The Needles Hike | The Ultimate Short Walk In Southwest Tasmania

Throughout the wild and rugged Southwest National Park, an abundance of walking trails allow you to experience the formidable landscape with varying degrees of difficulty and length. But none are so easily accessible or offer as much bang for your buck as The Needles hike. 

Hiding in plain sight, The Needles is a relatively unknown out-and-back hike to a mass of rocky spires on the northern fringe of the Southwest National Park. Chances are, you’ve passed the trailhead for The Needles before while being completely unaware of its existence. 

We’ve driven by many times, each time expressing our desire to climb the spires, and finally, on our recent trip to the southwest, we made it happen. The short 2.4 km hike impressed us so much we had to return to summit The Needles a second time for sunset. 

Taking less than two hours to complete, The Needles hike is a worthy addition to your trip to Mount Field or Maydena. In this detailed guide, you’ll find all the information needed to hike The Needles, including how to get there and what to expect. 

Looking over the moody valley at The Thumbs from the summit of The Needles in Tasmania

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Hiking The Needles In Southwest Tasmania

2.4 km return

1.5 – 2 hrs

Elevation Gain
341 m

Highest Elevation
1,020 m

Grade 3

Car park

Entrance Fees

The Needles standing majestically in the soft sunset glow of Tasmania's South West

Where Are The Needles

Sitting on the edge of the Southwest National Park, the white conglomerate spires that are the namesake of The Needles can be found rising from the southern mountains flanking Gordon River Rd. 

Located 15 minutes west of Maydena, 30 minutes west of Mount Field and 50 minutes east of Gordon Dam, The Needles is an easy addition to add to another adventure in Tasmania’s southwest. 

How To Get To The Needles, Southwest Tasmania

The Needles Car Park at the trail head of the hike in South West Tasmania

The trailhead for The Needles begins at the ‘Highest Point On Road’ sign along Gordon River Rd. Here, you’ll find a large car park on the northern side of the road and a pink tag on the southern side indicating the start of the track. 

Due to its lack of popularity and remote nature, there are no public transport or tour options for The Needles and as a result, driving to The Needles is the only option. If you’re in need of a hire car, we recommend using Rental Cars to find the best deals. 

The Needles trailhead is 1 hr 30 minutes west of Hobart and 3 hrs 10 minutes southwest of Launceston. 

Directions From Hobart To The Needles

Travel north out of Hobart via the Booker Hwy (1) towards New Norfolk, staying on the south side of the river as the road changes to Lyell Hwy (A10). After 36 km, you’ll reach New Norfolk and continue on Glenora Rd (B62) to Bushy Park for another 18 km. Veer left at Bushy Park to get onto Gordon River Rd (B61), which will take you the final 49 km to the car park for The Needles. 

Maydena is 16 km east of The Needles car park and the last town you’ll pass through. 

The Needles Walking Notes

The start of The Needles Hike in Tasmania

Beginning beside the highest point on Gordon River Rd at 651 m, the trail to The Needles is indicated by a pink and blue tag on the south side of the road. On a clear day, you’re able to see the protruding conglomerate clusters of rock that make up the summit of The Needles. 

The track starts off following an old fire road, with an almost excessive amount of pink and blue navigational tags that continue throughout. After 100 metres, the track takes a sharp turn to the right where you’ll find a walkers registration and the official beginning of The Needles track. 

Almost immediately after the registration book, the track turns to mud and begins its steep ascent through burnt banksias towards the button grass plains above. The scorched landscape, caught in the 2018/19 wildfires, offers little shade as you continue to climb through stunted grass trees and young eucalypts. 

Walking along the fireroad at the beginning of The Needles Hike
Hiking in the mud at the beginning of the single track climb on the Needles walk
Hiking through the burnt mountain side of the Needles

After approximately 500 m and over 140 m of ascending, the mud and banksias recede slightly and buttongrass engulfs the steep slope. This is the perfect moment to catch your breath and appreciate the scene unfolding before you. 

The burnt orange mountains fold into the vast valley below, where Gordon River Rd weaves towards The Thumbs and its prominent rock face. If you look closely, you’ll begin to catch glimpses of Lake Gordon hiding behind the sheer white slab. 

View over the valley leading into the distant South West National Park

You’ll begin to pass larger rock clusters and boulders scattered among the buttongrass as you continue towards the first rocky outcrop.  

Sitting atop a small ridge, reaching the first outcrop awards you your first peek at the inner world of The Needles. The jagged mountain range rises and folds before you, descending to an open valley in the east. 

Wandering Through The Rocky Spires

Standing on an unnamed rocky spire half way up to the summit of the Needles

Hopping across the discarded rocks beside the giant outcrops, you can veer away from the trail and gain various viewpoints by climbing the conglomerate spires. Of course, if you choose to explore deeper, ensure you do your best to keep off the fragile vegetation and know your climbing limits.

Sitting amongst the ancient rock spires creates a wonderful sense of solace as you stop and listen to nothing but the wind weaving between the crumbling outcrop.

Continuing on through the mud-filled ruts that may have once been a smooth trail, the spires open up before compressing around you once again as you make it to the long ridgeline below the summit. 

Hiking through the rocky spires on The Needles Hike
Hiking up the steep final trail before reaching the summit of the Needles

At this point, you can choose to move off-track and traverse the ridgeline to the easternmost spires. However, this does require increased skill and awareness about the fragile terrain, knowing what parts of the vegetation you can safely walk on. 

Instead, you can concentrate your sights on the summit of The Needles and follow the skinny track to the boulder-strewn peak. 

Reaching The Summit Of The Needles

Overlooking the rocky ridgeline of The Needles Mountain Range from the summit

As you continue to climb skyward, a final steep and rocky ascent is required to reach the summit. Excitement bubbles as you clamber over the white and grey boulders, gaining more glimpses of Lake Gordon and the rugged ranges within the Southwest National Park. 

And finally, after climbing 350 m in elevation over just 1.2 km, you’ll be standing on top of the craggy summit with 360-degree views of the southwest and its seemingly endless collection of mountains cutting a jagged line across the horizon.

Moody desolate landscape overlooking The Thumbs from the summit of The Needles in Tasmania's South West

You could spend hours sitting on the outcrop, watching the shimmering blue of Lake Gordon contrast magically with the multiple shades of green and orange flowing from the distant mountains. In the east, the rocky ridgeline marks a distinct change in vegetation, where the southern mountains were spared from the wildfires and a forest of giant eucalypts and myrtles thrives beneath Mount Mueller.

The landscape offers a great introduction to what you can expect from other more challenging and longer hikes found in the southwest. And sitting atop The Needles will most likely have you writing a list of other mountains to summit as you look out over the wild peaks. 

Returning To The Trailhead

Laying on the Summit of The Needles soaking in the view

When you’ve finally finished soaking up the fresh mountain air, begin the descent back through the barren buttongrass moorland towards the trailhead. As you wander down the way you came, you’ll have time to marvel at the vast alpine plateau of Mount Field West stretching across the northern horizon.

There are many more exploration opportunities within the protruding peaks as you make your way down, and for those that are feeling super adventurous, you can even cross the entire ridgeline and return the way you came. However, this does require a little more skill and caution of the fragile alpine plants. 

Climbing the rocky spires in The Needles

The return hike to the summit of The Needles can be completed within 1.5 to 2.5 hours depending on how long you spend exploring the vast plateaued summit. With such a breathtaking scene and short distance, including this hike to your trip south is a no-brainer.

So next time you drive along Gordon River Rd, ensure you leave enough time to explore The Needles, we guarantee you won’t regret it! 

Best Time To Hike The Needles

Sunset over The Needles mountain range from the summit

The Needles are found on the northern edge of the Southwest National Park, which is notorious for wild weather and low clouds year-round. It’s common to find The Needles completely cloaked in mist, although this does provide a thrilling moody experience if the weather isn’t too treacherous.

Hiking The Needles in summer or autumn will provide the best chances of scoring a clear day, however, snow isn’t unheard of during the warmer months.

The best time of day to hike The Needles is either sunrise or sunset, as the summit offers incredible views of the west and the east. We hiked up for sunset and were entranced by the soft yellow glow that descended onto the mountain ranges. 

Watching sunset over the West coast of Tasmania from the peak of The Needles

Leave No Trace

The Needles is a lesser-known hike with no facilities, not even any track work to protect the fragile landscape. Therefore, it is even more imperative that you follow the 7 Leave No Trace Principles when you’re exploring the mountain range. Remember to leave the place how you found it – or better – and to pack out any rubbish you take with you, including tissues and food scraps. 

The closest toilet to The Needles trailhead is located in Maydena, 16 km east. There are also bins in the town for you to dispose of any rubbish. 

What To Bring

Standing on a rocks shelf as the clouds roll past the mountain side

The Needles is a short and sharp hike that is often completed in less than 2 hours. There is no need to take a great deal of gear with you, but we do recommend wearing sturdy hiking boots and carrying a rain jacket and water bottle. 

Here is our basic list of items that we recommend taking on The Needles hike.

Where To Stay Near The Needles

The Needles trailhead is located 1 hr 30 minutes west of Hobart, making the hike doable as a day trip from the city. However, if you’d rather spend some time exploring the rugged southwest, there are a few small towns with quaint and unique accommodation options.

Our favourite place to stay when exploring the southwest is the Edgar Dam Campgrounds, a free camping area right on Lake Pedder equipped with toilets, bins and shelter. 


Tyenna / National Park


Camping Near The Needles