Cradle Mountain, in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park, is one of Tasmania’s most widely recognised locations. At 1,545 metres, Cradle Mountain owes its popularity to the natural beauty of the landscape in which it resides. The national park has plenty of activities, from fishing, cycling, walking and hiking to less strenuous trips and amazing look-out points which can be accessed by car or shuttle bus, and including a day of exploring and climbing around Rocky Cape National Park, it couldn’t have been better. Here are a few of my personal recommendations.
We made this our base of operations for our short stay, and camped up in a log cabin. Spacious and comfortable were an understatement. The accommodation here is absolutely amazing, and the main lodge sits less than 5 minutes walk away from the national park entrance. It’s a little bit like a tiny village, and there are a few short walks nearby, some which don’t actually venture into the national park at all (because to go in, you’ll need a park pass). We actually did most of these short walks within an hour of us arriving, before heading off onto a longer “7 km” trek which we planned to squeeze in before dinner.
Dinner here was amazing. There’s nothing like settling down to a nice glass of red and a beautiful steak after a long hard day of walking through the national park, and getting lost, and falling over, and whatever else we managed to do.
The “7 km” Trek
The inverted commas are because someone decided to take a left turn part way through our hike, and ended up turning the 7km hike into an 11-12km hike. What a genius he was. Not me, by the way. I just suggested we take a turning. That’s besides the point though.
This walk starts just off Peppers, and first heads into some dense, moss covered forest area. The amount of sunbeams shining through is absurd, but it makes the place feel warm and somewhat enchanted. Plus it makes you want to take pictures of everything, so you’ll definitely want to take your camera along with you.
You’ll notice these two pictures look very similar. This is just the start of the walking track, and Cradle Mountain is known for its diverse range of vegetation and landscapes, ranging from forests and rainforests, to open grasslands, with pretty much everything that falls in between.
A little way up the track and you’ll begin to hear running water. As you get closer to the river and begin following it you’ll even come across a series of waterfalls. They aren’t huge like some of those on the eastern side of Tasmania, but they’re still waterfalls and they’re still pretty relaxing to watch.
From here you begin the ascent, and before long you find that you’ve climbed out of the forest and are walking through what seems to be open fields. The whole early part of the track is a wooden, decked foothpath. It’s really easy to follow, and is covered with chicken wire to make sure that you don’t slip too often when it’s wet. The “easy” section of the walk is well signposted too, and aside from the odd bit of uphill walking, isn’t strenuous at all.
Once again, before long, and having passed a few more waterfalls and cliff faces, you’ll begin to climb again. This takes you to a more “ancient” sort of landscape, with a lot more pines and a lot less moss. There are also a hell of a lot of shrubs that feel obliged to grow in the least suitable places. Why is this? Because we decided to be big and clever, and head across the unmaintained path, which means it was overgrown, slippery from the rain, with no pre-built pathway. It also meant it was less seen, less visited, more natural and a lot more challenging for us.
I think the picture above might be one of the last maintained parts that we passed before we were in no-mans land. This off-piste track takes you back into the forest, and back downhill. Which sounds like a great thing after you’ve just had a small, ridiculously easy ascent. Don’t be fooled, what goes down must come back up again. Or something like that?
That didn’t make the forest any less of a relief though, walking in the sun and heat whilst carrying our backpacks meant the shade of the forest offered us some respite from the constant exposure, and is probably the only reason I didn’t end up with ridiculous sunburn at the end of day 1.
You’ll notice the lack of any real pathway at this point. We’d headed down the extra “4.5km” unmaintained route here, and that meant that for the most part we were following sticks with coloured rags attached to them to find our way around. Find the next pink cloth, walk to the pink cloth. Look around, repeat. If you do this sort of thing often then I’m sure you’ll know the drill!
As I said before, what goes down, must come back up. Before long we found ourselves climbing what was almost a vertical cliff face. That wasn’t particularly easy when the rocks are hot enough to burn your fingers. It was nice to have a bit of a challenge though, and eventually we made it back up to the top; and out of the forest, where we were welcomed with this:
I don’t know about you, but I’d say that these kinds of views make the hard work getting to them that much more worthwhile. Not a single soul, or path, or any form of civilisation in sight. Just how I like it!
After following the unmaintained route, we eventually re-joined the original wooden path and had to decide which way to go. Left, towards the mountain (the logical way, considering the mountain was to our right when we set off, and we were walking in a loop) or right, which turned out was actually the correct way by some dodgy scheme. So we went left. And added another 4-5 km to our journey. Anyhow.
Walking back along the path, and towards the mountain, gives you some pretty amazing views of open meadows, and a complete change of colour from the green and yellow that you see in a lot of the various ‘scapes of Cradle Mountain.
I’ll admit, this is probably my favourite picture on and around Cradle Mountain, hence why it’s also the heading image. The track actually seemed to go on forever, and we found out later that there’s actually a road that runs alongside which we could have sneakily cut across to and shortened our lengthened journey, and made our lives easier at the same time. But why would I do that? Walking somewhere like this isn’t something that everyone gets to experience, and I’d love to do it again.
Eventually we got to the end of the track and had to overcome a bunch of steps. And by steps I mean it felt like about 1000 of the damn things one after the other. At the top we found a shuttle bus pick-up and drop off point, but since we didn’t bother to check the shuttle information beforehand, we opted to not try and catch the bus without a ticket (or money) and just walked the extra few kilometres back to the lodge.
So that 2:45 walk? It took us 3 hours. With an extra 4km. I’d say that’s not bad going, and it was definitely worthwhile. This is the point where we showered and went to eat that delicious steak I mentioned before, by the way. What next?
Cradle Mountain Sunset
This is just one of those things, the same with a sunset at Uluru, The Grampians, Bay of Fires, or pretty much any beautiful place you’ll ever visit. The cloud coverage wasn’t particularly good for this, but we decided to go and give it a shot anyway. We drove the 8km or so to Dove Lake where we climbed upon what looks like a giant ball to set ourselves up and watch the sunset. At this time of night the local fauna was out and about, possums, wallabies, wombats, you name it, it was out.
What we found was, the mountain itself actually blocks a lot of the sun, so not all of your pictures are great. Still, it doesn’t make this whole place any less special.
And there you have it; Cradle Mountain.
If I could do it again, I would in a heartbeat. I’d probably do a few things differently though, like spend enough time there to actually climb up Cradle Mountain, as it’s noted as a 6 hour journey. Then there’s the fact it’s actually the starting point of the 65km Overland Track which runs from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair. That one is definitely going on my to-do list.
If you want to find any short walks to do while you’re there, then this is a good place to begin your search.
As always, before you head out to do any of these walks, check what the weather is going to be like, dress appropriately, and make sure you’re carrying plenty of water. The best part is, as you drink it, it’ll become lighter and easier to carry! Bonus!