Stretching 65 kilometres through deep valleys, mountain passes, and ancient forests is one of the world's greatest wilderness trails - the Overland Track. Located in Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania's second most visited National Park, visitors from near and far come to gaze at the vast wilderness reaching across the horizon. However, only a few tackle the wonderous Overland Track each year.
Whether you're a keen hiker or just discovering the joy of spending prolonged periods in nature, as soon as you lay eyes on the well-formed trails leading into rugged landscapes, you won't be able to resist the urge to dawn a pack and start walking.
As Tasmania is known for its unpredictable weather, it's best to plan ahead to ensure you're well prepared. If you're ready to discover the secrets of the mighty Overland Track, check out below Everything You Need to Know About Cradle Mountain & the Overland Track.
Best time to hike Cradle Mountain and the Overland Track
Along with rugged landscapes and breathtaking glaciers comes Tasmania's dramatic weather. You may be hiking in low cloud in the morning, and by the afternoon, the skies will clear to reveal long stretches of untouched valley. Even so, Tasmania has four distinct seasons, each with its own characteristics.
Spring (September & October):
Temperatures hang between 10 - 15 °C (50 - 59 °F) during the day, and cooler evenings are perfect for cosying up next to the fire. As late winter and spring see their fair share of rain, the landscapes will be lush and green, and vibrant pinks and yellows of the Tasmania waratah and banksia flowers make for very picturesque valleys.
Summer (November - February):
Tasmania stays relatively mild all year round, summer brings with it average highs of 19°C (66°F) with daytime temperatures between 15 - 18 °C (59 - 64 °F), which is ideal for all-day hiking. Summer is especially notable for the abundance of native plants in full bloom. Leatherwood, waratah, orchids and scoparia coat the valleys in colour and alpine wildflowers dot the mountain tops. As summer is also the most popular time of year to hike the Overland Track, it's best to book well in advance.
Autumn (March - May):
If you don't mind chilly mornings, autumn is a stunning time to hike the Overland Track. Temperatures are similar to springtime, yet you'll see less rain and wind and more settled days. What makes autumn extra unique are the many fagus trees, Tasmania's only deciduous tree, whose leaves turn from green to gold to a dark red. Photographers will delight in the pop of colours, showcasing the many hidden valleys dotted along the track.
Winter (June - August):
While winter might not be the best time to hike the Overland Track, due to perma-frosts and waist-deep snow, visitors to Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park will no doubt feel like they've landed in a winter wonderland. You'll likely have trails all to yourself as guided trips have finished for the season and only the extra adventurous dare to hike through the harsh landscapes.
Highlights of the Overland Track
1. Marion's Lookout
Standing 1250 metres high, Marion's Lookout showcases well-earned views of Cradle Mountain and Dove Lake, and gives hikers an exciting taste of the scenery to come on their Overland Track hike.
2. Lake Will
One of the many side trips off the Overland Track, Lake Will is well worth your time. No matter the weather, Lake Will always looks marvellous with its intimate surrounding of pencil pines and backdrop of Barn Bluff. Bring a picnic lunch and watch the colours of the lake change before your eyes!
3. Pelion Plains
Located at about the halfway point of the Overland Track, your legs will love the flat terrain of Pelion Plains. Mount Oakleigh's dolerite spires provide a perfect scene to lose track of time, and if the weather is right, a dip in one of the many tucked away swimming holes is a must.
4. Mount Ossa
If time allows, a side trip up Mount Ossa is well worth every step. Sitting at 1617 metres, it's Tasmania's highest peak and offers a bird's eye view of Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair National Park. As the last third of the hike becomes fairly steep, it's best to go guided unless you have climbing experience.
Where to stay during your Overland Track hike
Public huts and campsites:
Along the Overland Track, there are seven huts trekkers can stay at. As it's not possible to book your stay, the huts operate on a first-come-first-serve basis - meaning, if you're one of the last ones to arrive at the hut, you'll have to pitch your tent or sleep on the common room floor. These huts are also very basic and offer no electricity, lighting or running water, so you'll want to ensure you have plenty of warm clothes and cooking gear along.
On the other hand, by joining a guided tour with Active Adventures, you'll enjoy exclusive use of the only private hut accommodation along the Overland Track. Each night you'll savour a hot shower, nutritious and hearty meals, a comfortable bed, and of course, a glass of Tasmanian wine. Each hut is located discreetly off the main trail and offers exceptional views of the surroundings.
What to bring on your Overland Track hike
If you are ticking off the Overland Track on your own, you'll need to have all the essentials with you, and more. As there's no guarantee you'll have a spot in the hut, all self-guided hikers must carry a tent. Along with this, you'll want a mattress, sleeping bag, cooking gear and utensils, all your food, plenty of layers and any personal items you'd like to have on hand.
On Active Adventures' Overland Track trip, you'll be provided with a 50-litre canvas pack, rain jacket, pack cover and liner, sleeping sheet and a pillowcase. Sleeping bags, food and wine will also be waiting for you at each hut, so all you'll need to pack is hiking boots or trainers, hut shoes, extra layers, a compressible day pack for side trips and any personal items you'd like to have on hand.
How fit do I need to be to hike the Overland Track?
Depending on if you'll be joining a guided trip or if you'll be on your own will have a significant impact on how fit you'll need to be. If you are carrying a tent, sleeping bag, mattress, all your food and cooking gear, you'll want a good level of fitness and experience up your sleeve. Walking 65 kilometres with a heavy pack on can take its toll on your energy, even in perfect conditions.
If you join a guided trip, your guides will be doing much of the heavy lifting, leaving you to simply enjoy each day's hike. Even so, it's recommended you're comfortable walking 10 kilometres for six consecutive days and can handle uneven terrain with a pack on. The more fit you are, the more you can take in your surroundings and even head out on extra side trips to challenge yourself.