Before You Go
There are a few things you’ll need to have in place before making the journey. These include:
Tasmanian National Parks pass
Overland Track Pass Fee ($200 AUD per person)
Book your reservation at parks.tas.gov.au
Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley Hut
Total Distance: 6.6 miles
We were told it’d be wet...that might have been an understatement. The first 30 minutes of the hike proved that all the extra gear we questioned bringing would actually be needed. Gaiters, rain pants, backpack covers, winter gloves and hats played a role in our ascent of Cradle Mountain, despite February being one of the “warmer” months. It only took 2 hours, but the freezing rain, extreme gusts of wind, and a steep, slippery trail made us appreciate the fact that this hike is no joke - in fact, just a week before our hike a man died of exposure due to lack of appropriate gear. We arrived at the summit shelter with our sense of humor intact, unlike the other couple we met there. She seemed a little more upset than he did, but perhaps that’s because “this was all his idea.” Maybe she would have been in a better mood if she realized there was an outhouse just 100m from the hut as she had just braved the elements to pee. A few hours later we made it to Waterfall Valley Hut and saw others had already arrived and had their sleeping bags draped over the furnace to dry out...thank goodness we had dry bags!
Waterfall Valley Hut to Windermere Hut
Total Distance: 6.9 miles
Our second day was the shortest hike of the trip. Even with a side trip to Lake Will, we made it to Windermere Hut in about 3 hours. We intended to have a nice picnic by the lake and relax in the sun, but the weather had other plans (see photo, below). We’ve never been so grateful for hiking poles, gaiters, and rain pants. There were a lot of slips and near falls - we were essentially hiking through a small stream all day due to the heavy rain. Even with waterproof shoes our feet were soaked through by the time we arrived at the hut. We left our muddy gear just outside the hut with the other backpacks. Robin asked if we thought possums can get to our snacks, so we brought all our food in as a precaution. Only a few minutes later, we saw a possum rummaging through someone’s pack. Question answered!
Windermere Hut to New Pelion Hut
Total Distance: 10.3 miles
Finally a sunny day! The long day of hiking had a lot of opportunities to take in the sights and sounds: frogs croaking at Frog Flats, skinks on the boardwalk (some not always fast enough to get out of the way 😢), some square wombat poops, and an echidna sighting. One hiker we met was even lucky enough to spot an elusive platypus in the river near Old Pelion Hut. New Pelion Hut was our favorite hut of the whole system. Eating dinner (and splurging with freeze-dried apple crumble for dessert) on the porch as the sun set behind Mt. Oakleigh with wallabies jumping in the grassy field is one of the more vivid memories from the whole trip.
New Pelion Hut to Kia Ora Hut
Total Distance: 9.7 miles
Mud, rain, and one bad decision. We skipped the side trip up Mt. Ossa due to weather and made it to Kia Ora Hut pretty quickly, so we foolishly decided to do a “side trip” to the D’Alton and Fergusson waterfalls instead. This is usually a side trip on Day 5 on the way to Bert Nichols Hut, and that’s probably for a good reason. Let’s just say it took longer than we thought (~4 hours round trip), turned one of our shorter days into one of our longest (from 4.9 miles to 9.7 miles), and we never actually saw the falls. The knotty roots in the forest really took a physical and mental toll on us. It started getting dark on the way back and our tired legs and grumbling stomachs couldn’t wait to get back to the hut to make dinner. To make matters worse, we returned back to find one leech on Robin’s pack and another on Nick’s hand. We heard from people who did the side trip the next day that the falls are “beautiful.” It wasn’t all a lost cause though; the Du Cane Hut (pictured below) was a cool historical detour.
Kia Ora Hut to Pine Valley Hut
Total Distance: 11.2 miles
Luck was on our side and we got another sunny day. Our early start (8 a.m.) put us at Bert Nichols Hut by 12:30 p.m. We decided to have a quick lunch and “do a double,” powering on to Pine Valley Hut. This wasn’t part of our original plan, but we had heard such good things about the side trips from Pine Valley Hut that we wanted to take advantage of the time gained by skipping a hut. We saw our first snake of the trip, a small white-lipped snake; luckily it was the only non-deadly species of the 3 found in Tasmania. Another good reason to be wearing gaiters even on sunny days! On this day we started to notice the cumulative issues that come with a multi-day backpacking trip: blisters, sore shoulders/waist from pack straps, and running out of toilet paper (oh no!). Thankfully, fellow hikers are about the friendliest people you can meet and are almost always happy to share extra supplies to those in need. Upon arrival at Pine Valley Hut (5 p.m.) we hung our packs from rope to keep away from “cheeky” mice. Also, the flies at Pine Valley’s outhouse were on another level...
Pine Valley Hut to Narcissus Hut
Total Distance: 7.3 miles
We ascended The Labyrinth, which was the steepest hiking of the trip. It was 1 mile to the top, but that covered a 3,700-ft elevation gain. A few times we were basically climbing up waterfalls. It was 100% worth it. The view of the Acropolis from the top - the mountains, lakes, and eucalyptus trees - was incredible. We had cell service at the summit, so we called the ferry operator to book a spot for the next day. Our original plan was to hike around Lake St. Clair on the final day, but we had been told by others that have done the Track several times that it isn’t worth the effort. We were pretty worn down and the thought of a ferry on the water sounded a lot nicer than walking 10 miles. We made it down to Narcissus Hut and made a quick dinner while reading the hut’s logbook. One entry had a note about seeing a platypus in the lake. We quickly headed down to the jetty to try and spot one as it was close to sunset. We saw fish, an eel, and eventually - a platypus! We watched the little body pop up and float on the surface for a few seconds, then dive below and repeat. It was a pretty magical moment that put an exclamation point on an already amazing trip.
Crossing Lake St. Clair
Our final day was much more relaxed than initially planned. We hopped aboard the ferry and coasted back to Lake St. Clair. At the visitor centre we had our first non-backpacking meal in a week. Despite eating at least 2500 calories each day of the trek to maintain our energy, a hot meal prepared by someone else was still a reward at the end of the hike. We also picked up some souvenirs to bring home, but none will compare to the memories of trekking through the best that Tasmania has to offer.