Frenchmans Cap, Tasmania | Your Ultimate Guide

The white quartzite dome of Frenchmans Cap protrudes majestically from the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, dominating the surrounding mountain ranges with its unique formation. The rugged and wild peak can be seen from countless locations throughout the west of Tasmania, but a secret that is kept until you set foot on the trail is the intoxicating beauty of the ancient landscapes within. 

We have completed many of the great hikes in Tasmania and we can honestly say that the Frenchmans Cap hike stands boldly among the best. The demanding challenge, vibrant rainforests and precipitous ridgelines plummeting to dozens of alpine tarns will keep you completely captivated throughout the entirety of this multi-day hike. 

This 46 km return hike is the perfect adventure for those searching for a challenge. In this ultimate guide to hiking Frenchmans Cap, you’ll find everything you need to successfully plan your unforgettable experience.

Hiking to the summit of Frenchmans Cap during a cloud inversion with Alpen glow lining the horizon

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Essential Infomation You Need To Know For The Frenchmans Cap Hike In Tasmania

Distance
46 km return (52 km including an optional side trip along the Irenabys track to an unnamed peak NW of Lions Head – highly recommended)

Grade
Grade 4 – Experience recommended 

Time
3 – 5 days

Elevation Gain
2,700 m (3,200 including side trip mentioned above)

Highest Elevation
1,446 m

Facilities
Drop toilets, huts, tent platforms, water tank

Where Does The Frenchmans Cap Hike Start?

Deep within the untamed southwest of Tasmania, you’ll find Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park – a region filled with magical rainforests, pristine rivers and the iconic quartzite peak of Frenchmans Cap.

The hike to Frenchmans Cap leaves from a spacious car park branching off Lyell Hwy (A10), just 25 minutes east of Lake St Clair where another of our favourite multi-day walks begins – Mt Geryon and The Labyrinth.

Frenchmans Cap Car Park offers a shelter with some information on the area but little else. The last fuel stops are at either Queenstown, 53 mins northwest, or Derwent Bridge, 25 mins east. The closest toilets to the trailhead are located at either Derwent Bridge or Nelson Falls which are both a 25-minute drive in opposite directions. 

Note: The toilets at the Franklin River Nature Trail Picnic Area, located a 5-minute drive east of the trailhead, are currently closed.

Preparing in the Frenchmans Cap trailhead for our hike towards Vera Hut

How To Get To The Frenchmans Cap Trailhead

While part of Tasmania’s allure is due to its remote and laid-back nature, this also means that finding public transport to hiking trails is next to impossible. There is a potential shuttle bus that connects Hobart to Queenstown – stopping at Frenchmans Cap – but it’s not reliable and little information can be found online.

The easiest way to get to the Frenchmans Cap Car Park is to self-drive. If you require a hire car, we recommend checking out Rental Cars to find the best deals.

By Car

The Frenchmans Cap Car Park is easy to find, located in a clearing along Lyell Hwy 2 hrs 40 minutes southwest of Launceston and 2 hrs 45 minutes northwest of Hobart

From Hobart, you’ll drive north toward New Norfolk, jumping onto the Lyell Hwy just after the Midland Hwy Bridge and following it all the way to the car park. From Launceston, you’ll head south towards Longford and continue following the signs to the Highland Lakes – passing through Cressy and Poatina. You’ll encounter a dirt road just after Miena (Marlborough Hwy – B11) which continues until you turn right onto Lyell Hwy just before Bronte Park.

Click Here For Directions

Note: Google Maps has the Frenchmans Cap Car Park marked correctly, but remember to load the map before leaving Launceston or Hobart as there is very little mobile service along the drive.

Who Is This Hike For?

The Frenchmans Cap Track climbs through tangled rainforests, across precipitous ridgelines, passing by cobalt blue alpine lakes before ascending the domed quartzite peak. It will challenge your fitness and your hiking skills as you ascend 2,700 m in elevation over the 46 km return trail, which requires both hands and feet on multiple occasions.

Hiking to the summit of Frenchmans Cap Tasmania with a never ending mountain range in the backdrop

While it’s no walk in the park, if you have a good level of fitness and a moderate amount of remote hiking experience, then we guarantee you’ll fall in love with the Frenchmans Cap Hike just as much as we did.

However, if this sounds a little too intimidating, our top multi-day hike alternative is the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit on Tasmania’s east coast.

Fees And Registration For The Frenchmans Cap Hike

The actual hike to Frenchmans Cap and the huts along the way are free of charge, however, you will need a National Parks Pass to enter Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. This can be purchased on the Tasmania Parks website and for the best value for money, we recommend purchasing a 2-month pass.

Below is a list of the current prices as of August 2023.

  • Daily Pass: $44.75 per vehicle (up to 8 people), $22.35 per person
  • 2-Month Pass: $89.50 per vehicle (up to 8 people), $44.75 per person
  • Annual Pass: $95.30 per vehicle
  • 2-year Pass: $121.75 per vehicle

*There are no single-person passes for the annual or 2-year pass

Registering For The Frenchmans Cap Hike

To reduce overcrowding and environmental impacts, Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Services have implemented a mandatory registration for Frenchmans Cap. Registration is free and allows up to 10 people to depart each day.

You will find a ranger along the track or at the huts, especially during the busy summer season, who will be checking registration confirmations. We suggest taking a screenshot of your booking to have on your phone as you won’t have any reception along the hike.

Note: Please remember to cancel your booking if you decide to pull out of the hiking Frenchmans Cap. The trail is very busy during summer and this allows others who missed out a chance to grab last-minute spots.

What To Bring For The Frenchmans Cap Hike

Walking down a staircase made from logs on Frenchmans Cap Tasmania

Frenchmans Cap is a multi-day hike deep in Tasmania’s west coast wilderness. The weather can change dramatically, producing extreme heat or snowstorms throughout the year. It’s best to prepare for all weather conditions when hiking the Frenchmans Cap trail

The hike is remote and in some places, dangerously steep. While navigation is relatively straightforward, hikers have been known to go missing in extreme weather conditions. We recommend packing all the hiking essentials for this hike and touching up on your navigation skills.

While there are two huts along the Frenchmans Cap walk, you’re required to bring a tent in case the huts are full or you don’t make it as far as you intended before sundown.

Below is a list of the most important items we recommend packing for your multi-day hike. 

  • 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 or Gaia GPS to download the route and follow along with the built-in GPS. These do work without paying for a subscription, but you need to keep the app open on your phone the entire time and upload it before losing reception. 
  • First aid kit – You can visit this post if you’re unsure what should go into a first aid kit for hiking.
  • Emergency BeaconOur emergency beacon lives in our hiking packs permanently.
  • Reusable water bottles and a water bladder Water bladders are amazing to get hydrated quickly, but reusable water bottles allow you to quickly fill up as you go.
  • Water filtration system It’s best to purify your water if you’re not sure the source is free of harmful bacteria.
  • Head torch – Don’t forget the spare batteries! Look for a headtorch with a minimum of 100 lumens.
  • Sturdy hiking boots We recommend hiking boots as the trail is unstable and can become very muddy. 
  • Long pants and/or gaiters – Tasmania has a thriving population of leeches.
  • Down jacket and warm base layersThese items come on every one of our hikes to ensure we’re prepared for cold nights.
  • 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 a hiking sleeping 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 meal – Bringing an extra meal is a good habit to get into just in case things don’t go to plan.

What To Expect From The Frenchmans Cap Huts

There are two dedicated huts along the Frenchmans Cap hike. The first, Lake Vera Hut, is located 15.5 km southwest of the trailhead and Lake Tahune Hut is another 5.5 km west of the first hut.

While it’s mandatory to book this hike, and you’ll receive access to both huts in doing so, the bunks run on a first come first serve basis and you’re not guaranteed a spot. This is why it’s imperative to bring a tent just in case.

Important Note: Neither hut provides any sleeping gear or cooking equipment so you must pack everything you would for a multi-day hike without huts – including your sleeping mat, hiking stove and fuel.

Lake Vera Hut

Inside Vera Hut on the Frenchmans Cap hike

Vera Hut is a quaint 1970s building with two shared bunks that can comfortably fit 16 and cosily fit 20 people, with 4 or 5 people sleeping on each level.

Nearby, there are several tent platforms to cater for those who rather have their own space. Metal bins are provided to keep your food safe from pesky possums if you choose this option. There are also a few natural clear spots by the lake’s edge for a true wilderness experience, however, there are no bins for your packs here.

Lake Vera Hut tent platforms

Adjacent to the hut is a water tank that supplies untreated rainwater. It’s suggested to boil or treat the water before drinking it, especially if you are not accustomed to drinking untreated water. Treating can be done using water purifying techniques such as tablets or a Steripen. 

To ensure there is a good level of water in the tanks, check at the Lake St Clair Visitors Centre before your hike. And if the tank is indeed empty, there is a small creek that runs past the western side of Vera Hut that can be used as a last resort.

Vera Hut Amenities

  • Drop toilet
  • Shared bunks
  • Food preparation benches
  • Large picnic-style table
  • Fireplace
  • Water tank
  • Tent platforms
  • Heli Pad
  • Possum-proof metal bins near the tent platforms for your packs
  • Natural tent spots next to the lake

Lake Tahune Hut

Inside Lake Tahune Hut below Fenchmans Cap Summit

Tahune Hut was recently renovated in 2018 and has become one of the fanciest huts in Australia! Nestled next to Lake Tahune, the hut is full of additional comforts. It is powered by both hydro and solar, providing heating, lighting and USB charging ports – along with a heated clothes rack to dry your damp gear! 

The hut sleeps 24, with additional tent platforms outside and natural cleared spaces on the banks of the lake. The toilet and helipad are awarded the best views in the camp, where you can see the many iconic peaks of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park beyond the vast valley. 

Tahune Hut Amenities

  • 2 drop toilets
  • Shared bunks (one closed-off room)
  • Lighting
  • Dry room with lockers, hooks and heated drying rack
  • Food preparation benches
  • 2 large picnic-style tables
  • Ducted heating
  • Water tank with untreated rainwater (treat first before drinking)
  • Tent platforms
  • Heli Pad
  • Natural tent spots next to the lake
The view looking north from Lake Tahune Hut over the Western Tasmanian mountain range

Camping On The Frenchmans Cap Hike

It is possible to camp along the Frenchmans Cap hike next to both huts, utilising the hut amenities if desired. But you’re still required to register for this hike even if you don’t plan to use the huts.

Aside from the two designated campsites, there is also a nice clearing beside the Loddon River Crossing, 6.7 km from the trailhead. This is a good alternative place to camp for the night if you start too late to make Lake Vera. 

However, there are no toilet facilities here so please make sure you’re following the proper pooping guidelines, which are – move at least 100 m from any water source and dig a hole at least 20 cm deep to dispose of both your waste and the toilet paper before filling the hole back up.

Best Time To Hike Frenchmans Cap

Sunrise glowing from the summit of Frenchmans Cap Tasmania

Tasmania is famously known for its erratic weather patterns that defy the norms of seasons. All the elements are possible year-round, even snowstorms in January! And Frenchmans Cap itself is renowned for remaining hidden in the clouds for weeks on end. But some months are supposedly a little more dependable. 

November through to March typically has the least rainfall and the warmest weather, which is ideal and ultimately, the most common time to visit. The Frenchmans Cap hike is becoming increasingly popular and can get overcrowded easily. It’s important to consider that the hike may be full when you plan to visit and to book ahead of time to avoid missing out.

While unpredictable and wild weather is possible throughout the year, it’s very common for Frenchmans Cap to be dusted with snow during winter. This doesn’t necessarily mean you cannot hike at this time, but it is imperative you have the skills and equipment needed to hike in snow and ice as it can be far more dangerous. 

Additionally, it’s important to note that there are long stretches of exposed sections along the Frenchmans Cap track and in summer, heat exhaustion is very common. If you plan to hike through summer, ensure you’re carrying more water than you think you need and take electrolyte tablets and a hat.

Walking through the Dense rainforest at the beginning of the Frenchmans Cap Hike in Tasmania

Check The Weather

No matter what time of year you choose to hike, don’t forget to check the weather forecast before embarking on your adventure to Frenchmans Cap – especially the wind speed. While rain is uncomfortable, wind is the element that can cause the most danger while you’re traversing along the exposed ridgeline after Barron Pass. 

For the most accurate weather forecast, we use Mountain Forecast which allows you to check the weather for different elevations.

Frenchmans Cap Track Notes

Over 24 km (one way), you will cross flowing rivers, feel dwarfed by towering eucalypt forests, traverse wide-open alpine moorlands, wander deep within ancient temperate rainforests, and scale the iconic Precambrian quartzite dome of Frenchmans Cap. 

While trail runners do this return hike in a day, and some keen hikers complete it in two, to truly experience all the wonder that Frenchmans Cap offers, we suggest that you spend at least 3 to 4 days exploring the wild landscape. Below I will guide you along the Frenchmans Cap trail, including an optional side trip we highly recommend.

Day 1 – Frenchmans Cap Car Park to Lake Vera Hut

Distance: 15.5 km
Time: 4 – 6 hrs
Elevation Gain: 754 m
Highest Elevation: 658 m

Crossing a tight swing bridge above the Franklin River on the Frenchmans Cap walk

Frenchmans Cap Trailhead To The Loddon River Crossing

Almost immediately after leaving the car park behind, you’ll descend to the Franklin River where a skinny swing bridge offers safe passage across. Climbing out of the dense eucalypt forest flanking the river, a subtle terrain shift occurs as you enter an ancient temperate rainforest. 

Shortly after, at approximately the 3 km mark, a small creek will appear with a scrubbing brush for your shoes to further prevent root rot from entering Frenchmans Cap. The trail ascends steeply beyond the creek, with roots, rotted planks of wood and rocks acting as a staircase to the crest between Mount Mullens and the Franklin Hills. 

The first sightings of the white quartzite dome in the distance will compel your tired legs forward to push over the saddle and descend through a dry sclerophyll forest. The shade of the canopy recedes from this point, allowing uninterrupted views of Frenchmans Cap and the neighbouring peaks. 

Note: This section is very exposed and the heat can be quite strong during the middle of the day. Try to complete this part in the early morning. 

Throughout the exposed plateau, the trail consists of duckboards to avoid the swampy buttongrass plains. This is where the famous Sodden Loddon section once was, where some unlucky hikers were forced to wade through mud that reached their waists! Luckily, the duckboard trail now avoids Loddon Plains, making the hike much more accessible, enjoyable and better for fragile environment!

Hiking towards Vera Hut in the buttongrass fields on Frenchmans Cap walking track

The Loddon River Crossing To Lake Vera Hut

The Loddon River crossing signals the 6.7 km mark, where another swing bridge connects the shady banks. The south side of the river has a lush and shaded clearing that makes for a perfect place to stop for lunch. 

A further 3 km of duckboards delivers you to the ridgeline traverse that will ultimately lead to the final descent into Lake Vera and Vera Hut. The traverse provides a mix of exposed ridgelines with stunning views and shaded eucalypt forest sections.
The final descent crosses damp roots and old wooden steps as it dips into a temperate rainforest once again. Vera Hut sits nestled among myrtle beech trees near the banks of Lake Vera, a welcomed sight after 15.5 km.

Day 2  – Lake Vera Hut to Lake Tahune Hut

Distance: 5.5 km
Time: 3 – 4 hrs
Elevation Gain: 620 m
Highest Elevation: 1,040 m

Mist and Clouds rolling over the moody peaks surrounding Barron Pass on Frenchmans Cap

Lake Vera Hut To Barron Pass

You will begin day two of the Frenchmans Cap walk by trailing beside Lake Vera for just over a kilometre. The undulating lakeside trail is shaded by ancient huon pine lining the banks, their gnarled exposed roots searching for the water’s edge. These magnificent trees are endemic to west and southwest Tasmania and can be up to 3,000 years old! 

The trail expresses true craftsmanship throughout the second day, with fallen trees propped up like ladders and cut to form steps. But be aware, these slippery steps are much easier to ascend than descend, where the way it’s cut forces you to do a little duck waddle. 

Once you leave the water’s edge, you’ll ascend deeper into the temperate rainforest, the most vibrant and colourful forest we have experienced so far. The damp air will fill your nose with the scent of tea tree, leatherwood and eucalyptus as you carefully pick your way through slippery roots and rotting wooden planks. 

Hking through the beautiful rainforest on the Frenchmans Cap Track towards Lake Tahune Hut
Hiking through the forest on the Frenchmans Cap Hike

While this section of the Frenchmans Cap trail is arduous and steep, climbing 400 m over 2 km of gnarled terrain, it is also one of the most enchanting. You’ll likely forget your burning legs as your mind stays captivated by the hundreds of unique fungi and moss species covering every surface of the forest. 

As you climb closer to Barron Pass, the dense forest will begin to thin and be replaced with coarse rock walls that extend to towering spires above. Among these quartzite slabs, there is a sizeable cave created by an overhang that is a perfect respite when the weather is grim.

Barron Pass To Lake Tahune Hut

You’ll hardly believe your eyes when you climb the last log staircase and finally step into the inner world of Frenchmans Cap. The valley plummets beneath you to four glistening green lakes named Gertrude, Cecily, Magdalen, and Millicent. A waterfall cascades from Clytemnestra’s summit in the distance and beyond that, Frenchmans Cap’s quartzite face hides in a consistent mantle of mist. 

Hiking through Barron Pass towards Lake Tahune Hut

Leaving Barron Pass, the trail will lead you beneath Sharlands Peak to traverse its southern slope. A precipitous drop on the left will force you to hug the right as you carefully pick your way through the steep forest and scree gardens.

After almost 2 km of walking along exposed rocky ridgelines, you will reach Artichoke Valley, a valley full of wildflowers, ancient pandanis, and countless species of ferns. A set of vertical stairs will help you out of the valley and to the last plateau before the final descent to Lake Tahune.

Lake Tahune sits in a cirque beneath the mighty quartzite peak of Frenchmans Cap, surrounded by pandani and looking out upon the Cradle Mountain Valley. It’s a stunning oasis that will make you want to stay for days just to enjoy the quiet nature and breathtaking views!

Lake Tahune under Frenchmans Cap

Note: This itinerary suggests to summit Frenchmans Cap on the third day, however the rule for Frenchmans Cap is if you can see the peak climb it! A dense fog surrounding the peak is extremely common and any chance for a clear view must be taken! 

Day 3 – Lake Tahune Hut to Vera Hut Via Frenchmans Cap

Distance: 8.7 km
Time: 5 – 6 hrs
Elevation Gain: 752 m
Highest Elevation: 1,446 m

Hiking to the summit of Frenchmans Cap before sunrise

How you choose to spend your last two days can vary depending on the weather and your preferences. We spent two nights at Tahune Hut, summiting Frenchmans Cap for sunrise, spending the majority of the day relaxing at Lake Tahune, and then set off on a side mission to an unnamed peak for sunset. This required us to hike 21 km out from Tahune hut to the car park on our fourth day. 

It is quite possible to summit Frenchmans Cap on the morning of the third day and hike down to Vera Hut in order to have a shorter hike for the last day. If you’re keen and start early, you can also add the side trip to the unnamed peak and still make it to Vera Hut. 

For ease of explanation, we’ll continue the trip notes as if you chose to hike Frenchmans Cap and return to Vera Hut on the third day.

Lake Tahune Hut to Frenchmans Cap Summit Return

Distance: 3.2 km return
Time: 2 – 3 hrs
Elevation Gain: 511 m
Highest Elevation: 1,446 m

Sunrise glowing from the summit of Frenchmans Cap Tasmania

The hike to the Frenchmans Cap summit is short but strenuous. You will begin with a steep climb out of the glacial cirque that Tahune Hut sits in. Once reaching the ridgeline that surrounds the bowl, the trail traverses around the east face of the cap before a series of switchbacks help you gain higher ground. After a kilometre you will reach a fork indicating straight ahead for the Irenabys track and left to summit the peak – this is where the real climb begins!

The track shoots almost vertically up the north face of Frenchmans Cap, forcing you to basically rock climb in sections. A few tight squeezes will make you thankful you left your backpack at the hut below!

Standing on the summit of Frenchmans Cap with sunrays lighting up the cloud inversion
Hiking to the summit of Frenchmans Cap Tasmania with a never ending mountain range in the backdrop

Rock cairns help you find your way to the summit and a few flat traverses help to maintain your breath. But I cannot guarantee the view won’t take your remaining breath away as you reach the top. Distant mountains pierce the horizon with their jagged peaks, folding in countless layers and multiple shades of blue. On a clear day, you can see all the way to Macquarie Harbour in the west and the entire Overland Track in the north.

You could spend hours on top of Frenchmans Cap, wandering among the wildflowers and trying to name each of the peaks in the distance. 

Note: The trail to the Frenchmans Cap summit is not for the faint of heart. It requires some exposed rock scrambling and can be extremely slippery in wet or icy conditions. Only attempt this section if you’re confident with your skills and the weather allows safe passage. Some sections are trickier on the way down than the way up.

Lake Tahune Hut To Vera Hut

Distance: 5.5 km
Time: 3 – 4 hrs
Elevation Gain: 241 m
Highest Elevation: 1,040 m

Mist and Clouds rolling over the moody peaks surrounding Barron Pass as we hike back to Frenchmans Cap Car Park

The return hike from Tahune Hut to Vera Hut is just as special as the first time you complete it. A second trip allows you to truly take in the beauty of the sweeping valleys, to notice the beard moss clinging in a tangled mess to the branches of the king billy and pencil pines. 

It allows you to take your time through the enchanted rainforest, concentrating on your surroundings rather than your breath. But be warned, it is super slippery descending the tangle of roots through the rainforest so keep a little of your concentration on the trail!

Note: If you know you are spending two nights at Vera Hut, you can also keep your food for the third night in the hut to lighten your backpacks.

Day 4 – Vera Hut to Frenchmans Cap Car Park

Distance: 15.5 km
Time: 4 – 6 hrs
Elevation Gain: 583 m
Highest Elevation: 658 m

The last day of the Frenchmans Cap hike is quite cruisy if you leave from Vera Hut. While there is still almost the same amount of elevation gain as day one, the majority is at the end. I guess this could be a positive or a negative depending on which way you look at it, but at least it’s the last burst of energy you need before collapsing at your car!

Optional Side Trip – Lake Tahune Hut to Unnamed Summit on Irenabys Trail

Distance: 6 km
Time: 3 – 4 hrs
Elevation Gain: 572 m
Highest Elevation: 1,215 m

Staning on the Unnamed Peak behind Frenchmans Cap Tasmania at sunset

The Irenabys track that forks at the base of Frenchmans Cap’s summit actually leads you all the way to the Franklin River in the north. However, if you follow the track for approximately 2 km, you end up on the summit of an unnamed peak with extraordinary views back towards Frenchmans Cap.

The trail traverses the west face of Lions Head before you enter a saddle flanked by alpine tarns on either side. Apparently, you can pick your way down to Lake Gwendolen on the left, but we chose to stay on higher ground.

From the saddle, the trail enters a chute and pops out on a ridgeline that takes you to the peak of the unnamed mountain. The track is barely used and quite loose in some sections but as a whole, much easier than summiting Frenchmans Cap.

Hiking to the unnamed peak past Lions Head with Frenchmans Peak standing in the background

Other Important Information For Hiking Frenchmans Cap

Leave No Trace

Our wild places are becoming less and less wild as the years progress and it is each and every one of our responsibilities to protect our environment as best we can. The 7 Leave No Trace principles are there to ensure we leave a location the same – or better – than we found it. These principles are:

  1. Plan ahead and prepare
  2. Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  3. Dispose of waste properly 
  4. Leave what you find
  5. Minimise campfire impacts
  6. Respect wildlife
  7. Be considerate of others

Frenchmans Cap is located in a World Heritage listed national park and encompasses some of the last remaining temperate rainforests in Australia. To help protect these ancient forests, please stay on the trail and only camp in designated areas or durable surfaces such as rock slabs or dirt. 

Landscape Print of sunrise of the Gordon Wild Rivers National Park from the Summit of Frenchman's Cap in Tasmania

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The Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is a Fuel Stove Only area year-round and subsequently, no fires are permitted throughout the entire Frenchmans Cap trail. 

The Frenchmans Cap trail provides toilets at both campsites, however, if you need to poop along the trail make sure to dig a hole that’s at least 20 cm deep and bury both your poo and toilet paper. Check you aren’t digging up any fragile plants beforehand. 

Lastly, the Frenchmans Cap track is thankfully free of a fungus called Phytophthora Cinnamomi that kills native plants in Tasmania. To help stop the spread, clean your shoes, walking poles, gaiters and trowel before entering the track. There is a shoe washing station located at the first bridge.

Frenchmans Cap Summit Surrounded by an inversion and Alpen Glow

The History Of Frenchmans Cap

The Frenchmans Cap trail was first cut in 1910 by surveyor John Ernest Philp, But the history of the land extends centuries before the 1900s. Signs of Aboriginal presence live within the hidden caves, which were once surrounded by glaciers that occupied the mountainous valleys 18,000 years ago. 

The region’s extraordinary landscape we see today is due to these glaciations leaving amphitheatre-shaped depressions known as cirques as they melt. Alpine tarns occupy some of the deepest sections of these cirques, creating a landscape of brilliant blue flanked by a sheer forest of deep greens and white quartzite rock.

Watching the sunset from Frenchmans Cap with a beautiful golden glow

Where To Stay Near Frenchmans Cap

Frenchmans Cap is quite remote and requires at least a 30-minute drive from any civilisation to reach the trailhead. The closest towns to stay in before or after your hike are Queenstown or Derwent Bridge. 

Accommodation Options In Derwent Bridge

Accommodation Options In Queenstown

Camping Near Frenchmans Cap

The Derwent Bridge Wilderness Hotel, located 30 minutes east, offers free camping in exchange for purchasing a meal or a few beverages. There are public toilets located across the road from the hotel.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is Frenchmans Cap Worth It?

The hike to Frenchmans Cap will keep you captivated from the moment you step onto the trail. Every turn allows for ever-changing vistas of rugged granite peaks and enchanting rainforests that will leave you breathless. But this is all before you even get to the iconic Frenchmans Cap – which is one of our all-time favourite peaks to climb both for the fun challenge and for the incomparable views from the towering summit.

How Hard Is Frenchmans Cap?

The Frenchmans Cap hike is rated grade 4 – experience recommended. The majority of the hike has good navigation but the trail does incur some exposed sections with uneven terrain, the worst being the summit hike. This section should only be attempted in fair weather, it is not uncommon for ice and snow to cover the peak.

How Many Days Is The Frenchmans Cap Hike?

While you can hike the Frenchmans Cap trail in two days, we recommend taking at least 3 – 4 days to give yourself enough time to experience the beauty of the trail. The trail is strenuous and only highly experienced and fit hikers should attempt it in two days. 

Can You Camp On Top Of Frenchmans Cap?

You can, but you shouldn’t…

While the Frenchmans Cap summit is flat and offers many perfect places to pitch a tent, you are extremely exposed to the elements. The cap is famously known for its wild weather and constant cloak of mist. If a storm rolled in, there is nowhere to hide and climbing down in darkness during a storm would be highly dangerous.

How Long Does It Take To Climb Frenchmans Peak?

The peak itself from Tahune Hut takes approximately 2 – 3 hours return, it is only 1.6 km one way but in that short distance, you will gain 511 m in elevation.

Can You Do Frenchmans Cap In A Day?

There are many trail runners who take on and complete the challenge of running Frenchmans Cap in a day, but as a hiker, it is near impossible. The trail is a demanding 46 km long with a total elevation gain of over 2,700 m and takes the average hiker 3 – 4 days to complete.

Are There Water Refill Options On The Frenchmans Cap Trail?

Yes, there are water tanks at both Vera Hut and Tahune Hut. The trail also crosses two rivers between the car park and Vera Hut and follows a creek for several kilometres between Lake Vera and Lake Tahune. There are no flowing water sources between Tahune Hut and Frenchmans Cap, but you could source water from Lake Tahune if you were desperate. 

Note: All of these water sources are untreated and it’s suggested to boil or treat the water before drinking it, treating can be done using water purifying techniques such as tablets or a Steripen. To ensure there is a good level of water in the tanks, check at the Lake St Clair Visitor Centre before your hike.

Sitting on the deck at Lake Tahune Hut while Hiking the Frenchmans Cap Trail

Final Thoughts

After spending countless hours hiking through some of Tasmania’s best landscapes, Frenchmans Cap continues to be one of our absolute favourite multi-day hikes in Tasmania. The continuously changing landscape hides the most incredible rainforest we’ve witnessed to date and the challenge is just enough to keep intermediate to advanced hikers entertained throughout its entirety.

If you have time for just one short multi-day hike, we can’t recommend Frenchmans Cap enough. But don’t forget to check the weather beforehand, the trail can become increasingly challenging in high rainfall, snow or ice.

Have you hiked Frenchmans Cap? We’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments below. And as always, if you have any additional questions, please feel free to reach out and we’ll do our best to help you.

Happy Hiking 🙂