A guide to tackling Tasmania’s Overland Track
One of the world’s most impressive hikes is just on our doorstep. Are you ready to take on the physical challenge of the Overland Track?
Taking in the iconic views of Cradle Mountain is certainly one of the biggest rewards of tackling Tasmania’s Overland Track. But it’s not the only one. The 65 km, six-day trek through the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park offers incredible new experiences at literally every turn.
A strong start takes you past the otherworldly Crater Falls and around Crater Lake up onto the Cradle Plateau. There, look out across the smooth mirror-like surface of Dove Lake and a backdrop of jagged mountaintops as far as the eye can see. After passing the pretty cascades of Waterfall Valley, head across button grass plains lake hopping along the way. Bring your swimmers if the weather is fine so that you can cool off with a refreshing dip.
Then it’s onto the moors, before heading up into the mountain plains. The next leg of the journey takes you through myrtle forests and past pandani trees, to bring you out between Mount Pelion West and Tasmania’s highest peak, Mount Ossa at 1617 metres. Push forward to Pinestone Valley to be blown away by the striking views of Cathedral Mountain.
The damp shade of dense rainforests bristles with Leatherwood and Sassafrass trees. Then, as you emerge, marvel at the three immense waterfalls, among Tassie’s largest – Fergusson Falls, Dalton Falls and Hartnett Falls.
And for the final leg, a hike along slopes lined with eucalypts and ancient pines to the journey’s end – the shores of Lake St Clair. This is the deepest natural freshwater lake in Australia whose beauty is enhanced by the jagged peaks of nearby Mount Ida and Mount Olympus.
It’s not just the landscapes that will wow you. Along the way, you will come across fascinating wildlife like wallabies, possums and gigantic wombats. There are also lots of native birds like the currawong and yellow-throated wattle.
As for civilisation? There are some abandoned copper mines, but that’s really it. This experience is all about leaving the world as you know it behind and getting back to nature – perfect for fitness lovers.
How fit do I need to be?
In fact, you need to have a certain level of fitness in order to take on the challenge. If you can walk an average of 12km a day for a week across a variety of track surfaces, occasionally steep ascents and descents with around 18kg on your back, then you’re a contender.
Even if you’re not quite up to a week-long trek, there are still a number of day and overnight treks you can do from Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair.
On the other hand, there are plenty of ways to make the trek even more challenging. For example, experienced climbers can add on a five-hour climb of Mount Ossa.
Don’t go it alone
But no matter how fit you are, when setting off into the wilderness, there are a few things to bear in mind. Number one, that while finding yourself while all alone in the midst of nature may sound exciting, you’re better off going as part of a group.
That’s definitely the case when tackling the Overland Track. Not just because getting lost on your own in a remote forest is never a good idea, but because it would simply a shame not to have anyone to share your experience of this spell-binding part of the world. Groups of three or more are recommended.
Play it even safer by telling someone what your plans are. Make sure they know to call for help if you don’t make it back as planned.
Recording your movements in the park logbooks is another way of leaving a trail. These can be found at the start and end of the track as well as at the huts along the way. They are regularly checked by park staff.
You can do the walk from October 1 all the way through to May 31, but that doesn’t necessarily mean you will avoid uncomfortable weather conditions. Because of the mountainous nature of the surroundings, you could come across rain, wind, sun and even snow at any time of the year. That means that you need to pack wisely with gear that will equip you for any eventuality. You’ll also need to be prepared to turn back if necessary.
Don’t forget to pack a first aid kit or, even better, take a first aider along with you. A tent is essential too, even if you plan on staying in the huts.
These precautions may seem a little over the top, but in 2014, a Chinese bushwalker died of hypothermia while undertaking the trek. Rising numbers of visitors to the Overland Track have prompted local authorities to underline the safety measures that will stop events like this from reoccurring.
But, with the trek described by many as “life-changing”, the preparations will be worth the effort. Get ready to be wowed.
How to train for the hike
Prepare for the Overland Track by doing around 45 minutes of aerobic exercise, three to four times a week in the months before your departure. You should also get used to hill walking by heading outside with a backpack no matter the weather. Wet and windy walks will help prepare you for the challenge ahead.
Where to stay nearby
Accommodation during the trek is pretty basic, so why not treat yourself to a comfy place to rest your head before and after your hiking adventure? You’ll find a number of beautiful and unique luxury eco-retreats near the start of the trek around Deloraine like Forest Walks Lodge, quaint Spring Field Deer Farm and Falls River Luxury Accommodation. Or check out Lemonthyme Wilderness Reach near Cradle Mountain itself for some secluded serenity.
Mix things up by heading even further afield for a post-trek coastal getaway in the summer months. Feeling the sand between your toes will be the perfect remedy for those cramped hiking boot toes. The Bay of Fires is home to a number of stunning retreats like Holland House, Villa Rochford and Halcyon.