As we approach the Australian winter and Tasmania’s albeit unpredictable weather, we ditched our overnight packs and instead did some epic day hikes in and around the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park area. Here’s what we discovered.
As one of Australia’s most sparsely populated states, Tasmania or ‘Tasy’ as us Aussies affectionately love to call it bursts with impressive and varied hiking opportunities.
The area in and around the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park offers incredible day walk options. In the northern section of the park you’ll find rugged mountains, glacial lakes and windswept moors; while the southern end boasts Australia’s deepest lake, Lake St Clair, complete with its incredible century-old myrtle forests and mystical temper.
There is however the perception that to get the best of Tasy hiking you must undertake an epic multi-day hiking adventure – not true.
Here’s three day- hikes that will leave you breathless - in more ways than one.
1. Mount Roland Summit
Length: 6.4 km retrace
Where? Claude Rd Village, Kentish Municipality - just over one hours’ drive from Launceston
Located a mere 40 minutes’ drive from the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park and standing at 1,223 meters, Mount Roland cannot be mistaken. Seen from most of Northern Tasmania, this almost impregnable huge dolerite rock plateau offers an adventure of boulder hopping, combined with Tasy’s famously unpredictable weather.
The Face Track which can be accessed via Claude Road is the best option for conquering this monolith of sheer rock face. Starting in dense eucalypt forest, the hike climbs up on to the spur before it reaches the base of Roland’s huge dolerite cliffs. As you approach the base, make sure you take the right fork in the trail, as the false lead to the left is for rock climbers only. The cliff faces are quite high, so you’ll need to continue climbing up a steep gully, 843 meters in elevation to be exact before you finally reach the summit.
On the top, you’ll find lovely open alpine heathland and moorland with incredible views across to Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff to the South. After admiring the view, simply retrace your way back down, but take care on the rocky terrain.
Mount Roland is very exposed and weather can turn suddenly. Carrying all-season clothing and a head torch for unpredictable fog is a must, but if you just happen to be lucky with great weather, then its magical, and the perfect spot to also do some star gazing.
2.Cradle Mountain Circuit
Length: 12 - 17 Km circuit depending on the route option taken
Where? Cradle Mountain National Park. 2 hours from Launceston
Often recommended as a two-day hike, an early start means this stunning hike can be completed in one day, however it can be tough.
There is no doubt this hike ticks all the boxes when it comes to epic day hikes. It takes you off the beaten track, away from the majority of visitors and rewards with vistas of the most scenic parts of the northern end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.
Like everyone that visits the National park, you’ll need to park your vehicle at the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and purchase a Tas Parks Pass. The pass includes access to the free shuttle which will drop you at Dove Lake and the start of your hike.
From Dove Lake, the immense beauty of Cradle Mountain and Weindorfer’s Tower burns your retinas. To start your hike, walk south-east from the lake following the trail markers up to Hanson’s Peak. It’s a steep climb and is rocky underfoot, and you’ll more than welcome the magical appearance of fixed chains to assist your scramble up the bare rock face. Hanson’s peak itself is 230 meters higher that Dove Lake, so the climb is well worth the effort, offering stunning views across both Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain and Lake Hanson to the south.
From Hanson’s Peak, gradually descend past the beautiful Twisted Lakes, and down to Lake Rodway where you’ll be rewarded with sheltered conditions and an array of beautiful alpine plant species set amidst the backdrop of Cradle Mountain’s incredible towers.
Continuing on the Lake Rodway Track, you undertake a steep ascent at the southern end of the Cradle Mountain complex near Benson Peak, before joining up with the main Overland Track on a stunning yet exposed alpine meadow.
The main Overland Track continues past Kitchen Hut, which is not only a great place to rest, but where you can begin the climb to Cradle Mountain itself. Onwards from Kitchen Hut, you’ll encounter more hikers as you approach the famed Marion’s Lookout and Crater Lake before descending back to Dove Lake via the gorgeous Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla.
There are a variety of trail options for this full circuit of Dove Lake, so make sure you pick up a trail map at the visitor’s centre and plan your hike according to your fitness level and of course the weather.
If you want to slightly shorten your distance, but still make it tough, instead of continuing to Lake Rodway take the Face Track which is located at the trail junction near the ranger’s hut just past the Twisted Lakes. As it suggests, this track traverses’ cliffs near the towering mountain peaks of Little Horn and Weindorfer’s Tower, and although a tough section of the trail, it will quickly connect you across to Kitchen Hut and the main Overland Track.
Be mindful the last bus to depart Dove Lake to the car park is 5.30 pm, so only miss this bus if you’re eager to complete an extra 10 km back to your car.
3.Echo Point to Cynthia Bay – 11.2 Km one way trip
Length: 11.2 Km – one way
Where? Lake St Clair National Park. 2.5 hours’ drive from Launceston
This hike forms the last day of the famed Overland Track as hikers finally reach their end destination at Lake St Clair. It also happens to be one of the most enchanting and magical hikes in the Lake St Clair end of the Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. The stunning Myrtle forests covered in dense moss and peppered with tree ferns is a key feature of this walk. This, alongside the glistening Lake St Clair makes for a sheltered and magical hiking experience.
To undertake this hike in one day, you’ll need to take the hiker’s shuttle boat from Cynthia Bay at Lake St Clair up to Echo Point. The boat trip can be booked from the Lake St Clair Lodge located adjacent to the main Lake St Clair Visitor Information Centre. The boat trip takes around 15 minutes, and is known for its spectacular views of Mt Olympus in the West and across to Mt Ida in the neighbouring Walls of Jerusalem National Park.
On arrival by boat to Echo Point, you’ll see the Echo Point Hut and the starting point for your walk. Echo Point its renowned for wild platypus sightings, particularly when the lake is calm, so be sure to spend some time here. The majority of this walk is through ancient myrtle and sassafras forest in close proximity to the ancient glacial formed Lake St Clair.
In the damp rainforest conditions, you’ll find a maze of mud and tangled roots underfoot, so although this walk is not considered difficult and there are no peaks to climb, don’t underestimate the strain this hike can put on your feet and ankles.
This very pretty trail continues all the way alongside Lake St Clair via Platypus Bay and the platypus viewing hide, finally crossing the confluence of the Hugel and Cuvier Rivers and finishing back at Cynthia Bay.
Where to stay?
While accommodation options in the area are numerous, for the Mount Roland and Cradle Mountain area we chose to stay at the very cosy Silver Ridge Retreat. At just over an hour from Launceston and a mere 40-minute drive from the Cradle Mountain National Park, Silver Ridge Retreat is well located for accessing both the Mount Roland Summit and Cradle Mountain Circuit hikes.
Dwarfed by Mount Roland, the property also has the added bonus of dark skies for Tasy’s famous star gazing, resident platypus on site, an old silver mine to explore complete with Tasmanian Cave Spiders, and delightful native birdlife.
To access the hiking in the Lake St Clair National Park, we chose to stay at the Lake St Clair Lodge. This more up-market cabin - style accommodation complete with fireplaces and an onsite restaurant set by the glacial Lake St Clair provided excellent access to the park’s many trails and lake ferry service.
But, if you just can’t part with your tent, then there’s always the numerous campsites which still offer access to the lodge’s facilities.
Want to know more? Visit: discovertasmania.com.au