One hike that is on my list to do is the Overland Track hike in Tasmania. After doing some beautiful hikes in nearby New Zealand this trail sounds equally beautiful and one that I would love to do.
Katherine from Bright Lights of America has recently hiked the trail over 6 days and here’s she has shared her top tips on this beautiful hike.
Read all about why she choose to complete this hike and where she stayed on the route.
Tasmania Trekking Adventure – The Overland Track
Start point: Ronny Creek, Cradle Valley
Finish point: Lake St Clair
Trek Distance: 65 km/ 40 miles
Hiking Time: 6 days (average)
Difficulty: Moderate to Difficult (in parts)
Have you ever wanted to hike in a World Heritage Area? Australia’s Overland Track in Tasmania might be for you! That triangle-shaped island beneath the Australian mainland is Tasmania, best known for its devils, apples and beautiful scenery.
The latter is what spurred me to set the seemingly impossible goal to hike 65-kilometre/ 40 miles of the Overland Track. With no real previous camping experience to speak of, and only slightly more time in a pair of hiking boots. If you are looking for the ultimate Tasmania trekking adventure then keep reading!
Why would I recommend this walking track to you then? Easy. If someone as ill-prepared and underdone as I was, could survive six days in the Tasmanian bush and still rave about what an amazing experience it is, it’s a hiking adventure worth having.
What to expect trekking The Tasmania Overland Track?
Tasmania Overland Track winds its way through a pristine National Park and terrain that ranges from mountainous to flat-as-a-tack. You’ll traipse through rain forests, valleys carved by glaciers, buttongrass moorlands and alpine meadows.
The preservation of this UNESCO World Heritage Area means that there are a few extra rules that you wouldn’t normally encounter on Australian hikes. It also means that you’ll catch beautiful vistas of waterfalls, snow-capped mountains and a lot of wildlife if you’re quiet on the trails.
Planning your hike
You’ll have to book to walk the Overland Track during peak season (October 1 to May 31). This is so that the track isn’t crowded with too many hikers on one day.
There is also a park entry fee and hiking fee that covers maintenance of the track and facilities like Overland track huts, heaters, and toilets. You will have to carry your own supplies such as food, cooking utensils (no campfires are permitted), toilet paper and camping gear.
If you’re not keen on hiking on your own (which you can do if you’re experienced), groups of 13 are allowed to set off together. Or you can book with a commercial tour group. The commercial guides will usually take care of the permits and fees for you.
How to get to the start of the Overland Track?
The track is a one-way deal and usually, you don’t return to the start point once you’re done. So it’s sometimes easier to book transport from a neighbouring town to Cradle Valley.
We flew into Launceston and had a Tasmania road trip planned. Then ended up catching a bus from the town centre all the way to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, which took about two hours.
At Cradle Mountain Visitor centre this is where you’ll pick up your Tasmania trekking permits, get advice and Overland Track maps from rangers. There aren’t any luggage storage facilities there though.
Alternatively, you can drive to the hike endpoint at Lake St Clair and book a bus to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. Just make sure to study the schedule in advance because buses don’t run every day. You’ll also need two copies of your park pass – one for your car and the other to gain entry to the park.
Day 1 – Tasmania Overland Track to CRADLE MOUNTAIN
The first day’s hiking is all about a steep incline, then a steep descent to the first campsite. The payoff is the spectacular views you’ll get. Depending on the time of year, you could be sloshing through snow up to your knees on the first day (bring plenty of socks!)
The hike around Dove Lake was beautiful and the trek up the mountains surrounding it was relatively easy. Until we got to a section so steep that you haul yourself up holding onto a chain. It’s not for the faint-hearted and it’s the steepest section of the entire hike (1,250 m/4,101 ft).
We set off in late October, so once we were level with Cradle Mountain we were wading through shin-deep snow and were happy to have our gaiters as some protection. A quick look back at the valley below and a spot of lunch and you’re off again towards Waterfall Valley – the first campsite. That’s unless you’re brave and want to climb Cradle Mountain.
The day’s hike spans 10.7 km/ 6.6 miles and usually takes between four and six hours. It’s mostly open to the elements though, so be prepared for biting wind, rain and sun if you’re lucky.
From there it’s all downhill through bushland to Waterfall Valley’s huts and campsites. Day one is commonly thought of as the most difficult day of the track – if you survive that, you know you can make the rest of the walk.
Overland Track Huts and camping at Waterfall Valley
- Waterfall Valley Hut sleeps 24 people
- Old Waterfall Valley Hut sleeps 4
- Tent Sites on the grass beside Old Waterfall Valley Hut
Day 2 – Trekking to LAKE WINDERMERE
Your second day’s hiking is a little shorter and much easier, to give you time for a sleep in and to recover. If you haven’t come across a few pademelons, an echidna or a wallaby before you leave, take some time to sit quietly on the duckboard track and keep an eye out.
On the 7.8 km/ 4.8 miles trek to Lake Windermere, you’ll traverse a heath and pass by alpine Eucalyptus trees. If you’re not feeling challenged enough there’s always a side trip to Lake Will a 3 km/1.8 mile return hike. From there, it’s a walk across a high plateau to Lake Windermere and if the weather is clear (cross your fingers), you’ll be able to see impressive views out to the east and west.
Something you’ll get used to on The Overland Track is hiking uphill just to go downhill again. As soon as you’ve schlepped your pack and all your belongings up a particularly steep part of the track, you’ll find a nice descent waiting for you. Before another climb.
You’ll see Lake Windermere and follow the duckboard out to Windermere Hut and camping platforms on either side of it. The area is surrounded by towering and somewhat tortured-looking gum trees. Go for a swim if you’re game or kick back on the hut verandah and enjoy the views!
Lake Windermere Accommodation options
Note there is no camping allowed on the river
- Windermere Hut sleeps 16 people
- Tent Sites to either side of the hut
Day 3 – Hike to Pelion
Wake up to the fresh air on day three and prepare yourself for almost 17 km/ 10.5 miles trekking across some of the most beautiful sights on The Tasmania Overland Track.
While you begin on more heath and moorland, that soon changes as you cross Pelion Creek and enter the myrtle-beech rainforest beyond. If you’re keen, take the Fort Valley Lookout (before the rainforest) for the views of the valley below. Once you’re back on track, try to take the path through the forest alone. We went with a tour group but our guide set us off a few minutes apart so that we could experience the forests’ beauty alone. It was a magical experience and it’s really difficult to get lost, you’d have to try really hard to step off the paths.
By the time you hit Frog Flats, you’ll cross the Forth River. By the way, you can fill up your water bottles from all the creeks and lakes along The Overland Track without having to worry about any nasties. It’s some of the greatest tasting water in the world. If you’re tired, you can camp at Frog Flats otherwise push on uphill to the eucalypt forest that skirts Pelion Plains.
Pelion Plains hut and camping
- Pelion Hut sleeps 36 people
- Campsite on the grass near tent platforms
Day 4 – Trekking to KIA ORA
You’re probably tired, cold and maybe even a little hungry right now, so get some breakfast porridge into your stomach. I have some good news and some bad for you. The good is that today’s hike is just 8.6 km/ 5.3 miles. The bad is that it’s mostly uphill. It’s mountain day!
But think of all the food you’ve eaten so far! Your pack has to be feeling lighter and the 300 m/ 985 ft climb to Pelion Gap should be a cinch. Follow Douglas Creek through the rainforest until the forest drops away and you find yourself on a very exposed plateau called Pelion Gap.
I guarantee you’ll feel the wind here (and the horizontal rain if you’re as lucky as we were). Adept climbers might want to try summiting Mt Ossa (Tassie’s tallest mountain at 1,617 m/ 5,305 ft). Otherwise, take a load off, eat some lunch and start to descend to Kia Ora through Pinestone Valley.
Kia Ora sleeping options
- Kia Ora Overland Hut sleeps 20 people
- There are numerous tent platforms surrounding the hut
Day 5 – Walk to Windy Ridge
Day five is my absolute favourite because it involves some of the most picturesque waterfalls I’ve ever seen. The 9.6 km/ 6 miles trek begins as a stroll through the buttongrass as you listen to the Mersey River crash and course its way below you.
Don’t get too excited though, you’ve got a while to go before you hit waterfalls yet. Instead, check out Du Cane Hut, which has stood in this spot since it was built in 1919 by Paddy Hartnett. Step inside, sign the visitor’s book and look around. Harnett was one of 14 children and a bit of a character to boot. He guided overnight tours in the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair area with others and always wore his bowler hat. Paddy took on the role of hunter, cook, and waiter. He burnt off dead wood and grass and set snares for food and to sell animal pelts.
Continue for a spell and you’ll come to a fork leading to D’Alton and Fergusson Falls a 1 km/ 0.6 miles return hike. If you’re keen, keep going to Hartnett Falls (1.5 km/0.9 miles return), which is the tallest of the falls. Go for a swim in the freezing water if you’re game.
Once you’re back on the main track and in the Du Cane Range, you’ll soon get to Windy Ridge, a camp that’s circled by the Du Cane Range.
Windy Ridge Camp and Overland Huts
- Bert Nichols Hut sleeps 24
- There are numerous tent platforms at Windy Ridge
Day 6 – Final day on the Overland Track to Narcissus
You’ve made it to day six in one piece! Although, take a second from your celebratory dance because this is the day most injuries occur on The Overland Track. You’re so excited to get to the end that you tend to be a little less careful navigating tree roots and uneven ground.
It’s just a few hours to Narcissus Hut and the Lake St Clair ferry, you’ve got about 9 km/ 5.6 miles of track left to cover so keep your wits about you. The best part is the uphill parts are done! It’s all downhill through eucalypt forests.
Maybe it was the downhill that made me trip on a tree root, all I know is that I fell hard and rolled with my 20kg pack firmly strapped to my back and my hiking poles flailing. I wound up like a bug, stuck on my back with no way to get up on my own. I highly recommend this as the position to have your fellow hikers find you in with no explanation.
Top tips for Tasmania trekking the Overland Track
What equipment do you need for hiking?
- Comfortable backpack
- Hiking boots
- Hiking poles (optional)
- Rain gear
- Snacks for the hike
What else do you need for the Overland Track?
- A tent & sleeping equipment – (MSR Hubba is perfect for backpacking adventures)
- Food & cooking utensils
- Warm layers
- Camp shoes
- Toilet paper
Also, take a camera, you’ll kick yourself if you don’t. Don’t forget the battery rechargers as well.
What else do you need to know about trekking the Overland Track?
There’s no mobile reception once you get to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. Then all the way through The Overland Track until you get back to civilization.
Remember, you can’t light fires anywhere over the hiking trip.
Bring a plastic bag for your rubbish. Everything you take in must be taken away with you.
About the author
Katherine is an Aussie living in San Francisco via stints in Sydney, London and Perth. She waxes lyrical about life in the United States and hands out unsolicited tips to ex-pats at Bright Lights of America. She also loves hiking, running and grinning like a Cheshire cat.
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