Looking for a taste of the Tassie winter without the long drive into the Central Highlands? turbunna / Ben Lomond’s northern plateau is host to Tasmania’s largest ski field, a mere hour’s drive from the city of Launceston.
We acknowledge that this adventure is located on Palawa Nation, the traditional Country of the Palawa people who have occupied and cared for this land for thousands of years. We pay our respects to them as the Traditional Custodians and recognise that sovereignty was never ceded.
- Reach Tasmania’s second highest summit!
- Accessible trails even in snow
- Only an hour from Launceston
Ben Lomond National Park
While infamously fickle for great ski conditions, the national park is the ideal playground for a host of winter activities, including trail running. There are several walking tracks and a number of peaks to explore, including Legges Tor, the highest point of the range and Tasmania’s second tallest mountain, at 1572m.
It’s possible to drive right to the ski village at the top of the plateau, but access in winter is strictly limited to vehicles with snow chains. Even then, few people enjoy driving the perilously steep and icy switchbacks up the notorious Jacobs Ladder.
Thankfully, the Summit Pass track provides an accessible and very pleasant walking route up onto the expansive Ben Lomond plateau.
Read more: How To Stay Warm On Winter Adventures
The Summit Pass Track
Locate the Carr Villa ski hut, about 1km from lower Ben Lomond Car Park, off the signposted access road. The trailhead can be found to the rear of the hut, again clearly signposted.
Here, the imposing northern bluff of Ben Lomond comes into view. Either side, Misery Bluff and Old Bill’s Monument are separated by the appropriately named Big Opening, where the track snakes its way up between the towering walls of dolerite.
Most of the climbing is achieved within the first kilometre. From the trailhead the rocky track wastes little time gaining elevation, but progress is steady and manageable by anyone with a bit of fitness. Do take care in winter for ice though; the track follows a natural watercourse and, once frozen, offers plenty of slip-slide action for misplaced feet!
The route continues in a straight line south-easterly, as a lower plateau is crested onto the Borrowdale Marsh. Past the curiously named ‘Land of Little Sticks’ another short pinch is climbed before reaching the main plateau. On a clear, snow-capped day the open expanse truly lives up to its name: Plains of Heaven.
Legges Tor Summit
Timber snow poles guide the way up to the base of Legges Tor’s summit. Here, a pair of old ski huts stand guard, now in a sad state of decay after decades of harsh winters.
Continue up the shallow gully that lies between, then a sharp turn east up a somewhat steeper gully towards the ski lift. From here it is simply a matter of negotiating the boulders up to the substantial rock cairn less than 50m away.
Congratulations – you’re now standing at 1572m above sea level, the second highest peak in Tasmania!
Despite its towering elevation, the lack of prominence over the surrounding plateau means the views are more expansive than dramatic. Nonetheless, there are commanding views of Ragged Jack and Mensa Moor to the west, Mt Barrow and Ben Nevis further to the north, Stonejeks Lookout to the east and Stacks Bluff across the main Ben Lomond plateau to the south.
From here there are many options for further exploration. Giblin Peak -–Tasmania’s third highest peak at 1569m – lies only a few hundred metres to the south west and is well worth a visit. Further afield, an informal cross country ski route circles the area south known as Little Hell and Ossians Throne. Experienced adventurers may even consider an off-piste trek to Coalmine Crag and Mensa Moor, or south down to Lake Youd.
Otherwise, the Ben Lomond Ski Village lies only 500m to the east, where a small café and ski hire facilities are available while the ski fields are in operation. A loop track back to the northern base of the summit allows for easy retracing to the Summit Track and back down to Carr Villa.
But if you’re seeking one more thrill – and a few more kays on the legs – why not instead bomb down the main road and take in the views from Jacobs Ladder!
- Good quality trail running shoes that perform in snow, preferably waterproof or wear with neoprene socks if you’re prone to cold feet. Microspikes/anti-skid devices or – in heavy snow – snow shoes are definitely worth considering.
- Trail vest or backpack with extra warm and waterproof layers, gloves and first aid kit. Include a space blanket in winter, and snake bandage in the warmer months.
- Sunscreen and sunglasses. Don’t underestimate dehydration and UV exposure in the snow! The small café in the ski village operates only during peak winter skiing times and shouldn’t be relied on.
- Mobile phone reception (Telstra) is available atop the north of the Ben Lomond plateau, but a PLB or Satellite Communicator is always highly recommended when bushwalking or trail running anywhere in Tasmania’s alpine areas.
- A close eye on the weather. Exposed alpine regions must be treated with respect at all times, particularly in winter. Check forecasts carefully and don’t hesitate to retreat if the weather turns bad.
How To Get There
Head of out Launceston via St Leonards Road/C401 past White Hills. Ben Lomond Road/C432 turns off Upper Blessington Road/C401. The Carr Villa ski hut is about 12km up the road, however in winter it’s best to set out on foot from the lower car park as access beyond is restricted to vehicles with snow chains only.
The track itself is reasonably well defined with snow poles across the plateau, but can get muddy in sections. There are a handful of short, steeper sections. Of course, greater care must be taken in snow and winter conditions.
Distance Covered/Elevation Gain/Duration:
The distance is 9km approx. Add in an extra 1km for the side trip over to Giblin Peak.
There’s approximately a 340m elevation.
It’ll take you around two to four hours, depending on your running speed, weather/snow conditions and how much time you spend taking in those amazing views!