5-8 DAYS, 63km
Widely regarded as the best walk in Australia and one of the best in the world, the Overland Track traverses the finest of Tasmania’s wilderness: rugged mountain peaks, wild alpine moors and deep forests. The distance from Ronny Creek, below Cradle Mountain, to Narcissus Hut, at the northern end of Lake St Clair, is 63km. But the beauty of the Overland Track is that no two trips are the same: create your own itinerary using the huts along the route and any combination of the numerous side trips to mountain peaks, lakes, waterfalls and beauty spots that diverge from the main path. Here’s a basic run-down. For information on on other things to see in this amazing area, check out our page on day walks in Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.
Day 1: Cradle Valley to Waterfall Valley (10km, 5 hours)
The main track climbs steeply from Ronny Creek to Marions Lookout for a grandstand view, continuing to Kitchen Hut, a tiny emergency shelter. From here the track passes behind the bulk of Cradle Mountain before descending into Waterfall Valley.
Day 2: Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere (7km, 2 hours)
An easy day with ample opportunity for side trips as the track climbs gently out of the valley before crossing an exposed moor then climbing to a ridge for a view of all the track’s major peaks – on a clear day – with Lake Windermere in the foreground. The hut is in attractive forest near the lake edge.
Day 3: Windermere Hut to Pelion Hut (14km, 5.5 hours)
The track crosses Pine Forest Moor, an open buttongrass plain in the shadow of the massive Mt Pelion West, then enters dense forest where deep mud and tangled tree troots slow progress. The path emerges in a clearing at Frog Flats, the lowest point of the track (720m). Avoid the leeches and climb to Pelion Plains and the New Pelion Hut, the most luxurious shelter on the track.
Day 4: Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut (8km, 3 hours)
Climb through ancient rainforest to Pelion Gap, gaining 280m in about 2km. On a clear day the side-trip from here to Mt Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak, is a must; the track is steep but the views are unforgettable. From the gap the track descends to Kia Ora Hut, located in eucalypt forest beside Kia Ora Creek. Kia Ora Falls are a short walk downstream.
Day 5: Kia Ora Hut to Windy Ridge Hut (9km, 3 hours)
Thirty minutes of easy walking leads to historic Du Cane Hut. The hut, built in 1908, is now an emergency shelter only. The track then heads into magical forest of moss-covered myrtle beech trees to reach a junction, where tracks lead to nearby waterfalls. The main path continues through rainforest then climbs to Du Cane Gap (1070m). A descent through more rainforest leads to Windy Ridge Hut.
Day 6: Windy Ridge Hut to Pine Valley Hut (10km, 3.5 hours)
Pine Valley is technically not part of the Overland Track, but the beautiful setting and walking possibilities among the surrounding mountains demand inclusion in the itinerary if you have time. From Windy Ridge, 5km of easy walking brings you to the junction of the Pine Valley track. Turn right and cross several creeks on the way to Pine Valley Hut, set in beautiful rainforest beside Cephissus Creek.
Day 7: Pine Valley
Pack a day pack and head to one of the magnificent nearby peaks – the Labyrinth (6km, 4 hours) or the Acropolis (6km, 5 hours) are two to get you started.
Day 8: Pine Vally to Cynthia Bay (22km, 3.5 hours)
Return to the junction of the main track and turn right to reach Narcissus Hut at the northern end of Lake St Clair. From here it is possible to walk around the lake edge (17km) or take the easy option and use the radio in the hut to book a spot on the next boat across the lake.
CRADLE MOUNTAIN SUMMIT
2.5km, 2 hours from Kitchen Hut
5km, 2.5 hours from junction above Waterfall Valley Hut
2-3km, 1-2 hours from Waterfall Valley Hut
4km, 1.5 hours from track south of Waterfall Valley
MT PELION WEST
4km, 5 hours from the Pelion Plains
8km, 4 hours from Pelion Hut
5km, 2.5 hours return from Pelion Gap
MT PELION EAST
2.5km, 1.5 hours from Pelion Gap
D’ALTON & FERGUSSON FALLS
1km, 1.5 hours from main track in Mersey Valley
1km, 1 hour from main track in Mersey Valley
6km, 4 hours return from Pine Valley Hut
6km, 5 hours return from Pine Valley Hut
NEED TO KNOW
It is compulsory to walk from north to south during peak season and limited numbers are allowed on the track – book in advance to ensure a spot. A fee of $150 is also charged. This area is completely under snow in winter and bad weather can occur at any time of year, so be prepared. While this is one of the most travelled multi-day walks in Australia, it is still wilderness and should be treated with respect. A lot of work has been done in recent years to improve the condition of the track but it is still poor in some sections – expect to get muddy feet.
OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO
Base yourself at either end of the track – Cradle Valley or Lake St Clair – for some first-rate day walks, sightseeing and wildlife-spotting. Track notes for a selection of great day walks can be found here. Lake St Clair is also a popular fly fishing destination.
ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPLIES
Overnight stops along the track are at the excellent huts – Waterfall Valley, Windermere, Pelion, Kia Ora and usually one of Pine Valley, Narcissus or Echo Point, on the shore of Lake St Clair. The huts vary in size and provide shelter, a stove and wooden bunk beds, but you will need to bring a mattress, sleeping bag and fuel stove for cooking. It is also strongly advisable to carry a tent as space in the huts can’t be guaranteed. There is a campground and five-star accommodation at Cradle Mountain Lodge. The lodge has a small shop but stock up on walking equipment (and food) before you arrive.
For track bookings call (03) 6233 6047. The Cradle Mountain national parks visitor centre number is (03) 6492 1110.