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Best Hikes In Australia: The Cradle Mountain Trail

Basic Information

  • Name: Cradle Mountain Trail
  • Where: Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park
  • Elevation: 5,069 feet (1,545 meters)
  • Elevation Gain: 1,968 feet (600 meters)
  • Distance: 8 miles (13 km)
  • Time: 6-8 hours
  • Difficulty: Hard
  • More Information: Lonely Planet

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Narrative

The next morning I woke up to head back to Cradle Mountain in order to hike up to its summit.  My wife on the other hand who was enjoying our cabin and the first bed we had slept on in over a week, decided to sleep in and relax at the Gowrie Park caravan park for the day.  So I was going to head over to Cradle Mountain by myself.  When I stepped out of our cabin early in the morning this was the view of the scenic Mt. Claude I was welcomed with:

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The temperature was very pleasant outside but the cloud cover worried me.  Yesterday when we left Cradle Mountain a thick cloud cover had rolled in and in the morning time the thick cloud cover still remained.  As I got into my vehicle and headed down the road to the park it actually started to rain.  I was now really concerned that the fickle Tasmanian weather would make my attempt to summit Cradle Mountain impossible.  However, in a perfect example of how unpredictable the Tasmanian weather can be by the time I arrived at the park and drove up to Dove Lake, this is how the weather looked over the 1,545 meter (5,069 ft) summit of Cradle Mountain:

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At Dove Lake I had no problems finding a parking spot like I did the day prior because I was the first person to drive to the lake that day.  The trail to the summit of the mountain begins at the lake and is also the start point for one of Australia’s most famous hikes, The Overland Trek.  The Overland Trek stretches 65 kilometers across some of the most beautiful scenery that Australia has to offer.  On a return trip to Tasmania I am definitely going to do this hike.  Today I just planned to hike to the summit of Cradle Mountain.  The trail to the summit of Cradle Mountain is an off-shoot trail from the main Overland Trek trail that is a very popular day trip hike:

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Shortly after I pulled into the lot, a few more cars parked which was my cue to get going and beat the other hikers on to the trail before it got crowded.   The first part of the trail went slightly up hill where I was quickly rewarded with a beautiful view of a small nameless lake:

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This picture below is from the shore of the lake looking back towards Cradle Mountain in the background:

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Here is just another view from the shore of the lake as I continued to walk around it:

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From the lake the trail began to climb steeply above the lake:

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I soon had a good view of the lake along with Dove Lake in the background:

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The trail continued to climb up towards Cradle Mountain and looking back towards the north I had a beautiful view of Cradle Valley, which I drove up to reach Dove Lake:

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As I looked ahead of me I still had plenty of more climbing to do on this trail:

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Once I reached the top of this portion of the trail I was surprised to see yet another beautiful lake named Crater Lake:

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As I walked along the trail I was able to enjoy a really nice reflection off of about half of Crater Lake:

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I was pretty high up now on the trail and even Cradle Mountain didn’t even look so high as before:

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Here was the view looking back towards the Dove Lake parking lot where I started the hike:

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From the lake the trail started to climb once again and the lower lake and Dove Lake below me became smaller and smaller:

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Once the trail leveled off I was now on a high plateau that led towards Cradle Mountain:

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The trail on the high plateau was very boggy with a lot of mud:

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Off in the distance the giant mass of the 1,559 meter (5,115 ft) Barn Bluff became larger and larger as I hiked up the trail:

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The trail then headed towards the rocky crags of Cradle Mountain:

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I then arrived at a little hut that was at the intersection of the Overland Trek and the summit trail to Cradle Mountain:

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I actually ran into some people who had stayed the night in the hut and were heading out further down the Overland Trek. One of the hikers was in his 70’s and hiking the trek with his grandkids, which I thought was pretty cool. I hope I will be healthy enough when I am at that age to do something like that with my grandkids as well.  From the hut I headed up the summit trail towards Cradle Mountain:

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As I ascended up the trail I had a nice view looking back towards Dove Lake where I started my hike:

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All around me in this high plateau was lichen that thrives in this moist and cool climate:

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The trail got rougher and steeper the closer to the rocky crags of Cradle Mountain I got:

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The rocky crags of the mountain are composed of dolerite columns, which are common in the mountains of Tasmania.  Cradle Mountain is considered the most scenic out of all the other mountains of Tasmania:

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Once I got above the tree line I entered into a world of large rock columns that required a lot of effort to climb up to reach the summit:

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Some of the sections of the climb were a little hair raising considering how high up I was.  The increasing wind only made things worse because one wrong step here causing someone to fall would more than likely lead to death.  So I continued to very carefully and deliberately climb up the mountain:

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As I worked my way through the rock columns I could see the summit on the lower north side of the mountain’s “cradle”:

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Here was the view once I got higher looking back across the lower end of the mountain’s “cradle”:

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I was also able to look back and see the Overland Trek trail that I had walked up on to reach Cradle Mountain:

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After much effort I was eventually able to climb to the top of the ridgeline.  Here is the view looking across towards the upper end of the “cradle”:

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The highest point on Cradle Mountain is capped with this marker that denoted the distances to various other landmarks that could be seen from the summit of the mountain:

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Easily the most noticeable terrain feature from the top of the mountain is Barn Bluff that is slightly higher than Cradle Mountain and looks like a lonesome citadel overwatching the Overland Trek:

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Below the mountain I could see where the Overland Trek trail continued on into the remoteness of the glacier carved Tasmanian highlands:

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I was also able to see a number of other glacier carved valleys that had no trails running towards them:

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The various lakes that I had hiked by or saw from the mountain are also left overs from the Ice Age glaciers that created this amazing terrain.  When the glaciers melted their fresh water collected into the various holes in the terrain:

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Lake St. Clair at the southern end of the Overland Trek is the best example of one of these glacial lakes due to its size and deepness.  Here is the view looking back to the north and where I started my hike at:

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From this vantage point I could not see Dove Lake but the valley between Cradle Mountain and this peak in the distance is where Dove Lake is located.  After spending about an hour at the summit the wind was really beginning to pick up and it appeared the weather was getting a pit unsettled.  It had took me just under 4 hours to get up the mountain so I expected at least 2-3 hours to get back down.  So I headed back down the mountain and was consistently slowed down by people going up the mountain.  I was glad I left so early to climb the peak because the mountain was literally getting crowded now with all the hikers.  Once I was able to climb off of the rocky crags of the mountain I was then able to make really good time since it was all down hill from here.  It was afternoon now with clouds rolling in and it actually began to drizzle just a little bit, but it didn’t stop the horde of hikers heading up the mountain.  Fortunately I made it safely back to the trailhead with no issues.  Back at my vehicle I couldn’t even see the mountain anymore due to the cloud cover, which made me think about all those hikers who were experiencing such disappointment because of the weather obscuring their views.  Fortunately I had no disappointment and instead felt elation at what a great day of hiking it had been.

Conclusion

Due to the fickle weather that can hit Cradle Mountain I highly recommend starting out as early as possible.  Ultimately it took me about 2.5 hours to get back to the parking lot.  The transit time for me from the trailhead and back was just under 6.5 hours, but if you add in the hour I spent on the summit my hike was 7.5 hours long.  This had been my capstone day for my visit to Tasmania and Cradle Mountain definitely lived up to its hype.  Just an absolutely beautiful location that I highly recommend anyone visiting Tasmania to checkout.

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