Updated: Dec 17, 2020
Parks and Wildlife Commission NT ( PWCNT) realigned parts of Section 6 and 7 in late 2019 offering hikers new and exciting alternate options to experience the northern side of the Heavitree Range. To support the new routes, they also built a new trailhead shelter to the north of the old Ellery Creek shelter and waterhole.
What this means now is hikers have TWO options when considering walking Section 7 (and to a smaller extent parts of Section 6) of the Larapinta Trail. For a vast portion of hikers, this will mean choosing either the new northern route or the old southern route of Section 7. Read the article below to find out why this is important.
Here are the Changes
Change One: Section 7 Now Has Two Route Options
Section 7 now offers two options for hikers wanting to completing this section. One is the the old southern Section 7 route now known as Section 7 South and the second is the new and improved northern route now known as Section 7 North. Hikers will need to determine which route they will take for their end to end and other treks.
Section 7 South (The Old Section 7 Route)
Firstly, there are NO changes to the old Section 7 route. If you want to walk this option, you can but you will need to access your food drop, if you have one, at the original (or old) Ellery Creek Food Drop Storeroom and the old Ellery Creek trailhead, now known as Ellery Creek South. This is the old location used by hikers previously and is located in the Ellery Creek tourist area, a busy and popular tourist spot where thousands of tourist visit the waterhole each year. The storeroom and all the facilities there have not changed.
Section 7 North (The New Section 7 Route)
The new Section 7 route, now known as Section 7 North, is a completely new route. It was constructed from scratch in 2019 by local track makers Tricky Tracks and is fully operational. About 70% of all hikers who walked the trail in 2020, walked the new Section 7 North route. If you chose to walk Section 7 North, and still want a food drop, you will need to opt for the Serpentine Gorge Food Drop point, a temporary sea container, placed in the vicinity of the Serpentine Gorge Car Park.
Opting for a food drop at Serpentine Gorge
If you book with LTTS, you can opt for the Serpentine Gorge Food Drop option when you make a booking online. You will be prompted twice to confirm whether you want the Serpentine food drop option just to ensure you/we are clear on this option. If you are a current LTTS customer and want to opt for the Serp food drop, just get in touch with Anastasia at Bookings.
Loop Trek Options
There is also the option to walk the new and old parts of Section 6 and 7 as an overnight loop walk. The start point would be at Ellery Creek South, which has easy AWD access. Hikers can walk the loop in either direction and loop back to the start point. The new trailhead at Ellery Creek North would be the halfway point or overnight point. The loop distance is 33.9km.
The New Distances for Section 6 and 7 ( Northern Routes)
Section 6 - Hugh Gorge to Ellery Creek North - 28.9 km - estimated time 10.5 hours
Section 7 - Ellery Creek North to Serpentine Gorge carpark - 12.8 km - estimated time 5 hours
Updated official PWCNT Maps for Section 6 and 7 are here: https://nt.gov.au/leisure/parks-reserves/plan-your-visit/bushwalking-hiking/larapinta-trail/sections-of-the-larapinta-trail
Above: South eastern views toward Ellery Creek from a unnamed lookout
Above: The new Section 7 track. Excellent track work by Tricky Tracks the contractors who built the new track for PWCNT.
Above: More great track work and scenery examples of Section 7 North.
Change Two: There Is A New Trailhead Shelter
There is now a new trailhead shelter at the northern junction of Section 6/7, known as Ellery Creek North. It is located on the northern side of the Heavitree Range and away from the busy tourist side of Ellery Creek waterhole area to the south (and behind a big range), or as it is now known as Ellery Creek South.
There is no connecting trail or access point between Ellery Creek North and Ellery Creek South unless of course you swim across the freezing waterhole or clamber across the range (not advisable). So note the changes mentioned above: If you opt to complete the northern routes, and still want to have a food drop, you will need to arrange for a food drop to Serpentine Gorge.
Above: The new Ellery Creek Trailhead Shelter looking south west.
Above: Inside the trailhead shelter. The same configuration as all the other identical trailhead shelters along the Larapinta Trail
So LTTS, should I take the North or South Option?
Bottom line: Section 7 North, the new route, is superior to the old route, Section 7 South. Most of you who have never been here before won't know any difference but you can take it from us the new Section 7 North will enhance your experience on the trail a lot more than the old southern route.
Here is why.
The new northern route track has been constructed to a really high standard, all cred owed to the Tricky Track crew who built it by hand. It's smooth, well defined and meanders perfectly taking in great vistas, views and experiences. The old route in comparison is along rocky, coarse and jagged terrain while meandering incessantly up and down rocky knolls. But in saying that the old route does also have interesting scenery, great geological formations/rocks and good birdlife.
The other pro for Section 7 North is the new shelter at Ellery Creek North. It's in a scenic and quiet location. No tourists whatsoever, only LT hikers. Ellery Creek South in comparison is a very busy and bustling tourist spot with sh*tloads of buses and tourists wearing bright white hats, white socks, white tennis shoes and white name tags. Lots of humans, lots of traffic and lots of gawking ( at you because hikers, especially end to enders sometimes look so feral to the conventional bus bound tourists, they are shocked at the Mad Max sight before them! and of course who in their right mind would carry a heavy pack and walk over those mountains for a fortnight! Yep, enjoy the attention, you've earned it).
The smallish con for taking Section 7 North is the spacing and duration of the food drop resupply between Standley Chasm and Ormiston Gorge. If you are doing the E2E in a standard fashion, that being a 14 day trek, your food drop spacing will change a little, not that you would have known any different unless you have done the trek before.
For example, if you are walking East to West over 14 days and opt to take the Section 7 North option, the next food drop after Standley Chasm will be 5-6 days away, more if you chill along the magnificent Section 4 and 5, like many do. This is in comparison to 4-5 days if you take the southern route to Ellery Creek South. So, not a huge difference or big deal, especially when you consider on some treks you need to carry all your food for 10 days or more. You're living the hiking dream here with three food drops over 14 days, so no risk of starvation.
If you are walking West to East and opt for Section 7 North, its kind of the the same deal except that you will resupply at Serpentine Gorge within 2-3 days after Ormiston Gorge as opposed to 3-4 (if you took the southern route to Ellery Creek South food drop). You then have 5-6 days or more until you get to Standley Chasm and resupply there. These are all small logistics factors and certainly not game changers.
We've walked both the northern and southern options many times and by far the new Section 7 North is substantially more enjoyable than the old Section 7. And we love the new shelter at Ellery Creek North because it is secluded and away from the busyness of Ellery Creek South. In saying that though, there is a big chunk of hikers who do want the the human interaction of tourists, caravaners etc at some of the popular tourist spots along the trail like Ellery Creek South and there are some health and safety benefits if you need to get help or exit the trail from there. Hey, some hikers (actually quite a few when we reflect on the conversations we've had in the bus), have been so industrious ( and theatrical) they have scored beer, scons, steak, and chocolate!!! from compassionate caravaners at Ellery Creek South, so kudos to them!
Horses for courses. The options are there for different experiences.
Happy trekking everyone!
Article Updated: 19 November 2020
Disclaimer: This article is for general information purposes only and is not meant as a recommendation. It is your responsibility to make sure you are properly informed, well prepared and capable of undertaking such a trek or activity. Read our disclaimer here
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