Another terrific day walk in Tassie, this time taking in the summit of Mt Rufus in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park.
The walk commences from the National Park Visitor Centre, seven or so kilometres along a sealed road from a turn-off at the Lyell Hwy. The visitor centre sits at the southern end of Lake St. Clair and is a popular and busy spot with camping, cabins, a visitor centre and a licensed cafe.
The walks in this part of the park all start by following a closed (except to management vehicles) vehicular track that proceeds west from the visitor centre. After about half a kilometre a signposted track to Mt Rufus is reached. This track climbs steadily west for about four kilometres to a junction. Ignoring the link track, the path proceeds to climb west, before turning south-west and the north-west to work around a prominent rocky outcrop. There’s a final steepish pull up to the ridge line and then a fairly leisurely stroll up to the prominent summit cairn.
Views from the summit are simply magnificent with Lake St. Clair to the east, the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to the west and to the north, Cradle Mountain and the wilderness traversed by the Overland track.
From the summit you could return the same way, but if time permits a better option is to descend north-west to a saddle and then eastwards towards Shadow Lake, before following the path through forest, an impressive clearing that requires careful attention to staying on the track as this area is rather boggy, and some wonderful woodland that includes one of Australia’s few native deciduous trees, the deciduous beech (or Fagus)*. I was there in autumn, so the leaves had started to change colour and this part of the walk was particularly attractive. The path eventually arrives at Watersmeet where it’s a 1.5km walk back along the vehicular track to the visitor centre.
All-in-all a definite A+ must do Tasmanian walk.
* I thought this was Australia’s only native deciduous tree, but a bit of research revealed that there are several others, although all are monsoonal deciduous (i.e. they lose their leaves just before the wet season) – the beech is the only native winter deciduous. This page has more information.