The Overland Track is one of Australia's well known bush walks, situated in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania. Attracting over 8000 walkers each year, the track runs for 65km from Cradle Mountain to Lake St Clair. The track winds through terrain ranging from sheer mountains, wild rivers and alpine plains all in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area.
Aside from the main track there are also several alternative side tracks, including to the summit of Cradle Mountain and Mount Ossa, the tallest mountain in Tasmania. Also reached are a group of tarns called The Labyrinth and Lake St Clair (the deepest lake in Australia). World-renowned for its pristine environment and beauty, the walk has been compared to New Zealand's Milford Track.
Walkers complete the trail in 5-6 days, normally south-bound. The record time is 7 hours and 25 minutes, which was achieved by Andy Kromar during the Cradle Mountain Run.
Europeans first explored Cradle Mountain and Lake St Clair in the 1820s, and prospectors and hunters explored the area well into the 20th century. It was not until 1931 that fur trapper Bert Nichols blazed the Overland Track and by 1935 it was consolidated and used by independent walking parties.
The landscape was all carved by glaciers during the last ice age, and the prominent mountains are composed of dolerite columns. The climate is generally unstable, with temperatures ranging from hot (35+°C) in summer to below zero in winter. Snow is common in winter, especially on Mount Ossa. Rain is very common, and often torrential.
The most common fauna are Tasmanian Pademelons (native), and mice/rats (not native). The trail traversed areas of many types of vegetation, including Myrtle Beech forest, Eucalypts forest, Button Grass plains (swamps), alpine herb fields and shrubs and mosses.
The Overland Track contains some spectacular scenery created by glacier action.
The trail is mostly very well defined and adequately marked. The trail condition however varies greatly. There are a great number of long sections of duckboard (boardwalk) which consist of split logs embedded in the ground, held together with wire and nails. Where there is no duckboard, the conditions can sometimes be very muddy. In winter, the mud is frozen solid early in the morning, however offsetting this is the problem of dangerous ice on the duckboard. The mud is not nearly as frequent or deep as hikes in the south west, due mainly to the duckboard.
Inexperienced walkers are advised to undertake the walk in summer, when the days are longer and the weather milder. The number of visitors is controlled in summer by the 'Overland Pass' a limited number of which are available. The walk is not challenging provided that walkers are adequately prepared with proper equipment. The track is covered by the Tasmap Cradle Mountain - Lake St Clair 1:100000 map.
There are a number of side trips that can be undertaken while on the Overland Track. From north to south these are:
|Waterfall Valley Hut|
|New Pelion Hut|
|Kia Ora Hut|
|Windy Ridge Hut|
|Echo Point Hut|
|Pine Valley Hut|
|Scott-Kilvert Memorial Hut|
|Du Cane Hut|
|Old Pelion Hut|