Kings Canyon Death March, er, Hike

Kings Canyon

I have a confession. I have never been on a forced march, made to do hard labor in a Federal penitentiary or been indentured to a life of servitude. And yet, all of these feelings came to the forefront as we began the Kings Canyon Death March, or more officially called the Rim Walk.

We arrived the day before after braving the corrugated dirt roads of the Australian Outback, and spent the evening at the lovely Kings Canyon Resort. They were good enough to arrange for us to enjoy an early morning hike of the famous Kings Canyon, a walk we were eagerly anticipating. Well, I was at least.

Kings Canyon HikePoor Scott didn’t really know what he was getting himself into. I am the travel planner and he usually goes along for the ride, enjoying what we do but never knowing a lot about the schedule in advance. So, when we approached the extraordinarily daunting climb marking the start of the hike, he was a little surprised.

Located in the Watarrka National Park in the Northern Territory sits Kings Canyon, a massive 270 meter chasm. It’s also, I learned, highly regarded by Australians, some of whom like to call it their Grand Canyon, a fact that I found slightly amusing. Amusing mostly because you can fit several hundred, if not more, Kings Canyons within the Grand Canyon, but that’s another issue

Heart Attack Hill as some people call it, is the inauspicious start to the Kings Canyon Rim Walk. To be fair, there is another walk available at the Canyon, the far less daunting and shorter canyon floor walk, a fact which somehow escaped my notice until the death march was over and finished.

The natural stairway leading up to the hiking path is long, straight up and frankly pretty hard. I managed it ok, it wasn’t my favorite but it certainly wasn’t as hard as the march to the Monastery at Petra. Scott, on the other hand, wasn’t faring as well. Regardless, we both made it to the top (and survived) and the real hike began.

Kings Canyon Hike

What followed were a few hours walking around the canyon itself, learning about its natural history, from the smallest weed to the mighty chasm itself. It was in parts stunning, interesting and remarkable. In other parts it was mundane, boring and long. It really was a give and take of hiking interest. This is partly because of the guide who, while meaning well, was completely and totally obsessed with botany. Obsessed. The smallest shrub couldn’t escape his notice and would launch him into a twenty minute discussion on its fire retardant properties.

Flora loving guide

Kings Canyon Hike

Kings Canyon Hike

While I’m not a plant person per se, I can understand the importance of learning the botany of the area while on a hike, to a certain degree. What would have been far more interesting to me would have been spending more time looking at the canyon itself (aka, the reason I was there) and learning about the local history of the area. Now THAT would have been great.

At the end we were sweaty and tired, relieved to vacate the canyon area and find the calming waters of the hotel room shower. Maybe I’ve been too hard on the hike, it was fine. I’m glad I did it because, to be frank, I will probably never be there ever again. And if you visit you should also do the hike for the same reason. So, with that in mind I’m happy I can say that I’ve see the entire Kings Canyon. But once is more than enough for me.

Kings Canyon Hike

By: Matt Long

Matt has a true passion for travel. As someone who has a bad case of the travel bug, Matt travels the world in order to share tips on where to go, what to see and how to experience the best the world has to offer.

8 thoughts on “Kings Canyon Death March, er, Hike”

  1. This is funny, because I did the hike at Kings Canyon when I visited back in 2001, and I don’t remember it being too bad, and I usually never like the hard hikes. Maybe we took a different route.

    Overall, Kings Canyon was ok, but after having been to the American Southwest and the canyons there, it wasn’t very dramatic.

  2. It’s not a death hike. Unless you are rushed. To know the natural history of the place is to actually know and understand it. You want history? Perhaps don’t take the company that you did, for anything. It sounds like you are a bit soft. Those are referred to a the geriatric tours, or softies.The Grand Canyon is not a canyon, it is a gorge. Do your research. Back to the history. Aboriginal (luritja) were herded into the canyon and massacred by white pastoralists. You won’t find that out until you actually talk with a local indigenous person because our country likes to pretend these things didn’t happen.The water hole and area at the end of the canyon were only accessed by initiated men, and only used sparingly. 25000 years of occupation still continues today. Back to the botany, the fire retardant properties of Central Australian plants is an example of evolution, and is to be marvelled at. You probably shouldn’t travel if you don’t want to appreciate all facets of the environments you are experiencing. Of the thousands of people I guided around Central and other parts of Australia, kings canyon is widely regarded as a true highlight. Maybe before lambasting a truly magnificent geological feature of natural history you should take a good hard look at yourself and perhaps the nature of”travel” you wish to undertake. I’ve witnessed many above 70 years of age complete this walk with no complaint and nothing but awe at its beauty and comparative age and story.

  3. I was at Kings Canyon in June 2002 and was horrified to see a teenager literally running along the top of the Canyon and close to the edge. What a spectacular place though.

  4. Death March? Fantastic title, not. Mate this ‘hike’ isn’t difficult at all. It’s 5km and the company you went with takes geriatric people around the rim over a period of about 4 hours. Maybe your guide didn’t explain the significance of the biodiversity at Watarrka and how it ties in with the Indigenous history and geology of the area? Although I believe it’s more likely you lost interest in what the guide was telling you because you’re not a ‘plant person’ and therefore missed out on learning about the history of the area. I like your photos btw but I must say it’s disappointing and not surprising at all that you didn’t make the most of the awesome opportunity you had. Maybe you should stick to visiting/writing about cities? While you’re at it stop describing yourself as an ‘adventurer’, there is nothing adventurous about going on an oldies tour in Central Australia and whinging about the walks.

  5. At about half way across the rim walk (not death march) my sister sprained her anckle badly, after a few hundred metres we decided that she couldn’t walk the rest of the track by herself. We rang one of the three emergency service outposts where the oporator suggested that we got a rescue helicopter (For $800 Aud). As we were making the final assessment to see if she could go on for the next 3ks one of the many tour guide/park rangers persuaded us out of buying the helicopter. We tried multiple techniques to carry her down the hill and the most effective method was carrying her on our backs, the ranger and my brother and father took it in turns of speed walking down the mountain. While I was stuck carrying the bags of water and equipment down the mountain. We eventually made it down the mountain in 3.15 hours (not to shabby seeing we had to carry another person down the mountain. I did nearly slip 2 twice as my vision was restricted as the bags were blocking out my vision. Overall, it was a great hike with amazing views and nice terrain. However to call it death march and so on is completely wrong as if you’re not stupid, chances are you won’t fall.

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