The Crater Lake Circuit
This time we are off to Cradle Mountain for some short walks. We enjoyed our getaway to Freycinet so much, that we got away again! We took advantage of Tasmania’s border restrictions and the RACT member’s 30% discount at Cradle Mountain Hotel. So off we drove to Cradle Mountain on the 10th August, just a few days after a dumping of snow.
Cradle Mountain Hotel
This medium-sized hotel with 61 rooms just off Cradle Mountain Road sits on a large block of natural alpine scrub. We found the rooms, spacious, quiet and comfortable. Because of COVID restrictions the hotel was less than half-booked. So I am guessing it could get noisy down the hallway outside the rooms when it is busier, or if the guests in surrounding rooms are noisy. However, we enjoyed our stay so much that we have stayed three times since August!
The boardwalks were very slippery. I had to cling on to the handrails to walk this section near the Interpretation Centre (Pencil pines walk, see below).
Cradle Mountain Hotel is on the right-hand-side of Cradle Mountain Road, just 2 km from Leary’s Corner (the turnoff to Cradle Mountain). It is then 2 km to the Visitor Centre and a further 2 km to the Interpretation Centre and Ranger Station. Hence the hotel is within easy distance of all the Cradle Mountain short walks.
Accessing the Cradle Mountain short walks
Providing you have a National Parks Pass for your car, you can drive as far as the Ranger Station (Interpretation Centre). However, while there is plenty of car-parking at the new Visitor Centre, parking is limited at the Rangers Station. During most normal times (i.e. non COVID border restrictions) it is safe to assume that you would not get a car park at the Interpretation Centre!
The visitor buses
For accessing all the short walks starting at either Ronny’s Creek or Dove Lake, we recommend the visitor buses. Ronny’s Creek is about 8 km from the Interpretation Centre and Dove Lake is about 11 km. You are not permitted to drive past the Interpretation Centre while the shuttle buses are on the road. So you can only drive to Ronny’s Creek or Dove Lake before 09:00 or after 17:00. There is limited car-parking space at Ronny’s Creek and effectively no car parking space near Dove Lake. The latter is due to building construction happening at the site (August 2020).
The buses depart every 20 minutes from the Visitor Centre between ~09:10 and 16:00. They drop-off and pick-up passengers at locations accessing walking tracks, including the Cradle Valley boardwalk, Ronny’s Creek and Dove Lake. The last bus from Dove Lake departs at about 16:20.
You will need to collect your bus ticket at the Visitor Centre. If you have a current National Parks Pass, the ticket is free. Otherwise, I think you will pay about $25.50 for an all-day bus ticket and National Parks Pass. The service uses medium-sized Volvo buses. They are air-conditioned electric hybrid buses. We found the service very convenient and comfortable.
Pencil pines falls & rainforest walk
After checking-in to our hotel, we explored the new Visitor Centre then drove to the Interpretation Centre. Here we read the displays and watched the spectacular video describing the geography of the region. We walked the Pencil Pines Falls and rainforest boardwalk. This walk is suitable for wheelchairs and would normally be an easy stroll. However, the thick glassy ice on the boardwalk added an additional level of difficulty. I really didn’t like walking on ice!
Because of the recent snow falls, other short walks near the Interpretation Centre were closed–including Kynvet Falls, Dove Canyon circuit and Cradle Valley boardwalk.
The Crater Lake Circuit
The next day the icy conditions had eased a little, so we decided on walking the Crater Lake circuit. This is described by the Cradle Mountain Day Walks Map and Notes as 2-3 hour grade 3 walk. So people or all ages and fitness levels who have some bushwalking experience should have no problems completing this walk.
We parked our car at the Visitor Centre then rode in the shuttle bus to Ronny’s Creek. Then at ~9:30 we set out along the boardwalk with about ten other people. Just past the Ronny’s Creek footbridge at an intersection with the Overland track (to Crater Lake), we chose the left-hand track to Lake Lilla. So we parted ways with the other small groups of walkers.
Lake Lilla track
It was a near perfect day for walking. No wind and the sun was shining. There were a few patches of ice, but the gravelly track was easy to walk. So the fresh bitey air and alpine scenery made this a most pleasant walk.
At Lake Lilla we met up with a young couple who had walked over from Dove Lake. This is an easier and shorter track which becomes part of an interesting circuit track to Marion’s Lookout. Perhaps we will save this walk for our next visit.
Wombat Pool track
From Lake Lilla the track starts to climb. But the short climb was not the worrying bit. It was the thick slabs of ice on the wooden boardwalk steps that was most concerning. So our walking pace slowed with each foot deliberately placed to prevent skidding and falling. Fortunately it was just a short section of the track that was still in shadow (and ice).We then walked down the hill to the Wombat Pool.
Despite the full sun there was still large pieces of ice floating in the pool. So we weren’t tempted to go for a swim! Biscuits with cheese and a hot cup of tea made a relaxing lunch break. Meanwhile, two inquisitive Currawongs sat in the nearby tree watching every mouthful.
Then after lunch we climbed the track up to Wombat Peak. Here we met up with some people who had started the walk with us at the beginning of the day. One lady told me how she had skidded on her bottom on some sections of the track near Crater Lake, rather than risk sliding over on the ice. Now, they had my attention because I was terrified!
And, sure enough the track became increasingly icy as we walked down hill towards Crater lake. This part of our walk was slow and torturous. But somehow, I managed to slip and slide my way along the track while still standing up and without mishap or the need to get down on my bottom…
Graham wasn’t so lucky, because he went for a slide, falling on his back. But fortunately his pack slowed him down so he didn’t disappear down over the rocks into the lake!
Then a large man carrying an enormous pack went striding past us! Crunch! Crunch! Crunch! How did he do that without sliding?
Well, all was revealed when we caught up with him again near Crater Falls. He had chains fitted to his walking boots! Turns out he had just spent three days camping up near Barn Bluff. He was a keen photographer. OK. We resolved to investigate the boot chains further, when we got home.
Call it a day!
At the start of the day we intended taking the shuttle bus to Dove Lake in the afternoon because we wanted to wander around the Lake. But we were stuffed! An easy walk that would normally take two to three hours had taken us four hours. So we headed back to the warm Hotel for a hot shower and an evening meal.
The next day, when we were back at home we made some phone calls about the boot chains. And we ended up buying two pairs of Edelrid micro spikes snow chains for our boots from Paddy Pallin in Launceston. We were soon to discover, on our next walk, these are a very useful piece of bushwalking kit.