Hiking Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain

Posted on February 5, 2013 by

Australia’s Tasmania island has long been known for its large and relatively unspoiled natural environment. Almost 37% of it lies in reserves, national parks and World Heritage Sites. And of these national parks, the most well known is perhaps the World Heritage area of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair.

Spreading all the way from the Great Western Tiers in the north to Derwent Bridge in the south, the national park covers a massive area of 168,000 hectares. Although its highest peak is Mount Ossa at 1617m high, it is the 1,545 meter-high Cradle Mountain that steals the show.  The area around the mountain has a large number of day walks, as well as being one terminus of the 80.5km Overland Track with Lake St Clair, Australia’s deepest lake, at the other end.

Apart from the Tasmanian Devil, Cradle Mountain was what drew us to Tasmania. On a recent trip, we spent a few days hiking out in the national park, exploring its pristine lakes and wild moorlands.  From our base at the charming Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, we weaved our way through wet and dark temperate forests, jumping over moss-filled logs, meandering past the edges of dank gorges, and admiring gushing waterfalls. The landscape was moody and melodramatic yet hauntingly beautiful, set in the right mood by the trickling rain.

While we didn’t have a chance to traverse the Overland Track, we did sample Cradle Mountain’s beauty on a series of day walks. Here’s a look at the four walks we did in the national park:

1. Marion’s Lookout

We started the scenic route to Marion’s Lookout from the Dove Lake carpark and it was approximately a 2.5-hour walk return. There is a shorter route but it goes straight up a steep side of the mountain. We went the long way and it brought us up steep rock boulders, winding up and down slopes that overlooked Lake Lilla and Wombat Pool. But the view was well worth it: Marion’s Lookout is poised on the edge of a glacier-carved plateau, opening up to spectacular views of the surrounding mountain peaks and mirrored lakes.

  • Duration: 2 – 2.5 hours return (3km one way)
  • Grade: Reasonable easy; difficult last section
  • Starts:  At Dove Lake carpark

2. Dove Lake Circuit

 This is a 6km track that winds its way around Dove Lake and beneath the towering spires of Cradle Mountain. It’s one of the most popular walks in the national park, though most people just walk part of it, including us. We started from Dove Lake carpark as usual and followed the boardwalk through the magnificent Ballroom Forest. This cool temperate rainforest had a lime-green forest floor that carpeted with moss, and ancient myrtle-beech trees festooned in fungi. These myrtle-beeches were part of the distinctive suite of plants that evolved on the supercontinent of Gondwana. Today the species finds its stronghold in Tasmania.

  • Duration: 2 hours return (5.7km one way)
  • Grade: Easy
  • Starts:  At Dove Lake carpark

3. Enchanted stroll

This is a short, easy wak in the area around Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge, through the temperate forest, along the Pencil Pine River. Despite its proximity to civilization, it’s preserved in its natural state – quiet and obscure. Covered by the trees’ canopy, we walked in the cool, mountain air to the sound of flowing water in the background. The moss-covered myrtle tree branches stretched out like dragons’ claws while eucalyptus trees poked through the canopy towards the sky. Besides wombat burrows, we also saw several Tasmanian pademelon hopping all over the forest.

  • Duration: 20 Minutes (1km)
  • Grade: Easy
  • Starts: Peppers Cradle Lodge (circular track)

4. Waterfalls Walk

Just across the road from the lodge is the waterfalls trail that connects several waterfalls and makes for an excellent walk especially in summer. While we visited in winter and didn’t get to jump in for a dip, we did experience the spray of the water and the rumble of the falls. The boardwalk brought us through the ancient temperate forest, snaking alongside the Pencil Pine River again, before winding its way to Knyvet Falls, a small cascade of brackish water perched on a cliff’s edge. Then we headed the other direction and found ourselves at Pencil Pine Falls, a more spectacular falls cascading off a slope.

  • Duration: 30-40 minutes (1.5km)
  • Grade: Easy
  • Starts: Opposite the Lodge Shop

Disclaimer: Our trip was made possible by Tourism Tasmania, but all opinions expressed above are our own.

About Nellie Huang

Nellie Huang is the co-founder of WildJunket. As a professional travel writer with a special interest in offgrid destinations and adventure travel, she scours through the world in search for a slice of undiscovered paradise. In her quest, she's climbed an active volcano in Guatemala, swam with sealions in the Galapagos and built a school in Tanzania.

10 Responses to “Hiking Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain”

  1. Acer Liquid E1 GPS February 5, 2013 9:49 pm #

    Tasmania is a great place to travel on and of the beautiful places in Australia. Tasmania's greatest resource is its untouched wilderness areas.

  2. Jeremy Branham February 6, 2013 10:19 am #

    Beautiful area! Lot of short walks and easy access places to see some great scenery. Love the waterfalls! Never thought of the Tasmania area looking like this.

    • @WildJunket February 6, 2013 1:06 pm #

      We experienced quite a bit of rain when we were there, but it made it look even more atmospheric. It must be even prettier in summer.

  3. Johnny February 8, 2013 8:40 pm #

    Looks like a nice getaway. Nature has always been appealing to me! Will surely add this to my list of 2013 trips.

  4. Migration Expert February 10, 2013 11:41 pm #

    What is the name of the animal in the photo? Is that a forest rat?

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