Ultimate Guide to the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk (including the best viewpoints)

Cradle Mountain is one of the most spectacular places to visit in Tasmania.

If you’re up for the challenge, the Cradle Mountain summit walk should be top of your bucket list.

The 11 km Cradle Mountain circuit takes you to some of the most iconic locations, including Hansons Peak, Marions Lookout, and the Dove Lake Boatshed.

The tough climb is only recommended for those adventure junkies looking for a challenge.

But the views of the rolling hills and craggy peaks in the distance make it all worth it!

Read on as I take you along the 8-hour hike to the Cradle Mountain Summit, with tips for avoiding the crowds, the best viewpoints, and more!

The Best Cradle Mountain Summit Walk (including the best viewpoints)
Standing at the summit of Cradle Mountain after a tough climb

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Cradle Mountain Summit Hike details

  • Distance: 11 km
  • Duration: 8 hours
  • Route style: Circuit
  • Difficulty: 5/5
  • Where to stay: Wombat Cabin
  • Highlights: Hansons Peak (1 100 m), Cradle Mountain Summit (1 545 m), Marion’s Lookout (1 200 m), Dove Lake Boatshed

Cradle Mountain map

Cradle Mountain Summit Map
Map of the route I followed to climb Cradle Mountain

Overview of the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

This Cradle Mountain summit track is not for the faint-hearted.

The trails are rough and steep, and the uphill sections will take their toll on your knees, especially when you’re on your feet for over 8 hours.

Starting at Dove Lake Car Park, you’ll go in a clockwise direction to Hansons Peak before reaching the Cradle Mountain Summit.

From there, you’ll head back down via Marions Lookout and the Dove Lake Boatshed

Sound good? Here’s exactly what to expect!

Start: Dove Lake Car Park

The starting point for this Cradle Mountain summit walk is the car park closest to Dove Lake.

Famous for the rustic boatshed nestled alongside the water’s edge, Dove Lake is arguably the most famous place to visit in Cradle Mountain.

The national park runs a free shuttle service to Dove Lake that departs from the Cradle Mountain Visitors Centre every 15 minutes. Try to make the first bus so that you’re not pressed for time later in the day.

Pro tip: There is also a walking trail starting from Ronny Creek car park that leads to Dove Lake. If you’re looking for a longer walk and different landscapes, there is the option to start your hike from there. But this will add an extra hour or two to your total time. And with a tough summit ahead of you, I recommend that you start at Dove Lake instead.

Walking from Dove Lake Car Park to Cradle Mountain Summit
Jumping straight off the shuttle bus and being surrounded by this stunning scenery

Dove Lake to Hansons Peak

After registering your name in the logbook, you’ll be on your way.

The first 300m of your hike will be busy, but you’ll divert from the mass traffic as they head right toward the Dove Lake boatshed.

You’ll head left in a clockwise direction to Hansons Peak.

The trail is well-marked and easy to follow, and you’ll pass breathtaking viewpoints, including Glacier Rock.

Soon you’ll reach a junction where you can either follow the Dove Lake Circuit Track or the trail leading to Hansons Peak.

Take the left path and head uphill to Hansons Peak.

Start of Cradle Mountain Summit Walk in Tasmania
Walking past Glacier Rock. How incredible is the reflection off the water.

Climbing up to Hansons Peak

As you get closer to the peak, the trail becomes steeper, and you’ll need to scramble up a few sections with the help of a chain.

While this part is quite challenging, it’s not nearly as difficult as the lady at the Visitor Centre said it would be!

Climbing to Hansons Peak
This chain section on the way to Hansons Peak wasn’t as difficult as I thought it would be.

Twisted Lakes and Hansons Peak

From there, it’s just views, views, and more views as you pass Twisted Lakes and get closer to Hansons Peak.

The sights here were some of the best throughout the walk.

So, take them in, and do not skip this part when you climb Cradle Mountain!

Looking onto the Cradle Mountain Summit from Hansons Peak
Looking onto the Cradle Mountain summit from the viewpoint near Hansons Peak

Hansons Peak to Kitchen Hut

At this point, you’ll only be about 2 hours into your Cradle Mountain climb.

After leaving Hansons Peak, you’ll reach Rangers Hut. This is the junction at which the Face Track meets with the Lake Rodway track.

Follow the Face Track toward Kitchen Hut.

This section is rugged and untouched, with loose rocks and a bit of uphill climbing.

You’re still on the uncrowded route, so you’ll have a relatively quiet trail with lots of photo opportunities.

When you get to Kitchen Hut, it will be a different story! This is where all the trails to the summit of Cradle Mountain converge, and so it can get quite busy from here.

Scrambling along the Face Track

Kitchen Hut to Cradle Mountain Summit (3 hours)

Standing at the base of the Cradle Mountain summit, the final stretch may look relatively easy.

But it’s not!

Everything was “easy” up until this point.

Allow for a total of 3 hours to get from Kitchen Hut to the summit and back (which will include about 30 minutes for a break at the top).

Honestly, I thought it would take us quicker, but it didn’t.

While this final section isn’t clearly marked, there are snow poles dotted along the track, so keep an eye out for those.

In bad conditions, it can be quite difficult to navigate over the boulders. If you can’t see far ahead of you, I strongly advise you to turn around.

Cradle Mountain Summit Review
Expect a lot of climbing from here

The climbing and scrambling

The summit climb begins with a gradual incline but rapidly becomes more challenging and technical the higher up you go.

There are many false peaks, and it’s a continuous scramble over large boulders. As you crawl over one massive rock, you’ll be met with another one immediately after.

If you start getting nervous and don’t feel comfortable or safe, turn around, as it doesn’t get easier.

If heights aren’t your thing – stop in your tracks and head back down!

It’s about an hour of tough climbing to the Cradle Mountain summit (and then going down is the same story).

Top tip: If this challenging summit walk isn’t for you, check out these awesome Cradle Mountain walks that aren’t as hectic.

Cradle Mountain Summit Difficulty
Climbing to the summit of Cradle Mountain

Cradle Mountain Summit

Standing tall at 1 454 m, the summit of Cradle Mountain offers unspoiled panoramic views of charming lakes, rolling hills, and jagged peaks in the distance.

Give yourself about 30 minutes to enjoy the scenery, have a snack, and then head back down.

Views from Cradle Mountain walk in Tasmania
Can’t beat these views

Cradle Mountain Summit to Kitchen Hut

Now it’s time to get back down those massive boulders you scaled up to the summit.

This part can be dangerous, so take it slow.

I literally slid down the rocks, trying to find my footing, and my arms were aching by the end of it.

Cradle Mountain National Park
Cradle Mountain summit in the destance

Kitchen Hut to Marions Lookout

Phew – the hard part is over.

It’s all downhill from here!

Expect lots of tourists as you make your way back to Dove Lake via Marions Lookout, as this is a popular route.

Before reaching Marions Lookout, you’ll find Crater Lakes to your left. They’re worth a quick visit before continuing to Marions Lookout.

After the spectacular views from Hansons Peak and Cradle Mountain summit, Marions Lookout didn’t quite compare.

But that’s just my opinion. After 7 hours of hiking, I was tired and sore and ready to head home for a well-deserved beer!

Take a few moments to enjoy the views – the end is in sight.

Marions Lookout in Cradle Mountain
Marions Lookout above Dove Lake

Marions Lookout to Dove Lake Boatshed

The final section of your Cradle Mountain summit track will depend on how much energy you have.

We were exhausted!

With our eyes on the prize (er, beer, and pizza), we wanted the quickest trail down to Dove Lake.

We opted for the Marions Lookout Link Track to the Dove Lake Boatshed.

While it’s the fastest way to get back to the starting point, it’s also extremely tough on your already fragile legs as it’s super steep.

I’m so glad we were going down the hill using this route and not up!

Another option to get from Marions Lookout to the Dove Lake Boatshed is to take the Wombat Pools Track followed by the Lake Lilla Track.

This scenic route is longer than the Link Track that we took, but it’s a more gradual descent and also meets at Dove Lake Boatshed.

Dove Lake Boatshed after Cradle Mountain Summit walk
The famous Dove Lake Boatshed marks the end of your Cradle Mountain walk

Dove Lake Boatshed: The end of the Cradle Mountain summit hike

You made it!

As you turn the final corner leading to the boatshed, you’ll feel like you’re on the set of a photoshoot.

Tourists line the small sandy patch, snapping away at the iconic boatshed with Cradle Mountain peak as the backdrop.

Take off your shoes and step into the freezing cold water – your feet will love you for this! Or, if you’re like Gary, just take a swim instead.

You may want to pack an extra set of shorts if you plan on swimming.

From here, it’s a short 10-minute walk back to the Dove Lake car park, where you’ll meet the shuttle bus.

Remember to sign in at the register before leaving.

Swimming in Dove Lake, Cradle Mountain
Anyone up for an ice cold swim?

Cradle Mountain hike difficulty

The Cradle Mountain summit hike is not for inexperienced hikers.

From Kitchen Hut to the summit and back, it’s 2 to 3 hours of tough climbing.

You have to pull yourself over huge boulders that might be double your size, and you need to scramble on all fours. And it’s not just a short section – it’s about 80% of it.

I consider myself relatively fit and athletic, and I enjoyed the thrill and challenge of the summit section.

But I did find it difficult and demanding on my legs (and arms).


How difficult is Cradle Mountain summit

Is it suitable for children?

I was surprised to see children around the age of 7 who had successfully summited Cradle Mountain, rock hopping with so much energy.

But they looked like they had done a lot of hiking previously and were strong enough to make it to the top.

On the other hand, I saw a family of six with four kids under the age of 4 trying to get to the summit (they didn’t make it). The youngest was only a few months old!

I don’t recommend attempting to climb Cradle Mountain if you have more than two children to look after, no matter how adventurous your family is.

The type of climbing and squeezing you’ll be doing means that you cannot have anything (or anyone) attached to your front or back.

Best things to do in Tasmania

National Park Entrance fees and Shuttle Bus

Cradle Mountain Entrance Fees

To enter the Cradle Mountain National Park, you’ll need to purchase a National Park pass from the Visitors Centre.

This also gives you access to the free shuttle operated by the national park.

The entrance fee to Cradle Mountain is $25 per person for a 24-hour pass.

There is also the option to purchase a 2-month pass which is $80 per vehicle. If you plan on spending more time in Cradle Mountain or visiting other national parks within Tasmania, it’s better to go for the 2-month pass.

Find out more here.

Twisted Lakes in Cradle Mountain Lake St Claire National Park
The Twisted Lakes just before Hansons Peak

Free Shuttle Service

Departing from the Visitor Centre to Dove Lake, the Cradle Mountain shuttle also stops at the Rangers Station (close to Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge) and Ronny’s Creek (start of the Overland Track).

The 15-minute bus ride is often busy in the mornings, but there are several shuttles, so they do accommodate everyone.

The times for the shuttle vary. But generally, they operate from 08:00 am – 6:00 pm in summer (1 October to 31 March) and 09:00 am – 5:00 pm in winter (1 April – 31 September).

If you miss the last bus, you will need to walk 15 km back to the Visitor Centre.

The best cradle mountain summit walk
About 4 hours into my Cradle Mountain summit hike

Driving into the park

There is the option to drive your car into the national park. But you can only do so outside of the shuttle operating hours. This means you need to arrive before 8 am.

There are only a handful of parking spaces available at Dove Lake. If these are all taken, you’ll need to stop at Ronny Creek Car Park and walk 2 km to Dove Lake.

Bear in mind that when you return, you’ll need to follow one of the shuttle buses back to the Visitors Centre.

In my opinion, it’s a lot easier to take the free shuttle bus instead.

Shuttle or self-drive

I was eager to get there early and drive into the park so that I could get a head start on the crowds.

But, after realizing that I couldn’t stop at Dove Lake, I opted to take the first shuttle from the Visitors Centre to Dove Lake.

Yes, it was busy, but there were enough buses to accommodate everyone.

Walking Cradle Mountain in Tasmania Australia
Final steps towards the summit of Cradle Mountain

Other Cradle Mountain Summit Walks

My recommended route (Dove Lake Car Park – Hansons Peak – Face Track – Summit – Marions Lookout – Dove Lake Boatshed) is the best Cradle Mountain hike for adventurous travelers and experienced hikers.

Here are a few other options that other hikers opt for, and I’ve highlighted why I didn’t choose them.

Starting at Ronny Creek Car Park

This is the route that the staff at the Visitors Centre recommended to us.

Ronny Creek Car Park – Overland Track – Crater Lakes – Marions Lookout – Kitchen Hut – Summit – Kitchen Hut – Marions Lookout – Dove Lake Boatshed

Starting at Ronny’s Creek, it follows the Overland Track and goes past Marions Lookout and onto the summit, before coming back down via Marions Lookout (again).

I didn’t like the idea of walking the same sections twice – where’s the fun in that!

But it was recommended as the “safe option”. But most importantly, it skips Hansons Peak, which I felt was the best part of the hike!

Summit of Cradle Mountain from Marions Lookout
Views of Cradle Mountain as you’re coming from Marions Lookout

The Dove Lake Circuit to cRADLE mOUNTAIN summit

I’d say that this is a good runner-up for the best Cradle Mountain summit hike.

Dove Lake Car Park – Dove Lake Circuit (left) – Lake Wilks Track – Face Track – Summit – Kitchen Hut – Marions Lookout – Dove Lake Boatshed

This is another option that’s slightly shorter than the summit walk I recommended above.

It’s a circuit track, so you won’t walk the same route twice, and offers incredible scenery.

But it skips one of the most incredible spots: Hansons Peak!

Hiking Cradle Mountain
All summit walks converge at Kitchen Hut

What to Pack for Cradle Mountain Summit Walk

Don’t underestimate what you’ll need to pack if you’re planning on summiting Cradle Mountain.

The national park is notorious for bad weather, and you need to be prepared.

  • Hiking pants: I love hiking in Yoga pants, but you may prefer shorts.
  • Hiking boots: Normal trainers are also fine, but hiking boots are preferable.
  • Thick socks: Your feet will thank you later.
  • Hiking top: As the sun rises, it gets hot up there, so wear a short-sleeved top to hike in.
  • Long-sleeve hiking top: I always pack this in for an extra layer of warmth.
  • Waterproof jacket. I didn’t use this on my Cradle Mountain summit walk, but I packed it in just in case.
  • Beanie and gloves: If you’re hiking in winter, make sure you have these.
  • Head torch: Starting before sunrise? You’ll need a light.
  • Backpack: Bring a day pack that’s big enough to fit your water bottles, personal items, and snacks.
  • Food: Snacks and lunch.
  • Water: 2-3 liters of water.
  • Suncare: Sunglasses, hat, suncream.
What to wear for Cradle Mountain summit walk
We were so lucky with the weather

Best time to summit Cradle Mountain

You’re lucky if you have perfect weather conditions when climbing Cradle Mountain.

Yes, I consider myself incredibly lucky!

We hiked over the Easter weekend in April and couldn’t have asked for better weather.

The week after, however, was a different story. Temperatures were nearing zero degrees, and snow was forecasted in Tasmania!

From May to September, it can be freezing cold, and snow is common during this time.

March is the driest month, so if you plan your trip for then, you’ll have the highest chance of clear skies.

Hansons Peak to Face Track in Cradle Mountain
Scenery like this all the way

How to get to Cradle Mountain

The Cradle Mountain summit is found northwest of Tasmania, in the Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

Launceston is only 2 hours away, and Hobart is 4-hours.

If you’re driving from Hobart, be sure to take the A5 scenic route to Cradle Mountain.

Where to stay

Wombat Cabin is one of the most incredible places I have ever stayed at!

Nestled in the forests, it’s the perfect spot to come home to after a long day of hiking.

The private cottage, with its indoor fireplace and rustic decor, is cozy and charming. Wallabies and possums greeted us every evening, and if you’re lucky, you may even spot a wombat or two.

While Wombat Cabin is not found in the national park itself, it’s a short 15-minute drive to the entrance.

If you’re looking for a romantic place to stay. I can’t recommend this place highly enough.

And for the price, it’s an absolute steal!

But there’s a high chance it’s already booked out for your dates. You can check availability here.

Cradle Mountain Love Shack Tasmania
If you’re heading to Tasmania, make sure you book a stay at Wombat Cabin

Other places to stay near Cradle Mountain

If you want to be close to all the action, Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge offers superb luxury cabins just a stone’s throw away from the Cradle Mountain summit.

The famous Enchanted Walk and King Billy Walk start from the property, and there’s also a vibey onsite bar and restaurant. Even if you don’t stay here, it’s worth popping in for a beer after your summit climb.

But there’s more – a spa! Treat yourself to a massage or relax in the sauna or steam rooms.

Overall, Peppers Cradle Mountain Lodge is a top choice for those who are willing to pay a bit more for luxurious accommodation close to Cradle Mountain.

You can find the latest prices and read reviews here.

If you’re looking for a rustic and romantic place to stay that won’t break the bank, Cradle Mountain Highlanders is just for you. Located alongside the Visitors Centre, the cute cabins are surrounded by nature, and each one comes fitted with a cozy indoor fireplace.

Cradle Mountain Highlanders is a close runner-up to Wombat Cabin (in my opinion). If we couldn’t get a booking at the Wombat Cabin, we would have gone straight to Cradle Mountain Highlanders. You can check the reviews and prices here.

Top tip: Looking for the best places to stay in Cradle Mountain? Take a look at these amazing hotels and cabins just a short drive from Cradle Mountain National Park.

Where to stay in Cradle Mountain
How beautiful is Cradle Mountain


Cradle Mountain Summit Review

Summiting Cradle Mountain was the highlight of my trip to Tasmania.

It’s a tough and grueling climb but 100% worth it if you’re looking for a challenge. While there are various walks to the top, I highly recommend the circuit track that I’ve detailed in this post.

Are you planning on conquering the Cradle Mountain summit? Do you have any questions about the walk or visiting Tasmania? Let me know in the comment section below!

Looking for your next adventure? Check out my other posts!

About Carryn

Hi, I'm Carryn. I’m an adventure travel blogger trying to figure out my way through life by traveling and exploring. Join me as I share my travel guides and tips for life abroad. Find out more about me here.

4 thoughts on “Ultimate Guide to the Cradle Mountain Summit Walk (including the best viewpoints)”

  1. Hi Carryn, I am just after some info on walking the summit of cradle Mt. My hubby & I are in our 60’s but are reasonably fit however unfortunately not quite as flexible as we used to be. Which track would you suggest we take, we are up for a challenge but will be walking in mid April so hopefully daylight hours won’t be against us. The hardest trek we have done was Kokoda Track in 2019, (that was pretty tough). Any advice would be appreciated. Thanks

    • Hi Kerie, I recommend going for the summit climb, starting at 8am. The route (which I’ve detailed below) passes some of the best trails and viewpoints so I rate you go for it. If the summit climb gets too intense, you can always turn back and continue along the track around Dove Lake.

      Start at the Dove Lake car park then go left to Hansons Peak. From there you’ll go right to get to the path leading to the summit. If you choose to skip it (because of time or difficulty), you continue right to Marions Lookout and then down to Dove Lake.


  2. Hi CARRYN,
    My wife and I are in the early 60s, we consider ourselves fit and enjoy hikes and walks in other countries. After reading your article…I feel my wife will not find the summit climb enjoyable although I would like to some day give it a go. I we minus that from the route you did…how long should we allocate time for it.? We are going in Jan 9th , is that busy busy with crowds…can we enter the park at 6pm and rush for that limited car park?…if we do this will we miss the BOATSHED and the lake dip?

    • Hi RJ,

      Thanks for your comment. To confirm, you mean to start your hike at 6 am (not 6 pm). If so, I recommend you follow this route if you’d prefer to skip the Cradle Mountain summit section: Dove Lake Car Park – Hansons Peak – Marions Lookout – Dove Lake Boatshed. This is a beautiful walk and should take you about 5 hours to complete.

      It shouldn’t be too busy on the 9th as it’s a weekday. Dove Lake Boatshed is always a popular spot but the other sections of the walk are a lot quieter and peaceful.

      Have fun!



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