Flinders Ranges hiking

The Flinders Ranges in central South Australia is one of the premier hiking destinations in Australia. Stretching north from the Spencer Gulf to the Outback, the huge collection of mountain ranges are home to ancient landscapes formed over millions of years, significant rock art and cultural places, rugged peaks and some of Australia’s beloved native wildlife. There are no shortage of walks in the Flinders Ranges, from short strolls to longer, challenging hikes. Hitting the trails is definitely one of the best things to do in the area.

I spent three weeks in the Flinders Ranges, from a few days in Melrose and Quorn in the Southern Flinders to two weeks at Wilpena Pound Resort in the Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. I went out on a hike most days that I was there, covering countless kilometres and admiring plenty of spectacular viewpoints. 

If you’re wondering what Flinders Ranges walks to cover during your time in the area, I’ve rounded up the 12 best in this blog, so you can go ahead and start ticking them off on your trip.

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About the Ikara-Flinders Ranges

Before I delve into the best Flinders Ranges hikes, it’s a good idea to understand what I mean when I say the “Flinders Ranges”. The Flinders Ranges is actually a huge area and is often broken up into Southern, Central and Northern regions.

The Central Flinders Ranges is covered by the popular Ikara Flinders Ranges National Park. This stunning part of the state is centred around Wilpena Pound and covers an area of 95, 000 hectares, bordered by private stations. Most people generally refer to this area as simply the Flinders Ranges, but in actual fact it is really only the central part.

South of the national park area, you have the Southern Flinders Ranges which is around the small towns of Quorn and Melrose. This region includes smaller conservation parks such as Dutchmans Stern and Mount Brown, but also the well-known Mount Remarkable National Park. 

Now, if you look on a map north of Wilpena and the Flinders Ranges National Park, the area considered the Vulkathunha-Gammon Ranges National Park and Arkaroola Wilderness Sanctuary is also often referred to as being within the Flinders Ranges region. Confused yet? 

For the sake of this post, I’ll be looking just at the Southern and Central Flinders Ranges, including the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park. These are the most accessible regions from Adelaide and definitely the most commonly explored.

If you’re interested in heading further north to Arkaroola, I will have a blog post about that soon!

Read next: Best things to do in Quorn and the Southern Flinders Ranges

Hiking in Flinders Ranges

Getting to the Flinders Ranges

The Flinders Ranges area really begins from Port Augusta on the coast and heads north all the way to the Gammon Ranges and Arkaroola. It’s a huge area and often means a long drive from Adelaide to reach. The Southern and Central Flinders are definitely the more accessible parts, with sealed roads and small towns along the way. Quorn is one of the main towns in the Southern Flinders Ranges and Wilpena Pound is considered the heart of the Flinders Ranges National Park.

Adelaide to Port Augusta: 310km or 3.5-hour drive

Adelaide to Quorn: 337km or 4-hour drive

Adelaide to Wilpena Pound: 440km or 5.5-hour drive

Best Flinders Ranges walks

Starting from the Southern Flinders and working your way up to Wilpena and Blinman, here are the best walks to do in the Flinders Ranges.

Mount Remarkable trail

Mt Remarkable

Start/finish: The Monument, above Melrose Caravan Park || Difficulty: Moderate

Mount Remarkable is one of the most well-known hikes in the Southern Flinders Ranges. As the highest point in the Mount Remarkable National Park, it is a sought-after walk, although don’t expect to be rewarded for any views from the actual summit though. The tree covered peak is perfect for a lunch stop and has some picnic tables, but you’ll get much more enjoyment out of some of the views on the way up.

The walk used to be a single return hike until 2016, and you now have a choice of northern and southern routes, which can make a nice circuit. It really doesn’t matter too much what you decide to do, but most people go with the northern route on the way up and southern on the way down. 

Both trails are quite gradual and very well signposted, so it’s a nice warmup for more difficult walks in the Central Flinders Ranges mentioned below. 

Distance: 14km || Time: 3.5 hours || Elevation gained: 550m

Hidden Gorge

Hidden Gorge

Start/finish: Mambray Creek Campground and Day Visitor Car Park || Difficulty: Moderate-Hard

On the western side of the Mount Remarkable National Park, you’ll find Mambray Creek Campground which is the starting point for another incredible hike in the Southern Flinders Ranges. Hidden Gorge is definitely a worthy option for those who are looking for a long but beautiful day walk. 

The 17km loop can be completed in either direction from the campground but I opted for clockwise, which meant a steep climb to start followed by a rocky descent and easier, flatter section at the end. 

If you do it this way, you’ll enjoy the steep but rewarding hike up to the Battery, which offers stunning views across Spencer Gulf, Port Augusta and Whyalla in the distance. There is a shelter and water tank at the Battery if you need a break.

From there, the trail descends into the gorge and takes you right through the full length of it. It really is a spectacular walk over plenty of rocks through the walls of the gorge. I enjoyed it as much as Alligator Gorge and only saw a couple of people the whole day. Once you reach the end of the gorge, the last few kilometres follow a fire track back to the carpark which is a little mundane but on easy, flat ground.

It’s a nice bush camp if you want to stay the night. Book on SA Parks website here.

Distance: 17.3km || Time: 4.5 hours || Elevation gained: 370m

Alligator Gorge

Alligator Gorge

Start/finish: Alligator Gorge Car Park || Difficulty: Moderate

Alligator Gorge is considered by many to be one of the most beautiful gorges in all of Australia (which is saying a lot!). It’s located in the northern end of the Mount Remarkable National Park and is not far from the towns of Quorn and Wilmington.  

There is a short gorge circuit of around 3.3km, which takes you to the most impressive parts of the gorge and can be done by most people with an average fitness level. However, there is also a much longer option for keen walkers. The 9.5km Alligator Gorge Ring Route Hike takes you along the full length of the gorge. 

While this is a great option if you have the time, it does follow a mundane fire trail most of the time until you reach the best parts of the Narrows and the Terraces, which can easily be seen on the shorter option. It depends how keen you are for a longer hike with a decent incline versus a shorter and easier option, but either way the gorge itself is as impressive as you’ll ever see.

Distance: 9.5km || Time: 2.5 hours || Elevation gained: 369m

Read next: Gear Review: Ottie Merino Hiking T-shirt

Dutchmans Stern

Dutchmans Stern

Start/finish: Dutchamns Stern Road, off Arden Vale Road || Difficulty: Moderate

Dutchmans Stern Conservation Park is often considered to be home to the best walk in the Southern Flinders Ranges. The 10km hike around Dutchmans Stern is definitely a must do while in Quorn and offers incredible views over the surrounding landscape.

The loop hike is best done in anti-clockwise direction, with the climb up to the bluff first and then the gradual descent, but you can do it either way you want. The ascent is almost instant if you do it as recommended, but once you reach the top of the 824m high bluff the view makes it all worthwhile. 

It makes for a perfect spot for a picnic before you continue around and down the other side back to the carpark. The walk back is actually equally beautiful and I think it is more picturesque overall than Mount Brown if you only have time for one of the two hikes near Quorn.

Distance: 10.6km || Time: 3 hours || Elevation gained: 431m

Mount Brown trail

Mount Brown

Start/finish: Olive Grove at the end of Richman Valley Road || Difficulty: Moderate

Mount Brown is a summit on the long-distance walking trail, the Heysen Trail. However, there is a circuit hike in the Mount Brown Conservation Area that is one of the best day walks in the Southern Flinders Ranges. If you’re keen to tackle a longer hike, this circuit is just over 15km from a trailhead on a dirt road south of Quorn. 

The trail to the top of Mount Brown and back is very well-marked and follows a combination of fire tracks and skinny but well-defined trails. It’s best to complete the hike in a clockwise direction, which means a climb up to the top and then a more leisurely and longer return, but you can technically do it either way.

The first couple of kilometres is a gentle walk along a wide fire track before you need to turn off onto the Heysen Trail. From here it’s a steady climb to the top of Mount Brown. There’s also the option of a nice little lookout part of the way up called Bald Hill, which I can definitely recommend for a short break.

After almost 6km of walking you’ll be relieved to reach the summit. There’s a great lookout tower built up there with a panoramic view and information boards on the history of the area. From there, you have to leave the Heysen Trail, backtrack to the intersection and then take the trail on the right heading back to the start. The descent is quite long and mostly through some shady bushland. You’ll likely see some kangaroos around too.

Distance: 15.5km || Time: 4-5 hours || Elevation gained: 660m

Devils Peak

Devils Peak

Start/finish: Devils Peak Road, south of Quorn || Difficulty: Hard

Definitely one of the most underrated walks in the Flinders Ranges, Devil’s Peak is a short, steep hike near Quorn in the Southern Flinders. The rugged peak stands out almost 700m above the farmland south of town and is technically on private property but open to the public for walking. 

While the distance is short for this hike, don’t underestimate it. It ascends 275m in 1.4km and requires a bit of scrambling and climbing. There are arrows showing the way for the most part until you get up to the rocky peak. From there, you basically have to find your own way to the very top. If you’re not comfortable with heights or serious rock scrambling, this is the point you should turn around.

In my opinion, there are two feasible ways to get yourself to the top. Straight ahead you have to squeeze through two rocks and climb upwards, but instead, I turned left and pulled myself up onto the ledge. There’s no right or wrong way, but just remember that you also need to come back down the same way you went up!

Once you get to the top of the rocky outcrop, the view will literally blow you away. You’re rewarded with a full 360 degree panorama and it is definitely one of the best viewpoints in the Flinders Ranges (be careful of the exposed edges though!). If you head up in the late afternoon, you’ll get some beautiful lighting as well.

Distance: 2.8km return || Time: 1.5-2 hours || Elevation gained: 275m 

Rawnsley Bluff

Rawnsley Bluff

Start/finish: Rawnsley Bluff Car Park near Rawnsley Park Station || Difficulty: Moderate-Hard

Rawnsley Bluff is a fun hike for fit walkers with exceptional views. The trail meanders along from the carpark, which is just across from Rawnsley Park Station, until you meet the near vertical bluff in front of you. You may think at first how you’re going to get to the top, so be prepared for a tough 800m of rocky steps and near vertical climbing. It’s not as dangerous though as it seems, as there are plenty of rocks to step on and help yourself up, just take it slow.

Once you reach the top, the hard work is done and the trail continues to cross the ridge with incredible views to your right. You’ll come to a junction with two options. You can turn left towards Wilpena Pound Lookout which is 1.4km return and a nice viewpoint over the pound. However, the best view comes from the top of the bluff. If you continue straight at the junction for another 1.5km, you’ll reach the stone cairn survey marker at the highest point.

It’s an incredibly impressive viewpoint and worth a nice break before you return the same way back down. If you complete the lookout and the summit it’s 11km return all up.

Distance: 11km || Time: 3.5-4 hours || Elevation gained: 565m 

Sunset from Arkaroo Rock

Arkaroo Rock

Start/finish: Arkaroo Rock Car Park just south of Wilpena Pound Resort || Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

Arkaroo Rock is a significant rock art site for the Adnyamathanha people and is definitely a beautiful walk despite the short distance. It’s a great option for most people with varying fitness levels, including families with young kids. It’s a loop that takes you up from the carpark on a well-defined trail to the rock art before coming back down again.

If you head up in the late afternoon, you’ll also get a nice view of the orange colours back across the landscape and ranges. Take the time to read the information boards in the car park before heading out as then you can really understand the meaning and stories behind the art.

Distance: 3km || Time: 1 hour || Elevation gained: 120m

Tanderra Saddle

Tanderra Saddle

Start/finish: Wilpena Pound Resort || Difficulty: Moderate-Hard

As one of the longest day hikes in the Flinders Ranges, this is best reserved for fit hikers. The Tanderra Saddle is better known as the St Mary Peak Hike, although Traditional Owners ask that you don’t climb to the actual peak of St Mary and simply stop at Tanderra Saddle. While many people still choose to climb the peak, please respect their wishes (the view would also not be much better anyway).

Omitting the peak, the hike is still a decent 18.5km loop though so prepare yourself for a long day out. It’s best completed in an anti-clockwise direction, which means taking the outside trail on the way up and inside trail on the way back. This means that you tackle a steep and rocky climb to Tanderra Saddle from the Wilpena Pound Resort. The trail begins gently enough towards St Mary Peak, until you hit the rugged wall of the pound. The trail climbs steeply for 1.5km from here to the saddle (most of the elevation gained is in this short section).

The saddle provides beautiful views down into the pound, as well as of St Mary Peak to your right and back over to the ranges further north. It is also the junction, if you turn right you head up to the peak, but instead you should take the left trail which heads down into the pound floor. The trail descends pretty rapidly for the next 3.5km and then flattens out for the last 8km through the pound. While this last part is pretty mundane compared to the first part of the walk, you should be able to cover the distance pretty quickly back to the campground.

Distance: 18.5km || Time: 4.5-5 hours || Elevation gained: 538m

Mt Ohlssen Bagge

Mt Ohlssen Bagge

Start/finish: Wilpena Pound Resort || Difficulty: Moderate-Hard

Considered to be one of the best Flinders Ranges walks, Mt Ohlssen Bagge offers an incredible panoramic view of Wilpena Pound and the surrounding ranges. It’s not to be taken lightly though with a steep climb to reach the peak. It conveniently begins from the Wilpena Pound Resort, so if you’re staying there you can start right from your accommodation.

The trail gains over 400m in the short 3.4km trail, with some scrambling required. Pay attention to the markings along the way, as they are generally pretty good but it can be hard to determine the trail on some of the rocky sections. The workout is rewarded with an incredible view that is worth spending some time to admire from the top. It’s definitely one of the most popular walks in the Flinders Ranges so expect quite a few other people sharing the trail with you.

Distance: 6.8km || Time: 2 hours || Elevation gained: 430m

Red Hill Lookout

Yuluna Hike including Red Hill Lookout

Start/finish: Aroona Campground || Difficulty: Moderate

This is one of the least popular hikes on this list, but is worth doing if you want to explore more of the national park beyond Wilpena Pound. The official Yuluna Hike is actually an 8.5km circuit, but I’ve added on the optional side trip to Red Hill Lookout because I actually think it’s definitely worth doing.

The walk begins from Aroona Campground, a bush campsite run by SA Parks near the Aroona Ruins. The loop is best done anti-clockwise. It’s a pretty gentle ramble for the most part, beginning along the road until it takes you into the rugged gorges of the area. We saw a few emus around and only a couple of other people the entire way, so it’s a nice alternative to the busier trails around Wilpena.

After around 5.5km you’ll come to a junction with the Bulls Gap Track, an old 4×4 track. The official walk heads straight ahead back to the carpark, but I would recommend turning right and completing the steep 2km to the top of Red Hill Lookout. The view is incredibly impressive across the Heysen Range and Wilpena Pound in the distance. From here, you need to backtrack down to the intersection and then continue around to the carpark on either the hiking trail or the Bulls Gap Track.

Distance: 13km || Time: 3.5 hours || Elevation gained: 363m

Blinman Pools

Blinman Pools

Start/finish: Angorichina Tourist Village on Parachilna Gorge Road || Difficulty: Easy-Moderate

The Blinman Pools walk is quite unlike any of the other hikes in the Flinders Ranges. The walk takes you through a beautiful gorge to a permanent water hole. It begins from the Angorichina Tourist Village which is a caravan park on the Parachilna Gorge Road (dirt but 2WD accessible). The walk is not overly difficult as you simply just pick your own way through the gorge over some rocks and around small water holes. There are some signposts on the side of the gorge but I honestly hardly noticed them much.

After 5km you’ll come to the main pool which is filled all year round in a very peaceful setting. This is where things get a bit bizarre. The official walk states that there is a second pool a further kilometre along, but you’ll notice at this first pool that you’re faced with a sheer rock face. The map has the trail going literally through the wall and continuing along the gorge, but it doesn’t seem possible to me. I scrambled up the right side of the gorge just before the pool to see if there was a way to continue and get down to the second pool, but there is no defined path at all and I couldn’t see another pool ahead, so I turned back.

My mum also attempted the same thing as me at a different time and came to the same conclusion. I haven’t actually met anyone or read anywhere of anyone actually reaching the second pool so, please let me know if you do get there!

Otherwise, you need to simply return back the same way you came. I only met two other people out there, so it’s definitely a much quieter, alternative walk to do in the Flinders Ranges.

Distance: 10.5km || Time: 3 hours || Elevation gained: 138m

Dutchmans Stern trail

Safety in the Flinders Ranges

Some of these hikes are in remote parts of the Flinders Ranges and over rocky, uneven ground. There are some safety considerations before heading off on any of these walks:

  • Check the weather: The Flinders Ranges can see extreme heat in summer as well as a wet season. It’s best to complete these walks over the cooler and dry months between April and October.
  • Stay on the trail: All of these walks are well-marked and you should make sure that you stay on the designated trails. This ensures that you are not getting too close to risky edges and also protects the environment. Use the Maps.Me app for added reassurance with these trails too.
  • Carry a PLB: Carrying a Personal Location Beacon is something all hikers should do on any decent day walk. Some of these trails are in areas without phone reception and a PLB ensures that you can signal to emergency services if an accident was to happen.
  • Stay hydrated: Ensure that you carry enough food and water with you as most of these trails are completely dry with no sign of water at all. You can either use a hydration reservoir or carry drink bottles.
  • Leave no trace: Carry all of your rubbish out with you, including toilet paper.

Read next: The Ultimate Day Hike Packing List

Yuluna hike

Where to stay in the Flinders Ranges

These walks in the Flinders Ranges are scattered around a large area. This means that you won’t be able to complete them all as day trips from one place. For the Southern Flinders Ranges, I recommend using Quorn, Melrose or Hawker as your main base. You can try the following accommodation options:

For the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park or the Central Flinders Ranges you have the option between staying at the Wilpena Pound Resort which is the most convenient, one of the private stations or at one of the SA Parks campgrounds. For the hikes listed above I can recommend staying at the following:

Exploring more of the Flinders Ranges?

Check out some of my other guides on the Flinders Ranges area of South Australia.

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