7 Best Day Walks In Cradle Mountain You Must Complete

Hopping across dolerite columns, climbing over ancient king billy pines and traipsing through a landscape carved by glaciation are just some of the experiences you can expect from the many day walks in Cradle Mountain. 

Cradle Mountain is arguably the most popular destination in Tasmania (competing for the number one position with Freycinet National Park) and as soon as you witness the serrated ridgeline rising from Dove Lake, you’ll understand why. It’s a hiker’s wonderland, with enough variety to suit every style. 

The biggest concern you’ll face when you go hiking in Cradle Mountain is deciding which trails to choose! The options are seemingly endless, from short walks through vibrant old-growth forests to full-day adventures scrambling over precariously placed boulders. 

We’ve spent a great deal of time rambling through this iconic Tasmanian national park and while we still have a few Cradle Mountain hikes to complete, we’ve accomplished enough to share with you our list of the best day walks in Cradle Mountain. 

Hiking along the board walks on the Enchanted Forest trail, one of the best walks in Cradle Mountain

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A Guide To The 7 Best Day Walks In Cradle Mountain 

Below is a list of our 7 favourite day walks in Cradle Mountain. We’ve placed them in no particular order because rating them seems impossible when each offers such a diverse experience. So, we’ll let you be the final judge on which hike you believe is the best! 

Looking for a complete guide to help you plan your trip to Cradle Mountain? We’ve got you covered with our extensive locals guide to visiting Cradle Mountain.

Top Rated Tours In Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain Tour From Launceston Explore Cradle Mountains highlights with the experts in this fully guided tour.

Cradle Mountain Tour From Hobart Get away from the city and experience one of Tasmania’s best national parks, topping the day off with a picnic at our very favourite vantage point of Cradle Mountain, Marion’s Lookout.

Marion’s Lookout

Distance: 4.8 km circuit

Time: 2 – 2.5 hrs

Difficulty: Grade 3 – moderate with uneven terrain

Elevation Gain: 331 m

Highest Elevation: 1,223 m 

Trailhead: Dove Lake

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

Perhaps the most popular alpine hike, Marion’s lookout provides breathtaking views of Cradle Mountain’s summit in the north and Dove Lake 300 m below. It’s the easiest alpine peak to reach, with only a small steep rocky section to navigate. 

When you walk to Marion’s Lookout you have the opportunity to pass three alpine lakes along the way, each boasting a unique beauty that’s framed by the rugged peaks above. We suggest beginning your walk at Dove Lake and making your way past Lake Lilla and up to Crater Lake Lookout. You’ll bypass Wombat Pool along the way and return via the exhilarating Marion’s Lookout Link Track. 

Marion’s Lookout Link Track takes it up a notch with a steep and technical descent accompanied by a chain. If this sounds a little too wild, you can either return the way you came or walk down to the banks of Crater Lake and out to Ronny Creek. Both of these alternative routes will add an extra kilometre to the above distance. 

Note: The walk down to Crater Lake also has a rock scramble section aided by chains, however, it is easier and shorter than the Marion’s Lookout Link Track descent. 

Hansons Peak

Distance: 7 km circuit

Time: 3 – 4 hrs

Difficulty: Grade 3 – moderate with steep rock scramble sections

Elevation Gain: 350 m

Highest Elevation: 1,232 m 

Trailhead: Dove Lake

Hiking to the summit of Hansons Peak for spectacular views of Cradle Mountain

If we were to rank these day walks in Cradle Mountain, Hansons Peak would be among the top three! Not only is the view from the peak our favourite of Cradle Mountain, but the entire walk offers the perfect mix of challenge and jaw-dropping scenery as you cross the long and exposed ridgeline. 

Rising from the eastern banks of Dove Lake, Hansons Peak is a mass of white rugged rocks that require a chain to ascend. Once you reach the peak and marvel at the iconic dolerite spires of Cradle Mountain, you can continue towards the Face Track and onto the Lake Wilks track. These trails wander among colourful snow gums and pass another stunning alpine lake before leading you to the western sections of the Dove Lake circuit.

Alternatively, you can take the slightly shorter trail past Twisted Lakes and Lake Hanson, which sit in a basin on the eastern edge of Hansons Peak, before returning the way you came. 

Note: If you don’t feel confident walking up the steep rock with chains, you can take the Twisted Lakes track on your way to Hansons Peak which skirts around the summit and allows you to ascend via the south which is easier. From there you can either return the way you came or continue onto Lake Wilks. 

King Billy Pine Walk

Distance: 2 km circuit

Time: 40 mins

Difficulty: Grade 2 – easy with a few stairs

Elevation Gain: 97 m

Highest Elevation: 894 m 

Trailhead: Cradle Mountain Lodge

Hiking the King Billy Pine Walk in Cradle Mountain National Park

The King Billy Pine track is the shortest hike on our list of the best day walks in Cradle Mountain. And while it’s also the easiest, it shouldn’t be missed! I can almost guarantee that you won’t find another forest quite so vibrant in all of Tasmania – at least not for the minimal effort it takes to get there. 

As soon as you step into the dense canopy of giant beech trees, the scenery before you takes on the most brilliant green glow that’s worthy of an enchanted storybook. A wooden path winds through the gnarled forest, climbing to the point where an enormous King Billy Pine towers over the surrounding trees, before completing the loop with a walk through open buttongrass filled with wild wombats.  

With minimal effort and ease of location, this is an ideal walk to add to any itinerary. You could even pop into the Cradle Mountain Tavern to warm up with a mulled wine or hot chocolate afterwards. 

Dove Canyon Circuit

Distance: 5.3 km circuit

Time: 2 -3 hrs

Difficulty: Grade 3 – moderate with uneven terrain

Elevation Gain: 210 m

Highest Elevation: 862 m 

Trailhead: Opposite Cradle Mountain Lodge

Climbing up a steep rock chute on the Dove Canyon Circuit hike

The Dove Canyon Circuit took us by surprise. We’d spent two days wandering through the forests surrounding the Interpretation centre on well-groomed paths and expected much of the same for this day walk, which began in the same location. 

However, as soon as we passed the two picturesque waterfalls – Pencil Pine Falls and Knyvet Falls – which are a must, the trail took on a similarity to those found in the alpine and gave us a great deal more excitement than we expected. 

The circuit is seldom used, which only adds to its charm, and follows Pencil Pine Creek until it intercepts Dove River. From there, the walk traverses the steep rainforest slope towards Dove Canyon.  

While you’re unable to gain much of a view of the canyon itself, watching the Cradle Mountain valley unfold as you step out of the verdant rainforest is worth the effort. You’ll encounter a few fun scramble sections before meeting up with the Cradle Valley Boardwalk and spending the last kilometre successfully searching for wombats in the open plains. 

Cradle Mountain Summit

Distance: 12.4 km circuit

Time: 5.5 – 7 hrs

Difficulty: Grade 4 – steep and exposed sections

Elevation Gain: 747 m

Highest Elevation: 1,545 m 

Trailhead: Ronny Creek (end: Dove Lake)

Hiking to the base of Cradle Mountains Summit on the Overland Track

Summiting Cradle Mountain’s imposing peak is undoubtedly the most exhilarating day walk in Cradle Mountain. Be prepared for exposed rock scrambling and potentially bone-chilling weather as you climb to the 6th highest peak in Tasmania. 

When you finally reach the sundial that marks the highest point, you’ll be rewarded with uninterrupted views of the vast Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park. Oftentimes the peak is shrouded in a cloak of white and the view is lost so if you have the luxury of time, try to save the summit for a clear blue day. 

There are many ways you can access the final climb to the summit, but our favourite circuit (which also allows you to beat the crowds) is:

Ronny Creek – Crater Lake – Marion’s Lookout – Cradle Mountain Summit – Hansons Peak – Dove Lake

You can drive into Ronny Creek before the shuttle busses begin operating and commence your hike before the landscape is littered with fellow walkers. It’s actually almost the same distance as if you began and ended at Dove Lake.

Visit our dedicated guide on summiting Cradle Mountain for more information and to determine whether the climb is right for you.  

Crater Lake Circuit

Distance: 7 km circuit

Time: 2.5 – 3 hrs

Difficulty: Grade 3 – moderate with steep and uneven terrain

Elevation Gain: 300 m

Highest Elevation: 1,074 m 

Trailhead: Ronny Creek

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

The Crater Lake Circuit can be done in unison with Marion’s Lookout, however, we believe it deserves its own write-up for the best day walks in Cradle Mountain because it offers so much diversity in vegetation and views! 

Beginning at Ronny Creek, the first wonder you’ll encounter (after an insane amount of wombats) is Crater Falls. Hidden in a dense rainforest pocket below Crater Lake, the waterfall flows over moss-covered boulders into a bubbling stream surrounded by sassafras and pandanis.

Crater Lake rivals Dove Lake in beauty, yet in a more dramatic way. The lake is enclosed by seemingly impenetrable rock walls that rise 200 m above and standing beside the boat shed in the northern corner will allow you to feel the full force of nature. Crater Lake is the perfect example of a cirque – an amphitheatre-like valley carved by glaciation. 

The best way to experience Crater Lake is by beginning at Ronny Creek and following the trail past the lake towards Marion’s Lookout. You can either walk straight down to Dove Lake via Wombat Pool and Lake Lilla or take a detour to include Marion’s Lookout, adding an extra 1.4 km to the walk. 

Dove Lake Circuit

Distance: 6 km circuit

Time: 1.5 – 2.5 hrs

Difficulty: Grade 3 – moderate with some stairs and uneven terrain

Elevation Gain: 171 m

Highest Elevation: 982 m 

Trailhead: Dove Lake

Dove Lake Circuit on a misty day, one of the best day walks in Cradle Mountain National Park

Dove Lake is hands down the most popular day walk in Cradle Mountain and while it is almost always busy, it’s still worth your time. Ultimately, you’ll encounter parts of the circuit as you complete the surrounding alpine walks, but if you have time, walk it in full to experience all it has to offer. 

The trail traces the circumference of Dove Lake, with many little side tracks leading to pristine beaches where you can take a dip on a warm summer afternoon. You’ll also have the opportunity to stand atop Glacier Rock, which arguably offers one of the best photo opportunities of Cradle Mountain from Dove Lake. 

My favourite section of the Dove Lake Circuit is the ‘Ballroom’ which is a wonderfully vibrant rainforest on the western side of the lake. Pretty little bridges and boardwalks lead the way over the spongy forest floor that’s filled with bubbling rivulets making their way to Dove Lake.

While The Dove Lake Circuit is extremely popular, it is still one of the best things to do in Cradle Mountain.

Quick Tips For Hiking In Cradle Mountain

  • You need to purchase a Tasmanian Parks Pass to enter Cradle Mountain. You can do this at the visitors centre when you arrive or online beforehand. The best value for money is the 2-month vehicle pass
  • Shuttle busses run from the visitors centre to Dove Lake from 8 am – 6 pm in summer (1st October – 31st March) and from 9 am – 5 pm in winter (1st April – 30th September). Find the current prices here.
  • Private vehicles are permitted to enter and park at Dove Lake or Ronny Creek outside of shuttle bus operating times. If you choose to do this, follow a shuttle bus out when you leave as the road is very narrow and the drivers communicate over 2-way radios.
  • Snow is common year round and the weather in the alpine can change on a dime. Be prepared for all weather conditions no matter the forecast.
  • We recommend wearing hiking boots to protect your feet and ankles from the uneven terrain and potentially muddy sections through the forests.

We hope our little list of the 7 best walks in Cradle Mountain has helped narrow your choices, allowing for an easier decision-making process as you plan your trip. And don’t forget to check out our complete guide to Cradle Mountain for all the information you could possibly need! 

Happy Hiking 🙂

Hiking in the snow along the Lake Rodway Track from Scott Kilvert Hut