Extending north from Spencer Gulf, the Flinders Ranges mountain chain includes one of Australia's most impressive Outback parks. These dry, folded and cracked mountains, once the bed of an ancient sea, have been sculpted by millions of years of rain and sun. Cypress pine and casuarina cover this furrowed landscape of deep valleys, which slope into creeks lined with river red gums. The area is utterly fascinating—both for geologists and for anyone else who revels in wild,
raw scenery and exotic plant and animal life.
The numerous steep trails make the Flinders Ranges ideal for bushwalking, even though the park has few amenities. Water in this region is scarce, and should be carried at all times. The best time for walking is during the relatively cool months between April and October. This is also the wettest time of year, so you should be prepared for rain. Wildflowers, including the spectacular Sturt's desert pea, are abundant between September and late October.
The park's most spectacular walking trail leads to the summit of 3,840-foot St. Mary's Peak, the highest point on the Pound's rim and South Australia's second-tallest peak. The more scenic of the two routes to the top is the outside trail (15-km [9-mile] return); give yourself a full day to get up and back. The mid section of the ascent is steep and strenuous, but views from the summit—including the distant white glitter of the salt flats on Lake Frome—make the climb worthwhile.
Wilpena Pound. The scenic center of the Flinders Ranges is Wilpena Pound, an 80-square-km (31-square-mile) bowl ringed by hills that curve gently upward, only to fall away from the rims of sheer cliffs. The only entrance to the Pound is a narrow cleft through which Wilpena Creek sometimes runs. Wilpena Rd., 5434. www.wilpenapound.com.au.
Wilpena Pound Visitor Information Centre. A mud-brick visitor center, part of the Wilpena Pound Resort, has information about hiking trails and campsites within the park. 1 Wilpena Rd., 5434. 08/8648–0048. www.wilpenapound.com.au.