14 August 2017
One of my favorite spots to camp is Palm Valley. I was just there again this past weekend, and my happy memories of the place were renewed. It takes about 2.5 hours to get there, although the times can vary widely, depending on the last 18 km. The first hour and a half of the trip is on Larapinta Dr, a paved road that will take you all the way to Hermannsburg, which is about 130 km west of Alice Springs. Hermannsburg is the last place to get fuel, so it’s worth filling up if you have a small fuel tank. The one gas station in Hermannsburg also has limited hours, so it’s best to fill up if you think you might need fuel.
Also, if you’re hoping to stretch your legs out a little, the town of Hermannsburg has a museum, a cafe and a gift store. It’s absolutely worth a visit. Here is some more information.
Back on the road, less than 2 km west of Hermannsburg is the turnoff for Palm Valley. It’s the second left, after the turn off for the dump. There will be a sign shortly after you turn off, warning you that the road is for 4WD vehicles only. From here, the path is fairly clear, but the terrain can vary. From the sand to the boulders, you’ll want to take your time. The first time we went was October 2016. It had been a while since it had rained, but throughout the winter and into spring, we’d had a bit of rainfall.
For the first approximately 15km, you’re able to collect firewood, but that ceases to be true once you enter into the Finke Gorge National Park. There’s plenty of dead wood to pick up along the way, so don’t feel like you need to stop at the first sight of wood.
The drive to the campsite is pretty fun, but then the campsite itself it what makes it all worth it. It’s beautiful and serene, and we got lucky – there was water in the river. There are a number of campsites available, and there are actual facilities at the campsite – fire pits, grills, toilets and even showers. Here’s the official website for the campsite.
That evening, we had a feast of veggie Indian meals, chips and salsa, fruit and veggies. All the food was cooked in the glow of the setting sun. And once the sun was down, we used our newly acquired wood to get a nice fire going in the fire pit. By then the birds has quieted down, but every once in a while we’d hear the howls of dingoes.
The next day we went to the Palm Valley hike. It’s 4 km away, but because of the rough terrain, the rangers say to allow 45 minutes to get there. For us, it took about 20 minutes.
Palm Valley is a place not to be missed because of the Red Cabbage Palm Trees. You don’t expect to see palm trees in the middle of the desert, and yet here they are. And they have been here for thousands of years.
The day started cloudy, which we were grateful for because we knew as soon as the sun emerged, it would be hot. Hiking in October can be risky! We started hiking just before 0900, but in a short period of time, the clouds would dissipate, and it would indeed get quite warm. The hike is about 2 hours, but once you climb through the valley, and up onto the ridge, there is no shade. Make sure you bring plenty of water and a hat!