The Needles Track
Southwest National Park
Directions - Located 90 minutes west of Hobart, take the Brooker Hwy north and follow the signs for New Norfolk. Pass through the town and follow the signs for Westerway and then Mount Field National Park. Pass through Maydena and the car park is 17km along Gordon River Road on the right hand side. Look for the "Highest Point on Road" sign, park in the gravel car park and the trail starts on the southern side of the road (there is a small cairn and pink tape at the opening).
The Hike - With a few hikes under my belt on this latest Taswegin visit including a re-hike of the Lady Barron Falls Circuit and an epic day on Mount Field West, I was beginning to run out of trails in Mount Field National Park. One trail that I had earmarked as a must hike while planning for this trip was The Needles, a short but sharp hike taking you past some outstanding geological features to the summit where magnificent views could be had. The legs were a little sore after my 20km hike up Mount Field West so I spent the morning with Caris as we explored Junee Cave and then headed back to the town of New Norfolk to have a better look around.
With beautiful weather forecast for the afternoon, I made a decision to drive out today instead of doing this one on the way to our next stop at Lake Pedder. It's about a 30 minute drive west of Mount Field National Park and was a hike I didn't have time for on my previous visit. It looked spectacular from the guidebook I had of Tassie day walks along with the TasTrails page, which hilariously refers to the experience like this..."offers uninterrupted panoramic views from rugged mountainous terrain with minimal physical exertion required". The last half of that statement would catch out the other members of our travelling party a few days later when they decided to do it based on this advice (I had told them otherwise). Arriving at the road sign that marks where you should park, I found one other car there and parked nearby. The start of the track is quite hard to find if you don't know where it is to begin (which both info sources I was using made very clear). Locating the small cairn on the opposite side of the road and familiar pink tape that Tassie trails love to use, I headed into the scrub to begin the climb. I was aware that there was a sharp right turn at the beginning and when I reached the end of a vehicle track, a right turn appeared. After a bit of exploration and not seeing a proper track up the hill, I surmised that I had been an idiot and missed the turn.
I was correct as when I backtracked, the obvious turn was there and a walker registration box clearly visible from this vantage point (not so obvious when starting out). I signed in and started up the 1.5km climb towards the summit. The guide book I was using described flowering heath and tea trees but what I experienced was a graveyard thanks to the bushfires that ripped through the South West a couple of years ago. It provides a stark and contrasting landscape to photograph as you ascend but I'd much rather a healthy undergrowth that will unfortunately take a while to come back. A little further down the track you reach another small turn and this begins what can be a tough climb in places. The lower slopes were a bit muddy on my visit and this made stepping up the incline a little harder as you have to plan your next step very carefully. With sore muscles from my Mount Field West climb the previous day, the gradient was relentless on this first section, ranging between 25% up to 40% in places. Luckily the views up this early section are quite pretty looking at the rocky spires above and along the Florentine River Valley. Leaving the mud behind it was just a matter of putting one foot in front of the other and negotiating some rocky steps that sometimes required an extra big stride to get up.