The Overland Track, Tasmania, is one of Australia’s most famous hikes. The 65 km (40 miles) trail through the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park is one of Tasmania’s pride journeys attracting nearly 8,000 travelers to the track on a yearly basis.
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The 5-6 day hike along the Overland Track takes visitors through some of the most picturesque landscapes in Tasmania creating a perfect opportunity to connect with nature.
About the Overland Track
The Overland Track is a one-way hike that starts at Ronny Creek, the northernmost point of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, and ends in the south at Narcissus.
It is not an overly challenging trek, with a good portion of it being on the boardwalk and all routes clearly marked. This makes it a great option for those who want to take their very first multi-day hike.
However, despite it being a comparatively easy route in the world of trekking, you must still be well prepared and carry all your own equipment on your way. This fact alone makes the hike much more difficult.
The Overland Track: Day by Day Itinerary
Most people hiking the Overland Track in Tasmania take between five and six days to complete the journey. However, there is no time limit (besides the eight weeks that your National Parks Pass is valid for) so you can take your time along the trail if you desire.
Day 1 – Ronny Creek to Waterfall Valley
Distance: 10.7 km (6.6 miles)
Hiking Time: 5 hours
The first day of your journey will take you past Crater Falls, Crater Lake, and up to Marion’s Lookout for some epic views.
It will likely be the most challenging day as there are a couple of steep sections along the way.
Day 2 – Waterfall Valley to Lake Windermere
Distance: 7.8 km (4.8 miles)
Hiking Time: 3 hours
The second day sees much flatter terrain than the first. You’ll wander through Waterfall Valley and spot several lovely flumes. Near the end of the day, you’ll pass Lake Will to arrive at Lake Windermere.
Day 3 – Lake Windermere to Pelion
Distance: 16.8 km (10.4 miles)
Hiking Time: 6 hours
On your third day, you’ll traverse plains, grasslands, and the Pine Forest Moor. After that, you’ll enter the rainforest and hike down into Frog Flats to cross the Forth River. You’ll emerge from the rainforest at Pelion Plains where you’ll spend the night.
Day 4 – Pelion to Kia Ora
Distance: 8.6 km (5.3 miles)
Hiking Time: 3.5 hours
On day four, you’ll hike the Pelion Gap, a large plateau that looms ahead as you follow the Douglas Creek. Along the way, you’ll be able to spot Mt. Doris, Mt. Ossa, and Cathedral Mountain. You’ll walk through the Pinestone Valley to reach the Kia Ora Creek.
Day 5 – Kia Ora to Windy Ridge
Distance: 9.6 km (5.9 miles)
Hiking Time: 4 hours
The fifth day of hiking Tasmania will reveal beautiful rainforest with lots of waterfalls. After making your way through Castle Crag, you’ll discover D’Alton Falls and Fergusson Falls. To end the day, you’ll descend into Du Cane Range to reach Windy Ridge.
Day 6 – Windy Ridge to Narcissus
Distance: 9 km (5.5 miles)
Hiking Time: 3.5 hours
The last day of the Overland Track is an easy and gradual descent through glacial valleys. You’ll pass Mount Olympus on your way and cross a swinging suspension bridge over the Narcissus River before taking the Lake St Clair ferry to reach the finish line.
Optional Day 7 – Narcissus to Cynthia Bay
Distance: 17.5 km (10.8 miles)
Hiking Time: 5.5 hours
Should you choose to tackle a seventh day of the Overland Track, you’ll be walking around the lake instead of taking the ferry across. You’ll have a relatively flat trek across plains and into the rainforest. You’ll have lovely views of Echo Point and Cynthia Bay along your way.
In addition to the main route, there are a number of side trails tracks that can be added to the original itinerary. Each side track canon that will take anywhere from 25 minutes to 6 hours to complete, elongating the total hiking time from 5-6 days to 7-8 days. See the next section for some side trail track options!
Cradle Mountain Hike
The most popular detour on the Overland Track is the Cradle Mountain hike. On your first day, you can start at Kitchen Hut to ascend to the top of this 1545 meter high mountain for some great views of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.
The Cradle Mountain hike will take you about 2 or 3 hours and is a moderately difficult hike with some steep uphill sections.
If you’re taking on extra Cradle Mountain walks or any other side tracks, it’s a good idea to leave your large backpack at one of the huts and make the ascent with just a day pack. Just make sure to safely stow your belongings before making the journey.
Barn Bluff Hike
Right nearby to where people will start their Cradle Mountain walks, you’ll find Barn Bluff, the fourth highest mountain in Tasmania, which provides awesome views at the summit. This side hike is also during the first day of hiking the Overland Track Tasmania and should only be attempted by seasoned hikers as it has some very difficult terrain in certain areas. The hike should take between 3 and 4 hours.
Mt. Ossa Hike
As the highest mountain in Tasmania, Mt. Ossa is easily one of the best Tasmania walks. On your fourth day hiking Tasmania on the Overland Track, you’ll have the chance to ascend this mountain’s 1617 meter high peak. As with the other suggested side treks, it is a challenging one.
Only experienced hikers should attempt the trail in good weather. You’ll need about 4 or 5 hours to complete the journey.
Where to Sleep on the Overland Track
A great thing about the Overland Track Tasmania is that instead of pitching a tent every night to sleep, you can enjoy the “luxury” of staying in one of the designated huts along the track.
The huts themselves are very rudimentary. They have large sleeping areas, but bedding is not provided, so make sure to pack at least a sleeping bag and a pillow.
The downside of the huts is that there is no way to book these ahead of time. They are available on a first come first serve basis. All you can do is show up and hope that they have space. In the case that they do not, you’ll need to pitch your own tent so it is vital that you bring one with you even if you have every intention of sleeping indoors every night.
This map shows the exact locations of each of the huts, including the side track and emergency huts as well. The price for the use of these huts is included in your hiking permit.
Where to Eat
The camping sites come equipped with picnic tables which you are welcome to use for cooking and eating, but everything else from cooking equipment to the meals themselves is typically left to your own devices. The huts have rainwater collection systems where you can refill your water bottle.
Your meal choices will come down to a gentle balance of weight, taste, and price. In our experience, the lightest, most delicious and nutritious meals for this type of hike are dehydrated meal packs.
When purchased in bulk, these can end up costing around $10-15 USD/meal, which is a reasonable price to pay for convenience and a great meal at the end of a long day of hiking.
Dehydrated meals also require the least amount of cooking equipment.
How to Prepare for the Overland Track
Permits and Fees
- Your National Parks Pass will cost you $21 USD ($30 AUD) or $42 USD ($60 AUD) if you come by car.
- The Overland Track permit will cost you $142USD ($200AUD) between October 1 and May 31. (If you are hiking outside this main booking season, you don’t need to pay for an Overland Track permit.)
Note: The Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service limits the number of hikers on the Overland Track 60 people per day so you’ll want to book as far in advance as you can.
As with any long distance trek, the Overland Track Tasmania will require some strategic packing. Make sure to bring a sleeping bag and any other sleeping materials you might need. Don’t forget your tent for shelter in the case that the huts are full. Cooking stoves, plates/bowls, utensils, and dehydrated food are also essentials.
Although there are some composting toilet facilities along the way, make sure to bring your own toilet paper. Don’t forget a water bottle that you can refill along the way and sunscreen to protect you from Australia’s powerful UV radiation.
As far as clothing goes, make sure to invest in high-quality gear that will last amidst some rugged usage.
Sturdy and broken in hiking boots will be your best friend on this trip, as will a front-loading hiking backpack that supports your shoulders, chest, and hips.
Even during good weather months, you’ll want a waterproof jacket and backpack cover just in case. Underneath it, layers of high-quality activewear will serve you well. Lastly, don’t forget a first aid kit for emergencies.
Best Time to Hike the Overland Track
Although it may be tempting to hike the Overland Track Tasmania outside of the main season, we highly recommend taking it on between October 1 and May 31. Although the Overland Track is infamous for its rapidly changing weather, your best chances for good weather are within these months.
However, if you want to save yourself $200 and are up for braving a Tasmanian winter, the Overland Track can also be hiked between June 1 and September 31.
Alternative Way to Experience the Overland Track
If you are short on time like we were during our visit, but would love to experience the highlights of the Overland Track, we recommend a couple of day walks at the start of the track and the end of the track to get the feel for the beauty of Cradle Mountain – Lake St Clair National Park.
Dove Lake Circuit
From Ronny Creek, follow the Overland Track trail to Dove Lake, stopping to admire the Crater Lake along the way. You can choose to head up to Marriot Lookout for a great viewpoint of Dove Lake, or follow the Dove Lake Trail to circumnavigate the entire lake.
Lake St Clair
Make your way to the other end of the park by car and spend another day hiking near Lake St Clair, where the overland track ends.
Having done the above day treks in the park, we hope one day to have the opportunity to hike the rest of the track.