Barn Bluff | Cradle Mountain’s Best Multi-Day Hike

Arguably the second most recognisable mountain within the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Barn Bluff’s pointed dolerite peak rises from the vast alpine plateau just south of the iconic Cradle Mountain. 

Promising sensational views and a thrilling dolerite rock scrambling, the Barn Bluff summit hike has been on our radar for a very long time. And finally, on our fourth visit to Cradle Mountain, we were gifted with blue skies and the opportunity to hike to the peak of Barn Bluff. 

The walk to Barn Bluff’s summit will provide panoramic views of Cradle Mountain’s Peak and the famous Overland Track weaving within the mountainous range stretching to Lake St Clair. 

If you’re searching for adventure and a healthy dose of challenge, then Barn Bluff is the perfect peak to satiate your wanderlust. This post will provide all the information you need to climb Barn Bluff, including the best route to choose to include Cradle Mountain and spend a night at Scott-Kilvert Hut and/or Waterfall Valley Hut.

Clouds drifting from Barn Bluff in Cradle Mountain National Park

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Summiting Barn Bluff In Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

27.1 km circuit

2 days

Elevation Gain
1,291 m

Highest Elevation
1,559 m 

Grade 3 (Grade 4/5 to summit Barn Bluff)

Entrance Fees
Tasmanian Parks Pass

Visitor centre, Toilets, Shelter, Tent platforms, Water tanks

Where Is Barn Bluff

Barn Bluff is the sixth tallest peak in Tasmania and if you’ve ever set foot near Cradle Mountain, you will have noticed the pimple-shaped peak rising beyond the start of the Overland Track.

The prominent peak is located at the northern end of Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park in Tasmania’s central highlands, 2 hrs west of Launceston and 4 hrs northwest of Hobart.

How To Get To Barn Bluff, Tasmania

Due to its incredibly popular status, there is actually a public transport option available from Launceston to Cradle Mountain – where you’ll begin your Barn Bluff adventure. McDermott’s Coaches offers transport from Launceston to Cradle Mountain on a regular basis.

*If you’d like to learn more about various tour options (which won’t include Barn Bluff) and extra information on Cradle Mountain itself, read our detailed Cradle Mountain Guide next.

Driving yourself to Cradle Mountain and the beginning of the Barn Bluff hike is simple and enjoyable, passing through beautiful forests and quaint small towns. The closest car park for the Barn Bluff summit is Ronny Creek, which you can only access before the Cradle Mountain shuttle service begins. 

Alternatively, you can drive into the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre, leaving your car in the large car park and utilising the shuttle bus service that runs between the visitor centre and Dove Lake.

For the current operation hours and prices of the Cradle Mountain shuttle service, visit the Tasmanian Parks website.

Barn Bluff Summit Hiking Notes

There are many different ways to reach Barn Bluff, which can range from an all-day mission or a few days rambling through the networking trails and sleeping on tent platforms under the stars.

Below we will provide a brief overview of the most common routes before exploring the best route in depth.

Hiking the thin trail towards Barn Bluff along the palteau

Barn Bluff Possible Routes

Ronny Creek – Barn Bluff Via Crater Lake Return

Distance: 21.3 km return
Time: 9 – 12 hrs
Elevation Gain: 885 m

Dove Lake – Marions Lookout – Barn Bluff – Waterfall Valley Hut – Hansons Peak – Dove Lake

Distance: 30.2 km circuit
Time: 2 days
Elevation Gain: 1,200 m (approx)

Ronny Creek – Crater Lake – Marions Lookout – Cradle Mountain Summit – Waterfall Valley Hut – Barn Bluff – Scott-Kilvert Hut  – Hansons Peak – Dove Lake

Distance: 32.5 km circuit
Time: 2 – 3 days
Elevation Gain: 1,800 m (approx)

The trail notes below will describe the route we chose to take and highly recommend. It can be completed in two days and provides a great overview of the area, allowing the opportunity to summit Cradle Mountain as well.

Ultimately, the tracks from Ronny Creek or Dove Lake leading into the alpine are quite similar, so either way you choose, you can understand what to expect from these notes. For more information on each individual trail, read our detailed Cradle Mountain Guide next.

Ronny Creek – Crater Lake – Marions Lookout – Barn Bluff – Waterfall Valley Hut – Crater Peak – Ronny Creek

Distance: 27.1 km
Time: 2 days
Elevation Gain: 1,291 m 

Ronny Creek To Crater Lake

As soon as you leave the car park at Ronny Creek, you’ll step onto the start of the Overland Track where boardwalks wind through what we like to call the wombat highway. If you don’t spot at least 5 of the furry animals, you’re not looking hard enough! 

Wet Wombat chewing on buttongrass in Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park

The boardwalks will lead you deeper into the Cradle Valley, following a creek lined with hundreds of pandani before veering left and gently climbing into an open snow gum forest. 

Perfectly manicured steps and more boardwalks disappear deeper into the forest where you’ll find a waterfall. Crater Falls is a stunning little oasis where a bubbling stream falls over a mass of mossy boulders into a creek hidden amongst twisted sassafras and myrtle beech trees.

Creek flowing under Crater Lake in Cradle Mountain Lake St Clair National Park

After exploring the small waterfall, you’ll pop out of the dense forest and continue to climb just a little until you reach the banks of Crater Lake 30 minutes after beginning your hike.

Crater Lake To Marions Lookout

Standing at the banks of Crater Lake next to the Crater Lake Boat House in Cradle Mountain National Park

Crater Lake showcases the intense power of glaciation, which created this magnificent glacial cirque. On one side of the alpine lake, a gently sloping mountain dressed in multiple shades of green meets the water’s edge. While on another, a stark wall of granite plummets into the ice-blue lake, a smattering of alpine trees clinging to its precipitous edge.

A historic boatshed sits tucked into the northern corner of Crater Lake and after wandering around the wooden shelter, you’ll begin to gently ascend as you traverse the eastern banks of the glacial cirque.

Hiking the rocky trail past Crater Lake towards Marions Lookout on the walk to Barn Bluff

The incline increases and the trail becomes a touch more rugged as you climb out of the cirque, making your way towards the saddle between Wombat Peak and Marions Lookout. As you pop over the ridgeline, you’re rewarded with your first glimpse of Dove Lake spread out below.

Continuing to walk southeast towards Marions Peak, you’re met with a steep incline dominated by granite slabs and a few man-made features thrown in – including a metal chain attached to an especially vertical slab.

Hiking up the steep cliff side towards Marions Lookout in Cradle Mountain National Park

But before you know it, you’ll have clambered over the last rock slab – for now – and reached Marions Lookout after approximately 1 – 1.5 hrs

Marions Lookout To Kitchen Hut

Marions Lookout arguably boasts the best views of Cradle Mountain – competing for the title with Hansons Peak located on the opposite side of Dove Lake – and provides an idyllic spot for a break when the weather is cooperating.

Cradle Mountain Summit from Marion's Lookout on a perfect blue bird day

If you’re met with unfavourable weather conditions, a common occurrence for the Cradle Mountain alpine, then push on after a quick wander of the peak towards Kitchen Hut for some respite.

Boardwalks return as you leave Marions Lookout behind and begin to cross the flourishing alpine herbfield beneath Cradle Mountain. The sweeping plateau is filled with tiny tarns giving life to the abundance of wildflowers and alpine heath, creating a beautiful foreground for Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff which slowly creeps into view.

Kitchen Hut at the base of Cradle Mountain summit

You’ll arrive at Kitchen Hut approximately 30 – 40 minutes after leaving Marions Lookout, where you can shelter from the elements and take advantage of the drop toilet located 100 m south of the hut. 

Kitchen Hut To The Emergency Shelter

Hiking the boardwalks behind Kitchen Hut towards Barn Bluff

Leaving Kitchen Hut behind, you’ll continue along the Overland Track – which you’ve been following since Ronny Creek – through the colourful alpine plateau once again as the trail winds around the southeastern slopes of Cradle Mountain towards Barn Bluff.

A mix of boardwalks and rocks form the undulating path that you’ll follow as the terrain shifts from an alpine herbfield to a magical pandani and pencil pine forest clinging to the shelf below Cradle Mountain.

The shelf offers breathtaking views into the Fury Gorge below and over to Barn Bluff, rising magnificently from its own alpine plateau. After soaking it all in, you’ll follow the gently ascending path as it enters a dense snow gum forest dotted with pines and fagus.

Hiking the trail towards Barn Bluff as clouds peel off the summit of the unique mountain

The boardwalks are left behind for a little while, leaving you to contend with unstable rocks that must be used as stepping stones to avoid the ever-present mud. But if nothing else, the trail does wonders in distracting you and before you know it, another hour and a half will have passed and you’ll be standing beside the Emergency Shelter.

The Emergency Shelter To Barn Bluff

Hiking along boardwalks towards Barn Bluff in Cradle Mountain National Park

A track junction will appear just before the Emergency Shelter, directing you right (southwest) to continue towards Barn Bluff or left (west) to walk to Lake Rodway. Taking the right track, you’ll pass by the green emergency shelter and step back onto boardwalks that will guide you the majority of the way to Barn Bluff’s summit.

After 600 m of crossing the plateau, you’ll arrive at another track junction. A sign will indicate that the left track will take you to Waterfall Valley Hut and the right will take you to Barn Bluff. 

Note: Here in Tasmania, we live by the rule that if you can see the top of a mountain, you must summit that day! You never know what the next hour will bring, let alone the next day, and we’ve been caught too many times with no views due to waiting for the following morning.

Hiking the thin trail towards Barn Bluff along the palteau

Choosing the track to Barn Bluff, you’ll begin to walk southwest, traversing the ridgeline on a mix of boardwalks and a groomed trail. This simple track takes you to the base of Barn Bluff, where you’re met with a messy field of dolerite boulders.

Beginning the scramble up the steep dolerite garden, arrows and rock cairns help to guide you through the easiest route. As you continue to gain elevation, take a moment to look around and absorb the unfolding vistas of the Cradle Valley.

Hiking up the rock garden towards Barn Bluff summit
Traversing the steep mountain side of Barn Bluff while walking to the peak

With only one awkward move that will make you stretch as far as you can, there aren’t any extremely technical sections unless you take the wrong path…

Approximately halfway up the boulder scramble, it looks as if there is a trail that veers to the right but the actual track continues up and to the left. It is embarrassingly quite obvious with a number of arrows but somehow we missed them all and went on a more technical and unnecessary journey.

Climbing up the technical rock garden found on the Barn Bluff summit hike
Candace is on the correct trail, incorrect trail veers right before the rock slab

Eventually, after 500 m and roughly 30 – 45 minutes, you’ll reach the precarious peak of Barn Bluff. Your hard work is rewarded with 360-degree views of the entire Overland Track, Cradle Mountain and Fury Gorge. 

Standing on the summit of Barn Bluff after completeing the Barn Bluff hike in Cradle Mountain National Park

Barn Bluff To Waterfall Valley Hut

After admiring Waterfall Valley Hut from afar and absorbing the tarn-filled plateau stretching to distant peaks, you’ll begin the slow climb back to the boardwalks below. 

Reaching the track junction once again, this time you’ll take the left track and follow the boardwalks as they drop off the ridgeline into Waterfall Valley. A number of steep sections will keep you on your toes as you descend almost 200 m over a mix of wooden stairs and rocky steps.

Hiking to Waterfall Valley Hut through the Pandani forest

Finally, Waterfall Valley Hut slides into view and after a few 100 m, you’ll find yourself staring at one of the best huts we’ve seen in Tasmania. It’s such a welcomed sight after walking for approximately 7 to 8 hours and 16.3 km.

Waterfall Valley Hut

Waterfall Valley Hut, first main campsite along the Overland Track in Cradle Mountain Lake St Claire National Park

Picturesquely nestled into the steep cirque beneath Barn Bluff, Waterfall Valley Hut is one of the newest huts and offers all the fanciest features – including heating, lights and charging ports.

However, for hikers that aren’t completing the Overland Track, the Hut is off-limits between October to May. Instead, there is a double tent platform located above the Rangers Hut which must be booked in advance to camp at.

Macpac Duolite hiking tent set up at Waterfal Valley Hut Tent Platforms
Cooking dinner at the Waterfall Valley Hut Tent Platforms

It’s a little tricky to find the allocated non-overland hiker’s tent platform as the signage isn’t great. But if you begin to walk towards the Rangers Hut, you’ll see the platform tucked into the trees and eventually you’ll come to a sign indicating you’ve found the right spot.

The area is equipped with water tanks to refill bottles and drop toilets. The use of the hut is possible during winter, but booking is still essential.

Waterfall Valley Hut To Kitchen Hut

Hiking along the Plateau from Waterfall Vally Hut towards Cradle Mountain

After a beautiful night under the stars, listening to the sounds of the wild, you’ll return the way you came, arriving at Kitchen Hut approximately 3 hours later.

If you encountered grim weather the day before, a morning summit of Barn Bluff might be on the agenda for the return hike. Otherwise, adding a side trip to Cradle Mountain’s summit is strongly recommended.

Side Trip To Cradle Mountain Summit

Candace scrambling up the dolerite boulders close to the peak of the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Unfortunately, we encountered high winds and sideways rain on our return walk from Waterfall Valley which prevented us from summiting Cradle Mountain on this trip. 

However, we have completed the hike before – sadly in similar conditions. The return trip from Kitchen Hut is 2.4 km and takes roughly 1.5 to 2 hours to complete. You can read our full guide to the hike in our Cradle Mountain Summit guide.

Kitchen Hut To Crater Peak

The horse track leading from Kitchen Hut to Crater Peak

To shake things up a little, you can return via the Horse Track which will take you to Crater Peak before descending to Ronny Creek. After leaving Kitchen Hut, you’ll follow the same track you walked the previous day for 500 m before reaching a track junction.

To access Crater Peak, take the left track which continues northwest through the vast plateau. You’ll find yourself once again walking on boardwalks for the majority of the time, allowing you to gaze out at the everchanging vistas while you walk.

After 1.6 km, you’ll find a small side track that will lead you the last few metres to Crater Peak. The view from the granite peak quickly became one of our favourites in the entire Cradle Range, where you’re gifted with a full view of the majestic Crater Lake directly below, Dove Lake in the distance and Cradle Mountain’s iconic peak in the south.

Crater Peak overlooking the wide expanse of the Cradle Mountain National Park

Crater Peak To Ronny Creek

Once you’ve finished exploring the rocky Crater Peak and admiring the vast views of the valley, backtrack to the main trail and continue around the western side of the summit. Boardwalks meet you soon after and intermittently help you off the plateau, dropping into the snow gum forest above Cradle Valley.

Descending the Steep Crater Peak trail towards Ronny Creek Car Park in the mist

A steep descent ensues, making you glad you chose this trail for the return. But eventually, after 2 km, you’ll intersect the Crater Lake track and follow the boardwalks back to Ronny Creek.

The second day of the Barn Bluff overnight hike is a total of 10.8 km and will take approximately 5 hours to complete. If you include the side trip to Cradle Mountain, your total will be 13.3 km and take roughly 6 – 7 hours.

Best Time To Complete The Hike To Barn Bluff

Every season in the Cradle Mountain Range feels like a whole new experience. And while there are benefits to each, summiting Barn Bluff should be left to the advanced hikers through winter when there’s often a dusting of snow clinging to the dolerite peaks.

Hiking emergency shelter on overland track with distant view of Tasmanians highest mountain peaks
Emergency Shelter before blizzard
Hiking emergency shelter on overland track in blizzard conditions
Emergency Shelter during blizzard

To help you decide when to hike Barn Bluff, and what to expect in each season, here is a quick summary of the highs and lows of the four seasons.

  • Summer: You’ll be gifted with warm weather and wildflowers covering the alpine, but the exposure can make a 20-degree day feel like 35
  • Autumn: Crisp and clear days and the changing of the fagus make Autumn one of the best times to visit Barn Bluff, but a surprise snowstorm is not uncommon
  • Winter: Snow is very common throughout winter and causes the alpine to turn into a white wonderland, however, summiting the peaks during this time can be very dangerous for unprepared hikers
  • Spring: Wildflowers begin to bloom and the native wildlife are out in force in Spring but while the weather is beginning to warm, it’s often quite volatile with heavy rain and strong winds

Leave No Trace

Tasmania is fortunate to have an abundance of protected forests that hold a multitude of endemic species of flora and fauna. These wild places are the reason Tassie is so popular and they need our help to continue to thrive.

When you’re hiking in the mountains, or anywhere for that matter, please follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles and leave a place how you found it – or better. It’s as simple as taking all your rubbish with you (including food scraps and tissues) and utilising the drop toilets found along the trails and at campsites. 

What To Bring

Hiking in the rain on the plateau between Barn Bluff and Cradle Mountain

You’ll be spending a great deal of time trekking across the open alpine below Cradle Mountain and Barn Bluff, where the weather can change on a dime. And while the tracks are moderately populated and well managed, it’s still highly recommended to pack the essentials along with plenty of warm and waterproof layers. 

If you choose to spend the night at either Scott-Kilvert Hut or Waterfall Valley Hut, you’re required to pack a tent even if you plan to sleep inside the huts.

Essential Hiking Packing List

  • Topographic Map and Compass – It’s best to avoid relying solely on your phone, which can run out of battery. 
  • Digital Map – In addition to a paper map, you can use AllTrails to download the route and follow along with the inbuilt GPS.
  • First Aid Kit – You can visit this post if you’re unsure what should go into a first aid kit for hiking.
  • Emergency Beacon – Our emergency beacon lives in our hiking packs permanently.
  • Reusable Water Bottles Avoid taking plastic water bottles that can break easily and add to the overwhelming amount of plastic pollution. We also suggest bringing a water filtration system to treat river water.
  • Head Torch Don’t forget the spare batteries! Look for a headtorch with a minimum of 100 lumens. 
  • Sturdy Hiking Shoes We recommend hiking boots over trail runners for longer hikes, where the trail is unstable and can become very muddy. 
  • Long pants or gaiters Tasmania has a thriving population of leeches.
  • Down Jacket and Thermals Staying warm while hiking is extremely important and these items play a key role, the mountains are unpredictable, best be prepared.
  • Rain Jacket and Rain Pants Rain pants are optional but can provide an extra layer of warmth in miserable conditions. 
  • Sun Protection – The UV rays are stronger at higher altitudes.
  • Sleeping Gear – Make sure to pack a tent, a warm sleeping bag and an inflatable mat for overnight hikes. The mountains can get very cold at night, even in summer.
  • Cooking Stove Nothing beats a warm, satisfying meal after a big day of hiking.
  • Emergency Snacks – You can never have too much food and who doesn’t love snacks!
  • Camera Gear – We never travel anywhere without our camera, tripod or drone!

Where To Stay Near Barn Bluff, Tasmania

Cradle Mountain sits smack bang in the middle of the central highlands, where you have countless accommodation options to choose from. If you plan to spend a few nights camping in the mountains, it’s possible to simply drive from Launceston or Devonport. 

But if you’d rather enjoy nature for a little while longer, our top suggestion is to choose a quaint cabin in Moina.

Camping Near Barn Bluff




Final Thoughts

After so much anticipation, we were stoked that Barn Bluff did not disappoint. The summit not only offers a good dose of boulder scrambling fun, but the views and Waterfall Valley make it the perfect overnight adventure and one of the best things to do in Cradle Mountain.

With loads of alternate routes, you can mix and match to suit your desires. And if you’d like to spend an extra day in the mountains, we suggest spending the second night at Scott Kilvert Hut and returning via Hansons Peak.

Have you summited Barn Bluff? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And as always, if you have any questions please feel free to put them in the comments and we will reply as soon as possible.

Happy Hiking 🙂