Bucket List: Explore Red Bank Gorge

The red rocks of the West MacDonnell Ranges during the hike to Red Bank Gorge

In Easter Friday, one of my girl friends asked if I felt like having a look at some of the Larapinta Trail heads to determine if we could access them without a 4WD. Naturally I said yes, and off we went.

While we stopped in at many of the sites along the West Macs including Ellery Creek Big Hole (which I have never seen so low), Ormiston, Serpentine Gorge and Serpentine Chalet, the highlight was exploring Red Bank Gorge.

Dipping my toes into the freezing cold water at Serpentine Gorge along the West MacDonnell Ranges
Dipping my toes into the freezing water at Serpentine Gorge on the way to Red Bank

Red Bank Gorge is located around 150km out of Alice Springs and requires a 4WD to access despite the corrugated roads. When we arrived at the car park closest to the gorge which required driving down a STEEP hill, we decided that since we’d driven all the way here, we might as well visit the gorge despite the fact that neither of us were wearing decent hiking shoes or our bathers.

It wasn’t until we were half-way through the hike that we realised our mistake. Where the hike had started out really easy, following a small path along the side of the dry river, it very quickly turned into rock scrambling. My understanding is the gorge usually has more water in it, so less rock scrambling is required, but seeing as we are currently in drought, the gorge and it’s feeding river is bone dry.

Read: Climbing Mt Gillen

The rocks and boulders that filled the river on the hike to Red Bank Gorge.
The rocks and boulders that filled the river on the hike to Red Bank Gorge.

This was honestly one of the most exhausting walks considering we were in no way prepared for it, but the views along the way and at the end were worth it. We had arrived at the gorge around 4:30 in the afternoon so the sun was below the high walls of the ranges which made them look gorgeous. By the time we arrived at the gorge we were hot, tired and sweaty and decided that despite our lack of bathers, we needed to go swimming.

The red rocks of the West MacDonnell Ranges during the hike to Red Bank Gorge
A lady standing in front of the entrance to Red Bank Gorge with her feet in the water.
You had to swim through the water to get to the gorge opening where you could go exploring.

We stripped down (only slightly, there were quite a few people there) and we dived into the water. Well, actually, my friend dived in from the bank, I slowly walked in complaining about how damn cold it was. I spend a couple of minutes standing in freezing water up to my waste before I managed to convince myself to just let my legs go underneath me and submerged myself into the water. We swam across the gorge to a sandbank on the other side. One of the best things to do at the gorge is to take a floaty with you and explore the gorge as far as you can follow it, but lacking a flotation device and noting that it would be getting dark soon and we didn’t want to be driving home in the dark, we decided we would have to do it another day.

The hike back was much easier, but I was definitively tired by the time we got back to the car. Despite this, I hope to go back again one day soon and explore the gorge fully.

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