Kings Canyon

Photo © Aussie Mel

Travel Guide Oceania Australia Northern Territory Kings Canyon

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Introduction

Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory, Australia. Sitting at the western end of the George Gill Range, it is 323 kilometres southwest of Alice Springs and 1,316 kilometres south of Darwin. The walls of Kings Canyon are over 100 metres high, with Kings Creek at the bottom. Part of the gorge is a sacred Aboriginal site and visitors are discouraged from walking off the walking tracks.

King's Canyon is one of the major tourist attractions in the Red Centre in Australia. The scenic landscape in and around the Canyon is the result of millions of years of erosion. Enigmatic domes formations, sharp cliffs, and good views of the surrounding desert reward the visitor taking the Rim Walk around the Canyon. Watarrka has been home to Luritja people for several thousands years, and places in the canyon are still sacred sites.

The park houses a wide variety of desert plants and birds. A waterhole, aptly named the Garden of Eden, has given birth to a lush garden of green, a paradise for the local fauna. Resist the urge to swim here though, as there are often high levels of E. coli and the like in the waterhole. If you truly must swim, don't drink the water.

Be wary of the semi-arid climate and the risk of dehydration. In the summer months, the temperature can very easily climb over 40 °C during the day. Even in other seasons always respect the warning signs and do not risk your life attempting the walk in full heat.

This is a lovely canyon walk; it's also available as a scenic helicopter flight. It's part of the same road system as Uluru, and is included on many of the tours. It's not a town, as you might interpret it - it's a hotel at a canyon with a little swimming pool and a gas station.

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Opening Hours

Kings Canyon and the park are open year-round but avoid summer heat during the day from November til March.

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Sights and Activities

Three walks exist at Kings Canyon. The two km (return) and approximately one hour Kings Creek Walk traces the bottom of the gorge. At the end of the walk is a platform, with views of the canyon walls above. The six km (loop) Kings Canyon Rim Walk traces the top of the canyon and takes three to four hours to complete. A steep climb at the beginning of the walk, which locals call "Heartbreak Hill" (or "Heart Attack Hill", due to its steepness), takes visitors up to the top, with spectacular views of the gorge below and of the surrounding landscape. About half way during the walk, a detour descends to Garden of Eden, a permanent waterhole surrounded by lush plant life. The last half of the walk passes through a large maze of weathered sandstone domes, reminiscent of the Bungle Bungle. A slow descent brings the visitor back to the starting point. The loop can also be done in reverse (anti-clockwise), but the National Park Rangers encourage visitors to walk in one direction. Access to the walk may be restricted during hot weather.

The 22 kilometre Giles Track connects Kings Canyon to Kathleen Springs and is popular with more adventurous hikers.

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Getting There and Around

The best way to travel to Kings Canyon is via Alice Springs or Uluru (Ayers Rock), with direct flights on Qantas and Virgin Australia into both airports, from most major cities. Once there, reaching Watarrka National Park is an great drive through some of the most panoramic country in the outback.

Kings Canyon can be reached by tarred roads

  • Kings Canyon to Alice Springs via Stuart Highway – 461 kilometres (about 4.5-hour drive, travelling on a sealed road)
  • Kings Canyon to Alice Springs via Mereenie / Larapinta Loop Road – 320 kilometres (about 3.5-hour drive, unsealed road for 198 kilometres). A permit is required if travelling the Mereenie Loop Road and this can be obtained from Alice Springs Tourist Office or Kings Canyon Resort on the day that you are driving.
  • Kings Canyon to Alice Springs via Ernest Giles Road – 330 kilometres (about 3.5-hour drive, unsealed road for 70 kilometres)
  • Kings Canyon to Uluru – 306 kilometres (about 3-hour drive)
  • Uluru to Alice Springs - 465 kilometres (a 1-hour flight or 4.5-hour driving on sealed road)
  • Kings Canyon to Coober Pedy – 753 kilometres (about 8-hour drive)

AAT Kings provides daily coach services between Kings Canyon and both Uluru as well as Alice Springs.

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Safety

In the summer, it can get infernally hot - in that case never attempt the rim walk during midday. There is very little shade on the walk. At any time of the year, bring plenty of water, a wide-brimmed hat, and plenty of sunscreen. There is a warning sign at the beginning of the walk: do not take its advice lightly.

On the walk, cliffs are not fenced, and only small signs remind you of the danger. Vertical drops can reach 300 metres so be careful with children and yourself.

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Eat

You will find all available dining options at King's Canyon Resort, targeted at various budgets (from almost cheap Outback BBQ Grill to more expensive Carmichael’s Restaurant). Just like in Yulara, you can book a fancy expansive dinner under the stars in the desert, and here the experience is called Sounds of Firelight.

Book your dinner according to your budget at the reception in King's Canyon Resort.

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Drink

During the day, water. Plenty of it.

In the evening, you can buy yourself a beer at the bar in the resort, but that is pretty much all the options there are in the area.

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Sleep

There is no accommodation within the Park and overnight camping is forbidden, however just seven kilometres away from the National Park is the Kings Canyon Resort. The place is a built-out-of-nowhere tourist resort, blending (actually quite well) in the surroundings, offering accommodation from non-powered camping sites, to deluxe twin/double rooms. The range of accommodation is not as large as Yulara, but it should satisfy everybody.

36 km outside of the park, there are cabin style accommodations available at Kings Creek Station.

Another choice is the Kings Creek Wilderness Lodge.

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This is version 2. Last edited at 13:45 on May 29, 19 by Utrecht. 3 articles link to this page.

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