An easy day trip from Alice Springs, Rainbow Valley’s coloured rocks light up in the early morning and late afternoon, offering spectacular viewing.
Rainbow Valley is renowned for its sandstone bluffs and cliffs with bands of different coloured rock. An easy day trip from Alice Springs, it’s at its most spectacular in the early morning light or late afternoon sun when it changes from ochre red to orange and purple, or after heavy rainfall, when the whole scene is reflected in the claypans.
The Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is about 75km south of Alice Springs and best accessed by four-wheel drive. You can join a tour departing from Alice Springs, many of which provide insight into the Aboriginal cultural significance of the area.
Explore on foot
The road to Rainbow Valley is lined with stands of majestic Desert Oak. Walk through the valley along the base of the cliffs and you will see large chunks of fallen rock, some of them weathered and pockmarked like coral. Take the short walk that skirts the claypan and winds around the foot of the bluff to Mushroom Rock – an unusual formation with a natural tunnel formed by millions of years of wind and rain erosion.
Part of the James Range, the reserve is an important site to the southern Arrernte people. The large rock formation known as Ewerre is a registered sacred site. The park is rich in Aboriginal history especially around the hills and ridges where petroglyphs, (rock carvings) paintings, grinding stones and stone chip tools have been discovered.
Overnighting in the reserve
There are basic camping facilities at Rainbow Valley with toilets, gas barbecues, fire pits and a picnic area. You’ll need to bring your own food, firewood and water.
Open daily, 24 hours.
- Caravan / Camper Trailer / Campervan Sites / Campsites
- Family Friendly
- Picnic Area
- Public Toilet
- Four Wheel Driving
How do I get to Rainbow Valley?
Rainbow Valley is accessible by car (4WDs recommended), and is 2 hours’ drive south from Alice Springs. Take the turn-off on the Stuart Highway, about 75km from Alice. Rainbow Valley is a further 22km along an unsealed road. There are also tour options where the driving is done for you.
Can Rainbow Valley be done as a day trip?
Rainbow Valley is perfect for a day trip from Alice Springs. Take camping gear to enjoy the unrivalled beauty of sunrise and sunset. Camping under the stars in the Red Centre is an experience you won’t soon forget.
Do I need any passes or permits to visit Rainbow Valley?
No, permits are not required to enter the Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve.
How do I get around Rainbow Valley?
There are a number of walking tracks that take you past the remarkable sandstone formations, but be sure to stay on the tracks. Climbing on the rocks is prohibited.
How far is Rainbow Valley from Alice Springs?
Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is around two hours drive south of Alice Springs (105km), with one quarter of that distance on unsealed road. 4WDs are recommended due to the corrugated road, but not essential.
What are the major attractions at Rainbow Valley?
Rainbow Valley’s famous rocky outcrop is something to behold, particularly at dawn or dusk. Be sure to walk the track around the clay pan. ‘Mushroom Rock’ is a unique sandstone formation nearby.
What should I bring with me to Rainbow Valley?
Be sure to bring all the usual Territory essentials: water, fuel, food and sunscreen. Sun-safe clothes and comfortable walking shoes are essential.
When is the best time to visit Rainbow Valley?
The best time to visit is during the cooler months of May to October, but you’re likely to experience blue skies all year round. The time of day you visit can make all the difference: sunrise and sunset are simply unforgettable. If you’re going for the sunrise or sunset, we recommend you camp overnight.
Where should I go next from Rainbow Valley?
Take time to explore the West MacDonnell Ranges and Watarrka National Park, which boasts the unforgettable Kings Canyon. Further to the west explore Uluru-Kata Tjuta National Park.