Subscribe!Get all the best of On Walkabout by subscribing.

On Walkabout At: The Olgas (Kata-Tjuta National Park) – Part 4

The lesser known due to the popular, iconic status of Ayers Rock but equally as spectacular part of the Uluru-Kata-Tjuta National Park are the stunning Olgas (Kata-Tjuta in the local Aboriginal dialect):

olgas panorama

The Olgas are a massive red rock formation composed of multiple domes that lies approximately 30 kilometers from Ayers Rock down a well paved road that includes many pull outs to take photos of the surrounding desert and the Olgas.:

uluru and olgas

The Olgas are even higher than Ayers Rock soaring to 457 meters above the desert. However, unlike Ayers Rock, you cannot climb the Olgas due to their significance to the local Aborigines who believe only young boys who reach a certain age are allowed to climb the Olgas as part of their right of passage into adulthood.


The Olgas also cover a much wider area of land than Ayers Rock due to the multiple domes that make up the Olgas. Due to these differences some argue that the Olgas are more spectacular than Ayers Rock, but I tend to disagree not because the Olgas aren’t spectacular because they are, but they just don’t have the iconic appearance of Ayers Rock that drives so many tourists to see it. However, the Olgas are a worthy sidekick and worth at least a half day to explore.

The Olgas feature two great hikes. The first hike is the Walpa Gorge hike. The trail starts at the base of a massive read dome:


This trail leads takes you through an increasingly narrow cannon in between two the massive domes:



At the intersection of the two domes a creek actually trickles water down the gorge year round. The water was actually quite clean as well:



The temperature inside the gorge is really quite cool compared to the surrounding desert and much like Ayers Rock, is a truly an oasis in the middle of the desolate Outback. The hike up the gorge and back only takes an hour and half but try to time your hike to avoid the crowds of tourists who flock up this trail on the tour buses. We waited until the tourist bus crowd was heading back down the trail before we headed up it. This left the trail virtually deserted and to ourselves.

On the sides of the domes you can see the black marks that represent waterfalls when it rains:


Also large chunks of the rock falls off the sides of the domes due to erosion and you can see up close what the rock is composed of:


The rock that composes the Olgas though similar to Ayers Rock actually appears different. The Olgas appear to be smaller red rocks cooked and fused together by the desert’s heat compared to Ayers Rock which was just one solid piece of rock.

The next hike at the Olgas is the Valley of the Winds hike. This hike is much longer than the Walpas Gorge hike and allows you to walk in between the various domes that make up the Olgas. This hike can easily take up half a day so it is critical to bring plenty of water because the Outback does get extremely hot. I know that bringing water should go without saying, but it is incredible how many tourists do not bring water while hiking around the Outback. Here is a look at the massive domes at the entrance of the Valley of the Winds:


As I began to walk into the valley here is another massive red dome that hovered over me:


Here is look deep inside the Valley of the Winds:


The rock domes along this hike are also stained black by the water that would cascade off these rocks during a rain storm along with the path being littered with the large boulders chiseled from the rock by the infrequent rain storms:


This hike around these domes is better than of the other hikes around Ayers Rock besides hiking up to the summit. These domes are just so impressive and I never get tired at looking at them:


It was getting late and the shadows began to fall over the red domes of the Olgas which was my hint that it was time to head on back to the campground:


While driving back something else I found interesting was that Ayers Rock and the Olgas aren’t the only massive rock structures out here. Looking off into the distance I could see other large rock structures looming in the Outback:


I would love one day to take a four wheel drive and check out and see what those mountains are like. Are there massive rock structures lying out there in the Outback even more impressive then Ayers Rock and the Olgas? That is the cool thing about Australia, it is just so big and unpopulated that it is a distinct possibility that other impressive rock domes are sitting out there, but are so remote hardly anyone knows about them.

After completing the hike we began to make our way back towards Curtin Springs and another night of camping. The road back to Curtin Springs was really quite stunning as we slowly drove back to the “Remarkable Pebble” that loomed ahead of us:


It was night time when we made it back to Curtin Springs and we set up our camp site and once again endured another night of freezing cold and noisy camels. However, these small discomforts were worth every minute we spent exploring Ayers Rocks and the Olgas, even if we had to wade through mobs of German tourists to see them.

Click to go to Northern Territory Holiday Journal Archive

Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *