Updated: Dec 26, 2019
23 DEC UPDATE AVAILABLE (See at end of article)
There are upcoming, but yet to be officially announced, changes coming to the Ellery Creek Food Drop, Ellery Creek Trailhead and Section 7 route for the 2020 Season. These changes will affect all independent self guided hikers completing the Larapinta Trail from 2020 onwards.
Change 1: New Ellery Creek Trailhead
The new Ellery Creek Trailhead is located north of the range and Ellery Creek Big Hole waterhole. The old trailhead used to be at the main visitor area of Ellery Creek close to the ablution block and Larapinta Trail Food Drop Storeroom. Hikers from 2020 onwards will now no longer pass via the main tourist area and will entirely avoid the busy tourist area of Ellery Creek. There is now a big steep range and deep waterhole between hikers and noisy tourists. This will ensure that hikers now avoid one of the most busiest tourist areas of the national park - a welcomed and long awaited change to this part of the trail. But this means changes to one key element: Hikers will no longer be able to access the old food drop storeroom at Ellery Creek.
Change 2: Ellery Creek Food Drop Storeroom
The Ellery Creek Food Drop Storeroom is highly unlikely to be an option from 2020 onwards unless some additional modifications are made to the current new location of the Ellery Creek Trailhead. At this stage there is no track access between the old and new Ellery Creek trailhead points. Unless this changes ( which at this point there is no indication that it will), Ellery Creek will no longer be a food drop option.
There are potentially two alternate options Parks and Wildlife NT are considering. The first option is establishing a food drop storeroom at Serpentine Gorge Trailhead or the car park area. From 8 Dec 2019 there is no sign of anything like that at Serpentine Gorge.
The second option is allowing operators like LTTS to conduct food drops to the new Ellery Creek Trailhead via a rough single 4WD track. Even if this option is possible, it is likely to drive up the cost of the food drop substantially because of access difficulty and the time it would take getting there.
We are still waiting on Parks and Wildlife NT to advise licenced operators about the changes to Ellery Creek Trailhead and the food drop options.
Change 3: Section 7 Is Now A Completely New Route
Section 7 is now a completely new section and route. It was constructed from scratch in 2019 and is now almost ready for the 2020 bar new trail signage, trailhead info boards and other infrastructure updates. Approx 70% of the new trail is now located to the north of the range, while the remaining 30% of the trail follows the existing track, most of which is on the western end of the section. Our 2020 Larapinta Trail Maps for Section 7 will be completely revised.
See some of our pics of the new Section 7 on our facebook page here: https://www.facebook.com/larapintatrailtreksupport
What Does This Mean For Your Trek in 2020
LTTS Customers: If you have already booked a trek package with LTTS, we will work out ways how to get the food drops intended for Ellery Creek either to the new Ellery Creek Trailhead or at Serpentine Gorge. This will largely depend on what decision Parks and Wildlife NT make over the next few months of perhaps over the 2020 season and what limitations or restrictions they place on us. As an LTTS customer you can contact us anytime if you have concerns about your trek plans or options and we will work out contingency plans with you.
New Updates or Corrections
22 Dec 2019 Update
Although yet to be formally announced by NT Parks, we have been able to confirm the following likely changes for Section 7 and Ellery Creek Food Drop. There is no guarantee the info below will not change again, but this is the best we have on hand at the moment.
SECTION 7: This section will now have three hiking options.
The first option is to use the old route as per normal with no change to the track, signage or route. The old route will remain exactly the same and will continue to be serviced and maintained.
However, there is no connecting access from the old Ellery Creek trailhead to the new one. So if you decide to use the old route, you can still use the old food storeroom at Ellery Creek and the facilities there ( i.e. water tanks, toilets etc) but you wont be able to access the new trailhead from that location.
The second option is to use the new Section 7 route. As previously mentioned in the earlier blog, the new route is beautiful and definitely worth doing. There will be a junction point at Section 7 indicating access and options to the old and new routes. The new route peels off to the north-east through a gorge.
The third option is to walk the new and old parts of Section 7 and 6 as an overnight loop walk. The start point would be at Ellery Creek. Hikers can walk the loop in either direction and loop back to the start point. The new trailhead would be the halfway point or overnight point.
ELLERY CREEK FOOD DROP
The old food drop storeroom will still be available for those people walking the old Section 7 route and the old connecting Section 6 route. No change.
For those hikers who want to do the new Section 7 route, a food drop storage facility is being considered for Serpentine Gorge Trailhead. This facility is likely to be located at the Serpentine Gorge car park area and is likely to be some sort of temporary facility, like a sea container, until something more permanent is made. At this stage it is only in a planning stage and nothing has been confirmed yet. NT Parks has indicated it may be ready by April 2020.
If NT Parks does not construct a food drop facility at Serpentine Gorge for hikers accessing the new Section 7 route, LTTS will not be able to offer food drops to Serp Gorge as part of any trek package because there wont be anywhere suitable to securely leave large volumes of containers . For all trek packages we can still offer food drops to the old storeroom at Ellery Creek though.
TRANSFERS TO ELLERY CREEK:
New Trailhead: At this stage no transfers will be permitted to the new trailhead, but this may change in the future.
Old Trailhead: You can still get a transfer to Ellery Creek to start your trek but you will only be able to access the old routes and old trailhead from that old location. If you get a drop off to the old Ellery Creek trailhead and want to access the new Section 7, you will need to use the old route of 6 or 7 and trek to the new junction points and access the new routes from there.
SECTION 6 CHANGES: There are only minor changes to Section 6 which are basically at the western end of the section. There will be a track junction point indicating the new and old route.