4 Hikes in the Northern Territory You Can’t Miss

by Aly Ponder

The NT is an incredibly unique place to explore and remains one of Australia’s most untouched and vast  wilderness regions. The ‘Top End’ (as it is affectionately known), is a place known for its monsoonal weather, desert mountain ranges, thundering waterfalls, vast floodplains, towering magnetic termite mounds, and an array of dangerous reptiles that will definitely try to kill you if you go swimming in the wrong spot. The NT has incredible landscapes and Aboriginal history, and is definitely a place worth exploring. Why not explore the remotes and vast landscapes on foot? Here are 4 hikes in the NT that you definitely want to put on your Big Lap bucket list.

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Hiking Tips:

My biggest piece of advice when embarking on a hike, whether it’s a day hike or multi-day, especially in the NT, is to carry more water than you think you will need. All year-round in the NT, temperatures are high and drinking water sources along trails can be unreliable as water can be stagnant. Make sure you have plenty of water!

Other tips when hiking in the NT: 

  • Start early – start your hike early to beat the heat and finish your hike before the hottest part of the day. 
  • Wear sun protection – clothing and a good hat.
  • Download the AllTrails app, and it’s recommended that you carry a GPS and personal locator beacon if you are attempting a multi-day hike. 
  • Ensure you can secure your food in a dry sack up in a tree to prevent ants, birds, and native mice from stealing your food. There’s nothing worse than running out of food on your hike. 
  • Always pack your swimsuit to cool off 

Whether you’re an experienced hiker looking for a challenge, or just starting to dip your toe in the hiking waters, there are loads of day hikes and multi-day hikes in the NT to tackle! You can experience the diverse range of landscapes, waterfalls, waterholes, and flora and fauna that make the NT so unique and special. The Northern Territory is truly a place you will never forget.

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1. Larapinta Trail

The Larapinta Trail is world-famous and one of the most popular bushwalking trails in Australia. It is a big one on many hikers’ bucket list and not for the faint-hearted. Larapinta is a 223 km thru-hike that traverses through the arid West MacDonnell Ranges in the Red Centre. 

This hike requires some logistics and planning.  You will need to allow between 16-21 days to complete all 12 sections of trail. If you’re going to tackle all 12 sections, you will also need to organise food drops and allow for rest days.

Along the way, the Larapinta Trail is dotted with croc-safe waterholes to cool off in, as well as the achievement and breathtaking views of the 1380m summit of Mount Sonder. Enjoy exploring the ancient rock escarpments, vast floodplains, rugged canyons and over 600 species of rare desert flora and fauna, many of which are found nowhere else in the world. 

This is a challenging hike and can only be tackled between April – August due to high temperatures. Find out more about the Larapinta Trail here.

Where: West MacDonnell Ranges National Park, in the Red Centre region. 

Distance: 223kms – 12 sections

Difficulty: Grade 3-4 moderate to difficult


2. Jatbula Trail

Jatbula Trail is a 62 km thru-hike in Nitmiluk National Park in the Katherine region. This is a lesser-known hike in the NT, but one worth mentioning! The hike starts at Nitmiluk Gorge and finishes at Leliyn, also known as Edith Falls. 

The hike follows the western edge of the Arnhem Land escarpment over sandstone plateaus, through woodlands, open forest and riverine landscapes. Each designated camping area is located at a safe swimming hole or cascade where you can cool-off and enjoy the surroundings. 

The Jatbula Trail is a paid hike – you will need a permit which can be purchased through the Nitmiluk National Park. These permits usually sell out really quickly but keep in contact with the National Park office and put your name on the cancellation list if already sold out. The trail is limited to 15 walkers per day to ensure there is no overcrowding on the walking trails and at campsites. 

Find out more about Jatbula Trail here.

Where: Nitmiluk National Park, in the Katherine region.

Distance: 62kms

Difficulty: Grade 3-4 moderate to difficult


3. Kings Canyon Rim Walk

If you love incredible natural wonders, then you will love this hike! Get up early and leave camp in the dark to beat the heat,  but also to see the sun rising over the canyon and valley below. 

This hike starts with the most challenging section first with around 500 steep steps to climb to the top of the canyon but once you’re up there you will be rewarded with 360-degree views of the valley below.

There are many highlights on the trail including the Garden of Eden, sandstone domes (a mini-Purnululu) known as the Lost City due to it resembling an ancient city, and a journey through Priscilla’s Crack made famous by the classic Australian movie, Priscilla Queen of the Desert.

The rim walk is best started early, before 9am. If the temperatures are high, the walk may be closed by the National Park. Don’t forget to take some snacks to enjoy while taking in the incredible views and awe-inspiring sandstone rock face. Take your time on this hike to enjoy all the amazing changes in rock formations and scenery. 

For more information about Kings Canyon and Watarrka National Park click here.

Where: Watarrka National Park, in the Red Centre region

Distance: 6kms loop trail

Difficulty: Grade 4 – moderate to difficult


4. Tabletop Track

If you’re wanting a hike that takes in some of the best waterfalls in the NT, then the Tabletop Track in Litchfield National Park is for you. This loop circuit takes 3-5 days depending on how many side trails you want to take and gives you access to Florence Falls, Greenant Creek, Wangi Falls and Walker Creek. It’s a great way to explore the unique Northern Territory landscapes which takes in woodlands, Pandanus-lined creeks and unusual sandstone formations. It’s the perfect hike to explore remote and secluded areas of Litchfield National Park.

Tabletop Track requires a permit which can be purchased at the NT National Parks. You will need to carry all your supplies, including water as there is not a reliable source of drinking water along the trail. This hike can only be completed between April and September due to the high temperatures and threat of wildfires in the wet season. 

More information about Tabletop Track can be found here.

Where: Litchfield National Park

Distance: 39kms (full circuit) 

Difficulty: Grade 3-4 moderate to difficult


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