Overland Track (TAS)

Heading towards the spectacular Cradle Mountain from Marion's Lookout

Overview

Arguably Australia's premier bushwalk, the internationally renowned Overland Track stretches for 74 kilometres from Ronny Creek to Cynthia Bay through Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park - the centrepiece reserve within the wider Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.  


Sunrise view of Mt Oakleigh from New Pelion Hut
Over its route, the track takes walkers through a dramatic, glacier-carved landscape, featuring jagged peaks of Jurassic Dolerite and deep glacial lakes, as well as varied vegetation that includes Button-Grass Plains, Gondwanan Myrtle-Beech Rainforest and Eucalypt Woodlands.

D'Alton Falls along the Mersey River 
Each day of the Overland Track is incredibly scenic and varied, and although the track is easy to follow, relatively safe and well maintained, the surrounding landscape is in a pristine, wild condition with few signs of human activity beyond the track and its facilities. This is a region that can only be explored on foot, and we never encountered any obvious vehicle tracks - everything is choppered in our out.


The thoroughly modern Bert Nichols hut
Although not an easy walk per se, the provision of fully enclosed huts, water tanks and composting toilets makes the Overland accessible for casual and less experienced hikers. Ranging from the small, charming and quaint hut at Echo Point to the impressively large and thoroughly modern structures at New Pelion and Bert Nichols, the Overland Track has some of the best facilities on any trail in Australia.


View from the summit of Mt Ossa, the highest peak in Tasmania
Beyond the spectacular landscapes, the Overland Track's greatest strength is that it is a totally customisable walk that can be tailored to suit an individual's interest, schedule and fitness level. Although the Overland Track fee ($200 at time of writing) locks in a departure date, walkers can opt to tackle anything from a basic, 5-6 day itinerary doing only the main track and skipping the last day by catching the ferry at Lake St Clair, to a side trip-packed adventure of 8-9 days, tackling the entire track and all of the side trips.


Barn Bluff and Lake Will along the Lake Will side trip
Ranging from mountain summits and glacial lakes to waterfalls and lookout points, the side trips provide some of the best and most spectacular views along the Overland Track. As such, while the very fit and determined could finish the track in as little as four days, I would advise spending no less than six days on the track. The Overland is not a race and should be savoured; if you're the kind of fit thru-hiker who can put away 50 kilometres in a day with ease, it would be better to put that fitness to good use and see all the side trips rather than rushing through!


Beautiful rainforests near Pine Valley hut
While the side trips to Cradle Mountain, Lake Will, Mt Ossa and the waterfalls on the Mersey River are common to most itineraries, the overnight side trip to Pine Valley is less visited. We would however thoroughly recommend it. The rainforests at Pine Valley were some of the most magical of the entire trip, and the further side trip to the Labyrinth from Pine Valley provided some of the best and most memorable vistas. In fair weather, the side trip to the Acropolis is also well regarded as one of the best summits along the track.

Spectacular views of the Labyrinth and the Du Cane Range along the Labyrinth side trip

Our Overland Track Adventure (2016)

Alissa and I completed the Overland Track in December 2016, starting the track on the 21st December and finishing on the the 28th (yes, we had Christmas on the track). Our eight day itinerary was based on John Chapman's recommendations, and included the side trip to Pine Valley and walking all the way to Cynthia Bay. Due to illness, we had to omit the summit of the Acropolis however we extended our penultimate day by walking to Echo Point along Lake St Clair.

Much is often made about the Overland Track being overcrowded, even with the booking system restricting the number of people starting the track on any given day. While it was certainly busier than Western Australia's Bibbulmun Track, the huts and campsites were never at absolute capacity. This may have been due to the fact that we had walked over Christmas and it was thus a less inviting time for many. For the most part however, everyone is well spaced out enough on the track that it never feels crowded or busy while you are walking.

As a guide, we used Warwick Sprawson's Overland Track: Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair, however John and Monica Chapman's The Overland Track was the most commonly used by other hikers. Sprawson's book has more detailed and accurate elevation information than the smoothed out charts used by the Chapmans, however the Sprawson book is less up to date and does not feature any elevation charts for the side trips. Each book has its strengths and weaknesses, however I would consider either option to be essential reading.

Some walk tracks can be a logistical nightmare to get to without your own car, however the Overland Track is not one of those at all. Transport to and from the track was easy; Tassielink run regular coaches from Launceston to Cradle Mountain and from Cynthia Bay to Hobart. Tassielink can even take extra luggage for a small fee and transport it to Hobart, where Luggage Locker will look after your bags while on the track.

All in all, the Overland Track lived up to its reputation as one of Australia's finest walk trails, and it served as an excellent introduction to bushwalking in Tasmania. With so much of the state being a pristine wilderness, it is hard not to fall in love with the beauty of the Apple Isle, and Alissa and I made plans to return to Tasmania before we had even finished the walk!


The Sections

Overland Track (TAS) - Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley

The first day of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, this first section of the track leads walkers from the Ronny Creek trailhead to Waterfall Valley. Often considered the hardest day of the track, this spectacular day of walking is dominated by beautiful glacier-carved landscapes, with Crater Lake and Cradle Mountain being the highlights - the latter of which can be summited via an optional side trail....

Overland Track (TAS) - Waterfall Valley to Windermere 

Day three of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, the journey from Windermere to New Pelion takes walkers to the track's lowest elevation level, as well as the first long sections of Myrtle Beech rainforest. Although muddy and tangled in roots, this will be favourite day for fans of forest walking, with the view of Mt Oakleigh from New Pelion Hut being the finest verandah view of the entire track....

Overland Track (TAS) - Windermere to New Pelion

Day three of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, the journey from Windermere to New Pelion takes walkers to the track's lowest elevation level, as well as the first long sections of Myrtle Beech rainforest. Although muddy and tangled in roots, this will be favourite day for fans of forest walking, with the view of Mt Oakleigh from New Pelion Hut being the finest verandah view of the entire track...

Overland Track (TAS) - New Pelion to Kia Ora

Day four of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, New Pelion to Kia Ora is arguably one of the track's most spectacular days. Rising continuously for the first half of the day to the junction at Pelion Gap, a side trip takes hikers to the summit of Mt Ossa - the tallest mountain in Tasmania. A rocky ascent through beautiful alpine environments, the incredible 360° views are one of the highlights of the entire track....

Overland Track (TAS) - Kia Ora to Bert Nichols

Day five of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, the journey from Kia Ora to Bert Nichols is highlighted by a visit to the historic Du Cane hut and numerous side trips to spectacular waterfalls along the Mersey River. After the final ascent of the main Overland Track to Du Cane Gap, the day finishes at Bert Nichols hut - a massive and thoroughly modern hut that even contains public art!...

Overland Track (TAS) - Bert Nichols to Pine Valley

Day six of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, the overnight side trip option to Pine Valley extends the Overland Track adventure by taking walkers into the Du Cane Range. Heading through some of the finest rainforest scenery to Pine Valley hut, a further side trip along the Labyrinth trail leads to one of the most impressive and beautiful vistas of the entire hike. Definitely worth the detour....

Overland Track (TAS) - Pine Valley to Echo Point 

Day seven of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, the journey to Narcissus hut takes walkers back to the Overland Track and to the ferry most hikers take to finish their Overland adventure. Continuing on along Lake St Clair from Narcissus through lush rainforest, the charming hut at Echo Point and the beautiful beach nearby served as a lovely final night for those looking to complete the full Overland Track....

Overland Track (TAS) - Echo Point to Cynthia Bay

The final day of an eight day hike on the Overland Track, the last 10 kilometres of the track departs Echo Point to skirt the edge of Lake St Clair as it heads towards Cynthia Bay. Passing through impressive rainforest before transitioning to Eucalypt woodlands, the track ends at the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre and the Overland Track's southern trailhead. The nearby Pumphouse Point offers a luxurious end to a great hike....

 





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