This 54 km return trail in Tasmania is one of the most challenging hikes I have done. And that is after the major trail improvements for the "sodden loddens" section. What makes it worthwhile is the change of scenery and the view from the summit (if you are lucky with the weather gods).
Know before you go
Day 1: carpark to Vera hut
A relatively flat and easy 15 km. Jonas and I started at the carpark and walked down to register ourselves for the walk. Crossing the Franklin River via a suspension bridge was pretty sweet. It reminded us that one day we would love to pack raft down that river. We crossed button grass fields, traversed up and down a hill (but nothing too crazy in elevation). Walking along a moorland on a board walked track was a nice surprise to us. The track was well-manicured all the way to Vera hut.
Overall, a pleasant walk with a few nice changes of scenery and some distant views of Frenchman's Cap.
The view while summitting Frenchman's Cap
Day 2: Vera hut to Vera hut
via Frenchman's Cap summit
When I was preparing for this trip I could not understand how the 5.5 km from Vera hut to Tahune hut could take the estimated 4 hours. Now I do.
The day began meandering along Lake Vera, until the track veered up and up to Barron Pass. There were steep inclines, tree roots, rocks and other obstacles. This in my mind was definitely worth the Grade 5 difficulty rating that was awarded to it.
Another element that will make this track take longer is the views. Alpine heathland, deep blue freshwater lakes and mountains upon mountains, make this hike feel like you are truly in the wilderness.
Day 2 continued...
From Tahune hut is the 3.2 km return trek to the striking Frenchman's Cap. It is a 450 m climb to the peak. The trail ascends to the saddle, then traverses along Frenchman's Cap to a sections where you are climbing.
There are two reasons you should not climb Frenchman's Cap in poor weather.
1) What's the point? You probably won't see anything from the top.
2) The wet, wind or snow will make the tricky climbs to the peak even more challenging.
But once we reached the top, we had 360 degree views of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park (woah, that's a long name). All you can see is pure Tassie wilderness.
Not a bad view near the Heli Pad at Tahune hut
Near the peak of Frenchman's Cap
Day 2 continued again...
It was not until we were summitting Frenchman's Cap that we realised there was an alternate route. The trail continues north and ascends 1,000 m to Irenabyss. Here you can either head back or cross the river and the Raglan Range back to the Lyell Highway. The latter requires a river crossing and navigation skills as there is no official track. But I don't know about you, I would rather go from A to B than A to B then back to A again.
Nevertheless, we were not prepared to for an extra few nights on trail, so back to A we went (aka the carpark). Originally we planned to finish the walk today. We had been given advice it can be completed in 2 days but that wasn't possible for us. Whether it was because we are slow walkers or we actually stopped to enjoy the views, I am not sure. So we found our tired butts back at Vera hut once again.
Day 3: Vera hut to carpark
Back we went to the trail head. Nothing new to report as we had already walked this section before. We may have been very eager to return to the car for more snacks. Hiker hunger.
Huts and campsites are first in best dressed. Don't expect a spot in the hut. Be prepared with a tent.
Purchase the Tasmanian Park Pass ahead of time here.
Take a day pack with your essentials when summitting Frenchman's Cap and leave it at Tahune hut.
Google Maps was a little confusing on where the start was. For your reference, it is here.
A more easy going itinerary would be day 1 - car park to Vera hut (15 km), day 2 - Vera hut to Tahune hut via Frenchman's Cap (8.7 km), Tahune hut to carpark (20.5 km). If you can't make that last day you can even camp on the trail. Or instead of that go to the Irenabyss campsite and finish on Lyell highway. Life is an adventure ey.
If the weather permits you can camp on the peak of Frenchman's Cap.