If Kate isn’t home, you’ll probably find her hiking in Kosciuszko National Park, snapping up everything from punchy overnighters to multi-day missions. These are her five picks for the best hikes in the Snowy Mountains.
Call me biased, but Kosciuszko National Park (KNP) is one of the top national parks in Australia. Whilst most love it for its world-renowned ski resorts or the iconic summit, Mount Kosciuszko, it’s the unnamed peaks and hidden huts that truly won me over. Some of my favourite areas are so remote they can only be accessed by spending days wandering the overgrown cattle tracks, or barely visible footpads. With 690,000 hectares just waiting to be explored (it’s the biggest national park in NSW!), it’s easy to lose yourself in the mountains amongst the ghostly snow gums.
Why not choose to venture into the unknown instead of the mainstream this summer to discover the true Australian alpine wilderness?
Before heading into a national park on any adventure, it’s important to check for alerts or closures in the area, particularly coming into fire season. In KNP, backcountry huts are abundant with many only just surviving the recent 2020 fires. These huts are for emergency shelter only, however cooking and socialising (COVID Safe) inside is permitted. Be respectful of their historic importance, and leave them clean for the next hiker to enjoy.
Living in the Snowies has taught me how unpredictable the weather can be all year round. Even during summer, the nights in the mountains can be extremely cold. It’s not uncommon for strong chilling winds to blow in without warning, and even during the hottest months snow can fall. My local tip is to plan for the worst possible weather, then be pleasantly surprised if the gear wasn’t needed when you return.
1. The Main Range Loop
Highlights: Mount Kosciuszko, Glacial Lakes, 10 highest peaks
Duration: 2 days
Distance: 22km loop
One of the most well-known day hikes in KNP, slow the pace down to extend the hike and spend a night under the stars in the mountains.
Starting from Charlottes Pass car park, head in either direction on the Main Range Track and enjoy the glacial lakes across the roof of Australia. Nestled between Australia’s two highest peaks, Mount Kosciuszko and Mount Townsend, is a beautiful campsite called Wilkinson’s Creek.
With free-flowing water even in summer, plenty of soft flat ground and protection from the wind, it’s the perfect place to sleep. Wake up early and boost up to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko for a sunrise you’ll never forget.
If you’re up for an even bigger challenge, and confident hiking off-track, conquer one or all of the nearby 10 highest peaks in Australia.
2. Whites River Hut Loop
Highlights: Whites river hut, Horse Camp Hut, Disappointment Spur Hut
Duration: 2 days
Distance: 15km loop
This hike is for those who enjoy their creature comforts, with a hut at every stop along the way you’ll feel spoilt for luxury!
Starting at the Guthega Power Station, this loop can be walked via three different trails. Wander along aqueducts, meander beside the Munyang River, or take the high road up Disappointment Spur to look down upon the valley. A word of warning, a massive flood swept away the bridge crossing the river to the spur, so be prepared for wet feet or some skilful rock hopping.
The three unique huts visited along the way are the highlights for me; Horse Camp Hut with the brilliant red door, Whites River Hut settled beneath the Rolling Grounds and Disappointment Spur Hut, living up to its name depending on who you talk to.
For those after more of a challenge and some epic views, head off track for some trig hunting up Dicky Cooper Bogong or Mt Gungartan.
3. Geehi Dam Circuit
Highlights: Geehi Dam, Grey Mare Hut, Valentine Hut
Duration: 3 days
Distance: 48.5km loop
This is a loop that’ll get your heart pounding from the get-go!
Starting from Geehi Dam, jump in for a dip before you hit the steep ascent ahead. Whilst the track can be walked in either direction, the incline will be tough no matter which way you choose. Spend your first night at Grey Mare Hut, nestled into the hills looking over the Geehi River and Mount Jagungal nearby. Built for mining in the area, this hut is surrounded by relics and hardware left over from the 1930s.
A small stream behind the hut is fed from a flooded mine, a cool place to explore on a hot summers day. The second day is nice and short, skirting around the base of the towering Mount Jagungal, enjoy views of the Main Range in the distance as you head towards Valentine Hut. Hard to miss with its bright red paint job, and cliché love heart detailing, this hut is built for the romantics among us. With your spare time in the afternoon, find the overgrown footpad to the breathtaking Valentine Falls, or go for a swim in one of the many secluded rock pools.
4. Jagungal Wilderness Circuit
Highlight: Mount Jagungal, O’Keefes Hut, Derschkos Hut
Duration: 3 days
Distance: 50km loop
One of the lesser-known peaks in Kosciuszko National Park, the rocky peak of Mount Jagungal stands alone from the popular Main Range, but don’t let that deceive you. With 360-degree views extending for miles across the grassy plains, you’ll want to add this summit to your bucket list. Around the northern side of the park, this trail begins on Swampy Plains Road. You’ll soon come across the corrugated iron hut, Round Mountain Hut, perfect for a snack break and first view of Mount Jagungal in the distance. Continue along the undulating Farm Ridge Trail with the ever-looming mountain drawing closer and closer, until you reach your first night’s destination, O’Keefe’s Hut.
I could spend hours reading the old newspapers decorating the walls of the hut, but usually end up falling asleep before sunset. On day two, continue towards Dershkos Hut, looking out for a rock cairn near the Tumut River marking the small footpad up Mount Jagungal. Drop your overnight bag here to collect when you return, and pack a smaller stuff-pack with just the essentials for a quicker and easier side-trip.
A solid concrete trig point marks the true mountain peak, and makes for a great summit selfie to honour the occasion. Follow your footsteps down the same trail and continue onto Dershkos Hut for the final night. This comfortable hut with its cosy rooms and potbelly stove are a welcomed treat after a big day of hiking.
5. Pilot Wilderness Thru-Hike
Highlight: Bobs Ridge, Cascades Hut, Tin Mine Hut, Ingeegoodbee Hut
Duration: 3-4 days
Distance: 53km thru-hike
Choose your weapon of choice; boots or wheels? This thru-hike can be hiked or biked, but will require a little bit of pre-planning given its thru-hike nature. Organise a pick up at the end of the trail on the Barry Way, or a car shuffle, by dropping off one car then driving to the start in another.
Starting at Dead Horse Gap on the Alpine Way, meander up the Cascades, a tranquil and scenic spot. Wild brumbies often graze here, so be sure to give these feral horses a wide berth, as stallions have been known to become territorial.
A steady incline will take you to the top of Bobs Ridge, a little rock scramble that looks straight over Victoria and Mount Bogong in the distance. Each night is spent camped outside a rustic hut; Cascade Hut on the first night, Tin Mine Hut on the second, and Ingeegoodbee Hut on the third night. Be sure to pack the hiking poles, the final descent to the Barry Way drops 1000m in 5km and can be very hard on the knees.
When you hit the Pinch River Campground, jump in the lower Snowy River for a celebratory swim, and beer… remember to pack the esky in the car!
COMING SOON: Snowies Iconic Walk
Duration: 3-4 days
Distance: 44km loop
Currently being built, this hike is the newest kid on the block. Set to be completed in 2022, the Snowies Iconic Walk is named appropriately, as it links the iconic trails of the Alpine Area including the Thredbo Valley Track, The Main Range Track, Kosciuszko Walk, Illawong Walk and more. The loop will also take you past the chalets and chairlifts of Charlottes Pass, Guthega, Perisher, Thredbo and Crackenback.
Designed to cater for all types of hikers and budgets, sleeping options include glamping it up and staying at the mountain resorts or for the true wildebeests, enjoy your nights camping in the wild on one of the tent platforms provided.