Towering 1189m above the iconic South Australian outback, St. Mary Peak (Ngarri Mudlanha) is one of the state’s premier climbs, offering unspoiled 360 degree views of the spectacular Wilpena pound area and beyond.

There are a two major options for reaching the summit of St. Mary Peak, including the opportunity to turn the assault into an overnight trek.  The most direct path to the summit consists of a 19km out and back hike via the outside trail, while the longer option involves a 21km partial loop via the inside trail to the summit, returning via the outside trail. The entire journey can be carried out in as little as 5 hours, but hikers electing to take the longer jaunt can spend a night at the isolated Cooinda Camp, where the lack of toilet facilities or water is sure to earn them some street (or trail) cred. While the longer timeframe affords a more relaxed walking pace, the true highlight of the overnight trek is sleeping under the awe-inspiring, star-filled sky that stretches endlessly above the outback.

Both of the climbs to the top involve a long-stretch of mild incline, with both paths merging into one at the Tanderra Saddle, sitting at 967m above sea level. From here, the trail takes a much more vertical attitude, and as a result, a spectacular panoramic scene begins to emerge. The last kilometre involves an easy, but nevertheless enjoyable, rock scramble that wraps around the peak to the summit. Being the highest peak in the region, the views of the surrounding mountains and salt lakes are breathtaking, and given the climb, an enjoyable place to rest up and take on some well-deserved trail snacks. The return climb to the campground is still a reasonable distance, therefore it is advisable to time the hike so that you are not descending in the dark.     

While this hike can be completed year-round, please remember that the South Australian climate can be a fickle beast; the weather can, and does, change on a dime. It is not advisable to ply this route during extreme heat, and a large volume of water should be carried at all times. As always, take a map, and let the National Park staff know of your plans so that help can find you on the slopes if required.   

Most hikers tackle St. Mary Peak from the Wilpena Pound campground, which is in itself a charming desert oasis situated 40km north of Hawker. The campground offers a variety of accommodation options, from basic, unpowered sites to African Safari-style glamping, to 5-star royal treatment in the Resort. As the Wilpena Pound area is part of the Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, fees to do apply for vehicle entry, payable at park headquarters.  The National Park is situated 5 hours north of Adelaide, South Australia, so aim to spend at least a few nights in the area so that you can truly enjoy the calming isolation in all its glory.      

Pack List

  • Day Pack
  • Sunscreen
  • Hat
  • Layered Clothing (always layer in SA)
  • Hiking Tent (if overnighting)
  • As much water as you can safely carry
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RT Distance 13 Miles
Elevation Gain 1968.5 Feet
Activities Chillin, Hiking
Skill Level Intermediate
Season Year Round
Trail Type Loop
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Food Nearby


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