The Overland Track is one of Australia’s most famous bush walks, situated in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania. More than 8000 walkers each year complete the track. Officially, the track runs for 65 km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. However, many choose to add the hike along Lake St Clair as a natural extension, bringing the length to 82 km.
The track winds through through the heart of Tasmania’s World Heritage-listed wilderness on this famous 65-kilometre trek from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. The terrain ranges from sheer mountains, temperate rainforest, wild rivers and alpine plains.
Aside from the main track there are also several alternative side tracks, including to the summits of Cradle Mountain and Mount Ossa, the tallest mountain in Tasmania. Also within reach are a group of tarns called The Labyrinth and Lake St Clair (the deepest lake in Australia). World-renowned for its pristine environment and beauty, the walk has been compared to New Zealand’s Milford Track.
Walkers complete the trail in 5–6 days. This is normally done from north to south, which is the mandatory direction between 1 November and 30 April. The record time is 7 hours and 25 minutes, achieved by Andy Kromar during the Cradle Mountain Run.
The landscape was all carved by glaciers during the last ice age, and the prominent mountains are composed of dolerite columns. The climate is generally unstable, with temperatures ranging from hot (35+°C) in summer to below zero in winter. Snow can fall at anytime and is common during the winter, especially on the Cradle Mountain Plateau and around Mount Ossa. Rain is very common, sometimes torrential though often settling to days of drizzle.
The most common fauna are Tasmanian Pademelons (native), possums and small rodents most of which are native. Also decidedly present, but not necessarily seen, are quolls, echidnas, tasmanian devils and wombats. There are also the famous Tasmanian leeches. The trail traverses areas of many types of vegetation, including Myrtle Beech forest, Eucalypts forest, Button Grass plains (swamps), alpine herb fields and shrubs and mosses.
Walking The Overland Track
Walking the entire Overland Track takes an average of six days, or you can do short and day walks from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre and Dove Lake.
The trail is mostly well defined and adequately marked. The trail condition however varies greatly. There are long sections of duckboard (boardwalk) which consist of split logs embedded in the ground, held together with wire and nails. Where there is no duckboard, the conditions can sometimes be very muddy. In winter, the mud is frozen solid early in the morning, however offsetting this is the problem of slippery ice on the duckboard. The mud is not nearly as frequent or deep as hikes in the south west, due mainly to the duckboard.
Inexperienced walkers are advised to undertake the walk in summer, when the days are longer and the weather milder. The number of visitors is controlled in summer by the ‘Overland Pass’ a limited number of which are available. The walk is not challenging provided that walkers are adequately prepared with proper equipment.
Remember the end-to-end walk requires planning. You’ll need to book in advance with Tasmania’s Parks & Wildlife Service and take with you a good tent and warm sleeping bag. While the route has eight basic stove-heated huts, there’s no guarantee of space.
The best time to walk the track is between November and April, when the weather is milder and days are longer for Daylight Saving. During April, you can see the spectacular changing colours of the deciduous beech. As well as a physical challenge, this walk is a true communion with nature. You’ll see lakes, forests and gorges, mountains and moors, spectacular waterfalls and steep, stony peaks.
There are a number of side trips that can be undertaken while on the Overland Track. From north to south these are:
Cradle Mountain Summit – 2 km, 2–3 hours return
Barn Bluff – 7 km, 3–4 hours return
Lake Will – 3 km, 1 hour return
Mount Pelion West – 6 km, 5–6 hours return
Old Pelion Hut (with swimming hole) – 1 km, 25 minutes return
Mount Oakleigh – 8 km, 4–5 hours return
Mount Ossa – 6 km, 3.5-4.5 hours return
Mount Pelion East
Pine Valley, Tasmania
Ferguson Falls and D’Alton Falls – 1 km, 1-1.5 hours return
Hartnett Falls – 1.5 km, 1 hour return