Horseshoe Top-End - 4wd adventure in the southern Flinders Ranges

Thursday, 14th Apr 2016 by John Pedler

Riding the ridges

Horseshoe Top-End is a working sheep station, and it’s also a popular destination for bush campers, nature buffs, and those who want to challenge the family 4wd beyond 8-point turns during school pickup.

When viewed on Google Earth it’s easy to understand why the station is often referred to as a mini Wilpena Pound.

Located in the southern Flinders Ranges, north of Orroroo, the property sits in a huge amphitheatre surrounded by an elliptical ring of hills.

It’s only 330km north of Adelaide, but it felt like we’d strayed into the remote outback.

Horseshoe is easy to reach in a conventional vehicle with decent ground clearance, but the real adventure begins when you head for the hills in a 4wd.

Riding the ridge

There are several routes to choose from and station owners, Jim and Teresa Connell, provide a colour coded map indicating the degree of difficulty for each track; the most challenging are marked in red.

We tackled a bit of each colour, which saw us clambering over rocky outcrops as we made our way up towards the top of the range. The scenery became more dramatic as we climbed higher into the hills, but the view from the top won the prize.

From here we could clearly make out the shape of the pound, and when we spun around 180 degrees, there was the rest of the world.

In front of us lay the vast Willochra Plain, with tree-lined creeks scribbled across its surface and low ridges casting shadows in the soft afternoon light. The peaks of higher mountains marked a distant horizon.

This is the sort of scenery that makes Flinders Ranges postcards an easy sell.

Despite the remoteness there’s still mobile phone coverage (mostly Telstra, patchy with Optus) so we were able to Instagram plenty of those annoying ‘wish you were here’ photos for the office-bound folk at home.

We then rattled down the hillside to the plain. The track led us through saltbush flats and low scrub towards the craggy escarpment that runs along the outer wall of the pound.

Horseshoe escarpment

On the colour chart of Horseshoe Top End tracks, the route back to the top of the range is red, and rightly so. It’s steep, it’s littered with loose rubble, it’s pocked with big holes...and it’s lots of fun!

At the far end of the pound we came across what must be one of the most spectacularly located campsites in the Flinders. It’s perched right on the edge of the range overlooking the whole shebang, and is simply crying out for a sunset-induced glass of red in a comfy chair.

There are only a handful of camping areas on the property and they’re all at least a kilometre apart. This means campers can enjoy a peaceful night in the bush in utter seclusion - apart from the kangaroos - so many kangaroos.

For those who prefer more comfortable digs, there’s a homestay available that can sleep 12.

View from lounge room

It’s surprising how close the outback is to the big smoke, but that’s one of the joys of living in SA. You can wake up one morning in the burbs, and bed down that very night in one of the oldest mountain ranges on earth.

A local

Nuts and Bolts
Where: Horseshoe Top End is north of Orroroo and east of Quorn (see map below)

Camping: Adults $15, children $7.50 per night. Minimum rates apply on long weekends. Each campsite has a toilet and a fire ring.

Accommodation: From $150 per night in the homestay.

Self-drive 4wd Tracks: $50 per vehicle. Homestay and camping guests who book the self-drive 4WD tour have access to all the tracks for the duration of their stay.

Useful Links
RAA Travel Planner
Horseshoe Top End

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