It was my first day in Cradle Mountain National Park and the weather was perfect; low 20s and sunny. The visitor centre lady was extremely friendly and was helpful in guiding us through the different routes we could take. But we had a route in mind; climbing the Cradle Summit!
We drove from the visitor centre right into the national park before turning off to the Waldheim car park. This is the longer route you can take to do the hike (shortest being the Dove Lake car park). The Waldheim Chalet (pictured) is a historical building which used to be the accommodation of early explorers establishing the national park a century ago.
A short walk along the gravel road led us to the starting point of the world renowned Overland Track. The easy cruise along the wooden plank track brings us through the field of button grass, crossing creeks before entering the tree line.
The track entered a forest, following a river flowing from Crater Lake above. The waterfalls along the way offered refreshing resting points.
A short steep stairs section brings us above the tree line where we can see the clear sky again.
A few minutes later we came across the boat shed, out first checkpoint. The Crater Lake offers a stunning view of the mountains surrounding the lake. Our track ran along the west side of the lake, a gradual climb up the surrounding peaks.
Reaching the ridgeline, we can see the LAKES over on the other side. But the great Marion’s climb lied ahead of us, a level 5 difficulty track involving some serious climbs and rock scrambling.
Checkpoint number 2: Marion’s Lookout. This is one of the most popular tourist destinations when coming to the national park. It offers a panoramic view of the Crater Lake, Dove Lake, Hanson Peak, Cradle Mountain and the Cradle Plateau, all under one and a half hour from Dove Lake car park. It took us a little over 2 hours from Waldheim car park to get this point. We enjoyed the panoramic view while fuelling ourselves with the sandwiches.
You can see the track leading up the lookout from Dove Lake.
Departing Marion’s Lookout, we were heading towards the less populated route reserved for serious trekkers. A close up look of the Cradle Mountain from the Cradle Plateau makes it hard imagine the large flatland, the plateau, on top of another mountain.
We came across the sign at the junction with the Horse Track. Onwards towards the Overland Track!
Moving closer to the Cradle Mountain, we could see the path leading to the summit. The tiny building was the Kitchen Hut.
Finally, we reached the base of the Cradle Mountain. From this point it’s a 1.5-2 hours climb to the summit, 3 hours return to the Kitchen Hut.
The sheer scale of the gigantic outcrop that forms the Cradle Mountain was truly mesmerising. The rock slide provided the path up to the summit. I couldn’t imagine the challenges ahead of me.
This shot reveals the steepness of the climb to the summit. Last hour was basically boulder climbing and should only be attempted by experienced hikers or climbers with high level of fitness. If you have large backpacks, do leave them behind at the mountain base.
Reaching the ridge revealed the back side of the Cradle Mountain. The track descended downwards before the last ascending to the summit.
At last, after 4 hours hike and 1 hour climb, we reached the Cradle Mountain summit; the 4th highest mountain in Tasmania. The panoramic view to the south-east oversees the Overland Track, Barn Bluff Peak and endless plateau of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.
The north-west view overlooking the mountain ridge and the plains.
The descent took about an hour, but just as challenging as the way up. Soon we were back at the junction and we chose the Horse Track to complete a circuit.
Following the white stone track, the Crater Lookout was ahead of us.
The Crater Lookout is on the east of Crater Lake, opposite Marion’s Lookout. It offers a three lakes view with the Cradle Mountain as the backdrop.
We soon realised why Crater Lookout was not a very popular track. The strenuous walk up and down endless stairs made Marion’s track much more appealing.
Finally, we were back the Ronny Creek. Just another 15 minutes across the field of button grass back the Waldheim car park. We saw plenty of wombats roaming the field. It was around 8 pm when we reached the creek, not much longer until the last light. Overall the circuit took about 9-10 hours to complete. However, we did spent a lot of time snapping some photos, had lunch, snacks and simply just chilling out and enjoyed the beautiful scenery the track has to offer.
Having climbed Cradle, I now have Barn Bluff on my Tasmania bucket list. It should be an interesting adventure!