Whether you’re an avid or an amateur hiker, you’ll know that the best views can’t be found on flat ground. If there’s a jaw-dropping, put-on-your-bucket-list vista out there, it’s almost certainly going to be at the top of a lung-burning mountain hike, one that requires some serious effort to get to.
Well, Australia has plenty of those, and for those for whom an ideal holiday involves hitting the trails from sunrise to sundown, there’s more than a few that are worth travelling for (one day, since most interstate travelling is off the cards for now...). So if your muscles have been itching for a challenge that will really reward you with panoramic views and knee-knocking heights (and you’re willing to travel for it), then this list of Australia’s best mountain hikes is for you.
Part of the Tasmanian World Heritage Wilderness Area, and with surrounds that blend from rainforest to grassland, speckled with ancient plants and wildlife, the Cradle Mountain hike is one of the most wistful and magical in the land. Whether you trek during winter or summer, the five to six day Overland Track or even the simple Lake St Clair day walk will transport you to a different land, even if hiking boots and backpacks aren’t your thing.
Snow bound in winter but popular with hikers in summer, Mount Kosciuszko, also Australia’s tallest peak, is the challenging hike you’ve been looking for. Littered with historic huts, scenic views, rock formations and weathered snow gums, the trail reaches 18.6km in length and takes six to eight hours to complete. Just make sure you come well equipped and bring all the water and snacks you need.
The name Mount Feathertop might connote that the trail is easy and breezy, but the 22km hike is no walk in the park. The trail, given the name The Razorback, is full of high slopes that reach right to the summit, and cuts across the mountain. Be sure to enjoy the scenery and surrounds, just make sure you give the trail the respect it deserves.
For the best views of Freycinet National Park, the Mount Amos hike in Tasmania is the one to aim for. Not for the faint of heart, with the Visitor’s Centre demonstrating just how steep the hike gets in an effort to deter the ill-equipped, the Mount Amos hike is short but severe. The best tip we can give is go prepared, don’t go in the rain and embrace the adventure.
Best suited for a pre-sunrise ascent, Mount Warning lets climbers be the first in the country to see the sun, and the 360° views are completely breathtaking. The 8.8km trail requires a reasonable amount of fitness, and the last 400m is a bit of rough scrambling with the help of a permanently installed chain. Make sure you take a head torch if you’re going before dawn, otherwise enjoy the sun as it streams through the surrounding forest. Note: This one is currently closed due to COVID-19, so put it on the ‘one day’ list.
Marking the western end of the Larapinta Trail, Mount Sonder is a great, challenging hike that gives you panoramic views of the NT surrounds, and offers a great space for birdwatching and the edges of Redbank Gorge. The roughly 18km trail pans through rocky terrain and is very exposed to sun, so make sure you wear sunscreen and take your water bottle.
One of the highest and most spectacular peaks in the South West of WA, Bluff Knoll features abundant wildflowers, birds, reptiles, rock formations and wildlife. Despite its height, Bluff Knoll is still accessible to those with a reasonable level of fitness, and the 6.8km trail takes about three to four hours to trek. Our tip—take a jacket no matter the weather.
Mount Duwul is the highest point in the Grampians, a mountain you can climb in its entirety, or you can drive close to the top and walk the rest of the way. Observe the changes in vegetation as you reach the summit, or climb before dawn and watch as the unique surrounding landscape absolutely comes to life in the morning sun. The trail is 4.3km, and on a clear day, the views are not to be missed.
Pigeon House Mountain
Although some of the park was damaged in the 2019/20 fires, the Pigeon House Mountain trail now boasts signs of recovery amongst the destruction. The trail moves through forest, heathland and sandstone, but the summit is reached by a series of ladders. The 5km return trail takes around 2.5-3.5 hours to complete, and the trek offers great side trails, swims and adventures in every season.
Not ready to go uphill? Check out Australia’s best hikes here.
Image credit: Tourism Australia, Jade Stephens, Manuel Meuriss, Stuart Mackenzie, Richard l’Anson, Whistly