A less-busy alternative to Cradle Mountain, with equally impressive views and a slightly harder scramble to the top.
Having climbed Cradle Mountain a few times, Barn Bluff looked like a good alternative for a day-trip. It’s Tasmania’s fourth-highest peak, and looks like a barn… This is my second attempt; I’d tried just over a year ago and was thwarted by the weather. (Despite having wet-weather gear, I wasn’t equipped to deal with driving sleet and turned back at Kitchen Hut.)
Today starts ominously overcast. I start pretty early as I’ve got an evening flight out of Launceston. I’m staying nearby, at the Cradle Mountain Highlanders cottages just outside the park (I prefer to stay at the very basic Waldheim Cabins which are inside the park, but none were available). So it’s a short drive to the start of the track at Ronny Creek, and I set off at 6:30am.
The walk to Barn Bluff starts on the Overland Track at Ronny Creek, although it would be just as feasible to commence from the Dove Lake car park. There’s a raised timber boardwalk for the first section across the grassland and then a well-constructed track with stone steps, so it’s easy walking, even though I’m climbing fairly steeply up past Crater Lake and onto Crater Peak lookout.
After 3.6km the track reaches an exposed and often windy plateau and from here it’s fairly flat, sometimes on boardwalk and sometimes on gravel. The morning is still very misty, which brings out the autumn colours in the deciduous beech, or fagus.
After 5.8km I pass Kitchen Hut (where I gave up last time) and shortly after that the turn-off to the Face Track, as I continue down the Overland Track. Another 3km of walking and I reach the well-marked junction, where I turn right (off the Overland Track) and down Barn Bluff Track.
As I peer into the mist, I question whether I should continue… but press on regardless. Miracles may happen. The weather does change very quickly, even though all I’ve seen for the last three hours is different shades of misty grey.
It does feel rather miraculous when, half an hour later Barn Bluff materializes out of the mist, with blue sky behind it. From the foot of the mountain the path to the summit is very steep as it makes it way up and over large boulders and scree, marked by a series of cairns that are not always obvious. The route heads up the middle of the rocky peak, following a steep valley, and then follows the ridge up to the summit. As I climb, Cradle Mountain pokes its head up though the clouds, in the distance.
From the top, Cradle Mountain is (partly) visible to the north, and Lake Will is below, looking to the south-east. It’s an impressive view.
It’s taken me three and half hours to cover the 12.5km up the summit, reaching it around 10am, so I’ve still got most of the day ahead. After half an hour, I start the descent. It’s still misty as I retrace my steps along the ridge on the Barn Bluff track. I’m now seeing a few more people, who are coming up the track.
The mist lifts a little – and a few walkers have said the Lake Rodway track is clearer. So, 800m after the Barn Bluff track joins the Overland Track, I veer right onto the Lake Rodway Track.
This is a rougher track than the Overland Track, and it descends steeply down to Lake Rodway and Flynns Tarn and then ascends up to the Twisted Lakes. This is a very photogenic area; unfortunately the early afternoon light is not ideal.
I continue up the Lake Rodway Track towards Hansons Peak, with Cradle Mountain now behind me.
Soon Dove Lake is in sight again as I swing around the east side of Hanson Peak, with Cradle Mountain to my left and the Dove Lake car park on the right.
The track now descends fairly steeply, until it joins the Dove Lake Circuit track shortly before the car park.
From here the walk is almost over – I skirt around the car park, and walk the final three kilometres back to Ronny Creek car park via the Cradle Valley Boardwalk. It’s been a very enjoyable day, despite the overcast start, and it feels good to have made it to the top of Barn Bluff 13 months after my first attempt.
|Location||Ronny Creek car park near the end of Dove Lake Road.
Cradle Mountain National Park is about 2.5 hours from Launceston, via Sheffield or Mole Creek.
|Distance||27.5km circuit as walked. 24km return to Barn Bluff (shortest route)|
|Grade||Moderate. 1125m total ascent.|
|Season/s||All year round; may be challenging/difficult in winter|
|Map||TasMap “Cradle Mountain Day Walks”|
|GPS Route||Routie GPS trail. View route and export to KML format.|
|Photos||Google Photos gallery|
|Resources||Day Walks Tasmania (book) has track notes for this walk|