Overland Track planning, camping, itinerary

One of our readers, Bruce, shot us a couple of emails about walking the Overland Track in Tasmania.  He is based in the USA and plans on travelling to Australia and doing some exploring. One of the walks he has  planned is the Overland Track in the World Heritage Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.

Planning to hike the  Overland Track  from overseas can be challenging. We found it quite hard to organise from a different Australian State several years ago. Sourcing the best information takes a lot of time and effort as there was no one easy, trusted place to get good advice.

That is the main reason we created our guide, How to Hike the Overland Track in Tasmania. We researched everything we could and created a downloadable eBook  drawing on our experience of over 20 trips between us. It is now up to the fifth edition.

Cradle Mountain walk

Heading towards the end of the Overland Track

 

From Bruce:

Just signed up to receive your blog by email. I’m in the USA, traveling to Australia/Tasmania in March/April.

Thinking about doing the Overland Track.- why isn’t March a “popular” month? (National Parks website said the most popular months are Dec., Jan., Feb., and April.)

We are not sure why March is not considered a “popular” month.  December to February is summer in Australia and many people have holiday time so the walk is popular during that time.

Easter often falls in April where there are school holidays and many people walk the Track to enjoy the spectacular Fagus or Deciduous Beech (Nothofagus gunnii) Click here to check out  some great photographs of Fagus by local photographer Dennis Harding 

So what’s wrong with March? Nothing!

If you go solo (not guided), do you have to keep to the 6-day itinerary?

There is NO itinerary. If you are walking on your own you can do it at any pace. Stay somewhere 2 nights or skip a hut and walk on to the next one. It’s totally up to you.

These articles might be of interest to you from a trip we did a couple of years back with another  fellow from the States. The first one is a guest post by Alan on Backpacking the Overland Track, a view from the States the second one is our review of the trip tacken over 4 days –  The Overland Track – What scenery?

Its seems “too easy” – is the terrain that tough that a 7 – 1o km day is adequate?

The terrain is not that tough. It is just the spacing of the Huts and camping areas that dictate how far people walk. Of course there are side trips to waterfalls and mountains that are not included in the times.

Many people do all the side trips each day.  A  mate of ours Jim shared his recommended itinerary with us recently.  It may be useful for your planning. We think it is a great plan for anyone who wants to take in all the area has to offer.

Day 1

Ronny Creek – Waterfall Valley – 3-5 hours

Make sure you take the route over Marions Lookout – very speccy.

Sidetrip – Climb Cradle Mountain – 2 – 3 hours. Quite steep towards the top. Brilliant views in good weather.

Day 2:

Waterfall Valley – Windermere (my favourite hut) – approx. 2 hours.

Sidetrips:

1: Leave packs at Waterfall Valley  Hut, take day packs and backtrack to climb Barn Bluff. 3 – 4 hours. Steep climb, lots of rock scrambling, great views. Then back to hut, pick up packs & onto Windermere. This makes a good full day.

2: Head off to Windermere, drop packs at turn off to Lake Will & head in – about an hour return, nice little beach, good place for lunch. If you head South along the lake shore (can be a bit muddy), there are some excellent falls at the end, worth the trip.

If the weather is good, I’d do option 1 – however, depending on the makeup of the group, you may split and some do one and the remainder the other.

If the weather is lousy, not good for either, I’d hang around the hut until late morning, head for Windermere & have a lazy afternoon there.

Don’t be tempted to keep going to New Pelion – it’s about another 5-6 hours further on and makes for a very long day – I did it once, that was enough!!

Day 3:

Windermere – New Pelion – 5-6 hours.

No side trips apart from a 5 min stroll to look down over the Mersey Valley – worth a look

You should visit the Old Pelion hut and there is an excellent swimming hole there if the weather is warm enough. Best to head to New Pelion, drop packs, settle in & then backtrack – it’s only about 15 mins away.

Day 4:

New Pelion – Kia ora – 3 hours

Side Trip: Mt Ossa – 3-4 hrs return. If weather good, a must do, highest mountain in Tassie. Not hard – easier than Cradle & Barn Bluff.

If, not all want to climb & weather is good, then those that don’t MUST at least climb up part of the track to the side of Mt Doris (you sidle around Doris to climb Ossa). It’s a beautiful spot, like a laid out Japanese garden almost.

Excellent views across the valley and both North & South from that spot.

Day 5:

Kia Ora to Windy Ridge / Bert Nicholls Hut – 3-4 hours.

Hardest part is over Du Cane gap which seems to go on forever.

Side Trips:

3 excellent falls to visit on the way. Dalton, Ferguson & Hartnett.

Dalton & Ferguson grouped together. Drop pack, take camera & check them out.

Hartnett – largest & most speccy – great spot for lunch, especially if weather good. There’s even a swimming hole at the top of the falls – if you are game. Drop packs & take cameras & food.

Next hut is the Bert Nicholls hut the newest and worst hut on the track. Designed by an architect .. need I say more??

Day 6:

Windy Ridge – Narcissus – 3 hours

Ferry and out!!

I suggest you stop at The Hungry Wombat for lunch – at Derwent Bridge. Their hamburgers are magnificent!! We ALWAYS stop there!

Optional Days:

If you have an extra day or two – here’s some options:

1: Mt Oakleigh – 4-5 hrs return.

Stay 2 nights at New Pelion & do Oakleigh from here. An easy climb with good views

2: Pine Valley

Head there from Windy Ridge, about 3 hrs. You could head off at, say, 9:00, hit the Pine Valley  Hut about midday, quick lunch then a foray up into the Labyrinth.

Beautiful area and deserves more than a quick visit. An easy 2-3 day walk coming up from Hobart.

However, if you are there & have time it might be worth nicking in.

 Are there any camping sites other than at the Hut sites?

The rules in the Park are that camping is not permitted inside the Cradle Mountain day walk area. It is legal to camp in various other spots – well away from huts and tracks  but this is discouraged. The major reason is environmental. Hut sites are hardened and have water and toilets provided so that damage from trampling and camping is contained and minimised.

The other reason is social (and also environmental), and would applies much more to the Overland Track than other Tasmanian walks. With over 8 000 walkers, there’s a strong “herd mentality” among the walkers. Once a few people are seen to camp off-track or walk off-track near the OT, the potential for unwanted routes and increased damage is greater.

This area is pristine and in our view, should be protected as much as possible to keep it that way. Hard line? Yes!

If you are forced into camping away from the designated areas due to injury or really bad weather it is very important you follow all the Leave No Trace principals to protect the Park’s environment.

Any reason to not use Cradle Mountain Coaches for transport? [You do not mention them.]

No reason at all. They are not mentioned because we did not know about them. Thanks for pointing this out, they will be in the next edition of the book!

Can you explain the option of walking around Lake St. Clair more? [You assume that everyone will want to take the ferry. Is the walking option unattractive?]

We don’t go into a lot of detail about the walk “along” Lake St Clair. It  basically takes you through some absolutely magnificent rainforest for about 17.5km. There are minimal  views of the lake, the track can be very muddy and many people find it a drudge.

Some

Some of the magnificent forest along the Lake St Clair track

Image: TassieEye via Flickr

If you have the time, walking along the lake track to the Visitors Centre can be a good option. It also saves you the ferry fee! Echo Point Hut is about 7.5 km from Narcissus Hut  and some hikers spend the night in (or around) the hut. There are only bunk spots for eight people and it is  very small inside. There are a couple of campsites and a toilet nearby.

Realistically, what is the likely low temperature on the Overland Track in March? (can I use a 0-degree (Celsius) sleeping bag?)

John Chapman has some great weather charts of expected daily temperatures across the Overland Track. It is important to note that the northern end of the Track up around Cradle Mountain can be colder than in the south.

According to his chart on average in March you can expect daily maximums of 15 degrees C with overnights of about 5 degrees C in the north and 8 – 16C in the south. Maximum and minimum temperatures can vary a lot depending on the season. For more detailed information check out John’s Overland Track weather page.

So, a zero degree sleeping bag in March? Not a problem unless there is a blizzard. Just add some clothes and you will be fine.

Have you got any other questions about hiking the Overland Track? If so, shoot us an email at enquiry@ourhikingblog.com.au and we will try and help you out.

Comments

  1. says

    Thanks for the practical overview of the Overland Track. I’m a few years off being able to attempt it (waiting for daughter to grow up a bit) but I will definitely look at your e-book when the time comes.

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