Kosciuszko National Park - Main Range Loop Walk
Image 1 - You really are on the rooftop of Australia. This image taken from the walking track, looking back over Albina Lake. The mountains in the background give you an indication of the height you are at.
Does it get any better? On the rooftop of Australia, where everywhere you look, there are spectacular views and natural beauty aplenty. This is a must do walk for all people who are serious about their walking, but also for those who only walk occasionally and are looking for something spectacular (Image 1).
Walk Rating: Medium with some reasonably hard sections. If you walk counter clockwise from the Charlotte Pass Loop, there are more uphill climbs than if you walk clockwise. The total walk length is 22 kilometres (including the track down to Blue Lake and then back onto the main track). You will need at least a reasonable level of fitness for this walk.
Directions: From Canberra, drive to Perisher via Jindabyne. Once at Perisher, continue on the Kosciuszko Road for a further 9 kilometres and you will come to the Charlotte Pass Loop. The car journey is around 2 hours and 30 minutes, but it is generally a little longer if you stop for coffee or refreshments.
The walk can be reasonably popular, so you sometimes have to park further down the road as we did at the time of this particular walk (Image 2).
The Walk: We arrived at the Charlotte Pass Loop and were surprised by the number of cars parked along the roadway. Remembering that this was the long weekend in February, I guess a lot of other people had similar ideas as us. After searching around for a carpark and conscious that we were moving further and further away from the walk start point, we managed to squeeze into a small space about a kilometre from the top.
We took a couple of day packs with food and water supplies, but I'm always very conscious of the way in which mountain weather can change quickly, so we also took warm and wet weather clothing just in case. Looking up from the car parking space at the grey ominous skies, I did wonder if this would be a wet day, but it turned out that we were lucky as the weather held and ended up being perfect for walking.
We slung our packs, rounded up my camera gear and headed up to the Charlotte Pass Loop Road, which is immediately adjacent to the two starting points for the walk (depending if you walk clockwise, or counter clockwise).
Image 4 - Womens Adventure ACT Group head off for the start of their walk..
Image 2 - A popular place to walk, especially during summer and over a long weekend.
Image 3 - The Main Range Track start point
At the loop road, we had decided to walk in a counterclockwise direction (for no real reason) so headed off to the right. You will see a sign for the Snowgums Boardwalk, which takes you only a couple of hundred metres on a very pleasant short stroll. Great for little kids.
Move past this and you will see another sign indicating the Main Range Walk (Image 3). A popular spot for photos for those setting off on the walk and this day was no different, with a a fairly large group of walkers readying themselves for a group photo. I accepted the camera from one of them and took the shot so they could all be in the photo. They turned out to be the Women's Adventure ACT Group and today was one of their organised outings with a walk to Blue Lake and return (Image 4). They also knew my website well! Very humbling.
There are a lot of different options if you're not up to walking the 22 kilometre loop track. One of course, being the Blue Lake walk, but there are so many spectacular views and things to see on the loop walk, you could walk in only as far as you wished before returning, and still get a great walking experience.
After taking some of our own photo's. we headed off along a paved section of the track, which took us through some beautiful snowgums. If you stop for a moment and study these trees, you can see the punishment they take from the mountain weather conditions, twisting and bending to the harsh cold winds, driving rain and snowfall. Together with the array of interesting colours of the bark, they present a great photo opportunity for anyone interested (Image 5).
After passing through this section, we came to a wide open area with the Snowy River at the bottom of the hill and the walking track ascending on the opposite side into the mountains (Image 6).
Image 5 (left) - showing the twisted but beautiful snow gums and Image 6 (right) - the descent down to the Snowy River and the walking track ascending into the distance.
We headed down the walking track, which by now had left the paved area and turned to a well maintained dirt section. We reached the Snowy River where the only way across is to step from rock to rock (Image 7), unless of course you fancy walking through the ice cold water!
I commenced crossing and stopped halfway as I just had to take a photo of the Snowy River trying to capture the raw beauty of the mountain landscape in the background (Image 8). Proving that balancing on a rock in the middle of a river to take a photo is not the smartest thing to do, I dropped my lense cap, which of course sunk to the deepest part of an otherwise very shallow section. Down on all fours in a very unglamourous pose, I managed to fish out the lense cap, much to the amusement of the ladies walking group coming behind me. After recovering the lense cap, I quickly stepped off and headed up the first incline!
This incline rises for about a kilometre and a half, where the track starts to flatten out a little, before you commence the next incline. After tackling the second (fairly steep) incline, you will come to a track junction with the left continuing on the loop walk and the right, taking you down to Blue Lake.
It's not far to Blue Lake and well worth a visit to see this beautiful high altitude glacial lake. It's one of only four in Australia and the surrounds are shaped like an amphitheatre due to the glacial erosion (Images 9, 10 and 11). It also has international recognition as a unique wetland housing some endangered species such as the mountain pygmy possum.
Despite it being February, there was still an abundance of wild flowers so if you like macro photography, there's plenty of opportunities (see photo montage at end of article).
Image 7 (above) - crossing the river by stepping across the stones and Image 8 (below) - the Snowy River and surrounds.
Image 9 (above left) - the walking track from the junction is only a short distance, Image 10 (above centre) - an image of blue lake and Image 11 (above right) - the viewing platform and an information board that provides great insight into the significance of the lake
Image 12- You are constantly rewarded with breathtaking views on the Main Range
Image 13 - This part of the walk gives you an appreciation of the harsh conditions that the landscape endures.aShows the landscape
After a visit to Blue Lake we continued on the loop walk. I was surprised to see that people were camping at various spots along the walk, considering that the area is such a sensitive mountain eco-system. But, I think the surprise was more that I'm not used to coming across tents on my walks. I reminded myself that this was a popular walk and it was the long weekend!
We battled up the third incline and after another kilometre or so, came to an opening where we could look out to the south west and take in a spectacular view. The view was so good that it made us stop and we stayed for a while taking it all in (Image 12).
We eventually pulled ourselves away, being conscious that we still had a good distance to cover but, also a little worried about the darkening skies! We commenced the next incline, which was reasonably steep and about a kilometre in length. This took us up onto the actual main range. From here there is a good long section of undulating walking track that allows you to get your breath back and let the legs recover a little!
At this stage of the walk, you really do start to appreciate that the landscape is exposed to harsh conditions,. On all sides, there is exposed granite and jagged rocky formations, obviously worn away from years of wind, rain and snow (Image 13). As harsh as the landscape seems, it also has a raw beauty about it and I guess that's what attracts so many people to the walk.
After about a kilometre, you then come across what I think is the most picturesque part of the walk and one of my favourite places on these mountains, Lake Albino (Image 1). I've also skiid to Lake Albino in the winter time and if you do get to see the lake in the winter, it is a beautiful sight with the water seemingly turning a brilliant light blue colour, which really contrasts against the surrounding whiteness of the snow.
After stopping to admire Lake Albino, we pushed on, now with the peak of Mt Kosciuszko visible in the distance. The walk gets really interesting in this section. The track is cut into the side of one of the hills and puts you high enough over the Lake Albino valley that you get a different viewing perspective of the surrounds.
Great photo opportunities here! You do have to watch your step here, as there is a reasonable drop if you happen to slip and tumble over the side. Image 14 shows the track and perhaps makes the drop seem a little higher than it actually is!
After covering this section of the track, we came to another incline and this one seemed longer and steeper than the others, but perhaps that was just some tiredness in the legs from the journey so far.
This part of the track takes you to a major track junction, with the right track heading up to the peak of Mt Kosciuszko and the left, continuing on the loop walk (or another right on this track to the Eagles Nest of Thredbo). At this point, you've covered around 13 kilometres of the 22 kilometre walk.
We had intended on walking up to the peak as I never like to miss an opportunity to stand on top of Mt Kosciuszko. But, there were literally hundreds of people for as far as the eye could see and this put us off a little. After using my zoom lense to see how many were up top (Image 15), we opted to continue on the loop walk and find a pleasant (and peaceful) spot to stop and have lunch!
After walking down from that track intersection, you will come to another and as mentioned, the right takes you to Thredbo. The loop walk continues to the left and there are some toilet facilities at this location if you need them.
We continued down this track, which is a vehicle access road so it is fairly easy to walk on. After about 1.3 kilometres, you will come to Seaman's Hut. If you haven't ever been to this hut, make sure you stop and check it out.
It's a solidly constructed stone hut, erected by the families of two skiiers who died in 1928 in an attempt to provide shelter and hopefully avoid the same tragedy re-occurring. There is also a small photo memorial inside the hut, dedicated to four young adventure snowboarders, who also tragically perished near the hut in 1997. It is a sobering reminder of how dangerous the mountains can be (Image 16 and montage at end of article).
We had been walking for around 4 hours when we reached the hut, so this was a dedicated rest and lunch stop for us. We had expected a lot of other walkers to do the same, but we were pleasantly surprised as we largely had the place to ourselves.
We sat and had lunch and after boiling some water, made a coffee and watched the numerous people walking up towards Kosciuszko and back to the Charlotte Pass Loop. I've not seen that many people on the main range before, so it was quiet a a surreal experience.
We finished our coffee and headed off on the final seven kilometre section. Good news is that this section is down hill to start with and then a relatively flat access road all the way back to Charlotte Pass Loop.
Image 14- the narrow track alongside Lake Albino valley (below).
Image 15 - the peak of Mt Kosciuszko. It was the long weekend and there were a lot of people on, and making their way to the peak.
Image 16 - Seaman's Hut, a great place to visit or stop for lunch.
At the bottom of the hill, there is a bridge that crosses the Snowy River (no fishing out the lens cap this time). Another great spot for photos, not only of the river, but the immediate area has a diverse amount of differing landscapes visible (Images 17 and 18) .
The track on the way back was in good condition and we made quick time, stopping briefly for photo's here and there. After arriving back at the loop road, we spent a little time exploring the Snowgums Boardwalk. This is a great spot to come if you have kids, or perhaps someone in the family who is not overly mobile. The boardwalk is only a few hundred metres in length and has numerous display boards, providing information on the areas geology and history (including Aboriginal - big TICK for that) - see images in montage below.
We arrived back at our car, feet and legs a little tired from the 22 kilometres and headed off back to Thredbo where we were staying the night. We had a glass of wine with dinner that night and reflected on the walk. Despite the 'crowds', this is one of the great day walks in Australia. It's achievable if you're reasonably fit. You're up on the rooftop of Australia and there are fabulous views no matter which way you look.
Do yourself a favour, and put this on your list of walks to do if you haven't already done so.
Image 17 (left) - one of the many fabulous views on the main range walk and Image 18 (right) - the bridge crossing the Snowy River, not far from Seaman's Hut.