Cradle Mountain Summit Hike | Your Ultimate Guide For 2024

Cradle Mountain’s iconic craggy peak causes flocks of tourists to visit year-round. Looming majestically behind Dove Lake, you need not venture far to experience its magnificence. But to truly immerse yourself in its wild beauty, you must take on the Cradle Mountain Summit Hike.

We will admit, the hike to Cradle Mountain’s summit is not for the faint of heart. Exposed rock scrambling for almost a kilometre up precariously strewn boulders creates a thrilling challenge for the daring. But if that’s the sort of adventure you’re searching for, then this is the hike for you!

That said, no matter if you make it to the peak of Cradle Mountain or not, the circuit that we will explain in the track notes below is a must for intermediate hikers keen to see as much as possible of Cradle Mountain in a day.

In this post, you’ll gain all the knowledge needed to summit Cradle Mountain, including advice on what to bring and some inside tips on how to avoid the crowds.

Enjoy our video from our first ever Cradle Mountain Summit attempt in poor conditions

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Essential Information For The Cradle Mountain Summit Hike In Tasmania

Quick Statistics For The Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Suggested Circuit
Ronny Creek Car Park – Crater Lake – Marion’s Lookout – Cradle Mountain Summit – Hansons Peak – Dove Lake Car Park (shuttle back to Ronny Creek)

Distance
12.7 km return

Time
5.5 – 7 hrs

Grade
Grade 4 – steep and exposed sections

Elevation Gain
765 m

Highest Elevation
1,545 m

Entrance Fees
Tasmania Parks Pass and Shuttle Bus

Facilities
Trailhead: Car park, information boards and walkers log book (toilets located at the Waldheim Cabins – a 2-minute drive from Ronny Creek)
Along The Track: Toilet and shelter at Kitchen Hut, located 1.3 km before the peak

Where Is Cradle Mountain?

Cradle Mountain reflection in Dove Lake

In the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park extends over 1,614 km². Rich rainforests, deep river gorges, glacial lakes and ancient craggy peaks form a wild and diverse landscape.

Cradle Mountain dominates the northern tip of the national park, where you’ll find a small village with the same name. The Visitor Centre (located just north of the village) lies 2 hours west of Launceston and 4 hours northwest of Hobart

Click on the image below to view our complete interactive map of Cradle Mountain and all of the points of interest to help plan your trip.

Cradle Mountain interactive map

How To Get To Cradle Mountain

By Public Transport

It is possible to catch public transport from Launceston to Cradle Mountain, but it’s not so easy from Hobart or Devonport – which would require multiple busses and a whole lot of wasted time and money.

McDermott’s Coaches run from Launceston to Cradle Mountain daily between September to April and on Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday between May and August. The coach departs Launceston at 7:30 am and leaves Cradle Mountain at 3 pm. Unfortunately, this isn’t enough time to complete the summit in one day so you will need to stay overnight in Cradle Mountain Village and return the following day.

By Car

Cradle Mountain is located 2 hours (141km) west of Launceston and 4 hours (319km) north-west of Hobart. There are signs littered throughout the state to guide you and Google Maps does a cracking job at getting it right this time.

Click here for directions to Cradle Mountain from Hobart

Click here for directions to Cradle Mountain from Launceston

Where Should I Start The Cradle Mountain Summit Hike?

Walking on the boardwalk at the start of the Overland Track in Cradle Mountain National Park
Beginning of the Overland Track

The walk to Cradle Mountain’s Summit begins at either Ronny Creek or Dove Lake depending on the route you choose to take. Our top recommendation is to start at Ronny Creek and end at Dove Lake. This allows you to cover as much of the landscape as possible within a day – and also means you can begin before the first shuttle bus (more on this below).

Understanding The Cradle Mountain Shuttle Service

Since 2018, a shuttle service has been implemented from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre to Dove Lake every 15 minutes, stopping at Snake Hill and Ronny Creek along the way. This is due to the enormous influx of traffic over recent years.

While the shuttle bus was originally free, starting from November 2023, the shuttle service in Cradle Mountain now comes at an additional cost. The additional cost is included in the Cradle Mountain Day Park Pass fee. However, if you hold any other holiday or annual Tasmania Parks Pass, a $15 fee will apply, which is valid for 72 hours. Local residents who visit Cradle Mountain regularly can opt for an annual shuttle pass priced at $45. For the full and current pricing structure click here.

To obtain your shuttle ticket, you will need to either purchase a ticket from the visitor centre or provide proof of you’re annual shuttle pass.

During the Cradle Mountain Shuttle’s operating times – 8 am to 6 pm in summer (October to March) and 9 am to 5 pm in winter (April to September) – private vehicles are restricted from entering the park. Parking at the visitor centre or further on at the Interpretation Centre is the only option through these times.

How To Park At Ronny Creek – The Best Place To Start The Cradle Mountain Summit Hike

Outside of the shuttle bus operating times, you can drive in and park at either Dove Lake or Ronny Creek with your own vehicle. The benefit of this is that you can begin your hike to Cradle Mountain’s summit before the shuttle buses begin and the crowds flock to Dove Lake.

You’ll encounter a boom gate just past the Cradle Mountain Interpretation Centre. The boom gate will be down when you arrive but the sensors are activated once you roll up to the gate no passes or cards are needed.

On exiting, it is required to travel in convoy with the shuttle buses as the road is very narrow and they use two-way radios to communicate and pass each other. The process is quite simple, wait for a bus to leave Ronny Creek Car Park and follow them out – remembering to stay close behind them and stopping when they stop to let other shuttles pass. There are signs at the car park to remind you of this if you forget.

Note: You can once again park at Dove Lake outside of the shuttle bus operating hours, however, there are only 9 car spaces available and large campervans are restricted. We recommend parking at Ronny Creek.

A picture of the sign showing how to exit Dove Lake car park while shuttle busses are operating after finishing the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Who Is This Hike For?

The hike to Cradle Mountain’s Summit is an iconic feat that many travellers seek. From the moment you begin the walk through the rugged glacially carved landscape, you’re immersed in wondrous beauty.

Walking through snow on our hike to Cradle Mountain's summit on the Overland Track

The allure of the summit hike is the challenge and the accomplishment of scrambling over precariously placed boulders to reach the peak of Cradle Mountain. But even if you don’t make it all the way to the summit – which is common due to adverse weather conditions – the journey is a thousand times worth it for any intermediate to advanced hiker with a love of jagged mountains and cobalt blue alpine tarns.

That said, if you have a fear of exposed heights and feel that the summit hike may be out of your comfort zone, there are plenty of other day walks in Cradle Mountain that pack a punch.

Alternative Hikes For Cradle Mountain Summit

Crater Lake Circuit
Standing at the summit of Crater Peak in Cradle Mountain

If you’re still keen to experience a taste of rock scrambling – with the aid of a chain – then the Crater Lake Circuit is a great choice for you. This 2 – 3 hour walk begins at Dove Lake and climbs to Marion’s Lookout via the Wombat Pool Lookout. From Marion’s Lookout – which offers sensation vistas of Cradle Mountain – you’ll descend to the magical banks of Crater Lake before returning to Dove Lake via the Lake Lilla Track.

Dove Lake Circuit
Walking the Dove Lake Circuit on. misty day in Cradle Mountain National Park

The Dove Lake Circuit is a beautiful forest and tarn experience that takes roughly 1.5 – 2.5 hours to complete. It’s a fantastic alternative if you’re caught in bad weather or you’re hesitant to scramble over steep boulders. The loop circumnavigates Dove Lake, keeping to the valley floor with barely any elevation gain.

Scott Kilvert Hut

Hiking the Southern side of Cradle Mountain along the overland track towards Scott Kilvert Hut

The hike to Scott Kilvert Hut is the perfect overnight hike for those who wish to immerse themselves in the wild of the mountains for more than a day. This circuit track allows you to attempt Cradle Mountain’s summit if you want to, but it also offers a great first overnight experience for budding intermediate hikers looking for a challenge without the constraints of time. 

What To Bring For The Cradle Mountain Summit Hike

Cradle Mountain is notorious for bad weather. Even if it’s a mild day in the village or at Dove Lake, the wind can be howling at the peak and draped in dense clouds. No matter the weather forecast, here is a list of suggested gear to pack and wear. 

Hiking in Cradle Mountain in a blizzard
Hiking through a blizzard in Cradle Mountain National Park
  • Hiking daypack – a good size for a full day of hiking is between 25 and 35 litres
  • Snacks and a light lunch
  • At least 2 litres of water in a durable and reusable water bottle
  • Rain jacket – and waterproof pants if the forecast calls for heavy rain
  • Warm layers – we recommend a fleece jacket at the very least and an additional down jacket for cold conditions
  • First Aid Kit – you can find a basic hiking first aid kit in most outdoor stores
  • Sturdy hiking boots or shoes with good grip and ideally waterproof
  • Emergency beacon – these are extremely beneficial to have with you when you’re hiking

Best Time To Summit Cradle Mountain

It rains on average 300 days of the year in Cradle Mountain and snow is common from May to September – though a summer snowstorm is not unheard of. Unfortunately, these aren’t good stats for summiting Cradle Mountain but it is possible to score a clear day!

Kitchen Hut on a clear day with snow crowding around on the Cradle Mountain Summit Hike
Kitchen Hut in Spring
Kitchen Hut surrounded by snow in the middle of winter on the Cradle Mountain Summit Hike
Kitchen Hut in Winter

The best time to visit Cradle Mountain is in early spring. This is the driest time of year and temperatures average in the early teens. Plus, the crowds are generally a little smaller after summer.

But the best way to avoid the majority of the crowds is to start as early as possible. We recommend driving into Ronny Creek and beginning your hike at sunrise. This will allow you the freedom of a full day to explore and watch the beautiful sunrise over the rugged mountains.

Cradle Mountain Summit Track Notes

We have completed the Cradle Mountain Summit Hike on many different occasions – through vastly varying weather conditions. We will include a variety of images in the track notes below to help you better understand what the hike is like in all weather conditions.

Ronny Creek Car Park To Crater Lake

Time: 30 – 60 minutes
Distance: 2.3 km
Elevation Gain: 182 m

Walking on the boardwalk at the start of the Overland Track in Cradle Mountain National Park
Beginning of the Overland Track

Beginning bright and early, you’ll leave the Ronny Creek Car Park and step onto the start of the Overland Track – that we have fondly dubbed ‘The Wombat Highway’. Boardwalks weave through the Cradle Valley, allowing you to easily spot the countless adorable wombats scattered throughout the buttongrass plains.

Note: Please keep to the boardwalks and maintain your distance from the wombats, they’re wild animals and touching or feeding them is detrimental to their health and their behaviour.

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

After roughly 600 m, you’ll cross a bubbling creek lined with Pandani and begin a gentle ascent into a snow gum forest, following the signs for Crater Lake and staying on the Overland Track. Boardwalks and steps continue to lead you deeper into the forest until you reach Crater Falls – another kilometre later.

Creek just below Crater Falls in Cradle Mountain National Park

Crater Falls is a stunning little waterfall that flows over moss-stained boulders into a languidly flowing creek flanked by towering sassafras and myrtle beech trees. After a quick break to admire Crater Falls, climb a set of steps that will lead you away from the waterfall and out of the dense forest.

Leaving the boardwalk behind, you’ll start to climb along a well-formed dirt track for another 500 m before finding yourself standing at the edge of the magnificent Crater Lake.

Crater Lake To Marions Lookout

Time: 20 – 30 minutes
Distance: 1 km
Elevation Gain: 183 m

Standing at the banks of Crater Lake on a hike to Cradle Mountains Summit
Crater Lake Boat Shed

Crater Lake sits in a deeply cut glacial cirque, surrounded by precipitous granite slopes that plummet into the cobalt-blue water. A historic boat shed is tucked into the northern corner of Crater Lake and offers the perfect spot for a photo and a rest.

Once you’re finished wandering around the Crater Lake Boatshed, you’ll continue along a narrow track that ascends the gentler gradient found on the eastern banks. The path will become a touch more rugged and steep as you near the saddle between Wombat Peak and Marions Lookout.

Hiking up through the tangled forest beside Crater Lake on the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

400 m after leaving Crater Lake, you’ll pop out onto the saddle and gain your first glimpse of Dove Lake sprawled out below. After admiring the view, you’ll continue southeast along the open ridgeline to Marions Lookout.

This is where it begins to get exciting. The final section beneath Marions Lookout is dominated by granite rock slabs requiring you to use your hands and feet, with a metal chain to assist in ascending the most technical section.

Hiking up the steep steps towards Marions Lookout on the Cradle Mountain Summit hike
Using the chains on the steep rock slabs on the climb to Marions Lookout

And finally, after a total of 3.3 km and roughly 1 – 1.5 hrs, you’ll be standing at Marions Lookout with arguably the best view of Cradle Mountain.

Marions Lookout To Kitchen Hut

Time: 30 – 40 minutes
Distance: 2.1 km
Elevation Gain: minimal

Cradle Mountain from Marions Lookout on a clear day while attempting the summit track
Marions Lookout

Marions Lookout towers above Dove Lake and offers unobstructed views of the iconic Cradle Mountain summit and the vast mountain range beyond. Flat boulders can be found scattered around Marions Peak, providing an idyllic place for an early lunch or a snack on a fine day.

Leaving Marions Lookout, you’ll continue towards Kitchen Hut along intermittent boardwalks and rock-strewn paths. Verdant alpine herbfields cover the vast plateau, offering a picturesque foreground for the looming Cradle Mountain ahead.

Hiking from Marions Lookout towards Kitchen Hut on the Cradle Mountain Summit Hike

The peaceful 2 km track between Marions Lookout and Kitchen Hut barely requires any elevation gain, allowing you to easily absorb the wondrous vistas surrounding you. And within roughly 30 – 40 minutes, you’ll arrive at Kitchen Hut.

Kitchen Hut To Cradle Mountain Summit

Time: 1 – 2 hours
Distance: 1.3 km
Elevation Gain: 300 m

Kitchen Hut at the base of Cradle Mountain summit

The quaint Kitchen Hut offers the perfect refuge in wild weather, with enough room inside to snugly fit up to 6 people – though when it’s especially grim you can expect to find hikers packed into the hut like sardines!

A long-drop toilet is located just south of Kitchen Hut and is the only one you’ll find on the trail.

Once you’re ready to leave Kitchen Hut, follow the trail south towards the ever-growing boulder tower that is Cradle Mountain’s peak. Shortly after, you’ll come to a track junction. There are three trails leading from this point – the Overland Track continues southwest, the Face Track leads east towards Hansons Peak and the Cradle Mountain Summit Track points south.

Candace trying to see through the mist on the Face Track on the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

This is where you’ll leave the Overland Track and continue southeast on the Cradle Mountain Summit Track. The trail starts out kindly – with the only obstacle being a steep incline – but after 500 m, things will drastically become more exciting and challenging.

Following the tall poles that mark the easiest route to the peak, you’ll clamber over a mess of giant dolerite boulders for the final 700 m. While not far in distance, this section can take up to an hour or more to navigate through the precariously positioned rocks.

rock scrambling up cradle mountain summit, climbing over a field of boulders while living the van life in tasmania

You’ll come across a number of false summits along your scramble and at times, you might need to do a quick scout to find the next marker. But as long as you spot the next pole before losing sight of the one before, you’ll have no trouble finding your way to the true summit.

Dylan climbing up the slippery rocks almost at the top of the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk
Climbing up the mass of Dolerite Boulders on the Cradle Mountain Summit Hike

And finally, you’ll clamber over the last boulder separating you from the peak and step up to the stone pillar that marks the Cradle Mountain Summit – and names the countless peaks surrounding you. 

Pro Tip: The boulder scramble becomes progressively more technical the closer you get to Cradle Mountain’s summit. If you begin to feel uncomfortable or you can’t make out the marker in front of you due to low cloud, it’s better to be safe and turn back. 

Cradle Mountain Summit

Overlooking the vast valley's of Cradle Mountain National Park from Cradle Mountain Summit
View from Cradle Mountain Summit on a clear sunny day
Dylan enjoying the viewless view at the peak of the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk
View from Cradle Mountain Summit on a wet and wild day

Cradle Mountain’s summit rises 1,545 m above sea level, making it the sixth tallest mountain in Tasmania. From its dolerite peak, you’re afforded 360 degree views of sparkling alpine tarns, deep forested valleys and across the vast expanse of rugged mountains, including the slightly taller Barn Bluff.

Once you’ve caught your breath and had your fill of the awe-inspiring panoramas laid out before you, it’s time to begin the descent down the dolerite boulder field.

Returning To The Track Junction

Time: 30 minutes – 1.5 hours
Distance: 1.2 km
Elevation Gain: none

View over the Cradle Mountain National Park from the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Extra care is needed on the way down, as gravity is against you this time. But finally, after slowly clambering down the boulders, you’ll return to more solid ground and make your way to the track junction once more.

The 2 km return track from the trail junction just south of Kitchen Hut to Cradle Mountain’s summit requires 300 m of elevation gain and can take anywhere between 1.5 – 3 hrs. It’s best to allow longer than you expect to navigate the rough boulder field.

The Track Junction To Hansons Peak

Time: 45 – 60 minutes
Distance: 2.7 km
Elevation Gain: 100 m

Hiking along the Face Track under Cradle Mountain Summit

At the track junction, turn onto the Face Track which winds east beneath the mighty Cradle Mountain summit. The rocky path requires a little attention, but most can be given to the ever-evolving views of Lake Wilkes and Dove Lake below.

After 1.7 km, the Face Track will end as you reach the Rangers Hut and turn off to Scott Kilvert Hut. Continue walking east, now on the Lake Rodway Track, towards Hansons Peak on a mixture of gravel paths and boardwalks.

300 m past the Rangers Hut, you’ll come to another track junction. The right track will skirt around the back of Hansons Peak, passing by the Twisted Lakes and Lake Hanson. If you don’t feel like any more rock scrambling, this is a good alternative. 

However, we recommend taking the left track to Hansons Peak as it’s a kilometre shorter and offers majestic views of Cradle Mountain, Dove Lake and Marions Lookout. Plus, the descent is more exciting!

Hiking along the boardwalks to Hansons Peak in Cradle Mountain National Park

Assuming you took the left track to Hansons Peak, you’ll follow boardwalks for most of the way to a false summit beneath the peak. From this point, the gradient steepens slightly as you ascend over granite rock slabs to the wide summit 500 m later.

Hansons Peak To Dove Lake Car Park

Time: 45 minutes – 1.5 hours
Distance: 2.1 km
Elevation Gain: none

Standing on Hansons Peak lookout at Cradle Mountain

Hansons Peak provides another fantastic photo opportunity and rest stop for a late lunch or afternoon snack. Its vistas of Cradle Mountain are arguably better than those from Marions Lookout, but we’ll let you be the judge of that!

Once you’ve enjoyed a rest and a wander around the summit, begin making your way along the rocky descent found on the northern side. A set of chains provides assistance down the steep granite slope, which should be a breeze after accomplishing the Cradle Mountain Summit!

Steep descent down from Hansons Peak to the Dove Lake Circuit
hiking along the rocky track from Hansons Peak to the Dove Lake Circuit

After 700 m, you’ll link up with the Twisted Lake Track and traverse a final 800 m along an easy gravel path to Glacier Rock and the Dove Lake Circuit below. After a quick visit to Glacier Rock to view Cradle Mountain from a lower perspective, you’ll finish your hike with a relaxing 500 m along the Dove Lake Circuit to the shuttle.

If you have time, it’s worth popping over to the Dove Lake Boatshed, only a minute or two from the shuttle pick-up, to witness the iconic view. And when you’re ready to leave, grab the shuttle back to your car at Ronny Creek.

Note: For Holiday or Annual Parks Pass holders, we’re not sure if you’ll be able to hop on the shuttle back to Ronny Creek without purchasing a ticket $15 bus ticket. If you don’t mind potentially walking along the Lake Lilla track our suggestion is to save yourself the $15 per person fee and hope the driver doesn’t ask for your ticket.

Dove lake Boat Shed with a rainbow over Cradle Mountain

Alternatively, if you finish your hike earlier than expected, you can walk the Lake Lilla Track back to Ronny Creek Car Park. This takes roughly 1 – 1.5 hrs to complete the easy 3 km trail.

The Cradle Mountain Summit Circuit we’ve explained encompasses the best bits of Cradle Mountain and takes, on average, a total of 5.5 – 7 hours. There are faster routes to the summit but these begin at Dove Lake and will mean you’ll miss some of the more beautiful sections of the Cradle Mountain Summit walk.

Hiking through the forest from Dove Lake Circuit on the fastest route to the Cradle Mountain Summit
Hiking up the Lake Wilks Track for a more direct route to Cradle Mountain’s Summit

Other Important Information For The Cradle Mountain Summit Hike

Leave No Trace

Cradle Mountain and the greater Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park are part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, protected and admired for its rare and rich flora and fauna.

To help keep these wild places wild, it’s every one of our responsibilities to follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles and ensure we leave a destination how we found it – or better.

It’s as simple as taking all your rubbish with you – including tissues and food scraps – and staying on the designated trails. There is a toilet located at Dove Lake, Kitchen Hut and the Waldheim Hut near Ronny Creek.

Where To Stay Near Cradle Mountain

Sunrise on the balcony at Cradle Mountain Hotel
Cradle Mountain Hotel

Cradle Mountain Village offers an array of accommodation options to suit most travellers. These range from the luxurious Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge to the well-equipped Discovery Park. You can find additional information on where to stay in our ultimate guide for visiting Cradle Mountain.

Camping Near Cradle Mountain

Unfortunately, free camping is scarce near Cradle Mountain. There is only one spot close by called Vale of Belvoir – but there are no toilets or any other facilities here, just a wide clearing.

The best place to camp near Cradle Mountain is the O’Niells Creek Reserve, located 50 minutes east of Ronny Creek. This rest stop costs $10 a night per vehicle.

If you don’t mind spending a little bit of money for a closer campsite, you can check out the Cradle Mountain Fishery & Camping – located 25 minutes from Ronny Creek. Their website doesn’t offer much information, but the latest reviews on Wikicamps state that a site is worth $15 per person, per night for an unpowered site, plus $10 for power.

FAQ’s About The Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Is The Cradle Mountain Summit Hike Hard?

The push to the summit of Cradle Mountain can be challenging, but if you an intermediate to advanced hiker with a good level of fitness, balance and rock scrambling skills, then this is an enjoyable ascent. That said, adverse weather conditions such as rain, high winds, snow or low visibility considerably increases the difficulty and risk of the Cradle Mountain Summit track.

The overall circuit we’ve explained in this post, however, is suitable for intermediate hikers and doesn’t pose any significant challenges.

Can You Do Cradle Mountain In One Day?

Yes! You can certainly summit Cradle Mountain in a day. The average time taken to complete the circuit is between 5.5 – 7 hours. To be safe, we recommend allowing at least 8 hours of daylight for your hike.

Do You Need Hiking Boots For Cradle Mountain?

We highly recommend wearing a durable pair of hiking boots or shoes for your hike to Cradle Mountain’s summit. The track is often muddy in sections and requires ample grip to keep from slipping off the slanted boulders.

Final Thoughts

Over looking Dove Lake from the Lake Wilks Track on the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

The Cradle Mountain Summit Hike is a must for any adventurer keen for a challenge. The ascent to the peak is one of our favourite rock scrambles in Tasmania and the entire landscape surrounding will blow you away.

We hope this post has helped you decide whether the Cradle Mountain summit walk is for you, and if not, we hope we’ve encouraged you to complete the loop without summiting regardless. Just remember to allow enough daylight hours for the full circuit and to get up early to avoid the crowds.

If you have any additional questions about the summit hike or Cradle Mountain in general, please feel free to drop a comment below or reach out to us via email or Instagram.

Happy Hiking 🙂

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