Main Range Track in the Snowy Mountains

17 Jan

Summer months = hiking, in T1’s world. Winter months also mean hiking, but there’s not as much on offer in the winter months. In particular, it’s quite difficult to hike the Snowy Mountains in the winter!

This past January weekend seemed like the ideal time. The forecast for Canberra wasn’t particularly cheery, while I was optimistic about what ‘isolated showers’ for the mountains meant. So, Boyfriend and I packed our backpacks on Friday night and rose early on Saturday morning to head down to Charlotte Pass. The drive is a fairly easy one – Australia’s ski region is exceptionally well signed, and if you’re got even a smidgen of a sense of direction, you’ll make it there easily in about two hours (always take a map!). The last 30 or so kilometres to Charlotte’s Pass are a little windy and take a bit of time – and there’s also the $16 entry vee to Kosciuszko National Park for vehicles (cheaper for motorbikes!).

We arrived at about 10am and were greeted by a large number of cars. There’s no real place to park near the Charlotte Pass entrance, so there were cars parked (often a little precariously) on both sides of the road. We lathered up in sunscreen (so I thought), and I persuaded Boyfriend to take the roll-on Rid (absolutely necessary), and we set off with a number of other groups in front and behind us.

There are a number of walks you can do from either Charlotte Pass or Thredbo which will take you to Mt Kosciuszko. Perhaps stupidly, I chose the hardest one. After reading other reviews, I couldn’t imagine not doing the walk – at 22km, it offered all the necessary sights: Blue Lake, Lake Albina, postcard views, Seaman’s Hut, Rawson Pass and, of course, Australia’s highest peak.

My favourite view of the walk, and a favourite photo

My favourite view of the walk, and a favourite photo

It’s an easy walk down from Charlotte Pass to Snowy River, but then the next 5 or so kilometres are steep. We were greeted with a number of remaining snowdrifts – first in the distance, and later we passed many up close.


I’m not fit, but I’m relatively used to hiking, and I struggled with the steepness. Boyfriend kindly suggested he would take my pack for ‘all the uphill bits’ (75 per cent of the walk) which made things much easier.

Setting off on the walk, with the path ahead of us

Setting off on the walk, with the steeeeep path ahead of us

The path to Blue Lake is very obvious, mostly lined with gravel or stone steps. There’s a brief dip in the walk to cross a stream, but then it’s straight back up until

you reach Blue Lake. It really is a beauty – I’ve never seen a lake glimmer like Blue Lake does, so much so that it looked like it had been sprinkled with glitter. There’s a detour down to Blue Lake, but we didn’t take it – it was a little before midday and we knew we still had a long way to go.

Glimmering Blue Lake, behind a field of daisies

Glimmering Blue Lake, behind a field of daisies

From this point, there’s more steep, steep walking up to Carruthers Peak. On the way, there’s simply the most incredible view of (I think) Mt Sentinel and the sea of blue-green mountains behind it. It’s also a fantastic place to stop and catch your breath for the umpteenth time!


What I believe to be Carruthers Peak trig

What I believe to be Carruthers Peak trig

We stopped for lunch on Carruthers Peak, which had pleasant views except for unwelcome visitors – humungous flies. I had no idea that the flies would be as big and as nasty as they were – sticking to clothes and biting, and biting hard! They are cruel little buggers and it’s something I did not expect in Alpine country.

View from Carruthers Peak

View from Carruthers Peak

Again, we couldn’t rest for long because we were worried about what awaited. However, it was an altogether pleasant wander towards Mt Lee (I think) and Mt Northcote (I think), passing by Club Lake and Lake Albina.



Blue Lake appears to be the famed lake of the Snowy Mountains, but I think Lake Albina is just superb. You view it while navigating the slopes of (I think) Mt Northcote, and I highly recommend stopping a few times (good excuse to catch your breath) to admire it so you don’t get distracted by Lake Albina’s beauty while trying not to fall off the cliff.

Stunning Lake Albina. This photo makes it look small. It's HUGE.

Stunning Lake Albina. This photo makes it look small. It’s HUGE.

And then, Mt Kosciuszko was ahead of us. It was again another steep trek up to where the path meets the road up to Mt Kosciuszko (which the smart people took), passing by more snow. While there had been a lot of walkers on our route, there were probably four or five times that going up and down from Mt K.


Boyfriend carrying both packs yay!

Boyfriend carrying both packs yay!

Mt K is infamous for being underwhelming. The path to the top is an easy one (relatively – except if you’ve already been walking for four hours) and if you’re in the region you can’t not do it. But my overwhelming feeling the entire walk was that we have much better walks much closer to the ACT which actually feel like you’ve conquered something, and have some incredible views themselves.

On top of Australia (mainland)

On top of Australia (mainland)

Failed time photo. But you can see how good it would have been!

Failed time photo. But you can see how good it would have been!

We took our obligatory photos and I drank the last of my water (foolish) before we trekked back down to Rawson Pass, the place of Australia’s highest public toilet.

Where Main Range Track meets the smart people walking track

Where Main Range Track meets the smart people walking track

The sign there said there was another 7.7km to go until we were back at Charlotte Pass, and that it would take 1 hour 45 minutes.

This signed LIED.

This signed LIED.

Your feet hurt on the Main Range walk, largely because the ground isn’t soft. Most of the paths aren’t dirt paths, but gravel or rocks or concrete – and it’s all for good reason (to preserve the area). But it means your feet are likely to ache much more quickly. The way back down to Charlotte Pass via Summit Road has poles which count down how many more kilometres to go until you’re back at Charlotte Pass. This is just cruel, because the distance that you travel, particularly after walking all day, feels like much longer than the kilometre you’ve just done each time you encounter another signed pole.

Seaman's Hut

Seaman’s Hut

Most dismaying of all was after we arrived at the fabulous Seaman’s hut, where we read the sign that said there was still 2 hours of walking to go. The previous sign said 1 hour 45, and after 2 kilometres of walking, there was still 2 hours? To cheer me up, we stopped at the Snowy River for a short while, a little way down the track. It really is just a gorgeous river, and there were plenty of baby trout (I think) which had no qualms with nibbling at my tired feet (much to my fear/delight).

Gorgeous river

Gorgeous river

The Summit Road offers you little of the amazing views you get in the first half of the walk, but it does offer an idea of the height and the distance that you’ve walked. There’s also a lot of running creeks which feed into the Snowy River, and we filled up our water bottle with icy, delicious water from these (probably a stupid idea – do so at your own risk).

And finally – FINALLY – we saw the Charlotte Pass carpark. Of course, our car was parked far, far down the road so we still had to trudge down to it, but wow, were we grateful to sit down.

Looking back at where we'd been

Looking back at where we’d been


This is a difficult review to conclude, because I’m not actually sure how I feel about the walk. While most everything I read recommended doing it anti-clockwise, I think it would make much more sense to walk clockwise (mostly flat for the first half, a few steep rises and most down for the second half) rather than our walk (mostly up, a few steep descents, and flat at the end). Because the walks are so well done and well marked (go Parks NSW!), there are a lot of visitors and I think hiking – particularly Australia’s highest peak/s – is a little less magical if you’re sharing it with hordes of people. I felt a bit disappointed by the views, but reflecting back on the photos I think a lot of them are quite amazing. And while Boyfriend and I spent a lot of time complaining (and you’ve just spent a lot of time reading my complaints) while we were on the walk, and making oaths to never do such a walk again, a few days later we’re much more positive about the experience of it all.

Would I do it again? Yes.


(PS: Apparently now is the time to go. That night, ABC TV reported that the Park was full of wildflowers that had flowered unusually early – can certainly agree! Here‘s an earlier online report.)

Where: Kosciuszko National Park

Attendees: T1 and Boyfriend

Cost: $16 to enter the park + donations of skin (thanks to sunburn and blisters)

Worthwhile factor: Worthwhile (begrudgingly)

Want more? Try here.

Time taken: 7.5 hours. Most sites seem to recommend 9 hours, but most accounts I read were between 6 and 8. A call to the Snowy Mountains Visitor Centre confirmed it took people between 6 and 9 hours.

Note this walk was formerly called the Lakes Walk.


9 Responses to “Main Range Track in the Snowy Mountains”

  1. emily herdman January 17, 2012 at 9:15 pm #

    Impressed, as always.

  2. Kylie Harris January 17, 2012 at 10:35 pm #

    Couldn’t do the hike myself (Blue Mountains giant steps made me spew everywhere, let alone 22km of steep hiking lol), but loved your account of it! Awesome photographs too! Good on you guys for completing the hike, and in good time!

  3. Angelica December 31, 2015 at 2:19 pm #

    Hi thanks for posting it. I did the walk yesterday, all good except the flesh eater flies. And the other annoying smaller versions of them. It would be great to advice everybody of the annoyance and stressful walk when you get bitten at every moment. Take a mesh hat, as well as sprayed insect repelent before the walk, and please be careful with the perilous parking. I just amazed that the council has not set a parking place.

  4. Strzelecki February 28, 2017 at 10:09 am #

    Look at this website I came across. You can find it here:
    I invite you also to the English version of this website. There related messages are a lot of information about the conquest of Mt Kosciuszko the highest peak of Australia, and about Paul Edmund Strzelecki the explorer who gave the mountain its name.
    Check the text sitemap page to see all the titles

  5. Jillian January 14, 2018 at 9:59 pm #

    Thanks for honest and frank review of the Lakes Walk from Charlottes. I’m doing it again tomorrow – at age 65, maybe for the last time. I always do it clockwise. I just have to do it again just one more time. Until I read your review I was almost seduced by others that recommended going anti-clockwise, and thought maybe I’d try it that way, although it doesn’t make sense to me. However, you’ve strengthened my resolve to do it clockwise. To me the track up is gentler and the track down is easier. The only really hard bit is Heartbreak Hill going back up to Charlottes from the Snowy River at the end. I’ve done it on hands and knees in the past!!! It’s a killer, but it’s short, sharp, and the end!

    • beyondsydney February 11, 2018 at 5:31 pm #

      Hi Jillian! Thanks for the information. I rarely hear people doing it clockwise but after reading this blog and a couple of others, I think it’s easier. Coming down via Main Range, is it a tricky downhill? (ie, is the downhill so steep that your knees start to shake after a while?). Also what do you think of the views coming down via Main Range? I’ve heard people say coming up Main Range track, the views are nicer.


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