Overland Track in Winter
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania, Australia
The Overland Track, the most famous hiking trail in Tasmania, is situated among the World Heritage Listed rivers, mountains and lakes of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Full of unique wildlife, plenty of side trips to expand the distance traveled and a varying landscape, it’s a trail that will stay with you for many years to come. Especially if you hike the Overland Track in Winter!
The Overland Track in Winter – The Stats
Location: Southwest National Park.
17km outside of Maydena.
Trail Type: One Way.
There’s a combination of natural surface track and duckboards. The track can get very wet and snow should be expected in winter.
Distance: 65 km.
It takes anywhere between 4 and 8 days depending on conditions and how many stops you make.
Difficulty: Medium. Although some of the optional side trips are difficult.
Highest Point: 1,250 m if you skip all side trips. Mt Ossa is the highest peak at 1617m.
Permit needed: A Tasmanian Parks Pass is needed.
In summer, you need an additional permit and book your walk ahead.
The Overland Track in Winter – Day 1
Ronny Creek Car Park – Waterfall Valley Hut
Ronny Creek car park, the official start of the Overland Track. A sense of (premature) accomplishment hits as we see the rusty sign that indicates the beginning of Tasmania’s most famous trail. Walking on duckboards, the trail takes you through heathland, rainforest, and alpine areas, along waterfalls, spectacular lookouts and cliff faces, and alongside wombats and wallabies.
Take it all in! The start of the Overland Track presents some of the best views on the trail and plenty of wildlife encounters with pademelons, wallabies and wombats alike which, the further along the track your get (at least for us), will get less and less.
About three quarters on your way to Waterfall Valley Hut, duck into Kitchen Hut for a break and some lunch.
You may need to dig it out a bit as it could get snowed in, the shovel can be located on the wall just underneath the roof. Don’t let the hordes of people stress you out, because as soon as you leave Kitchen Hut, you’ll be pretty much on your own.
After plowing through snow and struggling over rocks for a short while, relax as the tracks get easier with downhill sections and human “improvements” to make your descent to a meal and a good night sleep a little more comfortable.
Waterfall Valley Hut sleeps 20, has a gas heater and is quite new. We, however, chose to call the old hut (a little further along the trail) home as we’ll take solitude over comfort most days.
The old hut sleeps 4-8 (with some spooning action, each bunk fits 2 people comfortably) and is located amongst a beautifully dense forest, next to waterfalls and an impeccably clean composting toilet (all toilets at all huts were some of the cleanest ones we’ve ever seen!). Beware though, this hut has little to no insulation and no heater. It gets coooooold at night! But hey, it’s a wilderness track!
The Overland Track in Winter – Day 2
Waterfall Valley Hut – Windemere Hut
After Day 1, we gave our bodies a bit of time to recover by keeping today’s walk nice and short. Signs and the map indicate it’ll take about 2 to 3 hours to get to our next destination, but due to slippery icy patches and rain, in reality, it takes more like 4 hours.
A few patches of rainforest aside, most of today brings us through open terrain with lot’s of button grass and
therefor more wombats (YAY for wombats!). I’m thankful for the lack of wind, as I can imagine today’s section could get a bit rough when strong winds are expected.
When we got to the junction of today’s side trip (which we planned on doing) we decided against it.
The weather was less than ideal and the lack of enthusiasm that’s sparked by the sight of the terrain the lake is in, made us decide to push on. We imagine there will be many more and possibly much nicer lakes coming our way.
Windemere Hut looks to be fairly new even though it’s about 40 years old. According to the map, it sleeps 16, but again the bunks are very spacious and we take up a bed designed for one.
The Overland Track in Winter – Day 3
Windemere Hut – New Pelion Hut
One of the longer days on the trail, Windemere Hut to New Pelion Hut was a rough ride for us. Most of the time, you’re walking on natural surface through rainforest, which means lot’s of roots to sprain your ankle on and lots of puddles to get your feet wet. Considering I had the luck of spraining my ankle on day 1 (JOY!), this was an especially tough day for me.
That being said, you do pass a nice looking waterfall, walk through beautifully lush rainforests and once you do make it to New Pelion Hut (especially considering we arrived after a good dumping of snow) the few from the deck is pretty amazing!
New Pelion Hut sleeps 36 divided into 4 rooms. The common room is fairly large with plenty of tables and cooking station. Even in the middle of winter, this hut was chockers so if you arrive late in the day, you may have to accept to pitch a tent and wear wet clothes in the morning as there’s only one small heater.
The Overland Track in Winter – Day 4
New Pelion Hut – Kia Ora Hut
Another short day for us! It snowed quite heavily last night and we were super excited about this day and we were not disappointed. Although the snow made the track slippery and deep puddles impossible to see, this was probably one of my favorite stretches of the Overland Track.
The halfway point takes you up to Pelion Gap were you can stray off and summit Mt Ossa as well as Mt Pelion East (neither of which we attempted since we couldn’t even see them through the clouds, but we’ll be back through the Arm River Track soon!) to make you’re day a bit harder and ultimately more fun with some amazing views.
Once you make it back to the junction, it’s a gradual descent with some icy patches and more waist-deep puddles to the cozy Kia Ora Hut.
Kia Ora Hut is a small hut that sleeps 20 smelly people in four 5-person beds. I hope your neighbor is good-looking and doesn’t have any gastro problems. As far as comfort goes, we found this hut to heat up particularly well (probably the best out of all) and both tables and beds are close to the heater for a well deserved toasty night with lots of rest.
The Overland Track in Winter – Day 5
Kia Ora Hut – Narcissus Hut
Kia Ora Hut to Narcissus Hut is where the Overland Track starts to be more like a walk in the park. No more mountains and minimum climbing.
It also starts to feel like we’re back in Australia instead of New Zealand with dryer areas and plenty of Eucalyptus Trees.
After about an hour worth of walking through dense woods, Du Cane Hut pops up on small clearing like the light at the end of a tunnel. This historic hut served as the home of Patrick “Paddy” Hartnett and his family in the early 20th century and was later expanded to serve as a resting point for hikers. These days it’s an emergency-use-only dwelling that’s definitely worth a look as we found it to be one of the nicest looking huts on the Overland Track.
Have a break and imagine what it must have been like living in this tiny shack with wife and child all the way through winter. Tough folk back then!
After Du Cane Hut, it’s back through dense woods and past two sidetracks, both taking you to waterfalls. The track keeps going uphill until you reach Du Cane Gap. With the view of mountains of both side, I was excited to be amongst snow again. We both ate a huge slice of fresh snow to rehydrate and cool off a bit.
Once through Du Cane Gap, it’s back into the dens Tasmanian woods. In the middle of the rainforest, you’ll bump into Bert Nichols Hut; a massive and brand new addition to the trail. When walking the Overland Track in winter like us, you may want to think about skipping this one. Even though maps and signs indicate this hut sleeps 24, it’s more the size of a small hotel that can surely fit lot’s more. There’s only one heat lamp (which doesn’t really heat anything) so if you do decide to stay, be prepared for a cold coooooold night!
The walk to Narcissus Hut is very much the same terrain as you walked between Du Cane Hut and Bert Nichols Hut except that it’s all downhill from here (YAY!). Bounce around on the suspension bridge and feel relieved as you’re only minutes away from a warm meal and some rest.
Narcissus Hut is located at the far north end of Lake St Clair. Inside you’ll find another mass bunk (8 to 10 people per bed) and a coal heater which warms up the place in minutes. Although burning actual coal can feel a bit like sacrilege, considering the fragile environment you’re in…
Make sure you’re in no need for a night time wee, because the toilet is quite far from the hut.
The Overland Track in Winter – Day 6
Narcissus Hut – Lake St Clair Carpark
As you rise and shine, feel almighty and powerful! Only 1 in 4 people complete this part of the track while 3 in 4 take the ferry back. Make sure to feel completely superior and have a healthy dose of judgment over all those lazy buggers giving up so close to the finish line.
Today is much the same as yesterday (wait… maybe those lazy people are onto something!) with lots of dense forest. BUT you do get a nice treat of some absolutely giant trees and nice views of the lake, not to mention you get to feel like a winner and not a quitter.
About a third into your walk, you’ve got the chance to extend your Overland Track fun for another night at Echo Point Hut. This hut has one of the nicest views of any of the overnight stays looking out over beautiful Lake St Clair and even has it’s own beach. When staying as this hut, however, you might want to keep your shoe next to head at night, because you may find yourself spooning a black rat in the morning as they apparently like to come inside to scavenge for some food left by previous tenants.
Today’s walk is said to take about 6 hours, but be prepared for a bit more as you’re probably absolutely buggered and may get sidetracked swimming in the epic Lake St Clair.
We made it! All the way to the end. Be sure to let us know in the comments below if you’re planning to walk the Overland Track in Winter yourself or what your experience was if you’ve already done it.