Kings Canyon Rim Walk – Outback Australia

By Diana Hechler,


The Outback of Australia is a vast place, taking up much of the center of this country/continent. A lot of first-time visitors to Australia fly to Ayers Rock to experience the local culture surrounding the sacred, gigantic outcropping known as Uluru (Ayers Rock). Perhaps they enjoy a side excursion to Kata Tjuta as well.

I recommend picking up a rental car and heading north to Alice Springs. The drive through the empty interior is memorable, with its bone-white sea of salt flats, herds of wild camels grazing roadside, and sparse, simple cafes to handle basic needs. A detour to Kings Canyon for an overnight adds yet another dimension.

Kings Canyon is about 300 km north of Uluru or about a 4 hour drive. It comprises part of Watarrka National Park, home to the aboriginal Luritja tribe for over 20,000 years. Its soaring, red, sandstone canyon walls tower 300 yards straight up; think 3 football fields, end on end. Along the top, a 6 km walk traces the perimeter of this gorgeous canyon.

Note: The Outback is desert which means that Australian summer temperatures (December-February) top 100F routinely. The Rim Walk is a serious physical undertaking that most people should avoid doing during the summer months. All walkers should carry water with them, wear appropriate clothing and check the temperature before starting out. The Park encourages walking in one direction. Since the path is narrow in some places, one direction travel makes a lot of sense.

The Rim Walk begins with an ascent of about 500 steps. A moderately fit adult can do this without too much difficulty, although the local name for this rise is Heartbreak Hill. Once at the top, the hard part is over and the views over the surrounding landscape are breathtaking. The red, craggy rocks on all sides will underpin everything you see and do for the next few hours.

As you traverse the Rim Walk, at times, youll find yourself on a simple path, looking out on a big view of the surrounding and largely empty Australian Outback landscape. At other times, youll walk over flat open areas with views within the canyon. Youll come across teenagers bounding along. You might see a family with fairly young kids taking a rest in the shade under a rocky overhang. The sandstone rock juts in and out. It hangs over you. It features broad plateaus. It provides lookout points suitable for some rest and contemplation. It is eternal and vast.

As you progress, if you miss your StairMaster, consider dropping down to visit The Garden of Eden, a perpetual watering hole with a small bridge across it. Once youve finished your R&R break in this lush green spot, you can either stay near the bottom or climb back up to the rim, again.

You can allot about 4 hours to do the Walk, without serious stopping. The descent is much easier than the initial climb, but you certainly wouldnt want to do it in the dusk or the gloaming, where a missed step could result in a twisted ankle or worse.

Fans of the movie Priscilla, Queen of the Desert, will recognize the Rim Walk from the final and triumphant scenes from the film. Yes, they really did haul her up there and of course, all that camera equipment necessary to capture it on film.

Nearby, theres a comfortable resort for an overnight. And yes, theres a bar. The Dinner Under the Moon experience is a lot of fun, at all times of year. However, be sure to dress warmly in the cooler months. Like all deserts, Outback temperatures drop significantly after sundown.