Why Mt Murchison Is The Best Day Hike In Tasmania

“For sure my favourite day hike in Tasmania. On other hikes, we have to bang through eucalyptus forest to get to the good stuff. But with ‘Mt Murchison, as soon as you start you are in a subalpine, montane environment and get all the interesting plants: Pandani, Celery Top Pine, King Billy Pine, Sassafras. The tarns (cute little lakes left behind from when glaciers pushed through), the true scramble at the top and the fact it’s only four hours return makes it a great bang for your buck.” ~ Glenn

We hadn’t heard of the Mt Murchison hike before our friend Glenn told us of its existence a week before we ventured west. Claiming it was the best day hike in Tasmania had our ears pricked. 

This guy is an outdoor guide and has hiked a good chunk of Tasmania – including Cradle Mountain and the Walls of Jerusalem – making this statement a bold one. 

He boasted of a difficult, yet satisfying scramble through a stunning amphitheatre of rock, glacial lakes and tarns…

We had to see for ourselves.

The beautiful View of the top of the Mt Murchison walk, thick fog on one side of the cliff and bright colours on the other

Weather on the wild west coast of Tasmania is just that: “wild.” After enduring countless peaks clothed in a thick grey cloak, we were hanging for a clear day to climb Mt Murchison.

But waiting for a sunny day in Tasmania’s west is like waiting for my partner, Dylan to clean our campervan… It’s sporadic and you cannot expect it.

The forecast’s prediction showed one possibility… the day we were scheduled to leave Tasmania. 

Nothing like a strict deadline to enhance a hike’s excitement.

Exploring The Depths Of Mt Murchison In Tasmania’s West

Distance
7.3km return

Grade
Grade 4 – Experience Recommended

Time
4 – 5 hrs

Elevation Gain
786 m

Entrance Fees
Free

Facilities
None

Recommended Equipment
Water bottle, Snacks, Warm Clothes, Rain Jacket

The West Coast Range lies to the west of the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park and the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. The Range is a collection of Jurassic aged mountains, running along a volcanic belt, that have been warped through three separate ages of glaciation. 

In other words, this mountain range is freaking awesome! 

At 1,275 metres above sea level, Mt Murchison is the highest peak within the West Coast Range and is classed as a glacial cirque – an amphitheatre-like valley formed by glacial erosion.

What you can take away from this information is that it’s cold… bitingly cold on top of Mt Murchison, where a summer snowstorm is not uncommon.

So, pull out those winter woollies and read on to gain all the information needed to tackle the mighty Mt Murchison walk in Tasmania’s wild west.

Mount Murchison Trail Notes

A stunning 2.5-hour drive from Launceston, winding through the stark Central Highlands before hitting the Murchison Hwy, sets the scene for the ever-changing wilderness.

We were hyped up by the isolated mountains, flooded green with the rainforests below, and the sun’s reflection glinting on the dark-blue lakes scattered along our path.

Crossing Lake Rosebery, we were met with the first glimpse of the rough beauty of Mt Murchison’s haggard and deformed peaks.

From this moment, we knew our friend was right: this hike was going to be epic.

Turning off Murchison Hwy onto Anthony Road, you’ll be searching for a tiny gravel strip – known as the carpark – and Pole D15. On the opposite side of the road, almost hidden in the forest, will be a small sign indicating the beginning of the Mt Murchison walk. 

We said it was small… Don’t expect any similarity to the famous Cradle Mountain or Freycinet National Park here, this elusive hike is not so easy to find.

Take note of the sign’s warnings, they’re not wrong! 

Mt Murchison is one for the bold and adventurous.

Consisting of a steep incline of 786 metres over 3.5 kilometres (one way), expect to get those legs pumping while tramping precariously close to the edge of the winding ridgelines on nothing more than goat tracks.

There are no facilities at the base of the Mt Murchison walk. The closest toilet and access to water is in Tullah, a 13-minute drive north. 

So, if you’re concerned about piddling in the bushes, best make a pit stop on your way through.

Ready to be inspired?

Hiking Through The Enchanting Forests of Mt Murchison

The first step off the highway transports you into an enchanted world of tangled trees and rocks, all blending together in a blanket of furry moss… If a fairy came out to guide us to the peak, I wouldn’t have been surprised. 

Tree roots exposed by the decaying forest floor cause slippery obstacles along the track. That and the steep gradient is all the difficulty you need to endure through the first kilometre.

Vertically winding its way northwest, the track is marked with yellow tags to guide you through the thick vegetation. 

Mt Murchison walk through the trees at the base leaning on a tree with a yellow tag pointing in the correct direction

The engulfing rainforest fades away as you reach the ridgeline. Ahead is the glimmer of a distant waterfall, crashing into one of the many basins within Mt Murchison. Behind, Anthony Road snakes its way through the valley of green and blue hued mountains, emphasising how high you’ve climbed already.

As the walk continues creeping higher, parts of Mt Murchison’s craggy peak looms into view. Most is shrouded in a dense fog that is forever threatening to engulf the entire cirque.

Luck was on our side and bristling winds kept the fog moving, presenting constantly changing vistas for us to feast on. 

The Scramble to The Summit

Another kilometre in and the rock climbing begins… 

Don’t panic, no personal equipment nor actual rock climbing experience is needed, although experience could help. A friendly fellow has secured a rope in the only section that requires a little assistance.

Rising slowly and enduring an all-time upper body workout, we hit 1000 metres above sea level and discovered snow… In January! (For the northern hemisphere folk, this is mid-summer!)

The perfect snack if you’re feeling a tad thirsty and hot…

Now we must admit something. We got lost. Not crazy lost but lost enough that we had to stop fooling around and take serious note on which way the path led. 

To help guide you, rock cairns (small man-made piles of rocks indicating the correct route) are scattered amongst the yellow tags. And mini rock walls have been built to deter you from taking the wrong track. 

These mini walls were unseen by us. We were entranced in the surroundings and stepped right over one, leading to a dead end. There was one positive to our wrong turn…

Standing on the cliff’s ledge looking down at the glittering glacial lake 100 metres below, with Lake Murchison sitting prettily in the distant valley, made up for our mishap. 

We found the proper path easily enough by back-tracking along the traverse, keeping a sharp eye for the small rock wall we inadvertently ignored. A rock cairn set up adjacent to the rock wall,  signifying the correct direction, led to a short climb up the saddle.

Can’t see it either? It’s no wonder that we missed it!

Descending a rock ledge and entering the inner world of Mt Murchison left us breathless. We were staring at a gigantic crater filled with wild-flowers, alpine lakes and tarns.

beautiful view from the top of Mt Murchison overlooking the glacial lakes in the crater

Ahead was a 45-degree angle rock slab – better described as a slippery-slide – that stood between us and the trig point indicating the peak. We did a steady crawl to reach the summit, staying hyper-aware of the undesirable slide to the left and the precipitous drop to the right.

Arriving in one piece with grins ear to ear, we spent a moment appreciating our reward. Feeling freer than ever, immersed in such raw beauty and listening to nothing but the soft hum of nature.

The alpine temperatures took hold as the wind whipped through the hollow valley, forcing us to check our watches – freak out – and start the descent. 

We were running very low on time… And as you can see, we’re not quite dressed for the frosty alpine peak.

Standing at the Peak of Mount Murchison admiring the view over the cliff showing why you should hike for views

Descending Mt Murchison

In our haste and excitement, we missed a turn…AGAIN. Realising we were lost when descending a hairy section that we couldn’t remember. We had ended up on the wrong side of a steep gully.

The lucky thing about the Mt Murchison walk is that the majority is above the tree line, allowing you to see the road you started from and the trig point behind.

A little searching, scrambling and arguing found us on the right path eventually. 

We will warn you to keep your concentration levels higher than ours to save you from the same frustration.

Entering the forest and scurrying through the frost glazed roots, Dylan realised how slippery they could be, ending on his butt not once, but three times! Something about the momentum of descending does not help with staying upright.

We made it down to our campervan within 4 hours, giddy with happiness from such an awe-inspiring hike.

It may be the challenge, the solitude, the almost untouched style of the Mt Murchison walk or a combination of all, but I would have to agree with our friend on this one: Mt Murchison is the best day hike in Tasmania.

Better than Cradle Mountain!

Quick Tips and Suggested Gear

The Mt Murchison walk is quite physically demanding. This is not a well-known track and while there is a logbook to enter your travel intentions in, it may not be checked as often as the ones for the popular hikes. 

We recommend telling someone of your hiking plans, having some navigational skills and to be prepared for all sorts of weather.

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!

North Face Banner

PLACES TO STAY NEAR MT MURCHISON

The two closest towns to Mt Murchison are Tullah and Rosebery. A couple of free campsites for self-sufficient campervans are available at Tullah Bridge, on the banks of Lake Rosebery. Find these on WikiCamps. We stayed just over an hour west at Trial Harbour, a beautiful free campsite tucked into the mountainside and bordering the ocean. 

PLACES TO EAT NEAR MT MURCHISON

There isn’t a whole lot of variety for food between Rosebery and Tullah. But as is with most small country towns, you’ll find a pub and a bakery. For more variety, drive an hour south-west to Queenstown.

THINGS TO DO NEAR MT MURCHISON

There are a few other hikes surrounding the Mt Murchison region, our favourite being Montezuma Falls. For the avid fisherman, there is no shortage of lakes. Canoeing and Paddle Boarding is quite popular on Lake Rosebery in the warmer months. 

Tullah Lakeside Lodge explains some local hikes and other activities to do in the region.

GETTING TO MT MURCHISON

The closest major city to Mt Murchison is Launceston (located 201km east). To reach Mt Murchison, initially follow the signs to Cradle Mountain. This should be easy as there are hundreds of them. Continue straight past the Cradle Mountain turn off.

Don’t go to Cradle Mountain… That’s not where the Mt Murchison walk will be found!

Follow the road until the first T intersection and turn left (south) onto the Murchison Hwy. Follow the Hwy for 28km – passing through Tullah for a pee break – before turning left onto Andrew Rd. Drive along Andrew Rd for approximately 9kms, looking out for a gravel strip on the left and Pole D15. 

It’s not easy to spot so keep your eyes peeled. Once you’ve reached the gravel strip, you should see a sign on the opposite side of the road reading Mt Murchison.

There are no surrounding landmarks that you can type into google to ensure you’re being taken to the right destination. Make sure Google Maps is taking you to Andrew Rd before starting the journey.

Pro Tip: Be careful solely following google maps… It managed to lead us completely astray. We ended up following the Wikicamps app on our phone. 

Have you conquered the Mt Murchison walk? Tell us in the comments if you agree with our bold statement of it trumping Cradle Mountain. And of course, if you have any questions please don’t hesitate to ask.