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Backpacking Australia, from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair, takes anywhere from five to ten days, depending on your speed and physical condition. Short hikes, some lasting just half an hour, are also available.
It takes six days, hiking sixty five kilometers through the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area
The Overland Track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair is a true wilderness hike which travels near beautiful waterfalls, through spectacular dolerite mountains, and through a variety of ecosystems and close to Tasmania's highest mountain, before finishing at Lake St Clair, Australia's deepest lake.
Lake St. Clair
The incredible scenery and the physical challenges of this mountain hike have guaranteed that the Overland Track has built an international reputation as one of the great backpacking around Australia wilderness bush walks.
The Overland Track
Demand for hiking on the Overland Track is high and there are concerns about overcrowding and environmental degradation. It is necessary for the track to be managed well to ensure it remains a safe, sustainable, world class wilderness hike. To address this problem, a Vision for the Overland Track was created. A Recreation Zone Plan has been written to implement the changes to the Overland Track described in the vision.
The Overland Track is a distance of sixty five kilometers through the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. Improved track conditions, easier access, and modern outdoor equipment have all made the trek far easier than it has been in the past, the hike still demands a fair degree of planning and physical conditioning, and will take around six days and five nights.
Reservations are required for each hiking season (November 1 to April 30).
During the booking period hikers will be required to hike the track from Cradle Mountain to Lake St. Clair (North to South), and pay the Overland Track Fee of $180 AUD per adult. The fee for children, aged 17 and under, and seniors is $144. Prices quoted are current for the 2011-2012 season. Children under five may hike free of charge, although they do not recommend bringing young children to the Overland Track.
Backpacking Australia reservations open in July each year for the coming season. If your departure date is outside the booking period, this doesn't apply.
Backpacking Australia Map
Many people hike during the holiday period, December to February. On popular backpacking Australia tracks, try to depart middle of the week during these summer months to avoid overcrowding. The reservation system and one way hiking has made the experience much less crowded than in the past.
Outside the peak summer season, there's less demand for campsites and huts and the weather in spring and autumn can still be nice for hiking.
Summer (December to February)
Days are longer and some of the time you can expect warm weather. Days of 30° C are possible, but in alpine regions, snow can fall at any time of the year, so you need to be prepared for all kinds of weather. Summer is the peak period and the more popular trails will be busy.
Autumn (March to May)
Fall's calm, mild days are great for walking. Fall colors of the deciduous beech Nothofagus gunnii (Fagus), make autumn wonderful in alpine areas like Mt. Field and the Overland Track. Fagus usually changes color around April 25 (the Anzac Day holiday) and holds its color into May and is Tasmania's only deciduous tree.
Deciduous Beech Nothofagus Gunnii (Fagus)
Winter (June to August)
In higher elevations, expect snow. Winter days are cold especially in the morning. You'll want and need all your warm, waterproof and windproof gear. Days are short and deep snow can make backpacking tough. Be prepared to be stuck inside, sometimes for days during blizzards.
Spring (September to November)
Spring in Tasmania brings rain showers and winds. Rivers can be high. Don't risk crossing deep rivers, wait until water levels go down.
It is necessary to have a tent. Having a tent gives you the flexibility and independence to stop and camp when it is unwise to proceed, due to injury, fatigue or poor weather.
The Cradle Mt., Lake St. Clair National Park is a Fuel Stove Only Area. Parts of this park have already been burned. The heaters in the huts are not suitable for cooking so you will need to carry a fuel stove.
Cradle Mountain, Lake St. Clair National Park
Be aware that on airlines and on the Spirit of Tasmania (Bass Strait Ferry) you can't bring flammable fuel. Fuel bottles and stoves must be empty, aired and cleaned for six hours prior to any flights. Check for instructions with your airline .
The Spirit of Tasmania
Before starting the hike, please check your fuel stove to ensure that it operates properly and that you have all the necessary parts.
The Cradle Mountain - Lake St. Clair Map and Notes 1:100,000 Tasmap is great to have.
What other gear should you have?
Even in the middle of summer, conditions on the Overland Track can become wet, windy, and very cold, leaving hikers at risk of hypothermia. It is important that backpackers have adequate gear and clothing.
You need to have broken in boots, water bottle, map, plenty of food, a raincoat, sleeping bag, sleeping pad, thermal top and leg warmers, a fleece or woolen jumper, warm hat, and plastic bag for waterproofing.
Hikers can encounter clear, hot sunny days where the sun may cause sunburn. Wearing a wide brimmed hat and sun screen is a good idea.
Carry a trowel for digging a toilet hole for waste. The toilets are four to six hours apart and you must bury your waste and toilet paper if you do not have access to a toilet.
If you reserve under two weeks before departure, especially from December through February when many people have holidays, you will have a limited choice of departure dates. In April, many backpackers come specifically to see the fall colors of the deciduous beech.
Enjoy the unbelievable 6 day backpacking Australia trip along the beautiful Overland Track, including waterfalls, incredible mountain summits, old alpine forests, and alpine tarns. If you have the time, try backpacking Brisbane. It's called the "River City". Backpacking in Australia is a lot of fun!
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