Walk the Bridle Gap Wilpena Pound Trail, Flinders Ranges

Last Updated on December 4, 2019 by Red Nomad OZ

View across the Bunbinyunna, Elder and Red Ranges from Bridle Gap, Wilpena Pound, South Australia
View across the Bunbinyunna, Elder and Red Ranges from Bridle Gap, Wilpena Pound, South Australia

The last few kilometres were heavy going as I trudged back to camp. The bright daylight faded into twilight as the sun sank below the eroded peaks surrounding the amazing Wilpena Pound valley, centrepiece of South Australia’s Flinders Ranges National Park.

Wilpena Creek, Flinders Ranges National Park
Wilpena Creek, Flinders Ranges National Park

The evening coolness rose as we entered the campground.

While taking an 18.8 kilometre (11.7 mile) hike might not have been the smartest move for the world’s slowest hiker, the end was in sight. And the Wilpena Pound Resort campground was everything a campground should be. Beautiful setting. Excellent amenities. Quiet.

But the evening coolness wasn’t the only thing rising.

Jangling through the campground from an antique sound system on maximum distortion blared the not immediately recognisable English World War 1 favourite ‘Knees Up Mother Brown’ (google it for a truly scary experience) accompanying a happy hour for two in full swing.

Was I hallucinating?

Wilpena Range from inside Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia
Wilpena Range from inside Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia

Sadly, no. Just as incongruous as the ‘music’ in this arid and remote South Australian Outback park was the table complete with lacy cloth, vase of flowers and two wine glasses which, judging by the quavering vocal accompaniment, had been filled and emptied several times over.

It was going to be a LOOOOOONG evening.

Wilpena Range from outside Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges, South Australia
Wilpena Range from outside Wilpena Pound, Flinders Ranges, South Australia

Several hours before, we’d packed our lunch for the 6+ hour return hike to the Bridle – or ‘Bridal’ as it was spelled by the less informed – Gap lookout on the other side of Wilpena Pound. We’d seen the Pound – a valley 7 km (4.3 miles) and 14 km long completely surrounded by an ancient mountain range – from the outside where the jagged peaks formed an impressive and many-layered wall.

But the Bridle Gap Wilpena Pound track crossed through the great bowl of the Pound itself, our best chance to see the whole formation from the inside.  And get away from the crowds stampeding towards the area’s best known and most popular hike – the climb to St Mary’s Peak.

Hills Homestead, Wilpena Pound, South Australia
Hills Homestead, Wilpena Pound, South Australia

After a short-ish evening stroll of only 7.2 km (return) a couple of days previously, we’d looked across the pound from Wangara lookout, a short distance above the Hills Homestead where early pastoralists lived while using the Pound as a natural corral for cropping and grazing stock.

BUT … droughts and floods saw to that and now Wilpena Pound, named for an Aboriginal word meaning ‘Place of Bent Fingers’ or ‘Cupped Hand’, is now part of the Flinders Ranges National Park.

Wilpena Range from inside Wilpena Pound on Bridle Gap Trail, South Australia
Wilpena Range from inside Wilpena Pound on Bridle Gap Trail, South Australia

Leaving the homestead, the protected oasis of the Pound full of native pines and river red-gums, with glimpses of the Wilpena Range from the clearings was a world away from the late spring arid landscape beyond.

Bridle Gap Trail
Bridle Gap Trail

No surprise that the local Adnyamathanha people know it as Ikara – or meeting place, and no surprise the area was declared a National Pleasure Resort with organised tours and places to stay in 1945!

Once on the Bridle Gap track, the only other person we saw almost got an eyeful as I emerged from behind a tree after a squat.

After that excitement and with only a kilometre or so to go, we reached the other side and climbed the now-rocky track up the range towards what we hoped would be a vantage point for lunch.

Part of the legendary Heysen Trail that takes dedicated hikers through 1200 km of South Australia’s best scenery, the Bridle Gap Wilpena Pound track stopped conveniently at a rocky outcrop on the edge of the plain below.

Beyond awesome, even by the almost impossibly high Flinders Ranges standards, the staggering view stretched out in a 180º panorama over the wildly magnificent Bunbinyunna, Elder and RED Ranges – their superb scenery on display for us, and us alone.

View from Bridle Gap, Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia
View from Bridle Gap, Flinders Ranges National Park, South Australia

The 9.4 km return trip across the pound to the homestead, then down along Wilpena Creek to the campground isn’t so arduous if you’re walking on air!

So, from the sublime, we descended into the onslaught of ‘Mother Brown’, and as the soundtrack switched to the ‘Siegfried Line’ (google it – actually, NO – don’t bother), the Grey Nomad couple, loudly and proudly from Western Australia, spontaneously burst into a tipsy song and dance routine.

Bridle Gap Trail, Wilpena Pound, South Australia
Bridle Gap Wilpena Pound Trail, South Australia

As a strategy to scare up some happy hour drinking buddies, it didn’t seem to be working. And they seemed to be taking the occasional applause from our quieter neighbours around their campfires as encouragement to continue rather than as a reason to quit while they were ahead …

Wilpena Pound Resort Campground
Wilpena Pound Resort Campground

As the stars came out and the last vestiges of our pure and natural mountaintop experience slowly evaporated, the happy hour veterans soft-shoed to the maudlin ‘… we’ll meet again, don’t know where, don’t know when …’.

We were at least agreed on one thing. That the sunny day to come would bring a new adventure.

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Apostle Bird at Wilpena Pound Resort Campground, South Australia
Apostle Bird at Wilpena Pound Resort Campground, South Australia
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  1. How sad, I have lived in South Australia all my life and never been to the Flinders ranges.
    I hope to go this year. Just wondering what would you say would be the most picturesque parts to explore for someone visiting the first time?

    1. It’s ALL good, Sonya! I’d suggest basing yourself somewhere central like Wilpena Pound or Rawnsley Park, then exploring the Pound itself (several excellent walking trails start here); Brachina Gorge and the Bunyeroo Valley (awesome rock formations); and Stokes Hill Lookout for scenic views en route to Blinman, another fine area to explore. I’ve never done Skytrek from Willow Creek Station, but I’ve heard it’s amazing and it’s on my own list of things to do. That’s a good start – but there’s also the southern and northern Flinders, and Arkaroola Wilderness Resort – one of my all time top 10 places in OZ! Good luck – I hope you get there soon 😀

  2. awesome views, i adore a nice walk in the woods but i’m not much of a camper. i like white sheets and room service 😉

    looks and sounds like you really enjoyed yourself!!

    1. It’s a MAGIC place for hiking and birding!! It’s one of the most magnificent places in OZ – yet not nearly so popular as some of the others. That’s MY good luck!!!

    1. Thank you!! But I can’t take credit for that fabulous view 🙂 These birds are SO unafraid of humans – it was almost like he was posing for me!

  3. This really is a part of the world I need to visit – added to 2014 list!

    Thanks for the comments during the past year.

    Cheers – Stewart M – Melbourne!

    1. I’m glad I inspired you – but I can’t really take credit for the staggering scenery, much as I’d like to!! I look forward to reading more of your adventures this year!! Happy New Year!

  4. Eleven MILES??? Lord! What a hike that must have been, but I am sure that the gorgeous surroundings helped distract you. How beautiful–it looks as though I could reach out and touch some of those hills, they seem so close!

    Happy New Year, my well-travelled friend!

    P.S. Why is it called an Apostle bird?

    1. You need to switch to the metric system – nearly-19-kilometres sounds WAY more impressive, right??!! The air is so clear, the mountains seem much closer than they really are!! Apostle Birds are so called because they usually hang out in groups of 10-12 or so!! This one was a lone opportunist who hung around long after his friends had vamoosed into the bush because we were still eating!!

      And Happy New Year to you too, my most faithful of blog followers whose comments I ALWAYS look forward to reading!!

    1. Thank you!! And the only photographic skill you need for photos like this is to strategically place yourself in the middle of stunning scenery!!

  5. Too funny to open your blog and find this!
    At one point I started crying and wanted a helicopter picking me up as I saw how far it is to get to the campground Wilpena Pound.
    I made it – in 8 hours! – and fell asleep straight away.
    But you´re right, the views are wonderful! You sure saw heaps more than us back in 1995…

    1. When I got to the end, I wondered if I had the stamina to get back – but there’s no choice really, is there?!?!?! I think we were lucky – this was autumn, and there had been some rain so everything looked magnificent. One day, I hope we’ll go again and do even more!!!

  6. Hi Red, we enjoyed our couple of days stay at Wilpena Pound in September, and did a couple of the shorter walks – we have to pick our walks so our son doesn’t grumble too much. We also did the drive through the park. Certainly beautiful views and walks. We hope to go back another time.
    Thankfully our campsite didn’t come with musical accompaniment!
    Happy travels in 2014 Red!

    1. Haha, I think we just got ‘lucky’ with the campsite!!!! But as Andrew (above) points out, the older folks peak a bit earlier!! And I don’t think anything could have kept me awake after that hike!!! Although I live in SA, we have only ever stayed in the Flinders Ranges twice. We hope to change that tragic statistic frequently!!

  7. Oh that just made me laugh out loud Red. Surely not WA’ers :))) Seriously all that majestically marvelous scenery deserves something better.. something like The Messiah or the like! All fabulous images, but the opening shot is beyond stunning!

    1. Haha, I guess it’s irrelevant which state they came from … but maybe the trip across the Nullarbor gave them low-flying jet-lag?? The ‘music’ did seem a bit incongruous to the setting – maybe I need to keep something more appropriate handy so I can whip it out & show them how its done when I need to!! This is some of the best scenery we’ve seen anywhere, so glad you appreciate it too!!!

  8. Fantastic views Red. I have had Wipena Pound on my wish list for ages and we intend to get over to SA in the New Year.

    1. I’m hoping I won’t hear them too many times in the future 🙂 But it sure made the whole adventure memorable!!!

    1. You usually meet 10 or a dozen (hence the name!) but although all his mates had gone off in the bush, this guy knew we were still eating!!

  9. A most interesting post. I was just thinking about Wilpena Creek and how far it went. Water looks crystal clear. I love the mountains and your adventure “In the bush walk”. I saw a red trail in your photos too, Red. Have a wonderful New Year and best to you all. Cheers, Lilly

    1. Hahaha, RED is everywhere if you look hard enough!!!! I don’t think the creek goes far – it’s a drought/flood kind of place, so mostly it just peters out! Happy New Year to you too, my friend!!

  10. the campsites seem to offer more value for money than a cabin in the shearers-quarters; you got free entertainment thrown in. Enjoyed seeing some of Flinders again via your post

    1. Hahaha!! And it’s always a bonus to get some new blog fodder … they’ll never know how many people heard all about their ‘happy’ hour!!!

  11. Now days I would find it hard to hike around like that but I would give it a shot because it is wonderful and you really get the feel of the country when you walk around. I have always loved bush walks.

    1. This hike is mostly flat – I don’t think I’ve ever walked that far in one stretch before, but at least it’s not straight up and down! You’re right – it’s not the same driving, or even flying over it – you’ve got to do the hard yards!

    1. One day we’ll do the flight – but it’s kinda cool walking through the Pound after seeing it from the outside so many times!! It sure is a spectacular spot – and there’s nothing wrong with the touristy stuff!!

  12. Wilpena Pound; the sort of place you could camp for six months and still not see enough of those views. I love your 4th photo and the Hills Homestead one. I don’t think I’m up to the type of hiking mileage you are, but I’m working on it. (Port Pirie was a good start)
    I haven’t heard Knees Up Mother Brown since 1970!

    1. If I’d heard ‘Knees Up …’ before, I’d blanked it out!!! And you’re in luck – the 4th photo was from a lookout we DROVE to!!! This walk was more long than difficult – I wasn’t sure if I had the stamina, but seems like I did!!!

    1. For a big bush walk, it’s actually not that demanding – other than the distance!! It’s mostly flat – but the staggering view at the end makes it worthwhile!

    1. Thank you! The apostle birds usually hang around in groups of 12 or so – they’re not at all afraid of humans. Maybe one day you’ll get lucky & come down here for a visit!!

  13. Quite spectacular. It looks like it would be very valuable land to the local mobs.

    At least old people peak early in the evening.

    1. I don’t think it’s always this scenic, especially in the middle of a drought – but at least it’s no longer used for grazing & cropping!! And you’re right about old people 🙂 Although we were a little concerned about them driving off in the morning after having had that much alcohol the night before!!!

  14. What fabulous wilderness area! However, I’m baffled by people who escape to quiet spaces and then make lots of noise. ;))

    1. HAha, me too!! Although I found this lot more amusing than annoying!! We DID wonder what they were doing there – they only stayed overnight and this campground is a bit out of the way!!

  15. Hello Red, pretty views of the park..The mountain range shot is gorgeous. I would think there are some great birds to be seen while walking on the trail. Thanks for sharing your Apostle bird with Saturday’s Critters. Enjoy your weekend..

    Wishing you all the best in 2014, and a very HAPPY & Healthy New Years!

    1. There were LOTS of kangaroos and wallabies along the trail, but Pilchard was hoping for more birds!! Maybe it was the wrong time – the middle of the day isn’t the best!! Happy New Year to you too, my friend!!

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