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Lake Windermere, The Overland Track

Lake Windermere, The Overland Track

Introduction

Celebrated as Tasmania’s premier wilderness walk, the world-famous Overland Track is a magnificent 65km alpine walk within the Wilderness World Heritage Area listed Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

During the 5-7 days it takes to complete, walkers will experience dense rainforests, vast sclerophyll forests, beautiful waterfalls and epic mountain vistas, all while having the option to either camp or stay in huts. The trail is well constructed and easily followed, making the medium difficulty Overland Track a great introduction to longer multi-day hikes. The trail also includes a ferry trip across Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest Lake to finish the experience. Alternatively, an additional day can be spent navigating 15km along the shore of the lake.

Breathtaking mountainous side trips include, but are not limited to, the summit of Mount Ossa (1617), Tasmania’s Highest point, the iconic Cradle Mountain (1545m), Barn Buff (1559m), Mount Pelion East (1433m) and Pine Valley.

Please note, the Overland Track and any suggested site trips traverse remote alpine areas and suitable experience, fitness and equipment are necessary. Weather can change dramatically at any time of year.

Getting There


View Google Map Directions
The Overland Track is a one-way hike between Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair. During the booking season (1 October to 31 May) the trail can only be walked north to south. As such, the following directions are to Cradle Mountain, the beginning of the walk during this time.  More detailed access information can be found on the Parks and Wildlife website.

By Car:

Leaving Launceston head west on Bass Highway (A1), continuing for 56km before learning left onto Railton Road (B13). Continue through Railton to Sheffield and leave the township via Claude Road/Spring Street (C136). Follow this road for 30km before turning onto Cradle Mountain Road. At the end of this road, the visitor centre and shuttle bus to Ronny Creek are accessed.

Please note that long term parking is not available at Ronny Creek, and cars must be left at the Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre carpark. The walk concludes at Lake St Clair, 3 hours away from Cradle Mountain via car.

By Bus:

Prices range from $150-$450 depending on pick up location. Tables and prices are listed on the individual websites. 

  • Overland Track Transport
    Bus from Launceston to Cradle Mountain, Lake St Clair to Hobart
    Ph: 0474 172 012
  • TassieLink Transit
    Bus from Hobart via Launceston to Cradle Mountain, Lake St Clair to Launceston/Devonport via Hobart. The timetable for 2018-2019 can be found here
    Ph: 1300 300 520
  • McDermott’s Coaches
    Bus from Launceston to/from Cradle Mountain
    Ph: 6330 3717
  • Tasmanian Wilderness Experiences
    Bus from Hobart to/from Lake St Clair, Lake St Clair to/from Cradle Mountain
    Ph: 0477 480 383
  • Wilderness Expeditions Tasmania
    Bus from Devonport to/from Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair, Launceston to/ from Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair
    Ph: 6423 6244

The Trail


Day 1 – Cradle Mountain Vistors Centre to Waterfall Valley 11km, 5 hours

After signing in at the Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre and getting the shuttle bus to Ronny Creek, the Overland Track begins with a gentle climb through rich subalpine forests towards Crater Lake. From here, postcard-perfect scenes of the Cradle Mountain area are seen with fagus laden branches guiding your way along the track.

Once past Crater Lake, the steepest section of the Overland Track is faced; the gruelling ascent to Marions Lookout (1250m). Hinting views of Dove Lake present themselves as you climb the rough staircase of a track.

Once on top, the trail skirts along the alpine plateau beside Cradle Mountain and gently descends towards Waterfall Valley. Kitchen Hut is reached half way between Marions Lookout and Waterfall Valley and provides a suitable spot to leave your bags if attempting the Cradle Mountain summit (1545m).

The Cradle Mountain summit side track is one of the quintessential Overland Track experiences. Taking 2 hours from the track junction, this difficult climb scrambles over boulders towards the summit above Dove Lake. In good weather, commanding views across the valley are offered. Do not attempt to summit this mountain or any others in snowy conditions, as gaps can be hidden below you.

Continuing to Waterfall Valley, the trail steeply descends via well-formed steps to the hut and campsites. Here you are nestled below the towering peak of Barn Bluff (1559m). Slightly past the camp area, Branigan Falls can be found.

Waterfall Valley Hut sleeps 24 / Multiple tent sites and platforms

Cradle Mountain summit walk, Overland Track

Cradle Mountain summit walk, Overland Track

Waterfall Valley campsite and hut, Overland Track

Waterfall Valley campsite and hut, Overland Track

the stunning Hartnett Rivulet below Branigan Falls

The stunning Hartnett Rivulet below Branigan Falls


Day 2 – Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere 8km, 3 hours

With the most significant climb out of the way on day 1, the second day’s hike to Lake Windermere is a relaxing 8km past beautiful alpine lakes and tarns.

For the first few kilometres, the trail edges past Barn Bluff along duckboard heathland. Eventually, the turnoff to Lake Will is met. This short 45-minute return walk takes you to the pencil pine shoreline of Lake Will and provides a great spot to stop for lunch.

Returning to the main track, the trail crosses the alpine plateau via a well-constructed rocky path.  Walking here is simply spectacular. Idyllic tarns and expansive views surround you as you continue to Lake Windermere.

Shortly after reaching Lake Windermere, the hut and camping platforms are found, nestled between snow peppermints and grandiose pandani plants.

Windermere Hut sleeps 24 / Multiple tent platforms

Overland Track, near the turn off to Lake Will

Overland Track, near the turn off to Lake Will

Lake Windermere Hut

Lake Windermere Hut

Lake Windermere, Overland Track

Lake Windermere, Overland Track


Day 3 – Lake Windermere to Pelion 17km, 6 hours

The walk from Lake Windermere to Pelion is a solid undertaking with 17km to cover. Leaving the lake and its beautiful pandani gardens, the trail meanders through heathland and buttongrass plains for an hour. During this section, Mount Pelion West dominates your view as you edge towards Pine Forest Moor.

After crossing the moorland Pelion Creek is reached and the trail enters a stunning myrtle-beech forest. Walking here is magical as the light filters through the dense forest canopy. The trail then heads downhill to Frog Flats and crosses Forth River. From the flats, the trail returns to dry and wet sclerophyll forest before opening onto Pelion Plains with the nights camp up ahead.

Briefly, before reaching Pelion, a worthy side trip to Old Pelion Hut is offered. This short 1km return walk takes you to the remains of the original Pelion Hut. Continuing past the hut via a rough foot track, a lovely swimming hole can be found on Douglas Creek, great for cooling off in the heat of summer!

Pelion Hut sleeps 36 / Multiple tent sites 

Trail from Lake Windermere with Mount Pelion West in the distance

Trail from Lake Windermere with Mount Pelion West in the distance

Forest section before Pelion Creek

Forest section before Pelion Creek

Pelion Plains campground, above the Pelion Hut

Pelion Plains campground, above the Pelion Hut


Day 4 – Pelion to Kia Ora 10km, 4 hours

Leaving the beautiful hut and campsite of Pelion, the trail steadily climbs 300m through rainforest and eventually opens onto the exposed alpine plateau of Pelion Gap (1140m).  From here, two fantastic mountain summits are offered; Mount Ossa (1617m) and Mount Pelion East (1433m).

Mount Ossa, Tasmania’s highest peak at 1617m, is a must-do side trip if time and weather allow. Leaving Pelion Gap, the Mt Ossa track gently climbs through beautiful subalpine meadows via a rocky trail for an hour before steeply climbing the boulder field below the summit. The walking grade here is difficult and care must be taken to follow the correct path. As you climb, views across the Wilderness World Heritage Area remind you just how special this amazing place is. The ranges seem endless!

Once on top of the highest peak in Tasmania, 360 degrees are offered with nothing but the weather in your way.  This 5km walk takes 4 hours and should only be attempted with suitable day light hours available and clear weather forecast. Do not walk the trail in bad weather or in snow as gaps in the boulder field go unseen.

If limited for time, the Mount Pelion East climb presents a good alternative to Mount Ossa. The 2-hour return walk offers views across to Mt Ossa and along the Pelion Range.

Leaving Pelion Gap, the trail descends to Kia Ora via a mix of duckboard, rocky and muddy track.

Kia Ora Hut sleeps 20 / Multiple tent platforms

View south from the Mount Ossa Track

View south from the Mount Ossa Track

 Mount Doris from the Mount Ossa track

Mount Pelion East from the Mount Ossa track

Towering Pandani plants near Pelion Plains

Towering Pandani plants near Pelion Plains


Day 5 – Kia Ora to Windy Ridge 9km, 4 hours

Day 5 offers some of the most impressive forest walking of the entire hike, due to the track weaving its way under dark rainforest canopies for much of the day. 3 healthy waterfalls are also found in this section. It is highly recommended that all 3 waterfall side trips are undertaken as the rewards far outweigh the effort required to access them.

Leaving Kia Ora the train quickly enters the rainforest skirting below Castle Crag. After about an hour of rainforest walking, Du Cane Hut is reached. While not available for overnight stays, the picturesque hut makes for a great lunch spot before exploring the multiple waterfalls up ahead.

Shortly after the hut, the first waterfall turn-off is met, leading to D’Alton and Fergusson Falls only 1km away. Leaving your pack at the trailhead, the walk descends through more boundless rainforest to the junction between both falls. Each waterfall is only a short distance from the junction. Care should be taken in sections of occasional buttress roots and mud.

Slightly further along the Overland Track, the turnoff to Hartnett Falls is reached. This 1.5km side trip gradually descends to the muddy cliff’s edge above the imposing falls. The track to the bottom of the falls is rough and slippery, but worthwhile to experience the true magnitude of the Hartnett Falls as it falls over the high rock face.

After experiencing the waterfalls, the track climbs over 200m to De Cane Gap, the saddle below the De Cane Range. In rainy weather the trail here often acts as a creek and going can be very wet. Once over the saddle, the trail descends through drier eucalypt forest for an hour before meeting Bert Nichols Hut, surrounded by the steep ridges of the remarkable De Cane Range.

Bert Nichols Hut sleeps 24 / Multiple tent sites 

The track from Kia Ora Hut, Overland Track

The track from Kia Ora Hut, Overland Track

Fergusson Falls, Overland Track

Fergusson Falls, Overland Track

The trail to D'Alton and Fergusson Falls

The trail to D’Alton and Fergusson Falls


Day 6 – Windy Ridge to Lake St Clair via ferry 10km, 3 hours

Note, due to ferry booking times being limited to only a few trips during the day, it is recommended that you commence the hike as early as possible to ensure a spot. Private tour groups will often book entire sessions during summer. Ferry times and costs can be found here.

Leaving Bert Nichols Hut and Windy Ridge, this final leg of the Overland Track is the easiest with no significant climbing to be done. From the hut, the trail gently descends, alternating between wet and dry eucalypt forests in long sweeping sections.

Roughly 1 hour into the walk, the turn off Pine Valley Hut is met. For those wanting to extend their wilderness experience, the Pine Valley hut offers access to additional alpine climbs to the labyrinth and beyond to Mount Geryon (1520m) and the Acropolis (1481m). Pine Valley itself is also spectacularly impressive with ancient rainforests drenched in lush moss and ferns.

Continuing, the forest opens to golden buttongrass plains and the gravel track is replaced with sound duckboards. Shortly after this change of scenery, the Narcissus River is crossed via a suspension bridge.

3 hours into the day’s hike, Narcissus Hut, nestled on the banks of the river is reached. Use the radio in the hut to book your ferry trip across Lake St Clair to Cynthia Bay to complete the walk. The ferry leaves a short distance from the hut at the jetty. Alternatively, the 15km section of track around the lake to Cynthia Bay can be walked. However, this is often a tedious undertaking with little change in scenery or track conditions.

Once at Cynthia Bay, congratulate yourself on completing one of the most spectacular hikes in Australia!

Narcussis hut sleeps 18 / Multiple tent sites 

View more Overland Track photos

Trail Map

Map for illustrative purposes only. Base map supplied by Land Information System Tasmania

Purchase the official TASMAP map here

The Parks and Wildlife website offers some additional great resources such as GPX data, gear checklists and walker safety. It is highly recommended that consult the official guides while preparing for this walk. 

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