Roma Gorge

Roma Gorge

A lesser-known gorge in the famous West Macs. Full of ancient petroglphys, a permanent waterhole, and ghost gums contrast against a backdrop of rust-coloured cliff faces, this is a gem of a gorge that is easily accessible by 4WD in the dry.

Location

Located 155 km west of Alice Springs, Northern Territory, Australia, in the East MacDonnell Ranges.

When to Visit

Between March/April and October. Outside of this, temperatures can easily reach 40C +. And, in the rainy season, river crossings on Larapinta Drive and Namatjira Drive may be flooded and roads closed. Regularly check for road closures here. After heavy rain, the track into Roma Gorge will be impassable.

Getting there

From Alice Springs, follow Larapinta Drive into the West MacDonnell Ranges and take the RH turn onto Namatjira Drive. Follow Namatjira Drive until you reach the LH turn to Roma Gorge. You can return to Alice the way you came or continue along the Namatjira Drive loop until it joins back up with Larapinta Drive (via Hermannsburg).

Fuel

Fill up in Alice Springs for the cheapest fuel. Unleaded, diesel and LPG gas is available 24hrs. The return trip to Alice is easily done on half to one tank. Nearby Glen Helen Resort, and Hermannsburg, have diesel and opal (restricted hours – contact for details).

Track Info

Coordinates for Roma Gorge turn-off S 23 36.193 E 132 27.318 or 23°36’11.6″S 132°27’19.1″E

 

Allow approx. 30mins each way for the 4km track in to the gorge. A high-clearance 4WD is recommended on the gorge sign but we found this to be an easy track in the dry season, doable in a standard 4WD or even a SUV.

The well-defined track follows the river bed the entire way except for the last 300mtrs or so. It’s mostly a compacted track of river rock and some firm sand, with no real obstacles. Deflating, while not necessary, will make the ride over the river rocks a lot smoother.

This track is easily done if you are a single vehicle. However, after rain or flooding, wash-aways or water in the river could make this a more difficult track, so plan your visit and if in doubt take a second vehicle with you.

Track Footage

Video 1 – The beginning of the track. As you can see, it is mostly a compacted track, which meanders through the river gums and along the river bed.

Video 2 – This was probably the “most challenging” obstacle on the track. Easily doable in a standard 4WD or SUV.

Camping

Camping is not permitted at the gorge or within the national park boundaries. The closest campground is at Redbank Gorge (approx. 7kms or so from the Roma Gorge turn-off). There were signs, however, that people had been camping along the track.

Things to see & do

This is a pretty gorge, home to numerous petroglyphs said to be over 10000 years old. It is a sacred Aboriginal men’s site, and the carvings can be seen on many of the rocks in the river bed as well as on the gorge walls.

There is also a permanent waterhole here but the Aboriginal elders ask that you don’t swim in the waterhole. And, chances are, you probably won’t want to as it was quite stagnant at the end of the dry season when we visited.

The only official walk here is the 300 metre walk into the gorge to see the petroglyphs. There are no other defined walks/hikes in the area.

Fly Profile

A little friendly in mid-October.

Ruby Gap Nature Park

Ruby Gap Nature Park

Stunning gorges, deep waterholes, hiking, ruby-red garnets, peace and quiet. An easy off-road track in the dry, this is one spot where you really can get away from it all.

Location

Located approximately 150km east of Alice Springs in the East MacDonnell Ranges, Northern Territory.

When to Visit

Between March/April and October. Outside of this, temperatures typically reach 40C or more and river crossings are likely to be impassable due to the rainy season.

Getting There

From Alice Springs, head approx. 6 km south. Turn left onto the Ross Highway. Stay on the sealed road for approximately 75km, then take the LH turn to Arltunga Historical Reserve. This is a corrugated dirt road (approx. 38km), with numerous wash outs at creek crossings and run-offs. At Arltunga, follow the sign straight ahead to Old Ambalindum Station until you reach the turn to Ruby Gap Nature Park.  This is the track to Ruby Gap.

Fuel

Fill up in Alice Springs, for the cheapest fuel. There is fuel available at Ross River Resort but this means going a further 7kms along the Ross Highway past the Arltunga turn-off. Both unleaded petrol and diesel are available here on request.

Track Info

While it is only a further 38km to the reserve from the Ruby Gap turn-off, allow approx. 1.5hrs for this section of the track. If you have some off-road experience, this is not a difficult track in the dry season. It is mostly a narrow, gravelly track with some rocks and ditches. There are, however, numerous dry riverbed crossings so some sand experience is useful and you’ll need to deflate your tyres. The track gets a little more interesting on the 5km drive into the park to reach the furthest point, but it is still very doable with a standard 4WD, though NT Parks & Wildlife do recommend a high-clearance 4WD. It is not advisable to take 4WDs past the 5km point, even in a high-clearance 4WD, due to the advanced rock crawling terrain encountered further up the gorge. Due to the remoteness of this location, if you don’t have much 4×4 experience, then it is important to take another experienced driver/vehicle with you.

Track Footage

Video 1 – An example of the 38km tack between Arltunga and Ruby Gap Nature Park. It’s slow going in some parts.

Video 2 – The sand track, just as you enter the nature park boundary. Not too tricky. Deflate slightly for better control.

Video 3 – One of the few rock crossings on the way to the camp spot, on the 5km section of track within the park boundary. We are slightly lifted, but as you’ll see you don’t need to have super-high clearance unless you plan to go beyond the recommended car zone.

Camping

Camp spots – We passed numerous beautiful camp spots both in the river bed and along its banks, as we drove in. Inarguably, though, the best spot was at the farthest point, 5km in. It’d been eight months since it had rained in the Red Centre but here there were still decent water holes, thick green reeds, resident ducks, frogs and a grassy camp spot – all nestled at the foot of a magnificent rich, rusty red cliff face. It couldn’t have gotten any better. The vista was breathtaking, the silence golden, and we had it all to ourselves.

Facilities – There are none within the park so don’t forget your shovel.

Fires – Fires are permitted but the collection of firewood inside park boundaries isn’t.

Rubbish – Bins aren’t provided so all rubbish needs to be taken with you.

GPS Camp Spot Coordinates

The coordinates at the 5km mark, where we camped are:

s 23 28.452 E 134 59.463

It is possible to go beyond this point, though not recommended, and definitely not if you’re travelling alone.

Things to See & Do

The 2km hike to Glen Annie Gorge was well worthwhile. This is a spectacular section of the gorge with a deep swimming hole. Be warned though, the water is icy.

Garnets are also plentiful throughout the gorge and while fossicking is not permitted, it is easy to spot and appreciate these beautiful red gems. 

Ruby Gap is a photographer’s delight and because of the waterholes, it is also a good spot for bird and wildlife spotting.

Oh and, don’t forget the hammock. There are plenty of sturdy river gums along the banks which you can use to set it up and just relax.

Fly Profile

Friendly (in October).

More Info

NT Parks & Wildlife – Ruby Gap Nature Park