One of the best hikes in the world is the
Note: Regulations have changed over the past few years. New restrictions apply.
Wild Tasmania has the best & most famous walk in Australia.
AT A GLANCE
red dot in Tasmania is
CRADLE MOUNTAIN-LAKE ST CLAIR NATIONAL PARK
- one of our top 10 hikes in the world
- surreal, unique Tasmanian vistas
- pretty lakes, tarns and waterfalls
- min. 65km (40mi) carrying a pack plus many possible sidetrips without a pack
- 7-nights recommended
- 8000-9000 walkers / year
- access by public transportation
- easy-moderate hiking IF the weather cooperates
- add challenging sidetrip peak scrambles if the weather is good
- Dec - May best months
- possible to hike year round (snow travel during the winter)
- A$100 Track fee
WHY WE LIKE THIS HIKE
The Overland has it's own dedicated website and a clear management plan.
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, part of a World Heritage Site
- Tasmania is 40%+ protected wilderness
- quota system keeps the Track from getting overrun: 50-60 hikers / day (about 34 independent, 26 guided)
- ever-changing landscape, rainforest and alpine
- convenient sidetrip climb of Cradle Mountain
- convenient sidetrip climb of Mt Ossa, Tasmania's tallest mountain
- groups of mixed ability are happy: energetic hikers do the sidetrips and meet the group back at the hut for the evening
- recommended sidetrip to Pine Valley (extra 1-2 days) to scramble The Acropolis & possibly visit The Labyrinth
- other good scrambles: Barn Bluff and Oakleigh. Even Mt. Olympus is tempting.
- optional boat trip exit on Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake
- see Wallabies, Echidnas, and possibly Quoll, Wombat, Devils and Platypus
- cute lizards and skinks are your boon companions
- see the beech trees turn golden end of April / early May
- excellent solar composting toilets
- many kms of board walk
- drinking water is easy to find
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- you can choose whether to tent or sleep in huts, space permitting. (We prefer tenting.)
- some hikers do this walk with no tent we do not recommend it. If there is no space in the hut, or for some reason you are forced to camp away from a hut, a tent can save you.
- Tasmania is latitude 40°S, directly in the path of the "Roaring Forties" winds. Hikers have turned back due to wind.
- they say Cradle Mountain has "only 32 clear days / year"
- plenty of snow falls on the highlands during the winter
- waterproof everything!
- hypothermia is a real danger
- no fires allowed
- bring a cook stove as none of the huts have them
- store your food securely or animals especially possums may chew holes in your tent. Mice and the like may get into your food.
- currawongs and ravens can open zips, clips and Velcro. Bring a pack cover to protect against birds.
- emergency position indicator radio beacons (EPIRBs) can be hired from the Cradle Mt and Lake St Clair Visitor Centres, though you don't really need one during peak season
- many biting insects (mosquitos, wasps, flies, ants, etc.) pester hikers. Take the usual precautions and bring salt solution to remove leeches.
- you are likely to see venomous snakes sunning on the trail. Wear sturdy boots and thick gaiters if this worries you.
- some huts have no good place to wash-up
- unfortunately Tasmania is known for the Port Arthur massacre when a mentally deficient young man went on a killing spree claiming 35 lives. We know Tasmania as one of the best destinations in the world for hikers.
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when to go
Nov-Apr bookings are required. During that peak season you are required to walk north to south (Cradle mountain to lake St Clair) and you must pay an Overland Track Fee.
A$100 (2006), the Overland is not inexpensive. Similar adventures Milford Track (New Zealand) and the West Coast Trail (Canada) cost even more.
Bookings open July 1 for the following season. Book at least 2 months in advance & start mid-week, if you can.
Budget for your National Park Entry fees, as well. Best value for most is a 2-month Backpacker Pass which provides entry to all national parks.
No need to pay if you are walking only part of the Overland Track. Locals often choose itineraries in this area that are not subject to the $100 fee.
Most hikers do the standard route, recommended if you have not hiked in this region before. Start from Ronny Creek trailhead and hike North to South.
An "easy" recommended itinerary of campgounds with huts for 7 nights:
- Waterfall Valley
- Lake Windemere
- Kia Ora
- Windy Ridge
- Pine recommended sidetrip
Exit at Narcissus to catch a boat across Lake St Clair. (Or add an extra day by walking out 15.8km to Lake St Clair trailhead.)
The best strategy is to start the hike with enough food for at least 7 nights, then decide your exact route as you go based on the weather. If the sky is clear, add more sidetrip peak scrambles. If the weather is poor, march on as far as you are able each day.
You might take 8 days. You might take only 5 or 6 days.
One important consideration is transport out. You need time your exit with the ferry at Narcissus hut and / or the Tassielink bus at Lake St Clair if you choose to use them. Times are posted in the huts.
Many hikers finishing earlier than expected stay at Lake St Clair for a night or two taking advantage of hot showers (guests only) and restaurant. Accommodation options include campground, dorm beds and cabins. Just 5km from the end of the Track is a pub and hotel.
click for larger, readable version - overlandtrack.com.au
Of course there are many variations and more challenging itineraries if you know the lay of the land. John Chapman, author of Cradle Mountain Lake St. Clair suggests a number of alternative options for experienced hikers:
INDEPENDENT OR GUIDED?
This is a serious hike. Signing on with a guide is a good idea for many walkers. When we were there (hiking independently) the Cradle Mountain Huts hikers seemed very happy.
If you sign on with a guided trip, logistics will be organized for you. This section is for independent hikers.
- most hikers travel from the mainland by air: Qantas and its subsidiary JetStar, or Virgin Blue
- Tassielink Coaches offers convenient bus transport / luggage storage for Overland Track hikers. In 2007 they charged only A$10 to transport and storage of the gear you do not want to take on the Overland.
- the most convenient jumping off city for the north trailhead at Cradle Mountain is Devonport, especially for those travellers arriving by ferry from the mainland.
- Launceston is a good jumping off point, as well, since an early morning Tassielink bus departure still gets you to the start of the Track early enough to have a shot at climbing Cradle mountain the same day.
- many hikers travel to Hobart at the end of the Overland as the bus connection is convenient. (In fact, many serious hikers do, as we did, the Overland en route to the South Coast Track which is accessed out of Hobart.)
- there are other public transport options to Cradle Valley but most hikers use Tassielink.
- the small town of Cradle Valley offers hotels, cabins, campgrounds and hostels are available if you want to overnight. In fact, a surprisingly good selection of hiking gear is available in Cradle if there is something you forgot to bring. But buy your food in one of the bigger cities.
- from Cradle, a free shuttle bus takes you to the Visitor's Centre (where you will likely collect your Overland Track Pass) & on to the trailhead
- you may hear there is no rush the first day that you can start mid-afternoon on the standard route. Not so. Start by noon latest to be safe. (Starting early is always a good rule for hiking. We've been dangerously stuck at nightfall too many times.)
- last day exit by ferry on Lake St Clair is recommended though a surprising number of hikers opt to walk out with the ferry carrying only their pack
- a range of accommodation is offered near Lake St Clair
- public transport out is available again by Tassielink
- check the Tassielink website for up-to-date bus timetable and prices
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BEST TREKKING GUIDEBOOKS
If you are sure to hike only the Overland, get Chapman's Overland Track . We carried instead Chapman's expanded version, Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair and did some of the many side trips included. These are two of the best guidebooks for any hike, anywhere in the world.
Check these on-line resources, as well:
OTHER RECOMMENDED BOOKS
We read the excellent Shakespeare book while on the Track in 2007. (The story of the convict who died of snakebite was unnerving.)
- TASMAP Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park - 1: 100,000
Many hikers carry the TASMAP as well as (or instead of) a guidebook. Each hut has the TASMAP posted, however.
BEST WEB PAGES
After this page, the best links are:
BEST PHOTOS & TRIP REPORTS
- Overland trip report & photos - Rick McCharles (besthike editor), 2007
- Lake St Clair to Cradle Mountain via 7 peaks - Andrew Purdam, 2000
- Overland photos - Tom Lun, 2005
- Overland photos - Tom Brennan, 2005
- Overland report - Tom Brennan, 2005
- Overland photos - Craig West, 2005
- Overland report - Craig West, 2005
- Overland report - Jay Watson
- Overland photos - the Steel Rat
- Overland photos - John Williams, 2003
- Overland photos - Geoff Wise, 1998
- Overland trip report - Geoff Wise
- Overland Track in Winter - Stuart Edwards
- Overland photos - Jay Fraser, wildtiger.biz
- Overland photos - Tim Hester, winter 2004, wildtiger.biz
- Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair photos - Geoff Murray
- Overland trip diary - Ian Hall, 1999
- Overland Track - Silke, in German
- scramble photos - Cradle, Ossa, Acropolis - Rick McCharles, 2007
- Lake St Clair Circumnavigation - David Noble, gorgeous photos
- Overland Track - photos posted on flickr.com
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