The ascent up Mount Sprent is more of a rock climb than a hike, but with views across the south-west of Tassie and little chance of anyone else being there, it’s perfect for a quick solo overnight hike.
- 360° views of the south-west and Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Parks
- Solitude – as one of the smaller and lesser-known peaks in the area you’ll likely have it all to yourself
- One for the geology buffs with metamorphic rock formations galore
Have You Heard of Mount Sprent Before?
One look at a topographic map of Tasmania and you’ll see it’s a bumpy place. The small island state is covered in mountains, particularly in the remote south-west, where you’ll find big name players like Federation Peak, Mount Anne, Frenchmans Cap and the notorious Western Arthurs Range. These guys are the cool kids of this wilderness playground and on the bucket list of many a peak-bagging hiker.
But what about Mount Sprent? Oh, you haven’t heard of it? Well neither had I until recently, but after spending 24 hours together I may have developed a little bit of a crush…
How Mount Sprent Got its Name
James Sprent was a bloke who took his trigonometry pretty seriously (is there any other way?) and was the Surveyor General of Tasmania back in 1857. He’s credited with almost single-handedly surveying most of the mountains in the south-west of Tasmania and produced the first comprehensive trig map of the state, which was published in 1859.
He’s even said to be the first European to lay eyes on Federation Peak and for a time it was referred to as ‘Sprent’s Obelisk’, before a guy called Thomas Moore came along and changed the name to its current title. As a consolation prize, James ended up with Mount Sprent.
At 1058 metres tall it’s hardly Fed Peak, but this pretty little mountain, with views for days, is nothing to scoff at.
Scrambling Up Mount Sprent
The trail head’s situated at the Serpentine Dam near Strathgordon. Once you cross the dam wall you ascend a stone staircase to the track log book. From this point the track gets steep, like dictionary definition steep. Don’t let the fact it’s only a 3km walk to the top fool you, that first kilometre is more climbing than walking.
I initially had my hiking poles at the ready but stowed them away when I realised I’d be needing my hands to pull myself up. This is one of those sections of track where the flexibility to lift your knee high enough that you can rest your chin on it is an advantage!
There are a few sporadically placed weathered pine steps and hand holds, but you’ll be relying heavily on the banksia bushes lining the track to pull yourself up.
The next section of track becomes more open button grass. It’s still uphill (upmountain..?) but not as steep as the first section. The track surface alternates between white gravelly bedrock and thick sticky mud.
Admittedly, I did the track in July, but I got the impression that this was the kind of classic south-west Tassie mud that rarely dries out. The lowest I sunk was to the middle of my calf – not a bad effort!
360° Views of South West Tasmania
One of the highlights of this walk is the start to finish views. There’s no trudging through hours of dense bush to reach a summit for a glimpse of the world around you, Mount Sprent delivers from the moment you leave your car.
There’s Lake Pedder below you and in the distance, mountain ranges in every direction. Remember those cool kids I mentioned? You can see just about all of them. Give them a wave so they can see how much fun you’re having without them!
Towards the top of the track the rocky outcrops become bigger and more impressive. It’s as though a giant with a bag of rocks decided to sprinkle them over the top of the mountain like confetti and see where they randomly landed. Geology buff or not, they’re a magnificent sight.
Passing through a grassy plateau just below the summit I earmarked this as the spot I’d come back to make camp. From this point the landscape changes to that delightful shrubby alpine vegetation which looks like it belongs in the front yard of a garden-proud granny than the top of a mountain.
A short distance later you reach the summit trig. I was lucky enough to have a crystal clear, blue sky day without a breath of wind, and could see as far as my little eyeballs would let me. The Frankland Range is right below you and there are 360° views of lakes and peaks and untouched wilderness.
Mount Sprent might be on the shorter side of Tassie mountain peaks, but in that moment, I definitely felt like I was on top of the world!
A Night on Mount Sprent
I set up camp just below the summit and ate dinner as the last rays of sun sunk slowly below the peaks to the west. Tucking myself into my tent soon after, I rugged up ready for a chilly night with a temperature of -4°.
Being such a clear night, tiny icicles of frost had already begun to form on the ground and sparkled on the outside of my tent.
The next morning I woke to a pink glow peaking in below the fly of my tent. I pulled up the zipper to reveal a rosy sunrise and discovered I was sitting above a cloud inversion, a completely magical way to start the day!
Packing up my tent I began the descent into a thick layer of cloud, back towards the car. The views of the previous day were gone as I walked carefully down an icy track through heavy cloud, making for a completely different experience than the ascent, but just as pretty.
As I reached the car and drove away with Sprent growing smaller in my rearview mirror, I knew this would be a little mountain that I would be talking about for quite some time to come.
- Appropriate clothing (this is an area known for extreme and changeable weather, be prepared for sun one minute and blizzard the next)
- Camp stove (no campfire area)
How To Get There
The trailhead car park is located at Serpentine Dam, 170km north west of Hobart. From Hobart head north on the Brooker Highway towards Granton. At the roundabout before the Bridgewater Bridge take the first exit to continue on the Lyell Highway towards New Norfolk.
From New Norfolk follow the signage to Mount Field National Park, overshooting the entry to Mount Field and continuing for a further 100km on Gordon River Road to Strathgordon. About 10km past Strathgordon make the left onto a gravel road (signposted Serpentine Dam), and follow this to the end where you’ll find the car park.
- Hiking – can be done as a 6-7 hour return day walk or overnighter
- Rock scrambling!
- Peak identification – whip out a map at the top and see how many iconic peaks you can spot!
This is how the hike is rated by Parks and Wildlife as it’s in a ‘severe hazard area’ due to unprotected cliffs and extreme and changeable weather. The track itself is faint in some areas and requires traversing through mud and over some boulders.
Distance Covered / Elevation Gained / Time Taken
6km / 790m / 2 days