Another highlight in the Red Centre that is quickly becoming a favourite and must see of anyone visiting the region is Kings Canyon. Right in the middle of the outback is a huge canyon, that was once an ancient seabed millions of years ago. The canyon offers so many interesting landscapes, with mountains of rocks piled high, a beautiful green garden oasis, hidden waterholes and amazing panoramic lookouts.
Kings Canyon is found in the Watarrka National Park, which is accessible either via the Lasseter Highway on a completely sealed road, or via the Mereenie Loop unsealed road along the Red Centre Way (via the West MacDonnell Ranges from Alice Springs). Either way you choose to go, you’re sure to experience a completely unique and breathtaking part of Central Australia that you just need to see for yourself.
Top tip: We were so amazed to find that there is free wifi at the Kings Canyon car park. Apart from some limited Optus reception, there is no phone coverage at any of the places to stay in Kings Canyon, so finding some free wifi here was so good! The car park is open from 5:30am until 8pm (no overnight parking or camping allowed here), so you can get online if you need to.
When to visit Kings Canyon
Found in Central Australia, Kings Canyon is best visited during the winter months of the year, from April to October. The weather during this time is still nice and sunny, but the temperatures are much less extreme than during the summer time. You’re able to take advantage of all the different walking trails and really see the best of Central Australia during a visit in the winter time.
Temperatures generally site around the early 20°’s throughout the winter months, but can be quite cold at night. Make sure you bring some warm clothes for the night time, especially if you’re planning to camp during your stay!
Kings Canyon Walking Trails
There are a few different scenic walking trails that offer different views of Kings Canyon. The main walks include:
Kings Canyon Rim Walk
The Kings Canyon Rim Walk is the most popular walk in the canyon, taking you on a beautiful walk around the whole canyon. The first part of the walk is the most difficult, with a 500 step incline to get you to the top (this part of the walk is roughly 100 metres long), but after that things get a little bit easier. The walk takes you around the rim, through all different landscapes, including a garden oasis called the Garden of Eden right in the middle of the walk.
There are a few different lookouts along the way, offering panoramic views over the canyon and offering great photo opportunities. It can be super windy along the rim of the canyon, so be careful if you’re walking anywhere near the rim of the canyon. The walls of the canyon can be up to 270 metres tall in some areas and it is just beautiful to experience for yourself.
On days forecast to be 36 degrees or higher in the summer time this walk closes at 9am, as it is considered dangerous to begin the walk after this time. Temperatures can regularly exceed 40 degrees during the summer months, so make sure you are fully prepared if you’re going to attempt the rim walk during this time. Make sure you bring enough water to last you three or so hours as you walk.
Distance: 6 kilometres loop, approximately 3-4 hours
Grade: moderate, with a hard section at the beginning of the walk
Kings Canyon South Wall Return Walk
If you’re not up to complete the full rim walk, the South Wall Return Walk is a great option instead. It takes you the opposite way to the rim walk, taking you about 2 kilometres across the canyon, and still giving you some of those iconic Kings Canyon views. There’s a gate to mark the end of the walk, when you can turn around and return to the car park. The south wall actually offered us some of our favourite views of the canyon, so you definitely still get to see a lot on this shorter walk.
The South Wall Walk is also a great option if you’re visiting on very hot days, as it is a little less strenuous than the Rim Walk. However, on days forecast to be 36 degrees or hotter this walk will close at 11am, so you must start the walk before this time.
Distance: 4.8 kilometres return, approximately 1-2 hours
Grade: easy to moderate – there are a few different places along the way with steep sections and steps that could be difficult depending on your fitness level
Kings Creek Walk
This is a great walk for families, and those who may not have the fitness to complete the complete Rim Walk. It takes you along Kings Creek, to a lookout that offers beautiful views over the canyon walls, and then returning along the same path. It can be a little bit rough to walk along, so proper footwear is recommended.
Distance: 2 kilometres return, approximately 1 hour
Kathleen Springs Walks
This waterhole is an oasis in the centre of Australia, and is a great walk for families and those with limited mobility. There are many signs along the trail which explain the Aboriginal cultural of the location and tell stories that have been handed down by the locals for hundreds of years. The trail leads to a spring-fed waterhole known as Kathleen Gorge that is a lovely peaceful place to visit amongst the desert landscape
Distance: 2.6 kilometre return, approximatly 1.5 hours return
Where to stay at Kings Canyon
Kings Canyon Resort
The Kings Canyon Resort is the closest place to stay in Kings Canyon. It’s a short 6 kilometre drive from the main area of Kings Canyon and offers all kinds of accommodation, including camp sites, resort style rooms and glamping tents.
The campground has powered and unpowered sites, camp kitchens, bathrooms and a swimming pool, which is an absolute lifesaver if you’re visiting during the summer months. Camping at Kings Canyon costs $50 per night for an unpowered site, $60 per night for a powered campsite or $140 per night for an en-suite site.
While you’re there check out the views from the Kings Canyon Lookout. It’s less than 100 metres from the unpowered sites of the campground and offers beautiful views over Kings Canyon, especially at sunset. There are benches up there to make yourself comfortable, so don’t worry about bringing your own chair. As the sun sets Kings Canyon turns all different shades of red and orange, lighting up in the brightest colours right as the sun sinks below the horizon. Well worth checking out during your visit.
We read a lot of very average reviews on WikiCamps before we got here, but we actually thought the campground was great! It is expensive for just a campsite, but it is a very remote location and that should be taken into account. The bathrooms were clean and the showers were nice and hot, which was amazing after some of those long walks! There are often dingoes running around the campsite, the resort asks that you please don’t feed them.
There is only Optus reception at Kings Canyon Resort, no Telstra at all. There is wifi available at the Thirsty Dingo Bar, although you have to pay for it and it’s extremely expensive. $5 will get you 100MB of data (literally lasted us less than 10 minutes, send your most important messages first), with prices increasing from there. Save yourself the money and take advantage of the free wifi at the Kings Canyon car park, it’s much faster and you can do so much more with your time.
Kings Canyon Resort || Luritja Road, Watarrka National Park || Find out more HERE
Kings Creek Station
You can also stay at the nearby Kings Creek Station, which is a working cattle and camel station that offers camping facilities, accommodation and a range of unique experiences. Unfortunately, Kings Creek Station hadn’t opened yet after their Covid-19 closure when we were visiting so we didn’t get to check it out, but it’s meant to be a great stop in the area.
At Kings Creek Station you can also find a petrol station, a small shop with basic supplies, station tours and helicopter rides. They also offer a “famous” Kings Creek Camel Burger if you’re hungry!
Kings Creek Station || Luritja Road, Petermann || Find out more HERE
Morris Pass (Ginty’s) Lookout
The only free camp in the Kings Canyon region, you can park at Morris Pass Lookout for up to 24 hours and camp here for free. It’s a great free spot, with beautiful views over the outback and Kings Canyon in the distance. There are bins here that have a lid covering them. Make sure you close them after you put your rubbish in, as wildlife will try to get into them and can leave rubbish everywhere.