This 65 - 125 km one way trail through the heart of Cradle Mountain in Tasmania is the best multi-day hike I have done. With the main track well manicured and its lesser worn and signed side trails, there are many options for the more or less experienced. To me, this highly regarded trail lived up to the hype.
Know before you go
Getting there / home
If you aren't a native Tasmania getting transport to and from can be a logistical challenge. From planning doing the trail I found the following options:
If you have a friend and two cars you can park a car at the finish and the start.
If you have one car you can park it at the finish and hitch or find a ride to the start.
If you are like me and don't favour the above options, you can go through a transport company. At the time of writing there is only transport available from Hobart or Launceston. I went with Overland Track Transport and stayed in the Launceston Hostel the night before (where you can also store excess gear). This company were great. They even tell you a few tips before you hit the trail.
Making a bakery stop before we go to the trail head.
Planning the trip
Being one of the most popular multi-day trails in Australia, you need to book ahead. Between the 1 October - 31 May you are required to book online and pay for the hike as they cap the number of people who start each day. Book online here.
There is a small shop at the Visitor Centre of Cradle Mountain but don't rely on that. Make sure you are prepared for the ever-changing weather conditions of Cradle Mountain.
Day 1: Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut
Today's distance: 27.2 km
The Overland Track has been on the bucket list since finishing the Heysen Trail. It's 65 km if you finish by catching the ferry on Lake St Claire, or 82.5 km if you walk along the lake and you want to save 50 bucks. The trail can span up to 125 km long if you decide to take the side trips and summit all the mountains.
The first section is a beautifully manicured flat trail amongst a field of Buffel grass. The track eventually meanders up and up. This is when I realised I'm not as fit as I used to be!
Looking behind and ahead, there are only mountains to be seen. You feel like you're in the middle of no where! Except, there are plenty of people around, especially day trippers hiking the summit of Cradle Mountain.
The mountains are unlike others I've ever climbed before. Cradle Mountain is like massive cliff face where you have to navigate your way up by getting on your hands and knees to climb up rocks. The view from the top - stunning.
I summitted Barn Bluff today as well, which was a little more challenging because there are no signs. The stacked rocks people make help to navigate to the top. I definitely got nervous sweats in some of these sections. This felt very sketchy.
At the end of the day I stayed at Waterfall Valley Hut, which was luxury compared to huts I've stayed at in the past.
Day 2: Waterfall Valley Hut to Pelion Hut
Today's distance: 29.01 km
The start of today's trek was a leisurely walk, with most of the walk being gravel or planked trails. I took a side trip to Lake Will, mostly with the purpose to go for a swim and freshen up. The lake felt crisp, numbing my feet. Later on I found out this lake holds the coldest water on the Overland Track. On this side trip you can continue to a Waterfall, but I couldn't see where the track went. On my way back I spoke to a tour guide who said its a long slog that's not worth it. So there ya go.
All the way to Windmere Hut was a nice trail and a little undulating. There are awesome views of Mount Oakleigh, the many lakes and all the other mountains which I can't name
From Windmere Hut the trail gets very muddy. In sections it's impossible to avoid. The trail traverses through a rainforest on kilometres of rocky sections unkind to the feet and ankles. Passing so many fresh creeks, this section was beautiful agony.
Once I reached an open grassland, getting closer to Mount Oakleigh, I made it to Pelion Hut. Sitting out the front deck I watched the sunset and glowing clouds. Bliss.
Day 3: Pelion Hut to Kia Ora
Today's distance: 23.72 km
Snake count: 2
The first section of the day was along a valley next to Pelion creek. There's a little side route a few kilometres up where I went for a 2 second dip in the icy cold water. The day was hot, and that geared me up for the rocky, steep and muddy trails. Once you reach the top of the first ascent you come to a junction, here you can either climb the highest peak in Tasmania, Mount Ossa, or Mount Pelion. I went for Mount Ossa hoping for a great view. Along this track you bypass Mount Doris then make a steep incline, using your hands to help climb up the dolomite boulders. Strong winds were prevalent in a steep and sketchy climb which I really struggled with.
Making it to the top there was no view, just clouds in the sky. I used the time to make a few calls while I had service, and alas! I looked up and the cloud had passed. Here you can get incredible 360 degree views of the park, you can see nothing but mountains, tarns, forest and a hut.
Making it down is always a bit easier for me, but everyone's different. I got back in good time so I decided to have a crack at Mount Pelion. The first half was a pleasant ascent, then you reach the rocks and navigation here is difficult. I think I was on the right track but the ascent was steep and the gravel was loose. On my hands and knees, I made it to the next section which was climbing up a rock face along a cliff. Sliding up this rock backwards on my bum, I pondered for a while. I felt way out of my comfort zone here...I decided this was high enough for me. I'd rather come back later when I had a friend that would call for help if I fell.
Back at the junction it was only another 4 km to the Kia Ora Hut; a lovely downhill. The hut was nestled alongside a creek where you can swim and listen to the frogs and birds
Day 4: KIA ORA TO NARCISSUS HUT
Today's distance: 23.23 km
Snake count: 3
The morning was spent walking through the rainforest with towering trees, moss, caterpillars and mud. After 5 km's of walking I reached Du Cane Hut and enjoyed 360 degree views of the forest from the toilet
Today is the day for waterfall appreciation. Soon after the hut I checked out D'Alton Falls and Fergusson Falls. It's funny how the sound of falling water can be so relaxing. Both of these falls you can't swim in, and even if you tried it would be pretty hard.
Further down the track was Hartnett Falls, where you can walk right to the bottom. Most walkers are put off of swimming in the freezing waters, but swimming in the Kangaroo Island ocean and the desire to freshen up, got me in the water.
From rainforest the scenery turns into a familiar eucalyptus forest. Flowering Banksias, wildflowers and... Snakes! I was surprised how many snakes I'd seen, spotting a snake almost every day.
After Du Cane Gap the rest of the trail is downhill . Passing the famous swinging bridge soon I got to Narcissus Hut. I sat outside with other hikers trying to spot Platypus (unsuccessful) and shared our excitement and disbelief that we only had one final day left to complete the Overland.
DAY 5: NARCISSUS TO CYNTHIA BAY
Today's distance: 17.63 km
Total kilometres: 120.72 km
The final day of the Overland Track! Most people opt to finish the trek by taking a ferry to the end. Not me, I wanted to save 50 bucks and walk the final stretch myself.
The last section was along Lake St Clair. For most of the walk you can't actually see the lake, you have to look closely. When I did get a peep, the water was shining bright blue. Couldn't ask for better weather.
I reached Echo Point Hut, and I was a little bit disappointed I didn't camp there because it was right on the beach. I better come back again!
The trail itself was challenging. Walking over tree roots, through mud and an untamed track means you don't really look up often. I was over it. The brain does something funny to you when you know you are close to the finish. I felt tired and eager to finally finish.
The trail seemed to go on and on... Then, I start seeing day walkers and small kids. That's when I knew I was so bloody close.
Reaching the end I had the satisfaction of signing my name in the logbook. Then, it was time for burger and beers with the other trail finishers! Woohoo!
Huts 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.
Book online well ahead of time if you are hitting the trail between 1 October - 31 May.
Take a day pack with your essentials when summitting side trails including your emergency device (e.g.PLB).
Be prepared with gear for four seasons. Even in summer.
The side trails are well worth it. Often these off the beaten paths have the best scenes and surprises.
The Pine Valley track is the longest side trail and apparently the best. You can hike to the Labyrinth, a pristine high alpine plateau. You can camp at the Labyrinth on the condition you leave nothing behind. Like absolutely nothing.