmichaels Crag, 908 metres above sea level.
When is the best time to visit Kings Canyon?
The best time to visit is in the cooler months, from May to October when the weather in the Northern Territory is milder.
The temperature increases from October to April, so if you want to complete the many walks, wear suitable clothing, and make sure you start the trip in the early hours of the morning.
You should always check travel information services at the resort or Kings Creek Station, before making the climb.