So named for the multi-hued sandstone cliffs and bluffs of this portion of the James Range, Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is a natural phenomenon to behold especially during sunrise and sunset. The dramatic freestanding cliffs are juxtaposed against a level claypan in front and the brilliant sky behind.
The chameleon-like cliffs glow the colour spectrum from ochre red to orange and purple as the sun sets daily. The multicoloured rock bands visible on the cliffs are due to water eroding the red iron of the sandstone layers during the wetter weather and then the dry conditions drawing the red minerals to the surface. The red rock forms a hard surface while the softer white sandstone is prone to weathering into loose granules of sand. This weathering and erosion of the cliffs has also yielded its distinctive shape, which has sculpted the exterior into rock faces and square towers. At dawn and dusk, when there is water in the claypans in front of the bluffs, visitors are treated to a reflected silhouette of the coloured cliffs, making it a favourite spot for photographers.
Once you get to the reserve, facilities including camping grounds, pit toilets, gas barbecues and picnic areas are available for use. There are also several marked trails throughout the reserve to offer stunning views of the claypan and valley as well as a sunset-viewing platform. Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve is also a sacred site of importance to the local Aborigines, especially the large rock known as Ewerre.
Entry to the area is free, however there are fees to camp here. To visit Rainbow Valley Conservation Reserve, drive 75km south from Alice Springs along the Stuart Highway and turn left and follow an unsealed road for 22km (it's recommended to use a 4WD vehicle) until you reach the carpark and camping area.