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Cradle Mountain Summit Hike

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Last Updated on May 27, 2024 by Sarah Puckett

Standing at the summit of Cradle Mountain after a rewarding and challenging hike has to be one of the highlights of adventure travel in Tasmania, Australia

Whether you are completing the full Overland Trek through the alpine landscape of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, or just going on a day walk, a hike to the summit of Cradle Mountain is an exciting and challenging way for experienced hikers to enjoy the heart of Tasmania.

If this sounds like an adventure for you, my guide has everything you need to know to summit Cradle Mountain on a day hike.

Follow the seven Leave No Trace principles: plan your hike in advance, stick to designated trails, carry out all your belongings, dispose of waste properly, leave natural areas untouched, minimize the impact of campfires, show consideration for fellow hikers, and avoid approaching or feeding wildlife.

Cradle Mountain

Preparing for the Cradle Mountain Summit Hike

You should be an experienced hiker if you plan to attempt the summit portion of the Cradle Mountain hike. The entire route, starting and ending at the Dove Lake car park, is about 8 miles long and will take around 6-8 hours as you will be either ascending or descending most of the time. Be sure to pack layers. Weather in Cradle Mountain can change very quickly. On our hike, we went from warm and sunny to foggy and chilly in less than a half-hour. Bring your lunch, snacks, and plenty of water. I drank 3 liters on this hike.

Cradle Mountain National Park

Cradle Mountain Summit Hike Trail Notes

When you arrive at the Dove Lake car park area, be sure to write down your name and your hiking plans in the logbook (and don’t forget to sign back in when you return). The walk starts from the Dove Lake car park and heads up steadily past Lake Lilla and the smaller lake Wombat Pool, and then the larger Crater Lake.

Lake Lilla

Marion’s Lookout

After about an hour and a half, you’ll reach the magnificent Marion’s Lookout, which gives you a full-frontal view of the mountain and a bird’s eye view over Dove Lake. The trail between Crater Lake and Marion’s Lookout is part of the Overland Track, so you may see through-hikers here.

Marion’s Lookout

You’ll continue onto the Overland Track past the emergency hut at the base of the summit trail. This part of the trail is, in my opinion, the most scenic, especially if you have clear weather.

The Summit Track

The Summit Track starts gently but quickly becomes incredibly scrambly, requiring full-body climbing for 45 minutes over large rocks to reach the summit. I don’t think it’s suitable for children, and would not advise attempting the summit in wet conditions (rain, mist, snow, or ice). If it’s cloudy out, you won’t see much from the summit anyway. Once you reach the summit, you’ll return down the way you came.

The Face Track

After the equally scrambly descent back down to the main trail, you’ll continue to the Face Track trail. This is a nice part of the hike to stop for lunch since you’ll have the most strenuous part of the day behind you, and views of Dove Lake far below you!

The next part of the trail seemed ill-maintained. The wooden pieces were broken off the path and strewn about the muddy ground. There is an option to take a longer but more gradual way around Dove Lake via the Lake Rodway trail, or you can take the steep Lake Wilks trail down to the popular and mostly paved path that loops Dove Lake.

The trail overlooking Dove Lake

Lake Wilks Trail

We opted for the Lake Wilks trail, and so that is what I’ll describe next. Lake Wilks track requires scrambling down more steep rocks, sometimes with the help of a chain for about 30 minutes, and then the trail wanders through the forest for about 45 minutes before it meets up with the paved Dove Lake Circuit. From here it’s about another half hour before you return to the car park.

Cradle Mountain Trail Times Summary

  • Dove Lake Carpark to Marion’s Lookout: 1.5 hours, steep trail
  • Marion’s Lookout to Summit Trail: 30 minutes, flat trail
  • Summit: 1.5 hours return, steep and slippery rock scrambles the entire way
  • Summit Trail to Lake Wilks Trail: 1 hour, the trail is poorly maintained
  • Lake Wilks Trail to Dove Lake Circuit: 1.5 hours, steep descent with aid of chains in some parts
  • Dove Lake Circuit to Carpark: 45 minutes, flat and paved trail
  • Total: 6-8 hours
Cradle Mountain Summit map
Cradle Mountain Summit map

Overall, the Cradle Mountain summit hike was one of the most challenging walks I’ve done (even more so than the longer Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand). That said, it was also one of the most fun. It’s highly technical, and the many different sections of the trail are unique enough from each other to keep you from getting bored.

More Australia Travel Tips

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In addition to the Cradle Mountain summit hike, day trips from Hobart to Port Arthur and Maria Island also fit perfectly in my comprehensive three-week Tasmania itinerary. Make sure you check it out and bookmark it for later! 

If you plan on an in-depth exploration of Western Australia, make sure you check out (and bookmark!) my super-detailed Perth to Darwin road trip itinerary.

And while you’re in Perth, make sure you visit Rottnest Island on a day trip and spot adorable quokkas!

If you want to snorkel with manta rays or whale sharks (or both!) the Ningaloo Reef is the place to do it. My guide on snorkeling with whale sharks and manta rays has all the details.

If you’re heading all the way to the northern region of Western Australia, I highly recommend visiting Purnululu National Park and splurging on a scenic flight over the Bungle Bungle Range. My guide covers everything you need to know to make this bucket-list-worthy adventure happen!

Have a specific question about the Cradle Mountain summit hike or anything Australia? Leave a comment below or contact me!

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