What was the highlight from my entire year in Australia? Tasmania.
You read that last part correctly and why was it a highlight? – the countless hikes available throughout the glorious and beautiful State that is Tasmania.
The National Parks of Tasmania were my focus and Cradle Mountain in particular did not disappoint.You may have heard of this Park, home of the infamous 65 km Overland Track, which takes a fit hiker 5 to 6 days to complete. You’ll need to book in advance to prevent over-crowding at campsites.
I didn’t have the gear for a multi-day hike, but there were still plenty of day hikes to choose from in the Park. I was there for three days and did three different routes.
On the first day I wanted to tackle the Summit. I started at Dove Lake and walked halfway around to the very steep and strenuous Face Track. This hard climb is well off the usual route to the Summit and is notable for its isolation and quiet beauty. The track passed the beautiful Lake Wilks and brought me to a cliff side portion that had chains to assist with the climb. Take your time in this section.
I continued to walk along the base of Cradle Mountain, to the Kitchen’s Hut, the beginning of the Summit Track. The track took a total of 2.5 hours return, with the last section requiring some bouldering and climbing over large rocks. During the ascent, fog rolled in and the weather changed quickly, a common occurrence in the Park. Beware of the false summit and be prepared for some tricky footwork in the last section leading to the top. Once on top look for the monument which contains an elevation plaque (1545 m/5069 ft) and a directional table that highlights other featured landmarks of Tasmania. A stunning landscape greets you at the summit – on a clear day. You’ll see the spectacular Mount Ossa (highest peak in Tasmania), Barn Bluff and Dove Lake.
The descent was simple enough providing you were careful with footing. I continued past the Kitchen’s Hut (which is like a fork in the road for the Park) toward Crater Lake. After a stop at Marion’s Lookout, I continued down a very steep path. I don’t know how I managed to take the two steepest paths available for the Summit Route, but I did. Trust me; there are easier ways to the summit – via Lake Lilla and Crater Lake.
My second day involved a spontaneous decision to run around the Dove Lake Circuit. I needed a break from the Summit climb so a quick run would be just the thing for me. It was a very easy and flat 6 km, with only one moderately steep hill. It offered great views of the Ballroom Trees, little marshes and the Honeymoon Islands.
On my final day, I decided to take a route less travelled – the trail to Lake Rodway via Twisted Lakes and Lake Hanson. It ended up being a great decision. Along the way, I reached a lookout, though the fog prevented a scenic view. I waited and was rewarded in the end with one of my favourite shots of the Park – Dove Lake below and the awe-inspiring spires of Cradle Mountain looming above; then the sheer size and elevation of the Park became strikingly apparent.
I continued along on a route that lead behind Cradle Mountain, past a small pond called the “Artist’s Pool”, framed nicely by the native Pencil Pine trees that are prevalent throughout the Park. With its twisted trunk and sharp features, it is a tree that stands out among the rest and makes Tasmania seem even more rugged and exotic from any other place you’ll visit.
Hiking to Lake Rodway was easy with only a few strenuous sections. Once you reach the Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut you’ve reached a point where if you continue, you’ll meet up with the main Overland Track. I turned back and retraced my steps to a path that lead me along the Twisted Lakes and Lake Hanson/Hansons Peak trail. These were two of the highlights. Taking gorgeous photos of the lakes was easy with Cradle Mountain situated perfectly behind. What was even more surprising was the view that appeared from the other direction of the mountain – a valley so extensive and untouched. It is a side of the park that I am sure not many travelers see. The path was very steep and strenuous in places, especially the ascent to Hanson’s Peak, but well worth it for the view. The trail is clear and well marked, but a little rougher (lots of rocks, roots and mud) than the other trails around the Park because it’s not as popular.
Throughout the Park, there were visible trailheads and plenty of signage to locate the various trails. The weather is variable but regardless of a little fog, or even a little rain or snow, Cradle Mountain is a Park that will still be nothing short of beautiful, rugged and memorable for whoever takes that first, easy step to the beach of Dove Lake, or the many steps to the Summit and beyond. It was a great National Park and made me hungry to explore and experience the rest of what Tasmania had to offer.
Cradle Mountain National Park
FEES: Daily: $12/person or $24/vehicle (up to 8 people)
HOLIDAY (8 WEEKS): $30/person or $60/vehicle (up to 8 people)
**If visiting for educational purposes, the fee can be waived, but an application form will need to be filled out and approved beforehand**
Best time to visit: Spring to autumn, though summer has the clearest days and the best views
6 – 8 hours return with 600 m change in elevation
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous with climbing over boulders required to reach the summit. Follow the red paint marks on rocks, steel posts and on trailhead markers
Trail Conditions: Ice and snow is a common sight in the winter and spring months, so careful footing and proper footwear is required.
Prerequisites: Dress in layers. Bring plenty of water and snacks, as well as a map.
Note: Well worth the view once the Summit is achieved.
Dove Lake Circuit
6 km, 1 – 2 hour circuit,
Difficulty: Easy with one short, moderate hill.
Trail Conditions: Flat boardwalk for a majority of the circuit with the rest consisting of gravel.
5 hours return; add 2 more hours to hike via Hansons Peak
Difficulty: Moderate to strenuous.
Trail Conditions: Clear and well-marked, but rough and muddy sections possible.
Prerequisites: Dress in layers and be sure to have the proper footwear as the trail is rougher. Bring plenty of water and snacks.
Blog kindly provided by Robyn Waher, a recent University of Toronto Civil Engineering grad who has just taken a job that involves travel to Dawson City, Yukon Territory.