The Northern Territory's best bushwalking areas cover the climatic spectrum. Katherine Gorge and the World Heritage-listed Kakadu National Park are located in the Top End, while Uluru (Ayers Rock), Kata Tjuta (the Olgas), and the Macdonnell Ranges lie nearer the Red Centre more than a thousand miles to the south.
The Top End has two distinct seasons—wet and dry. The dry season extends from May to September when temperatures are lower and road access more reliable. While the "wet," October to April, can be extremely hot and humid, the drama of summer thunderstorms and abundance of wildlife offer compensation. However, many bushwalking areas are inaccessible during the wet.
The Red Centre is best visited during the cooler months of April to September. Full a full experience of this hauntingly beautiful area, walkers should stay three nights in the area. Bushwalkers can spend a day each at the Rock and nearby Kata Tjuta, a dramatic cluster of desert-red rock domes. The best time to climb the Rock is in early morning: When temperatures reach 100 degrees Fahrenheit, the climb is closed from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. On walking tours around Uluru, Aboriginal guides explain many of the ancient and sacred paintings that adorn the caves of the rock's base.
From Kata Tjuta, the desert stretches north to the Top End where the Katherine River has carved a spectacular gorge filled with lush tropical vegetation and exotic wildlife, including freshwater crocodiles. The gorge has more than 110 km (68 mi) of existing trails, but the best walk involves a trek to the top of the gorge before following the river downstream. The dry season is the ideal time to visit, avoiding the sometimes dangerous floods of the wet.
On the northern coast, Kakadu National Park has a variety of bushwalking areas, including the beautiful Arnhem Land Plateau. Access to the region is difficult with no long-established trails, but walkers are rewarded with a wealth of wildlife including buffalo and giant crocodiles. Australia's most comprehensive concentration of Aboriginal cave paintings is in Kakadu, most notably at Nourlangie Rock and Ubirr. A camping permit is required within the park and applications must be accompanied with a map showing the intended walking route. Organized walking tours are a safe and exciting option for visitors, who will learn more about the rich history and culture of the area.
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication
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