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Cradle Mountain Tasmania

Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Directions - Cradle Mountain is located two hours west of Launceston in the Central Highlands of Tasmania. Take Bass Highway out of the city until you reach Railton Road, then take a left and continue following the signs for Cradle Mountain as you pass through Sheffield, cross the River Forth and climb back up towards the final turn-off taking you towards the Visitor Centre. Parts of the drive are tight and twisty, and care should be taken in inclement weather. The Cradle Mountain Summit Walk starts at the Dove Lake Viewing Shelter, reached by taking one of the frequent shuttle buses from the Visitor Centre (ticket required).

The Hike - As one of the most iconic Australian day hikes, Cradle Mountain is a destination that I was really looking forward to visiting as part of a summer holiday to Tasmania at the end of 2023. Booked in to do the Overland Track to start 2024, I gave myself a few days beforehand to explore the Great Western Tiers, with a day out to Cradle Mountain to tackle the summit hike, just in case I got some bad weather on day one of the Overland Track. Staying in the lovely little town of Deloraine, I was monitoring the weather forecast closely and this day was going to be the best of the three days I had here.

With Mountain Forecast showing maybe half a day of semi-clear conditions, my aim was to get to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre close to opening and catch one of the first shuttle buses down to Dove Lake. Despite being mid summer, it was a cold morning as I drove through the farmland and forests of northern Tasmania, enjoying the twisty roads and mountain views. Reaching the visitor centre car park, it was a frosty 6 degrees, and wouldn't be getting much warmer as the day went on. Being the height of the holiday period, it was filling up quickly with people thinking the same as me, and after gathering my things together, I made my way inside the impressive visitor centre to purchase my bus pass. The lady who served me had the look of someone who had dealt with too many tourists, as she asked me my plans for the day. It's completely understandable, as a bit of a scare down here might stop someone attempting something they aren't prepared for near the summit, and save the rangers from organising a rescue that could have been avoided. 

Armed with my bus pass and a brochure, I walked down and joined the line of eager beavers ready to be shuttled down the narrow road leading to Dove Lake. The drivers are very knowledgeable and most will give you a little commentary about the area and what you might see. Arriving at Dove Lake, a series of building that can only be described as wonderfully brutalistic awaits you. Built in 2022, I had a good search for a Bond villain but they must have been holidaying in their dormant volcano today. On a serious note, it's a wonderful building, with plenty of information about the area, and quiet viewing areas where you can enjoy the stunning views away from the harsh elements that this part of Tasmania is known for. Leaving the building, I headed down the path towards the edge of the lake to begin my hike up to the sixth highest peak in Tasmania. With grey skies overhead, Dove Lake wasn't looking like the pictures you see on Instagram but that was fine, I was here for Cradle Mountain. 

Even that wasn't looking very promising, as the iconic outline you can see from the shores of Dove Lake had some cloud cover hanging around the top. If I've learned anything over the years, it's that things can change quickly in the mountains, so I would hike up and see how things were looking closer to the summit. The path I was taking today would see me utilise a number of different tracks to reach the summit, with the first leg being on the Dove Lake Circuit. Rising up a small hill, you get views overlooking Dove Lake and the popular boat house, before entering a section of head high vegetation as you turn off the Dove Lake Circuit and join the Lake Lilla Track. With no shortage of alpine lakes up here, you soon get sweeping views across Lake Lilla, before descending down to the edge of the lake, where you get a picturesque scene looking across the water to Wombat Peak in the distance. Crossing a small creek that flows out of Lake Lilla and down towards the Dove River, the boardwalk is a great place to stop for photos (be mindful of other hikers as it's narrow).


Reaching another track junction, the familiar Tas Parks blue signs point you in the right direction, taking a left turn to join the Wombat Pool Track. This is the start of the proper climbing that will see you ascend 300m vertically up to Marions Lookout, a popular turnaround point for those that don't have the fitness or confidence to do the full Class 5 summit hike to Cradle Mountain but still want great views. Starting to climb the staircase leading up to Wombat Pool, patches of blue sky were keeping my hopes high, but I still had a long way to go yet. Spotting my first Pandani for the day brought a smile to my face, and it wasn't long before this first little pinch climb was over. With views over Wombat Pool, the characterful Pencil Pines found on the edge of the water give this idyllic spot a great deal of charm. Not spotting any wombats yet, I was hoping for some on the alpine fields leading towards Cradle Mountain. There is a little wooden platform on the edge of Wombat Pool, and it's a great place to stop and admire the stunning scenery you can see from here.