Top Tips for the Cradle Mountain Hike: Tasmania’s Most Famous Day Walk
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Cradle Mountain National Park is located in North West Tasmania, connected to the Lake St Clair park. The National Park spreads over 1614 square kilometres and is dotted with charming lakes, jagged peaks and rolling hills. It is bursting with a beautiful charm and variety of landscapes that are distinctly Tasmanian and provides visitors with a plethora of beautiful viewpoints, day walks, intense hikes and even the option to participate in the six day overland track; Tasmania’s most famous walk.
There are hikes for all abilities in the Cradle Mountain National Park, and every traveller in the area should definitely assemble to view the extraordinary peaks of Cradle Mountain itself. The mountain is an icon of Tasmania; almost certainly an image you’ll have seen if you’ve researched any the best things to do in Tasmania before. The peak can be viewed on various gentler walks, including Dove Lake Circuit, which offers some of the best scenery of the National Park or the gentler climb up to Marion’s Lookout and beyond to the Kitchen Hut, where you can see all of the fantastic lakes in the park and enjoy standing at the base of the looming mountain.
But for some, just viewing the peak isn’t enough. Some of us won’t rest until we’re ontop of the damn thing.
The Cradle Mountain Summit
As we were walking up to the summit, we passed several people who’d just ascended the mountain. A couple were wearing sandals, and said to us as we passed “we didn’t think we were going to go to the summit. It just kind of happened”
Next thing I know, I, a person who wasn’t going to go to the summit, was halfway up the mountain on my way to the summit.
I literally had no intention of going up Cradle Mountain. I thought I was perfectly happy seeing it up close, snapping an amazing picture of its jagged edges against the blue sky, then planned to amble back to the car and find a nice quiet spot to read.
Instead, I was hanging on for dear life, contorting my body into all kinds of ridiculous positions, trying to reach my ridiculously short legs into crevices way too high up and just generally questioning what I was doing with my life.
Have you seen the new movie of The Jungle Book? If you can remember what Baloo the bear was like when he was climbing up the cliff to the monkey palace, that was me.
But, after a lot of inner cursing and tears of frustration, despite not being too sure whether this was a horrible nightmare or reality or even entertaining the possibility that I’d been abducted by aliens without remembering and this was some grotesque form of Mars initiation (my German friend was talking German to someone and I genuinely wasn’t sure if he was speaking another language, or if my brain was so mushy I just couldn’t understand English any more), I managed to gain some sort of rhythm. I put one foot infront of the other – sometimes a meter higher than the other, and somehow heaved myself up over rocks, through narrow gaps, over boulders. My mind kind of went on autopilot and I just went up and up and up.
And then we reached the top and I sat down and burst into tears.
Genuinely, doing something like this was HUGE for me. I’m plagued by a constant anxiety that I’m going to fall over, and on a place like this, that I’m going to fall off the mountain. I’ve done my fair share of hikes, but never anything as vertical as this one. In that respect, climbing Cradle Mountain was the scariest physical thing I’ve ever done. One of the benefits of hiking is definitely that it can conquer your feels and make you feel physically (and metaphorically!) on top of the world.
Is the Cradle Mountain Hike Dangerous?
It’s hard to say, I wouldn’t call it safe – because if you muck around you’ll get hurt. In my opinion, it was a lot harder than Mount Huashan, the supposed most dangerous mountain in China. Some of it is like rock climbing without a harness. But the boulders are firm, there’s always lots of things to grab onto and never any crazy drops. If you take it slowly and only do it in good conditions, you’ll be fine. If I can do it you can too!
The View from the Cradle Mountain Summit
Because this is why we do it, isn’t it…?
My Top Tips for the Cradle Mountain Hike
- Only do it in good conditions – Please please please. You just can’t climb up these boulders safely when wet, and you won’t get a decent view anyway.
- Leave yourself with plenty of time – we didn’t, but we were ok. Basically you need to take a bus from the car park to the start of the hiking trail. The last bus back to the car park leaves at 5:30pm. The summit hike takes between 6 and 8 hours, so if you’re going to take the longer end of that you’ll want to be leaving the car park for 9am (to allow for half an hour on the shuttle bus).
If you get there after 5:30pm, you should be able to hitchhike back to the main car park. There were a few cars around when we got there – and we were offered a lift by pretty much everyone in the car park. You can’t guarantee on it – and if you aren’t lucky it’s a three hour walk back to the car park – but you should be ok.
- Take in all the views on the way – they’re pretty amazing too, and it’s worth factoring in time to stop and admire the lakes from Marion’s Lookout, as well as the barren land leading up to Cradle Mountain.
- Have your lunch on top of the mountain – because it beats lunching in an office canteen, doesn’t it?
- Have clothes for all weather – like everywhere in Tasmania, the weather changes ALL THE TIME. So make sure you have a rain mac, a jumper and long trousers to hand.
- Take enough water – rock climbing is thirsty work!
Cradle Mountain is without a doubt one of the best hikes in Tasmania; if not one of the best in Australia. It’s exhilarating and astounding, exhausting and morale-boosting at the same time. Climbing Cradle Mountain will give you a huge sense of personal satisfaction while also questioning the art of decision making. A climb on Cradle will no doubt boost your confidence and give you an unstoppable grin for the rest of the day; because there’s nothing quite like gazing at a peak at the end of the day and thinking yep, I was on the top of that thing, is there?