During your trip to the Red Centre visiting Kings Canyon is one of those things you should try and fit in. BUT you should be prepared for a very long day!
We were picked up from our hotel at 4:15am and driven for 3 hours to the foot of Kings Canyon, stopping to fill up on cooked breakfast on the way. During the coach trip it was explained to us that there are two hiking options once we arrive at Kings Canyon.
The first is a shorter, easier walk around the base of the canyon. Relatively shaded, flat and should take around an hour and a half.
The main event, which is why we were there, was the canyon rim walk. Around 6km long, taking around 3 hours in total but we would be fully exposed to the 40 degree heat at most times. That, and the flooring was very rocky, with no real footpath. Lots of steps, and ups and downs would be included so they recommend you have a good level of fitness. Oh and we would be starting with the ‘heart attack hill’. 500 rocky, steep steps! You had to be able to reach the top of these steps before 9am. Starting the walk after that would mean it is simply too hot to complete – yikes!
So no pressure, there we were at 8:20am, staring up heart attack hill and wondering what we let ourselves in for.
Kings Canyon is part of the Watarrka National Park, but you don’t need a ticket to get in. Everyone loves some free entry don’t they?! It’s another popular destination in the Red Centre because of the sheer size of it.
Boasting 100m high sandstone walls, palms, which you would never expect to see in the desert, a permanent water hole – ‘The Garden of Eden’ and epic views of the outback it seemed a no brainer we were going to tackle the harder walk.
Also, fun fact – parts of Pricilla Queen of the Desert were filmed up there!
Get ready to sweat!
Armed with 3 litres of water each and a silly hat to keep us shaded we all set off.
Heart attack hill was pretty long and pretty sweaty. But it was getting on for 35 degrees at 8:30am so I think that’s to be expected. It was well worth the effort and the views from the top were insane.
The walk was lead by Stephen, our guide. He talked us through the various plants and trees and explained what the Aboriginals would use them for. Luckily around the top of the rim it was pretty windy, which kept the heat off a little. The flies though, are a different story! I recommend you pick up a fly net in town!
The rim of Kings Canyon does feel high, but it’s only when you look over the edge you realise how high. The sheer drop by the side of you is very real! In fact, they have a rule now that you need to stay at least 2 metres back from the edge as some of the cliffs aren’t particularly sturdy anymore. Tourists falling off the edge wouldn’t be good for business.
Our walk was at a fairly fast pace, Stephen explained that as it was so hot he didn’t want us out too long in the sun. They take the heat very seriously, which is a good thing. The temperatures hit over 40 degrees the day we walked. Stephen estimated the heat coming back to us from the canyon itself would have taken the temperatures well over 45 degrees. No wonder we needed 3 litres of water each!
Is it worth the effort in the heat?
Yep! Everyone completed the walk in good spirits. I think the thought of the 500 steps to start you off puts off a lot of people. But trust me, it isn’t as bad as it seems. Also, the worst part is over with right at the beginning! There are a lot more steps inside, and rocky paths to climb up but they’re in much smaller doses.
It is possible to do the Kings Canyon rim walk without a guide if you wanted to, but personally I wouldn’t. There are markers pointing you in the right direction but a lot of the rocks look the same. Like, identical! So good luck navigating those!
After the walk we met up with those in our group who had taken the shorter base walk and pigged out on lunch. Well deserved after our morning! We piled back into the coach and headed back to our hotels.
We left the hotel at 4:15am and got back around 5pm. But, the beauty of these organised trips is that you can sleep if you like. I took my headphones as I love to look out the window and listen to my music while I am on long journeys. It was songs from musicals on this journey and the three hours flew by! We used AAT Kings Tours and I don’t have a bad word to say about them. They weren’t a ‘backpacker’ tour group though. As I was travelling with my dad it was an older crowd shall we say.
Kings Canyon was a long day, but I enjoyed it and didn’t mind. If you’e not into walking you might find it a bit of a mission. Just be prepared for a lot of sitting on that coach!
Here are some more posts about my Australian adventures!