Classic Trek: Western Arthur Range

4 DAYS, 34km

South-west Tasmania contains some of the most remote, challenging and wild scenery anywhere in Australia, and the Western Arthur Range is arguably the wildest and most spectacular part of the south-west. The range contains 22 peaks and 20 hanging lakes; the fact it is 15km long and takes most walkers 4-5 days to traverse gives an indication of the nature of the terrain. The mountains are a jumble of jagged quartzite and cop the full force of the Roaring Forties – any treks in this region should only be attempted by experienced walkers. But for those that make the effort, this is often the trip of a lifetime. The notes below describe a four-day taste of what the range has to offer; allow 9-12 days for the full traverse.

Day 1: Huon Campground to Junction Creek (7km, 3.5 hours)

After filling out the registration book, walk south-west as the track undulates through rainforest for 2km then crosses the Arthur Plains providing easy walking all the way to Junction Creek. The first section of the hike is on wooden boards across button grass plains, the latter section involves several creek crossings and is eroded and muddy in places. Junction Creek campsite is on the other side of the creek, a knee-deep wade ends the day (the creek level can rise quickly after rain). Follow instructions on signs beside the creek to wash boots and gaiters to prevent the spread of plant diseases.

Junction Creek campsite

Day 2: Junction Creek to Lake Cygnus (7km, 6 hours)

Turn right at a track junction just outside the campsite and continue south-west on the Port Davey track to reach another junction after 2km. Turn left at this point to leave the Port Davey Track and reach the base of Moraine A about 300 metres further on. Walking to this point has been flat and easy, although the track is boggy in some parts.

Approaching the Western Arthurs on the Port Davey Track

From here things get a lot tougher – the crest of the Western Arthur Range is attained by a relentless climb up Moraine A. The rough track gains 500 metres of elevation in about 1km as it scales the ridge carved by the last ice age. The track heads west then swings south when it reaches the top of the range, levelling off to provide easy walking again as it skirts the western slopes of Mount Hesperus – look for a rough track that leads off to the left to reach the top of the peak for an awesome 360-degree view. Past Mount Hesperus a short off-track detour to Lake Fortuna is recommended (the lake has a beautiful beach) before the track reaches the top of a series of wooden steps that make the steep descent to wooden tent platforms (and bush toilet) beside Lake Cygnus.

Ascending Moraine A

Day 3: Day trip to Square Lake (6km, 5 hours)

In good weather this is one of the finest days of walking you are likely to experience, with spectacular views in all directions and exciting climbs and descents through the rocky ramparts of the Western Arthurs. Make the steep climb from Lake Cygnus and turn right to rejoin the main track as it heads south-east along the crest of the range. The stony track is easy to follow as it approaches the bulk of Mount Hayes, which dominates the area.

Hikers below Mount Hayes, Western Arthurs

A side-trip to the top takes about 40 minutes return and provides grandstand views – the distinctive peak of Federation Peak is visible on the horizon on a clear day. To reach the top head straight up then follow a gully around the left side of the summit tower. Take extreme care around the summit as the drop to the south and north is hundreds of metres. Return to the main track and continue south-east, dropping steeply into a saddle then climbing again to an un-named peak then heading east to where cairns mark the route down to the shore of Square Lake. Take a break here before returning to Lake Cygnus campsite via the same route.

Typical section of the Western Arthurs traverse

Day 4: Lake Cygnus to Huon campground (14km, 8 hours)

Climb back up from the campsite (this time with packs) and turn left to return past Mount Hesperus to the top of Moraine A and descend the ridge. Rejoin the Port Davey Track and follow it back to Junction Creek and on to the trailhead.

End of the Port Davey Track

NEED TO KNOW

Rain falls 250 days a year in the south-west and it is extremely rare to complete any extended trip in clear weather. Conditions can change very quickly and snow can fall at any time of year, including the height of summer. February and March offer the most stable walking conditions but take full wet weather gear and expect to use it. Factor in extra days to allow for being stuck at camp at some stage of the trip.

The walk starts at the Huon River camping area at the end of Scotts Peak Road. From Hobart follow the Strathgordon Road to the turnoff 31km past Maydena. It’s another 33km to the camping area where there is a registration book in a small shelter.

No permits are needed to hike the range but you will need a national park entry pass and make sure you leave your trip details, including expected return date, with someone responsible.

The TASMAP 1:100,000 Old River map covers the entire walk. The book South West Tasmania by John Chapman is the definitive walking guide to the region and features excellent track notes and detailed hand-drawn maps.

Recovering after a long day's walking on Lake Cygnus tent platform

OTHER THINGS TO SEE AND DO

The south-west is one of the most remote places in Australia and long-distance walking is the only real way to experience this amazing place. The Eliza Plateau and Lake Judd can be done as long day walks but the real attraction of this area is the epic long-distance wilderness hikes – the Port Davey track continues for 70km to Malaleuca, where it connects with the South Coast Track that follows 85km of wild coastline back to Cockle Creek, south of Hobart. Federation Peak, Mount Anne and Frenchman’s Cap also lure walkers from around the country. For a more leisurely activity, boating and fishing is permitted on Lake Pedder and Lake Gordon. There is good car-based camping on the Scott River Road at Huon, Edgar and Teds Beach campgrounds. A scenic flight from Hobart to Malaleuca gives a taste of what the area has to offer.

Hiking back from Lake Judd with the cliffs of the Eliza Plateau in the background

ACCOMMODATION AND SUPPLIES

The last outpost of civilisation is Maydena but there is only a small petrol station and store – make sure you are fully stocked for all supplies before leaving Hobart.

MORE INFORMATION

Vist the Tasmanian National Parks service online or phone (03) 6288 1283

These descriptions are a guide only. While we have made every effort to make them accurate, we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained while using them. Make sure you use an up-to-date map and consult rangers before heading out.