The Simpson Desert crossing

The Simpson Desert crossing is one of the most challenging desert crossings in Australia, spanning over 1,100 kilometers of some of the most remote and arid landscapes on the continent. The desert is known for its massive parallel sand dunes, some reaching heights of up to 40 meters, making it a formidable obstacle for even the most experienced adventurers.

Since the first recorded crossing of the Simpson Desert in 1936 by Ted Colson and Peter Ainsworth, the desert has become a popular destination for thrill-seekers and nature enthusiasts looking to test their limits in one of the harshest environments on Earth. The crossing has gained notoriety for its extreme temperatures, treacherous terrain, and lack of water sources, making it a true test of endurance and survival skills.

Despite the challenges posed by the Simpson Desert crossing, adventurers continue to flock to the area in search of the ultimate desert experience. With proper preparation, including sufficient water, food, and emergency supplies, many have successfully completed the journey and emerged with a newfound appreciation for the rugged beauty of the Australian Outback.

One of the most important aspects of successfully completing the Simpson Desert crossing is having a reliable means of communication in case of emergencies. With vast expanses of uninhabited desert terrain, having a satellite phone or emergency beacon can mean the difference between life and death in the event of an accident or getting lost in the desert. These essential tools have helped countless adventurers safely navigate the challenges of the Simpson Desert and ensure their well-being in the face of adversity.

Looking to Cross the Simpson Desert? Here’s What You Need to Know

Are you considering a journey across the Simpson Desert but feeling unsure about where to start? In our comprehensive guide, we’ll cover everything from the best routes to take, essential supplies to pack, and tips for a successful crossing. Stay tuned to learn more about this challenging yet rewarding adventure!

The Simpson Desert Crossing

The Simpson Desert crossing is a challenging but rewarding journey for those seeking adventure in the Australian Outback. Spanning over 170,000 square kilometers, the Simpson Desert is the fourth largest desert in Australia and covers parts of three states: Northern Territory, South Australia, and Queensland.

Getting There

One of the most popular routes for crossing the Simpson Desert is the iconic French Line, which runs east to west through the heart of the desert. The journey typically starts from either Birdsville in Queensland or Alice Springs in the Northern Territory.

Challenges and Preparations

  • Extreme temperatures: The desert can experience scorching daytime temperatures and freezing nights, so it’s essential to pack accordingly.
  • Dune crossings: The Simpson Desert is renowned for its red sand dunes, some of which can be quite challenging to traverse. Proper tire pressure and driving techniques are key to successfully navigating these obstacles.
  • Remote location: The desert is a remote and inhospitable place, so it’s crucial to carry plenty of water, food, fuel, and communication devices.

Points of Interest

Despite its harsh conditions, the Simpson Desert is home to stunning landscapes and unique flora and fauna. Highlights include the famous Big Red sand dune, salt flats, and the chance to spot wildlife such as dingoes, camels, and bird species.


According to recent data, only a small percentage of people who attempt the Simpson Desert crossing complete the journey successfully due to its challenges and remote location.

What is The Simpson Desert?

The Simpson Desert is a large area of red sand dunes located in the central part of Australia.

How long does it take to cross The Simpson Desert?

It typically takes around 3 to 5 days to cross The Simpson Desert, depending on the route and conditions.

What is the best time of year to cross The Simpson Desert?

The best time to cross The Simpson Desert is during the cooler months, from May to September, to avoid extreme heat.

Do I need a permit to cross The Simpson Desert?

Yes, you will need a Desert Parks Pass to cross The Simpson Desert, which can be obtained from the South Australian National Parks website.

What type of vehicle is best for crossing The Simpson Desert?

A 4WD vehicle with good ground clearance and reliable off-road capabilities is recommended for crossing The Simpson Desert.

Are there any amenities or services available in The Simpson Desert?

No, The Simpson Desert is a remote and rugged area with no amenities or services, so be sure to carry all necessary supplies with you.

What should I pack for crossing The Simpson Desert?

  • Ample water supply
  • Food and snacks
  • First aid kit
  • Maps and GPS
  • Camping gear

Are there any dangers or risks associated with crossing The Simpson Desert?

Yes, some of the dangers include extreme heat, rough terrain, and the risk of getting lost. It is important to be well-prepared and informed before attempting the crossing.

Can I camp in The Simpson Desert?

Yes, camping is allowed in The Simpson Desert, but be sure to follow Leave No Trace principles and pack out all waste.

What are some popular routes for crossing The Simpson Desert?

  • French Line
  • Rig Road
  • QAA Line


In conclusion, crossing The Simpson Desert is a challenging yet rewarding expedition that requires careful planning, preparation, and determination. From the unforgiving terrain to the unpredictable weather conditions, this journey tests the limits of both physical endurance and mental resilience. However, with proper research, suitable equipment, and a well thought-out itinerary, adventurers can navigate this arid landscape and experience its unique beauty and solitude.

Throughout this article, we have highlighted the importance of understanding the risks and challenges associated with The Simpson Desert crossing. From the need for adequate supplies of water and fuel to the necessity of emergency communication devices, being well-equipped is crucial for ensuring a safe and successful journey. Additionally, we have emphasized the significance of respecting the environment and Aboriginal cultural sites found within the desert, as preservation and conservation efforts are essential for the continued enjoyment of this pristine wilderness. Overall, The Simpson Desert crossing is an unforgettable experience that offers a profound sense of accomplishment and connection to the vast, untamed beauty of the Australian outback.

Overland Travel Tips for Africa

A note to our visitors

This website has updated its privacy policy in compliance with changes to European Union data protection law, for all members globally. We’ve also updated our Privacy Policy to give you more information about your rights and responsibilities with respect to your privacy and personal information. Please read this to review the updates about which cookies we use and what information we collect on our site. By continuing to use this site, you are agreeing to our updated privacy policy.