Ranger tips: Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park

Get insider tips on the best places to visit and ‘must do' activities from park ranger Steve Jennings.

Located about a 5 hours’ drive north of Adelaide in the central Flinders Ranges, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is home to ancient and rugged mountain landscapes, peaceful tree-lined gorges and a wealth of wildlife.

The spectacular scenery has to be seen to be believed, especially the iconic Wilpena Pound that lies at the heart of the park.

There’s plenty to experience with the rich cultural history, native wildlife, impressive geological landmarks and lots of activities on offer including camping, bushwalking, four-wheel driving, birdwatching, photography and mountain biking.

With so much to see and do, we’ve asked Park Ranger Steve Jennings for some tips for your next visit. Here’s what he had to say:

How many days should visitors spend in the park?

It’s a big park with plenty to see and do. You really need at least two full days to experience the best of the park.

There are 10 campgrounds dotted around the park including some in the spectacular Brachina Gorge. All of the campgrounds have a toilet facility and are perfect for those wanting to connect with nature.

If you’re looking for a little more luxury, there are lots of accommodation options at Wilpena Pound Resort including, hotel style rooms, powered campsites and glamping tents.  

Top tip: National Parks campsites must be booked before you arrive at the campground. Book online or through a booking agent to reserve your campsite.

Trezona Campground

What’s your favourite campground?

Koolamon Campground is situated at the base of the ABC Range in the Aroona Valley. These secluded campsites sit among native pines and river red gums, with amazing views of the Heysen Range, particularly in the morning light. 

Koolamon is a short distance from some of the park’s main attractions, such as the Aroona Ruins and Brachina Gorge, making it an ideal base to explore the park from.

Top tip: If you have a four-wheel drive (4WD) vehicle, book one of the ‘4WD only’ campsites for a more secluded camping experience.

Koolamon Campground

Do I need a 4WD to get around the park?

Generally, a two-wheel drive car is suitable to explore the park, however visitors should be aware that most roads in the park are unsealed and, with sometimes rough surfaces, may be a concern for vehicles with low clearance.

At times, after rain, roads might only be suitable for 4WDs or might be temporarily closed. You can easily check online to see the local road conditions before you go.

Brachina Gorge

Where can you experience Aboriginal culture?

The Adnyamathanha people (meaning hills or rock people) are the Traditional Owners of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park and their connection with the land stretches back many thousands of years. The park provides great opportunities to immerse yourself in their culture.

Make sure you plan a visit to Arkaroo Rock to see the ochre and charcoal artworks. Arkaroo Rock is a culturally significant place for the Adnyamathana people and the paintings tell the Dreaming story of the creation of Ikara (Wilpena Pound).

To visit the paintings, there’s a 3 km walking trail that begins at the Arkaroo Rock car park, located 17 km south of Wilpena on the Hawker-Blinman Road.

The trail takes about 2 hours to complete and is rated as a moderate hike with some steep inclines and loose surfaces. You’ll also be rewarded along the way with spectacular views of Rawnsley Bluff and the Chace Range.

Perawurtina and Sacred Canyon are also cultural heritage sites where ancient rock engravings can be admired, so make sure you factor in visits to these sites. Sacred Canyon can only be visited on an organised tour with an Adnyamathanha guide from Wilpena Pound Resort.

Wilpena Pound Resort also offers Aboriginal Cultural Tours including a ‘Welcome to Country – Adnyamathanha Yarta’, which is a free activity held every night at 6 pm in front of the resort reception area.

Top tip: Time your visit to Arkaroo Rock for the morning as this will give you the best light to admire the artworks.

Arkaroo Rock

What’s your favourite walking trail in the park?

The Boom and Bust Walking Trail is a great short hike suitable for most people, including children. It’s a 2km loop that runs alongside Wilpena Creek and incorporates interpretive signage telling us how plants and animals in the area have adapted to survive.    

Top tip: If you have a smartphone or tablet you can download the free Avenza Maps app and have interactive national park maps on hand when you need them. The app uses your device's built-in GPS to plot your real-time location within the park onto a map. The app can be used without a network connection and without roaming charges.

Boom and Bust Walking Trail

When’s the best time to visit the park?

The most popular time for visitors is from April until October. Spring is a great time to visit the Flinders Ranges, with generally warm and clear days – great for bushwalking. Plus, it’s often a great time to see wildflowers, though the abundance and timing of wildflowers depends entirely on recent rainfall.

Thorn wattle

What’s the parks best kept secret?

Brachina Gorge is a spectacular location with iconic geological features, but it is also home to a colony of yellow-footed rock wallabies (‘andu’ in the Adnyamathanha language). These wallabies can be seen throughout the gorge, but late afternoon is the best time to spot them.

Yellow-footed rock wallaby in Brachina Gorge

Park of the Month

Throughout July, Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park is being celebrated as National Parks South Australia’s Park of the Month. There’s lots of events and activities to get involved in – check the website for all the details.

Main image: Ranger Steve Jennings

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