An 80km wide natural amphitheatre, Wilpena Pound is one of the highlights of the Flinders Ranges in South Australia. Five hours drive north of Adelaide, it offers some great day walks, and a chance to see wildlife up close, with kangaroos and emu found wandering the campsite and surrounding area.
St Mary Peak is the most famous walk in the area, and at 1,171m the highest peak in Wilpena Pound. The direct route to Tanderra Saddle is half the length of walking through the Pound and up Bannon Gap, but is obviously far steeper, with a certain amount of near rock climbing required, practice for getting from the saddle toward the peak. I did both options as I walked the 21km loop twice in different directions, as the weather improved so much overnight. The saddle offers the best views tbh, the arduous and perilous final section toward the peak wasn’t really worth it, particularly when the weather turned for the worse, and I didn’t retry the second day.
Heading back into the Wilpena Pound campsite are some lovely gum trees.
On my first St Mary Peak loop walk I took a 6km detour toward Malloga Falls. I made it to the end of the marked track and some way further along to the rock pool, but was defeated in reaching the falls by a seemingly impassable section, and preservation instincts kicking in as I was walking solo.
On my second St Mary Peak loop walk I had more success heading up the hillside behind the historic Hills Homestead to the Wangarra Lookout. This offered some of the best views of Wilpena Pound, with a sweeping panorama, but not easy to capture on camera.
Mount Ohlssen Bagge is a good shorter hike up the closest summit, the 923m Mount Ohlssen, providing great views of Wilpena Pound and the surrounding area. I returned via the Boom and Bust loop, through surprisingly lush forest, though it had been raining for the previous five weeks apparently…
The Arkaroo Rock loop track was only 3km but well worth it to see Aboriginal art work and impressive rock formations.
Another short walk is out to the Solar Panels lookout, one of the more unusual sights in the area.
There were some large gum trees close by, including the Cazneaux Tree, looking much as it did in a famous photo from the 1930s. It made for a rather nice spot to watch the sunset.
Living in Britain and New Zealand it is always a surprise to me to see large wild animals wandering around. Both around the campsite and on walks I saw kangaroos and emu, the later giving me a fright when one ran across the track in front of me, less so when another wandered around the campsite with it’s children.
There are plenty of birds around, including some huge eagles.
The vegetation is unusual as well, prettiest were the purple flowers everywhere, most vibrant was the green undergrowth, and strangest these plants looking like either a dog or the creature from Tremors.
The road to Wilpena is excellent, sealed the whole way, and particularly scenic just north of Wilpena Pound. There are many lookout points on route, here are a few photos from Arkaba Hill, Elder Ranges, Pugilist Hill, Hucks and Stokes Hill Lookouts, particularly good spots at sunrise or sunset.
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