There are heaps of tracks all around Cradle Mountain – Lake St. Clair National Park. They vary in difficulty and length, ensuring that there is something for everyone and with so much to see – waterfalls, lakes, fairy-tale forests, buttongrass plains, mountain ranges and an abundance of wildlife, I would definitely recommend spending a good chunk of time here.
We spent a week exploring the place. This was partially due to the terrible weather, which allowed us just one glimpse of the mountain (and not a chance in hell to actually reach the summit). For the rest of the time, its craggy peaks were hidden behind thick cloud and we had to endure hiking in torrential rain. This was all part of the fun though. In no particular order, here are my favourite walks:
Ronny Creek was one of my favourite spots in the National Park and I used it as a starting (and sometimes finishing) point for each walk I completed. The boardwalk takes you over bright green buttongrass moorland surrounded by mountains and during my short time there, I witnessed the landscape change dramatically. Over a week, the weather fluctuated between bright, sunny days and trickling streams, to torrential rain, hail and gale force winds, which caused raging torrents of water to flood the area. I even got my first glimpse of snow in a long time, high up on the mountains.
So, it was an interesting place and I absolutely loved seeing it flooded; there was something mesmerising about watching the water rush past right under me. It was also a place I was guaranteed to see wombats, something I had been deprived of until now.
One particular day after a long, wet hike up to Crater Lake, myself and Yasmin decided to walk back via Ronny Creek to see if we could catch sight of any more wombats. As we trudged along the boardwalk in our soggy boots, I just so happened to glance down into one of the fast flowing streams. There, looking back up at me, was a platypus.
I stopped dead in disbelief, I think I let out a few swear words too as I beckoned Yasmin over to confirm that I wasn’t hallucinating from overexposure to the cold. It was real. And for a good ten minutes, we watched it swim around, forage for food and burrow into the grass and pop up elsewhere. It swam right next to our feet, completely unfazed by our presence. I felt like the luckiest person alive in that moment and when it finally disappeared out of sight, I continued to have the stupidest grin on my face for the next two days.
I even managed to get the little chap on film. You can check out the footage on my Instagram account: @kate___butler or Facebook Page (links in menu).
The tracks around the park all link up, so depending on how far you want to walk, you can reach pretty much anywhere from Ronny Creek. I started here when walking to Dove Lake, Crater Lake and Marions Lookout. Ronny Creek is also less touristy than Dove Lake, so catching the bus here was always easier and quieter.
Dove Lake Circuit
You can catch the bus directly to Dove Lake, but with most people having the same idea, I chose to walk from Ronny Creek (it only adds on about an hour of walking time and you are very likely to see wombats here).
Dove Lake is beautiful and on a good day, Cradle Mountain stands proudly behind in all its glory. Being there in winter, I only actually saw the full mountain on one day. The walk around the lake can be done in under two hours. Most people walk it in a clockwise direction, however, coming from Ronny Creek, I went anti-clockwise, seeing the iconic boat shed first.
There are a few uphill sections, but most of the track is boardwalk. Along the walk, the highlights for me were the magnificent waterfalls cascading down the mountain side and the Ballroom Forest, which feels like you are entering a fairy-tale.
This walk is hugely popular with tourists and having been spoilt with so many deserted spots around Tasmania, I felt glad to be walking it in off-peak season (I imagine summer to be horrendous).
Weindorfers Forest Walk
Don’t forget to squeeze this short little walk into your itinerary. It can be reached via Ronny Creek in a 10 minute detour and takes you through some beautiful moss coated rainforest.
Crater Lake Circuit
Another favourite of mine. Departing from Ronny Creek, I actually walked this route twice; once in the torrential rain with zero visibility of the surrounding mountains and once on a beautifully sunny day.
On the rainy day, the track had turned into a stream in places, making it a hard old slog, especially on the steep rocky sections. After climbing for a while, we reached the forest and followed the frothy waters up to Crater Falls, which was violently raging away in a loud, white, misty haze.
In contrast, on the fine day, the path was just a little damp in some sections. The temporary streams had ceased and Crater Falls had calmed slightly. After a lot more climbing, you reach Crater Lake, which, depending on the weather, will look like this:
Seeing as I couldn’t see anything on my first attempt, I’ll talk about my second.
The surrounding mountains were perfectly reflected in the lake. There were no sounds except the distant roar of a waterfall and the pathway around the lake was littered by the remains of fagus, making a pretty yellowy-brown blanket.
The walk eventually comes up to an intersection, where you can carry on to Marions Lookout or down past Wombat Pool, joining back onto the Ronny Creek/Dove Lake track.
Absolutely worth the ridiculous climb! At the junction coming from Crater Lake, turn right and this short, steep track will reward you with the most glorious views of Crater Lake, Dove Lake… hell, all the lakes! Plus Cradle Mountain and a panoramic view of distant mountain ranges, as far as the eye can see.
To get there, you really do have to climb, so wear proper boots and for the love of god, do not attempt this in high winds! I will let my photos do the rest of the talking:
Happy hiking folks!