Cradle Mountain National Park
This is day 8-11 of our 11-day hiking and camping road trip circuit.
Possibly the second attraction you would hear about Tasmania is the popular Cradle Mountain, after the Tasmanian devil of course. It is the shining star of the island and we do agree that it is a must-visit for so many reasons.
Besides the Overland track, that starts/ends here there are lots of nature walks at a range of difficulties available. You may be interested in coming just for that iconic snap of the rugged Cradle peaks with the Dove Lake boatshed in the foreground, or for a nice easy stroll around Dove Lake or even take on the challenging Cradle Summit. Whatever it is you are seeking, we can tell you that in only 3 days it is possible to explore it all and more.
Continue reading or quickly jump to a section below:
- Where to stay
- Where to eat
- Accessing and commuting around Cradle Mountain NP
- Hikes in Cradle
- Wildlife of Cradle
- Other activities in Cradle Village
Cradle Mountain National Park is a real treat for day-walkers. With only a 15-minute drive-in from Cradle Mountain Village, you have effortless access into this stunning hub of nature walks while never being too far from the village necessities. After each hike around the jagged peaks of Cradle Mountain we would look forward to returning back to our cabin but almost instantly would yearn to be back under the prominence of Cradle Mountain and explore further. You just want to keep going back for more.
Day 1 – Cradle Valley Boardwalk
- Time: 2hs – 3hs
- Distance: 5.5km
- Difficulty: easy
To ease into it we drove to the start of Cradle Valley Boardwalk and walked to Dove Lake. This is an easy 5.5km boardwalk that starts at the The Ranger Station and Interpretation Centre, the second shuttle stop, and goes all the way to Dove Lake, passing by Ronny Creek. From Ronny Creek the walk follows the Overland Track for a bit and continues to Lake Lilla via Lake Lilla Track arriving to Dove Lake.
This walk is an easy introduction to Cradle Mountain National Park. It offers beautiful views from the valley, some waterfalls and it’s mostly very open and exposed.
- Time: 2-2.5hs return
- Distance: 2.5km
- Difficulty: medium
Following lunch at Pepper’s Tavern & Bar and some rest back at our cabin, in the afternoon we were back in the park again. This time we climbed up to Hansons Peak. We were a bit short on time as the last shuttle service came at 5.30pm and we started the walk at 3pm.
To our surprise we were already admiring Hansons Peaks’ spectacular views by 4pm. This track had steep sections to the extent where there were assisting chains installed to help climb up.
Before dinner we went in search of some local wildlife and managed to find a few happily grazing wombats. They usually emerge from their burrows at dusk and dawn and they are common to sight around Cradle Village and Ronny Creek Car park.
Day 2 – Climbing Cradle Mountain
- Time: 6hs – 8hs return
- Distance: 13km
- Difficulty: hard
Day 2 was the day we dedicated to climb to the summit of Cradle Mountain.
This track can be done in several ways and it passes through some very scenic places. Our planned route started from Dove Lake carpark, where we drove in early morning before the shuttle service. We then walked towards Lake Lilla, Wombat Pool and all the way to Wombat Peak (1105m). From here we followed the Overland Track to Marion’s Lookout, where we had a short break, and then to Kitchen Hut from where the ascent begins.
On our way back we took Face Track and descended to Dove Lake via Lake Wilks Track. The last part was a flat boardwalk following the lake’s shore back to the car park.
We do recommend sparing half a day at least to complete this track as it can take 6-8 hours. On that day, the weather could have been more ideal without the scattered showers and wind.
We started the walk just after 7am and reached Marion’s Lookout at 8.30am. At 9.45am we were already scrambling up the Cradle Mountain’s summit track. We had to stop the climb when the rain became heavier which made the rocks quite slippery and dangerous to continue going up and even more going down. At 11am we descended to Kitchen Hut where we had lunch and in 20 minutes we started to walk back to our car which we reached at 1pm.
- Time: 1.5hs
- Distance: 2km
- Difficulty: medium
Marion’s Lookout offers amazing views of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain. Along with Hanson’s Peak it’s one of the best places to look over the vastness of Cradle Mountain NP. This hike on its own can be done as a half-day walk and it’s great for watching the sunrise or sunset.
Cradle Mountain Summit
From Marions Lookout we progressed further towards the peaks of Cradle. Not long after, we sighted Kitchen Hut, an emergency shelter. This hut is at the crossroads of the steep track that goes to the summit, the Face Track that goes back to the car park and another track, part of the Overland track, that starts from Ronny Creek and continues south passing under the peak of Cradle.
If you are not planning to walk up to the summit just continue to the left along Face Track to join Lake Wilks Track down to Dove Lake. We took this steep descending path after coming down from the summit.
The Summit walk consists of climbing up on variety of shapes and sizes of rocks all the way to the top. It was a very stimulating hike with slippery section and cold gusty winds at times. The views were absolutely stunning and worth the climb. The cloudy and moody weather that we had on that day made it look like we were storming mountains of Mordor.
Before this hike, it’s good to keep an eye on the weather forecast and to be prepared for different weather conditions: sun, rain, wind, or even snow in colder months. It’s essential to have a good rain jacket and a warm layer underneath because the wind can be strong. The track consists of big rocks that are fun to climb but when they get wet they can become very slippery, in this case it’s better to have boots with substantial grip.
After the descent and a short lunch break, we continued along the Face Track. This track goes under the Cradle north face and it’s a beautiful walk that can be done on it’s own. There are warning signs of falling rocks and we heard some fall, so it’s probably not a good idea to walk there on a very windy day.
If you feel especially adventurous it’s possible to walk all the way to Hanson’s Peak and then continue down to the beginning of this hike. We, went to that lookout the previous day so instead, we descended via Lake Wilks Track, which was a very exciting experience having to climb holding on chains and descending on wet rocks.
The last part was an easy flat walk following Dove Lake’s shoreline. Part of it went through “Ballroom Forest”, a fairy tale like forest with moss covered trees and forest floor.
In the afternoon, after a wet and cold, but also very exciting adventure we splurged in a massage and the Luxury Spa Experience at Waldheim Alpine Spa, which was an amazing conclusion to our hiking adventures in Tasmania.
Day 3 - Dove Lake circuit
- Time: 2hs
- Distance: 6km
- Difficulty: easy
This is an easy but very beautiful walk around the largest lake in this area. The trail starts from the car park and sometimes it goes over boardwalks, sometimes over dirt trails and a few sections go through an ancient rainforest with moss covered trees. This walk must be on everyones todo list based on how easy and beautiful it is.
We think that jogging or running while being on holiday is a fantastic way to explore. We managed to fit a 6km sunrise run around Dove Lake Circuit. This way we felt we covered all the tracks we intended to in Cradle Valley and had an energising start of the day.
Where to stay
There are 6 accomodations in the Cradle Village to choose from and they all look lovely. We planned to spend a bit more on the last 3 nights of our road-trip and stayed in one of the spa cottages of this hotel called Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village.
This is conveniently located a 4-min walk to the Visitor Centre which is the first stop of the shuttle service. It is also only a 2-min drive to Cradle Mountain Hotel which had laundry facilities and also a restaurant with nice buffet breakfast and dinner, all for extra charge.
All of the mentioned accommodations are only a few minutes drive from the entrance to the Cradle Valley. The most convenient location, if you’re willing to pay a bit more, would be Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge.
Where to eat
Almost all of the hotels in the area offer breakfast, lunch or dinners. There are limited options and there are no grocery shops to but food from except for a small shop in Cradle Mountain Wilderness Village where you can get a sandwich.
Places we tried for dinner and we can recommend are Highlander Restaurant, Hellyers Restaurant or either a la carte or a buffet at Altitude.
For filling breakfasts before hiking we indulged in buffet breakfasts at Altitude and Waldheim.
Accessing and commuting around Cradle Mountain NP
There is one narrow main road leading into the heart of the national park. Since 22 October 2018 the park has introduced hybrid diesel/electric shuttle buses for visitors.
They run frequently between 8:30am and 4:30pm each day over winter (1 April to 30 September); and 8am to 6pm over summer (1 October to 31 March). For example it runs every 10 minutes in February / March period.
Outside these hours you may freely drive in and out. If you are exiting between these hours you need to follow a shuttle out so you don’t cause them disruptions. The shuttle service is included in your Parks Pass.
Hikes in Cradle Mountain NP
There are a few great hikes around Cradle Mountain Valley and the surroundings. We’ve walked most of them:
Hanson’s Peak: short but steep walk that starts from the Dove Lake car park and offers amazing views of the lake and Cradle Mountain.
Marion’s Lookout: can be done as part of the Cradle Mountain Summit climb or as a short half day walk. It’s similar to Hanson’s Peak and offers stunning views of Dove Lake and Cradle Mountain but from the opposite side of the lake to where Hanson’s Peak is.
Cradle Valley boardwalk: easy and beautiful 5.5km walk in Cradle Valley. You will see some waterfalls, rivers and forests while having Cradle Mountain silhouette in the distance.
Dove Lake circuit: another easy walk around the largest lake in the area. The trail passes by some of the most scenic places in the whole national park with views on Cradle Mountain.
Cradle Mountain Summit: this is a long 6-8hs hike with a lot of climbing and requires good fitness level. It you have a full day, this is an excellent way to get familiar with Cradle Mountain NP as you will pass through all kind of terrains, lookouts and even walk part of the famous Overland Track.
Wildlife of Cradle Mountain NP
There is a lot of native wildlife living in the national park. The most common sights are wombats which come out of their burrows to graze. They can be seen at dusk and dawn and they are common to sight around Cradle Village and Ronny Creek Car park.
While on hikes it’s also possible to spot some wallabies or even echidnas like this fellow we met near Wombat Pool:
Activities around Cradle Village
- Wombat and other wildlife spotting.
- A warming or refreshing drink at [Tavern&Bar
- A well-deserved soothing spa experience and/or massage at [Waldheim Alpine
- For wet weather days, Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery.
- Devils@Cradle – we think Trowunna is possibly more worth the visit but if you’re looking for an added activity in this village check this place out.
- There is only one shop, Cradle Mountain Shop, with basic supplies and limited food and alcohol to choose from so definitely stock up before arriving to the village.
On the last day of our road trip we had a short drive back to Launceston to catch our flight, but first we stopped at Trowunna Wildlife Sanctuary to meet some of the most iconic Tasmanian animals!