The Valley of the Winds walk in the Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park (Northern Territory) is a spectacular circuit through Kata Tjuta, a group of large, domed rock formations.
I’ve been to Uluru a few times, but this is only the second time I’ve done the less-travelled Valley of the Winds circuit, which takes you up close to Kata Tjuta. Originally called the Olgas (being named in 1872 by Ernest Giles, in honour of Queen Olga of Württemberg), their Aboriginal name means “many heads”. Kata Tjuta consists of 36 large, domed rock formations (or bornhardts). They are a prominent landmark, and most visitors to Uluru will have photographed them – but much fewer undertake the Valley of the Winds loop (although it is getting increasingly popular).
From the main carpark, the track ascends gradually to Karu Lookout, which is about one kilometre from the carpark.
After this first lookout, the track descends towards a small creek, and a junction with the loop track, which you can do in either direction.
I turn left to do the circuit in a clockwise direction, with the track descending gradually along a dry reiver bed, parallel to the creek. Looking back along the track as it heads north-easterly is a nice view of some of the rock formations.
After about 700m from the start of the loop there’s a water source, and the Valley of the Winds veers to the south-east. As the track ascend gently away from the creek the vegetation changes, with the trees, woody shrubs and and tall grasses replaced by more drought tolerant spinifex grass.
To the south, you can now see many more of the impressive Kata Tjuta formations.
About half-way around the loop there’s a great view from the base of one of the domes to the south-east to a long row of the odd-shaped domes. While it would be fairly easy to climb many of the domes, it’s not permitted: the Valley of the Winds is a culturally sensitive area to the Anangu Aboriginal people, with the Kata Tjuṯa rock formations being homes to spirit energy from the ‘Dreaming’. One of the Dreamtime legends is that the great Snake King Wanambi lived on the summit of Kata Tjuṯa, only coming down during the dry season, his breath able to transform a breeze into a hurricane to punish those who did evil deeds. There’s a lot more mythology surrounding Kata Tjuṯa – but it’s not disclosed to outsiders (especially women).
The track then swings to the west, entering a narrow “valley” beteen of the larger domes.
At the top of this steep climb is the highest point on the Valley of the Winds circuit, and a couple of hundred metres further the Karingana Lookout. It has some of the best views on the circuit; looking back down the gap between the two domes are more domes in the distance.
Directly ahead is another enormous dome, towards which the track descends. The tall trees around the base of the rock are taking advantage of the same creek we followed at the start of the loop.
The track now descends along the creek for about one kilometre, passing another spot where you can fill up water bottles, before reaching the junction with the track back to the carpark.
Having reached the end of the loop, I re-trace my steps, with the track ascending up to Karu Lookout, and then back down to the parking area.
0.0km Kata Tjuta carpark (600m) 1.0km Karu Lookout (684m) 1.6km Junction with 4.1km loop track
4.5km HIghest point of circuit (723m)
4.7km Karingana Lookout (714m)
|Location||Valley of the Winds carpark|
|Distance||7.4km “lollipop loop”. 2-3 hours.|
|Grade||Moderate. Total ascent is 340m.|
|Season/s||All year during daylight hours
(Track is closed at 11am if temperature above 36C degrees)
|Map/s||Interactive topographical map [AllTrails]|