Hiking Wilipena Pound

A view of Wilpena Pound from the 'Outside Trail'
A view of Wilpena Pound from the ‘Outside Trail’

I am not sure when I first heard about or saw a picture of Wilpena Pound, but I know the thought of seeing it for myself has captivated me for a while. To fully appreciate the area, it’s possibly best from the air, a treat for another time, this day I chose instead to hike to the highest peak and appreciate the view from there.

Wilpena Pound’s Aboriginal name is Ikara, meaning ceremonial ground or meeting place. The story told is that a ceremony was taking place here when two big Akurra (Dreaming Serpents) surrounded the ceremonial group. Their encircled bodies form the sides of Wilpena Pound. The Pound is a large sickle-shaped natural amphitheatre covering almost 80km2 and St Mary Peak was where I was headed to get a glimpse of it.

The hike to St Mary Peak (1171m) can be approached from outside the pound as a direct up down exercise or walking through the pound before ascending. I chose to combine the two tracks to form a loop and get the most comprehensive sense of the place I could from a trail. All up it was 22km and well worth the early start.

The first 8km of the track are flat and an easy stroll. Initially walking through what was the Hills Homestead farmland and forest before starting to rise in the bush.

As the incline increases the terrain changes to rocks underfoot. While not steep to begin with, it can be tricky in parts. However the last 1-2km from the summit it changes dramatically and becomes a hands and feet scramble to the top. So what started as benign became quite involved towards the pinnacle. But there is something sweeter about a vista hard earned and this one didn’t disappoint.


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