If you’re a fan of hiking and the outdoors and traveling in Tasmania, Australia, you’ve probably heard of the Overland Track, which is Tasmania’s premier multi-day hike through the alpine landscape of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park. Whether you are completing the full trek or just in the area for a few days, hiking the Cradle Mountain summit is an exciting and challenging way for experienced hikers to enjoy the heart of Tasmania.
Preparing for the Hike
You should be an experienced hiker if you plan to attempt the summit portion of the hike. The entire route, starting and ending at the Dove Lake car park, is about 8 miles long and will take around 6-8 hours as you will be either ascending or descending most of the time.
Be sure to pack layers – weather in Cradle Mountain can change very quickly. On our hike we went from warm and sunny to foggy and chilly in less than a half hour.
Bring your lunch, snacks and plenty of water. I drank 3 liters on this hike.
What to Expect Hiking the Cradle Mountain Summit
When you arrive to the Dove Lake car park area, be sure to write down your name and your hiking plans in the log book (and don’t forget to sign back in when you return). The walk starts from the Dove Lake car park and heads up steadily past Lake Lilla and the smaller lake Wombat Pool, and then the larger Crater Lake.
After about an hour and a half you’ll reach the magnificent Marion’s Lookout, which gives you a full-frontal view of the mountain and a bird’s eye view over Dove Lake. The trail between Crater Lake and Marion’s Lookout is part of the Overland Track, so you may see through-hikers here.
You’ll continue onto the Overland Track past the emergency hut at the base of the summit trail. This part of the trail is, in my opinion, the most scenic, especially if you have clear weather.
The Cradle Mountain Summit Track starts gently, but quickly becomes incredibly scrambly, requiring full-body climbing for 45 minutes over large rocks to reach the summit. I personally don’t think it’s suitable for children, and would not advise attempting the summit in wet conditions (rain, mist, snow or ice). If it’s cloudy out, you won’t see much from the summit anyway. Once you reach the summit, you’ll return down the way you came.
After the equally scrambly descent back down to the main trail, you’ll continue to the Face Track trail. This is a nice part of the hike to stop for lunch since you’ll have the most strenuous part of the day behind you, and views of Dove Lake far below you!
The next part of the trail seemed ill-maintained. The wooden pieces were broken off the path and strewn about the muddy ground. There is an option to take a longer but more gradual way around Dove Lake via the Lake Rodway trail, or you can take the steep Lake Wilks trail down to the popular and mostly paved path that loops Dove Lake.
We opted for the Lake Wilks trail, and so that is what I’ll describe next.
Lake Wilks track requires scrambling down more steep rocks, sometimes with the help of a chain for about 30 minutes, and then the trail wanders through the forest for about 45 minutes before it meets up with the paved Dove Lake Circuit. From here it’s about another half hour before you return to the car park.
Cradle Mountain Summit Hike Summary:
- Dove Lake Carpark to Marion’s Lookout: 1.5 hours, steep trail
- Marion’s Lookout to Summit Trail: 30 minutes, flat trail
- Summit: 1.5 hours return, steep and slippery rock scrambles the entire way
- Summit Trail to Lake Wilks Trail: 1 hour, trail is poorly maintained
- Lake Wilks Trail to Dove Lake Circuit: 1.5 hours, steep descent with aid of chains in some parts
- Dove Lake Circuit to Carpark: 45 minutes, flat and paved trail
- Total: 6-8 hours
Overall, this was one of the most challenging walks I’ve done (even more so than the longer Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand). That said, it was also one of the most fun. It’s highly technical, and the many different sections of the trail are unique enough from each other to keep you from getting bored.
Read more: Our adventure in Tasmania
What’s the most challenging day hike you’ve done?