Stack Bluff | The Best Hike In North East Tasmania

When we experienced the beauty of Mt Victoria, we couldn’t imagine another hike in northeast Tasmania beating the excitement of the trail and the jaw-dropping vistas waiting at the peak. 

But that is exactly what Stacks Bluff did…

Stacks Bluff’s staggering cliff-line of exposed dolerite columns, rising from the southern corner of Ben Lomond National Park, is a dominant feature throughout much of northeast Tasmania. Each time we drove through the Tasmanian Midlands, we would stare out at its prominent peak and imagine ourselves sitting atop the unique spires.

That day finally came, just after the coldest recorded November night in Hobart for 60 years!

We have a knack for organising adventures during extreme weather conditions, and extreme weather we received. During our overnight hike, we encountered snow, a frozen form of snow called graupel (very uncommon in Australia), high winds, bright sunshine, and all-encompassing fog. And amongst all the changes, the most beautiful and moody sunset and sunrise we have experienced to date. 

Was it worth it? HELL YES!

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Moody Golden Sunrise on top of Stacks Bluff overlooking Tranquil Tarn


9.5 km Return

Grade 4/5 – Experience Required (while the track is marked, it is full-on, and extreme weather conditions could cause you to lose the track. Navigation skills are highly recommended)

6 – 8 hours

Elevation Gain
704 m

Highest Elevation
1,527 m

Entrance Fees


Stacks Bluff is the ninth highest peak in Tasmania, part of the Ben Lomond National Park, and one of the most prominent features of the entire plateau. The dolerite boulder and scree field is the largest we have experienced in Tasmania, requiring over an hour to pass through the precarious and challenging obstacle course.

Needless to say, the hike to this monumental summit is not for the faint of heart. But for those who care little about heights and unstable terrain, it is a welcomed challenge that offers exceptional reward.

While the entire hike is only 9.5 km return and is very doable in a day if you start early, it’s one that can be made even more magical with a night in Tasmania’s alpine. Remote camping above the dolerite spires, watching the sun set and rise over a landscape that could be mistaken for another planet, is an experience worthy of frosty fingers and toes. 

The trailhead for Stacks Bluff is located south of Storys Creek, an almost abandoned tin-mining village with a current population of one. The 3km dirt road leading from Storys Creek to the Stacks Bluff starting point is rough, rocky, and steep. While a 2WD could make it to the car park, it would be a very unenjoyable ride.

If you do plan to camp, be aware there are no facilities, and a strong understanding of, and adhering to, the 7 leave no trace principles is a must. 

Beautiful golden hour sunset over the pillars of Stacks Bluff in Ben Lomond National Park

Hiking To Stacks Bluff

The dusted peaks of Stacks Bluff revealed themselves as we drove into the town of Fingal. We knew we were in for an interesting adventure when Hobart recorded its coldest November night in 60 years the previous night…

But that wasn’t going to stop us, if anything, it made us increasingly eager to witness the dolerite columns covered in a fresh layer of snow. 

Driving past the almost abandoned town of Storys Creek and turning at the old school, a rough dirt track filled with ruts weaves up the crease of the mountain to the trailhead. We were grateful for the 4wd as the road became rough and rugged, and glad poor Percy, our campervan, was able to sit this one out.

The beginning of Stacks Bluff hike is marked by a makeshift sign courtesy of some friendly folk and as is the nature of most hikes in northeast Tasmania, the climb begins immediately. 

We shouldered our packs, ate the last of the snacks we’d stashed in the car, and began our journey up the rough track. Snow was already beginning to fall and settle on the giant eucalypt forests that flanked the edge of the overgrown 4wd trail.

Walking the the gum forest on Stacks Bluff Hiking trail in the snow

After half an hour and 1.2 km of the gruelling and not so interesting climb, we were overly excited to step onto the singletrack and find ourselves engulfed in the ancient woodland. The forest is quite unique compared to most around the northeast, lacking any temperate rainforest and instead, consisting of a dry terrain covered in alpine shrubs and towering alpine ash, all seemingly growing from a bed of rock. 

Fresh air filled our lungs as the birds, nature’s best musicians, chattered away above. Spending far too long attempting to locate and identify the species of the birds, we hurried on with a final look behind, where the east coast mountains rose from verdant green farmlands and rolled into the hazy sea. 

The trail, much less a trail and more of a guided route through the rough and rocky terrain, traversed along the creases of the spurs and gullies leading to the summit. Exposed roots and boulders created stairs for us to climb ever higher and closer to our goal.

As the elevation crept higher, the trees morphed from giants to a stunted snow gum forest, with their twisted and tie-dyed branches hanging low and creating the perfect handhold for the first mess of boulders. The need for all hands on deck through this section is a surprisingly welcomed change to the previously steep stair workout, courtesy of nature.

Hiking under the large gum trees in the forest beneath Stacks Bluff
Hiking under the large gum trees in the forest beneath Stacks Bluff

Stacks Bluff’s Impeccable Boulder Garden

An obvious terrain shift occurs when you move from sub-alpine to the alpine. The tree line abruptly stops, with the last of the sparse snow gums fading into the distance, and the giant dolerite boulder and scree garden appears. The section before appeared to be merely there to practice for what was to come!

The intact columns of Denison Crag and Stacks Bluff towered above, creating the curious wonder of what this garden may have once looked like. Was this crumbled expanse of boulders once a giant peak as well? 

Rock scrambling is not for the faint of heart throughout this expansive section. The boulders are uneven, unstable, and sometimes possess deep crevices beneath. Our backpacks, weighing almost 20 kg, certainly didn’t help the situation as the weight attempted to throw us off balance and required a slow and steady advance. 

The brilliant blue water of Tranquil Tarn became visible to the right of Denison Crag as we made our way across the field. The large alpine lake, sitting just beneath a precipice, would make for a wonderful afternoon swim if it weren’t below 0 degrees. We settled on visiting its shores on our return trip tomorrow and pressed on.

Hiking up the Steep Dolerite scree at the base of Stacks Bluff
Rock hoping over fallen dolerite boulders in Ben Lomond National Park
Climbing up the dolerite boulders of Stacks Bluff overlooking Tranquil Tarn

The destined route, marked with rock cairns and red reflectors nailed to rocks, became apparent as we closed in on the chute to the right of Denison Crag. The chute climbs 100 m elevation in almost as far a distance. For those like me that aren’t too good at maths, this is pretty much a 45-degree angle slope, halfway to vertical and in simpler terms… f#*^ing steep!

As we began the steep ascent up the chute, the snow began to fall heavily, covering us in a film of white. The dry snow wasn’t quite snow but not quite hail and after some research when we returned home, we discovered it was a phenomenon called graupel – soft small pellets formed when supercooled water droplets freeze onto a snow crystal – that is apparently extremely rare to witness in Australia. 

We took a much-welcomed break to marvel in the spring snowstorm, and throw a few snowballs at each other, before continuing on to reach the Ben Lomond Plateau that would take us the final distance to the peak of Stacks Bluff.

Marvelling in the heavy snow fall while hiking stacks bluff in Tasmania
Hiking up the Steep Dolerite scree at the base of Stacks Bluff in Tasmania
Hiking up Stacks Bluff in a snow storm while travelling North East Tasmania

Stacks Bluff Plateau

After walking among the dolerite boulder field for over an hour, the vast and relatively flat expanse of the plateau was a welcomed sight, where shrubs now outnumbered the rocks, and the colours varied from the monotonous grey to include bright yellows, purples, and greens.

Finding a wide and flat section near the trail, we decided it would be a great place to camp. Checking the wind and happily discovering we would be protected, we stopped to set up our tents while the snow took a brief break. Unfortunately for us, the wind wasn’t feeling very devoted to a single direction and began to whirl around us, whipping up the freshly fallen snow in flurries. 

With very little energy left to move, we accepted our fate and crawled into our tents to seek refuge and attempt to recover some feeling in our fingers and toes. Unsurprisingly, the snow picked up again and we chose to take a nap in the hopes it would clear for sunset.

It took some strong convincing to move our bodies as the sun began to sink on the horizon, but after copious amounts of groaning, we somehow managed to emerge from our cosy temporary homes. 

The sky had cleared to expose the far reaches of the plateau, kicking our butt’s into gear to reach Stacks Bluff’s peak for sunset. The wind continued to whip from each and every direction and the sodden trail had already begun to freeze. We hurried on, losing the trail a couple of times in our haste. 

As soon as we reached the small climb that stood between us and the summit, the sun began to shine through the thick layered clouds on the horizon. Elated, we shot up the icy trail and were rewarded with one of the most magical sunsets we have witnessed to date. 

Tents set up on the Plateau of Stacks Bluff in Ben Lomond National Park while hiking

Summit of Stacks Bluff

The creeping fog and moody clouds toyed with us, offering fleeting vistas for us to feast on before engulfing them in a world of white. When the sun managed to win the battle, the entire landscape would glow a brilliant orange. 

We could have wandered about the summit all night, exploring each corner covered in a layer of freezing snow. The sky turned pink behind us as the sun made its last fleeting appearance between the roving clouds and the shadowed horizon.

The incredible summit of Stacks Bluff put on a show for only the four of us to witness. But dark was approaching fast, covering the vast beauty in shadows and stealing the last of the sun’s warmth. With an hour trek back to the campsite, we got moving quickly before the trail iced over completely.

Sunset from the summit of Stacks Bluff

A Sunrise To Remember

We woke to the sound of the relentless wind, but no snow or rain. This was a good sign for a successful sunrise mission. We sluggishly wriggled out of our sleeping bags and emerged from our tents to a white world. A white world with just one pocket of blue that was situated exactly where the sun would rise, how lucky were we!?

We scurried up to a high point close to our tents to watch the world awake. The fog did wonderful things to the sky, creating a yellow haze that engulfed the entire landscape. The birds woke with us, chirping happily and seemingly indifferent to the wild weather we were experiencing. 

As the sun touched the spires, the world turned a bright yellow and we could almost feel the warmth of the glowing sun… almost. The glittering Tranquil Tarn below shone a brilliant blue as we sat in awe, watching the spectacle that would forever be remembered.

We returned happy to our tents and, suppressing the urge to jump back into our sleeping bags, began to cook breakfast and pack up. We were fed and ready to hike by 8 am, still covered in every layer we had packed.

Deep and moody sunrise over the dolerite pillars at the top of Stacks Bluff, the best day hike in Tasmania

The Descent

Our way back through the tremendous boulder garden was a little slower than we anticipated, with the force of gravity encouraging us to move faster and causing our balance to waver. 

Halfway down the dolerite field, we took a side trip that took approximately 30 minutes return to Tranquil Tarn. Getting to the shore of the tarn proved slightly more difficult than we anticipated, but after enduring a couple of scratches and collecting countless debris in our hair, we made it. 

Tranquil Tarn would offer an incredible reflection on a calm day, revealing its depths through transparent water. We were almost tempted to take a dip and maybe if it had been above zero degrees, we might have given in to the temptation.

Stacks Bluff quickly inched its way to first place on our list of favourite hikes in northeast Tasmania, with enough challenge to keep the mind occupied and an incredible amount of beauty that would stun us each and every time we return. 

Tranquil Tarn on a moody spring day

When To Visit

Due to the challenge and lowered awareness of its existence, Stacks Bluff endures much less foot traffic than that of Cradle Mountain or the Freycinet Peninsula. Because of this, any time of the year will be relatively quiet.

Ben Lomond National Park acquires the most amount of snow in northeast Tasmania, and while you could still hike this trail in winter, you will want to be well prepared for extremely cold conditions. 

Spring and Autumn are the best times to hike Stacks Bluff, when the weather is neither too hot nor too cold (most of the time) and the wildflowers are still in bloom. As with most alpine areas, shade is scarce and the sun can be extremely hot during the summer months. 

Quick Tips and Suggested Gear

Stacks Bluff is one of the harder hikes we’ve experienced in Tasmania. While it’s relatively easy to navigate in clear weather, the remoteness and higher risk of falling create increasingly difficult conditions. 

I recommend having sufficient experience in navigation, wilderness first aid, and hiking before tackling this trail. If you’re planning to complete Stacks Bluff hike in a day, bring along a torch and some extra warm clothes in case the weather turns and forces you to bunker down for a while.

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!
Alpine glow over at sunset on the top of the best hike in tasmania, Stacks Bluff

Getting To Stacks Bluff Hike

Stacks Bluff is located at the southeastern corner of the Ben Lomond National Park. The hike is 1 hr 25 mins southeast of Launceston and 2 hrs 30 mins north of Hobart. To reach the trailhead, follow directions to Avoca and then turn right onto B42. The road turns to groomed dirt at the turn-off towards Storys Creek and is accessible by 2wd until you reach the abandoned town. From the old dilapidated school of Storys Creek, a sign will direct you to the Stacks Bluff trailhead and this is where the road becomes quite rough.

I’m sure 2wd vehicles have made it to the car park at the trailhead but I wouldn’t recommend it, it becomes steep with switchbacks towards the end.