Overland Track Activity Guides:
Overland Track Trails:
Overland Track Overview
Envision a place that has the green hues of the Scottish Highlands, the temperate rainforest trails of New Zealand, and Seussian button-grass moorlands lining the shores of half a dozen freshwater lakes. This is no geographical fantasy, but a fortuitous collision of variable environments all collected into one spot on Australia's southernmost island, Tasmania. This is the Overland Track.
Starting at 4,000-foot Cradle Mountain, the route passes over undulating trails lined with yellow hibbertia and alpine forest valleys before terminating 40 miles later at Lake St. Clair, the deepest freshwater lake in Australia. The UNESCO World Heritage-listed trek carves through Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, passing through sheer mountains and temperate rainforests, alongside crashing waterfalls and azure lakes, and over wild rivers and alpine plains.
As you'd expect from a route known as Australia's greatest extended bushwalk, the Overland Track is heavily regulated; only 34 hikers can depart each day. During the peak season of November through April, all hikers must go from north to south and must book through the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, which open July 1. The trail is relatively level and demands only a few hours of hiking a day, making it ideal for appropriately equipped hikers of all ages and abilities, though outfitters do offer guided tours. Plan on spending at least five nights to complete the journey. Huts of all shapes and price points line the track—apt shelter from Tasmania's 245 days of rain. If you have extra time, extend the trip to ten days and knock off side trips to 5,114-foot Barn Bluff and 5,305-foot Mount Ossa, Tasmania's highest mountain.
A typical five-night trek starts on the split-eucalypt-timber boardwalks above the muddy marshes as you make your first descent on the trail, avoiding wombat scat as you cross over trout- and platypus-filled creeks. Follow the fragrance of lemon-scented boronia on your way to Cradle Lake, a glacial cirque on the side of Crater Peak. Knock out the hardest section of the track on day one, summiting Marian's Lookout, a man-made staircase boasting windy 360-degree views of Dove Lake and the central plateau to the east. Then descend into the eucalypt forest of Waterfall Valley and set up camp by Waterfall Valley Hut. Look for the glowing eyes of sharp-toothed carnivorous marsupials such as the infamous Tasmanian devil, who gets bolder after dusk (though its name belies a truly passive personality). On day two, pass Lake Will and Lake Holmes before heading over a rise of button-grass moorlands to the pencil-pine-fringed shores of Lake Windermere. Windermere Hut is perched on its southwestern edge, looking out over a collection of glacial erratics dotting the lake's chilly waters.
On day three, enjoy Forth Valley Lookout, with views of Mount Oakley, Mount Pelion, and Mount Ossa. Clamor through tea tree and myrtle forests, then take a pit stop at the natural amphitheater looking out onto Mount Achilles. Break out the scragon, known in America as good old raisins and peanuts, before crossing the Douglas River and peeling off to Pelion Hut. Watch for sneaky opossums, quolls, and currawongs—they'll pry into your pack for an easy meal. Day four ends at Kia Ora cabin, initially winding up to Pelion Gap and then dropping down to the barren pine stone moor that faces Cathedral Mountain, scarred on its side by a massive rockfall.
On day five, pass a series of waterfalls, including Kia Ora Falls; traverse the edge of the Du Cane Range; and then pass under Castle Craig to Du Cane Hut, a historic split-timber hut built by pioneer prospector Patty Hartnett in the 1920s. The hill above Du Cane Hut offers the best views of Cathedral Mountain, looking out over a leatherwood and eucalyptus forest. Pass both the new and old Bert Nichols Huts, built in the 1950s, and then head downhill to Narcissus Bay via the Bowling Green before grabbing a well-earned beer or hot chocolate at the café at Lake St. Clair Visitor Centre.
The track is open year-round. During peak season, expect rain and mud—lots of mud (boots and gaiters are highly recommended). During the winter months, the mud typically freezes, making passage easier, except on the boardwalks, which can become quite icy. Tent camping is allowed—and it's a good idea to bring one as a backup; the huts can get crowded. You must also pack all your food. No open fires are allowed, so bring your camp stove, along with insect repellent and waterproof/breathable rain gear.
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- Walk the Overland Track