My second bushwalk from Thredbo (after yesterday’s off-track Ramshead Range loop) is the classic Dead Horse Gap/Thredbo River Track loop walk. The easiest way to do this walk is by taking the chairlift up to Eagles Nest and walking back to Thredbo… but I’m keen to avoid the crowds so I’m heading out before the chairlift opens.
Thredbo River Walk
There’s no one on the Thredbo River Track as I set off from Thredbo village, passing the empty golf course.
The Thredbo River Track gradually leaves the manicured lawns of the golf course and glimpses of riverside ski lodges behind, as it continues up the river.
After about two kilometres, and about half-way along the track to start of the Dead Horse Gap track is a small waterfall, with a viewing platform.
The second half of the track is much more scenic, as it follows the Thredbo River quite closely, crossing it on a steel bridge.
There’s some more expansive views of the valley and the Ramshead Range to the north, with the track crossing the river a second time.
It’s about 4km to the end of the Thredbo River Walk, where it meets the Dead Horse Gap Track. There’s a parking area here along The Alpine Way, so you could also start the loop walk here.
Dead Horse Gap Track
The Dead Horse Gap Track roughly follows the Bogong Creek upstream, from where it flows into the Thredbo River. The track forms part of the Australian Alps walking track (AAWT).
There’s initially not much of a view from the Dead Horse Gap Track, as it climbs steeply up from the road.
After the first kilometre the track flattens out a little, as it crosses a wide alpine meadow. (The track is believed to named after brumbies that became trapped in this area during unexpected snowfalls and died.) Directly above is the southermost peak of the Ramshead Range.
A bit further on the track starts to ascend gently again, as is enters a band of snow gums. Snow gums typically grow at an heights of between 1,300 and 1,800 metres above sea level. While they are fire adapted, significant fires in 1998, 2002/3, 2006/7, 2013 and 2020 has devastated large swathes of these trees. (As well as bushfires, the trees are succumbing in increasing numbers from Snow-gum dieback as a result of infestation by a wood-boring longicorn beetle, which is accelerating due to climate change.)
As the track rises, there’s a view of the main ridge ahead…
…and a great view looking back towards the Thredbo River and the mountains to the east.
Above the snow gums are open alpine meadows with a few rock outcrops, as the track continues to ascend to its highest point at 2,021m. There’s now a few more people around, most of whom have taken the chairlift up and and are now coming down the Dead Horse walking track.
The Eagles Nest restaurant and top of the chairlift can be seen in the distance, as the track descends to the Kosciuszko Walk track.
There’s some more stunning views of alpine meadows and granite outcrops, before the Dead Horse walking track meets the Kosciuszko Walk.
To get back to Thredbo, you can walk down the steep Merritts Nature Track… or take the chairlift back down to the bottom.
Regardless of which direction you walk, this is a great loop bushwalk with some varied scenery and spectacular alpine views. There are few different versions of this bushwalk which you can do:
- Take Thredbo chairlift up and walk down Dead Horse Gap track. 9.2km (95m total ascent). The easiest option, offering all the views with least effort. You’ll need to start the walk after 9am when the chairlift opens.
- Walk up Dead Horse Gap track and take chairlift down. 9.2km (660m total ascent). The route described here, which has the advantage you can start early and beat the crowds. Some steep sections up the Dead Horse Gap walking track.
- Walk up Dead Horse Gap track and down the Merritts Nature Track. 13.2km (660m total ascent). Adds a very steep but scenic descent, which follows Merritts Creek down to Thredbo village – even though it’s all downhill, there are many steps making this a somewhat more challenging option.
- Walk up Merritts Nature Track and down Dead Horse Gap track. 13.2km (660m total ascent). The most challenging option, with a very steep ascent to Eagles Nest and a less steep descent along the Dead Horse Gap walking track. Like option 2, this also allows you to start early, before the chairlift opens.
Getting to Dead Horse Gap
If you’re staying in Thredbo (which is about six hours drive or 500km south-west of Sydney), this is the easiest place to start. The Thredbo River Track starts on Crackenback Drive near the Thredbo Community Centre, and is well sign-posted (you can also look for signs to the Thredbo golf course). The other starting point is along the Alpine Way at the Cascade Trackhead, which is about 7km drive from Thredbo. There is a parking area here.