Rainbow Valley NT

There are many significant and stunning geological formations in Australia’s Red Center, some more famous than others. Rainbow Valley isn’t one of the famous ones, but it’s one of my favourites. Perhaps because I had no expectations as to what we were heading towards as we turned off the Stuart Highway late in the day and bumped along 22 km of rough dirt track. Hundreds of millions of years old and striped in various shades of orange, these sandstone cliffs stand majestic in the flat desert landscape. As the light of the setting sun bounces off them the colours become brighter and more intense until you start to think that you may never have seen colours that vivid. Then the sun sinks below the horizon, the blue light of dusk covers the landscape and the most subtle array of pastel colours are just visible in the fading residual light.

Looking across spiky spinifex and a dry floodplain to the colourful sandstone rock formation sticking up out of the desert landscape, beneath a blue sky, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

Looking across spiky spinifex and a dry floodplain to the colourful sandstone rock formation sticking up out of the desert landscape, beneath a blue sky.

Bright yellow daisies growing out of the deep red desert dirt in the cool shade of late afternoon, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

Bright yellow daisies growing out of the deep red desert dirt in the cool shade of late afternoon.

The last of the late afternoon sun catches the spiky grasses that line a soft red dirt path leading towards the unique shape of these orange sandstone cliffs, Rainbow Valley, Northern TerritoryA narrow red dirt path is surrounded by long grasses, as long shadows are cast on the cliffs behind and the setting sun begins to turn them a deep orange, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

The last of the late afternoon sun catches the spiky grasses that line a soft red dirt path leading towards the unique shape of these orange sandstone cliffs; A narrow red dirt path is surrounded by long grasses, as long shadows are cast on the cliffs behind and the setting sun begins to turn them a deep orange.

Various shades of bright yellow and orange on the sheer sandstone cliffs that rise up so sharply vertical as the sunset casts its glow on them, small tufts of native grasses growing out of the pile of rocks near the base, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

Various shades of bright yellow and orange on the sheer sandstone cliffs that rise up so sharply vertical as the sunset casts its glow on them, small tufts of native grasses growing out of the pile of rocks near the base.

The sheer sandstone cliffs, eroded into striking shapes over millions of years, turn redder as the sun sets, Rainbow Valley, Northern TerritorySmall yellow desert flowers growing out of the red sand dunes in the cool late afternoon shade as the rocks behind glow orange, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

The sheer sandstone cliffs, eroded into striking shapes over millions of years, turn redder as the sun sets; Small yellow desert flowers growing out of the red sand dunes in the cool late afternoon shade as the rocks behind glow orange.

A lone tree stand tall and holds onto its sunshine as long shadows spread across the red desert landscape towards the stunning orange cliffs, beneath a clear blue sky, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

A lone tree stand tall and holds onto its sunshine as long shadows spread across the red desert landscape towards the stunning orange cliffs, beneath a clear blue sky.

Small white desert native flowers with yellow centers growing in the deep red dirt, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

Small white desert native flowers with yellow centers growing in the deep red dirt.

The sheer sandstone cliffs glow bright orange in the late afternoon light as the sun begins to set, Rainbow Valley, Northern TerritoryThe sun nears the horizon and casts long shadows across the red dirt landscape, but the distinctive shape of the sandstone cliffs stand tall and glow various shades of orange against the blue sky, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

The sheer sandstone cliffs glow bright orange in the late afternoon light as the sun begins to set; The sun nears the horizon and casts long shadows across the red dirt landscape, but the distinctive shape of the sandstone cliffs stand tall and glow various shades of orange against the blue sky.

Thin branches of a dead trees silhouetted against the sandstone cliff which glows an exceptionally bright orange in the last and strongest light of sunset, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

Thin branches of a dead trees silhouetted against the sandstone cliff which glows an exceptionally bright orange in the last and strongest light of sunset.

After the sun sinks below the horizon and dusk covers the landscape, the bright colours shift to a muted palette of more subtle pastel colours, as any hint of remaining light continues to reflect off the distinctively shaped sandstone cliffs, Rainbow Valley, Northern Territory

After the sun sinks below the horizon and dusk covers the landscape, the bright colours shift to a muted palette of more subtle pastel colours, as any hint of remaining light continues to reflect off the distinctively shaped sandstone cliffs.

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