Best Summit Day-Hikes in South-East Australia

Australia may be the flattest continent on Earth, but it still has some great mountains. Here are my favourites from the south-eastern corner that you can climb in a day.

Panorama from The Castle, Morton National Park, NSW

There’s nothing more satisfying to me than climbing a mountain from the bottom in a day. It’s my favourite form of hiking, combining the best views with a sense of achievement. It seems I’m built for short but steep hikes. The steeper they are the more of an adrenaline fuelled high I get, and rugged mountainous landscapes add to this natural high. And by completing the walk in a day I can then return to the comforts of civilisation, such as indoor plumbing.

Barn Bluff ascent, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
Approaching the summit cliffs of Barn Bluff in Tasmania.

Perhaps it’s a little unfortunate then that I live on the world’s flattest continent, Australia. Nevertheless, when you have a whole continent at your disposal there are bound to be some good mountains to climb. I can’t claim to have climbed all but a small portion of them, however I’ve done quite a few of the best in the south-eastern corner.

Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops Circuit, Warrumbungles
Crater Bluff from Grand High Tops, en route to Bluff Mountain, Warrumbungle National Park, NSW.

My selection

I’ve only included walks to a peak or summit of sorts, and especially those with a decent change in elevation to get there. That way I think you can claim to have ‘climbed’ the mountain. Consequently Australia’s highest peaks do not appear on the list, because they are not easily climbed in a day from anywhere near the bottom. Nevertheless, I’ve thrown in a few bonus walks that don’t quite fit this pattern, because they still satisfied the beak-bagger in me.

Cradle Mountain Circuit, Tasmania
Crater Lake in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania

My choices for this article are easy enough to get to and have tracks, or at least an easy to navigate route. And they can all be climbed in a day. So let’s have a look at 20 of my favourite mountains to climb, starting with those in Tassie, then Victoria, and finally NSW. Click on the pictures below for more detail on each walk, or click here to jump straight to the walk descriptions. You can also jump to a map of the mountain locations.

The Mountains

Tasmania (10)

Mt Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania

Mt Anne: A big ascent, expansive views, rugged scenery, and few people. One of the best on this list.

Cradle Mountain Circuit, Tasmania

Cradle Mountain: One of Australia’s most photogenic mountains in a spectacular area. Expect a few people to join you on this ascent.

Barn Bluff ascent, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park

Barn Bluff: This distinctive rocky peak is near Cradle Mountain, so you can expect some of the same spectacular scenery, only without the crowds.

Walls of Jerusalem National Park to Solomons Throne

Solomons Throne: Great alpine scenery in Walls of Jerusalem National Park on way to a choice of rocky summits with biblical names.

Mt Roland & Mt Vandyke, Tasmania

Mt Roland: great 360 degree views from the top of this rugged and prominent mountain in northern Tasmania.

Collinsvale Peaks Track, Wellington Park

Collinsvale Peaks: A choice of three good peaks here within walking distance of each other. If you’re indecisive like me then just do them all 🙂

Mt Wellington Circuit, Wellington Park

Mt Wellington: Just on the edge of Hobart, you’d be hard pressed to find a more convenient mountain to climb in Australia.

Quamby Bluff Track, Great Western Tiers

Quamby Bluff: An attractive and varied climb through beech forest, boulder fields and alpine heath.

Hartz Peak & Mount Snowy Track

Hartz Peak & Mount Snowy: A shortish climb to two pointy peaks with views over southern Tasmania. Great alpine walking.

Mt Amos Track, Freycinet National Park

Mt Amos: A short but fun climb to the top of Mt Amos, where there are classic views of Wineglass Bay.

Victoria (4)

Mt Bogong ascent, Victoria

Mt Bogong: A very satisfying 1500m ascent to the top of Australia’s highest free-standing mountain.

Mt Feathertop via Bungalow Spur, Alpine NP

Mt Feathertop: Move from lush forest to alpine herb fields on another big ascent in Victoria, this time to that state’s second highest mountain.

Cathedral Ranges Southern Circuit, Victoria

Cathedral Range / Sugarloaf Peak: Climb and then walk along the distinctive ridge line of the Cathedral Range, north-west of Melbourne.

Mt Stapylton Track, Grampians NP

Mt Stapylton: A small mountain with dramatic scenery in Grampians National Park.

New South Wales (6)

The Castle Track, Morton NP

The Castle: An adventurous day walk culminating in some of the best views in NSW.

Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops Circuit, Warrumbungles

Bluff Mountain (via Grand High Tops): Fabulous views of impressive rocky spires as you climb Bluff Mountain via the Grand High Tops Circuit in Warrumbungles National Park.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW

Mount Exmouth: Walk through giant grass trees on your way to the high point of the Warrumbungles Range.

Mt Tate Circuit, Kosciuszko National Park

Mt Tate: Classic alpine scenery as you climb from Guthega to the summit of Mt Tate in Kosciuszko National Park.

Mount Sentinel via Blue Lake & Mt Twynam

Mount Sentinel: Although lower than the peaks surrounding it, Mount Sentinel offers some of the best views of Australia’s highest ground.

Mt Solitary Track, Blue Mountains NP

Mt Solitary: The closest thing to a mountain in the Sydney region, there are great views and a good workout on this classic walk in Blue Mountains National Park.

Details of the walks

You can click on the titles or pictures to view my original blog post for each walk. If you have any questions or comments then you can contact me via a form, or else leave a comment below. This includes passionately agreeing or disagreeing with my selections 🙂

Tasmania

Our most mountainous state, Tasmania offers some of the best hiking in the country, particularly if you like mountains. Many of the walks ascend first to alpine plateaus, then climb again to take in a rocky summit. None of the mountains are particularly high, but despite this the scenery is often quite dramatic. And for those willing to do multi-day walks there are many more classic peaks to climb. If you are interested in learning more then check out the official list of Tasmania’s mountain peaks with elevation above 1100m, called The Abels.

Mt Anne (1423m)

Mt Anne Track, Southwest NP
Big cliffs on Mt Anne (1423m), in Southwest National Park.
South-West National Park
The climb: from 330m asl to 1423m, with 1420m ascent & descent

This is probably the most spectacular Australian walk I’ve done to date. There are knock your hiking socks off views all the way along the track to the summit of Mt Anne (1423m) in Tasmania’s remote Southwest National Park. Huge lakes, rugged cliffs, mountain peaks, alpine plants, and more boulders than you can shake your walking poles at.

Mt Anne, Southwest NP
Lake Pedder and pandani viewed from Mt Anne, Southwest National Park, Tasmania

With a 1420m change in elevation it’s also a good work out. The final climb to the summit is through shear cliffs and not for those afraid of heights. Even if you don’t do this last bit though it’s well worth walking to their base across a large expanse of boulders. Really good walking.

Cradle Mountain (1545m)

Cradle Mountain Circuit, Tasmania
Possibly Australia’s most photographed mountain: Cradle Mountain (1545m). The famous view is of the ‘cradle’ part, to the left in this photo.
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
The climb: from 870m asl (Ronnie Creek) or 940m asl (Dove Lake) to 1545m

Climbing Cradle Mountain (1545m) is one of the best day walks in Australia, and making a circuit of it by returning along the Face Track and by the Twisted Lakes maximises your scenery. There are excellent views pretty much the whole way. These include views of the mountain from various angles, of numerous lakes, and extensive views from the rocky summit.

Cradle Mountain Circuit, Tasmania
A picture that proved to be popular on Instagram. Barn Bluff in the distance, viewed from the summit of Cradle Mountain.

The walk is justifiably popular, but not so much as to ruin the experience. Also, the crowds really thinned once we set off on the return portion of the walk along the Face Track. So get on out there!

Cradle Mountain Circuit, Tasmania
Cradle Mountain from Marions Lookout.

Barn Bluff (1559m)

Barn Bluff ascent, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
My wife Sophia walking towards Barn Bluff (1559m).
Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
The climb: from 870m asl (Ronnie Creek) or 940m asl (Dove Lake) to 1559m

The rocky summit of Barn Bluff (1559m) pops up out of an alpine plateau and cuts a striking figure. I first saw it from the summit of Cradle Mountain on a trip to Tasmania in 2008, and although it looks quite remote, it can in fact be climbed on a longish day walk: one of Tasmania’s best. 

Barn Bluff ascent, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
If you see this view you’ve gone the wrong way. Made for a nice photo though. We back tracked just a few metres to ascend up on the right.

Most of the route follows the first section of the world famous Overland Track, so you can be sure there’s quality scenery on offer. It’s a great option if you want a spectacular walk with less people than Cradle Mountain, which you pass along the way.

Solomons Throne (1470m)

Walls of Jerusalem National Park to Solomons Throne
Approaching Solomons Throne (1470m).
Walls of Jerusalem National Park
The climb: from 720m asl to 1470m

You can only experience the top class scenery of the Walls of Jerusalem by walking in, so it’s a lot quieter than nearby Cradle Mountain. Once you have ascended up through eucalypt forest the alpine scenery starts with numerous tarns, Richea Scoparia (past flowering stage when we visited, but still nice), pencil pines, cliffs, and the cutest, fluffiest wallabies you could ever hope to meet.

We chose to walk up the peak known as Solomons Throne (1470m), but if you have time you can also ascend The Temple (1446m) and Mount Jerusalem (1459m). Nearby King Davids Peak (1499m) provides some good photo opportunities. It’s all very biblical.

Mt Roland 1223m (& Mt Van Dyke 1084m)

Mt Roland & Mt Vandyke, Tasmania
My wife Sophia on the summit of Mt Roland. Mt Van Dyke in the mid ground.
Mt Roland Regional Reserve
The climb: from 310m asl to 1223m

This was another lesser known Tasmanian walk to exceed expectations. Mt Roland is an impressively rocky and quite prominent mountain range, and the circuit taking in Mt Vandyke is varied. It starts in lush forest and then rises onto an alpine plateau, passes boulder fields, and visits two rocky peaks which both require a bit of a scramble. The return track is very steep but this adds to the sense of adventure. There are excellent 360 degree views from the summit of Mt Roland, so plan to do this walk on a clear day.

Collinsvale Peaks (1264m, 1160m, 1098m)

Collinsvale Peaks Track, Wellington Park
View from the summit of Collins Cap (1098m).
Wellington Park
The climb: from 590m asl to 1264m, with 1200m ascent & descent for all 3 peaks

The area west of Hobart known as Wellington Park is an alpine plateau that contains a number of accessible peaks over 1000m of elevation. It’s possible to climb three of these peaks in one day – Collins Bonnet (1246m), Trestle Mountain (1160m), and Collins Cap (1098m). And you may have these peaks all to yourself.

Mt Wellington (1271m)

Mt Wellington Circuit, Wellington Park
Looking over Hobart and the Derwent Estuary from the summit of Mt Wellington (1271m).
Wellington Park
The climb: from 440m asl to 1271m

Climbing Mt Wellington (1271m) is a must-do for any hiker visiting Hobart. It’s just a 15 minute drive to the foot of the mountain, and is also accessible by public transport. The summit provides great views over the city and Derwent Estuary. You can drive to these views, but there’s a network of good walking tracks allowing for a few different circuits. So I recommend strapping your boots on and doing it the hard (but fun) way.

Quamby Bluff (1227m)

Quamby Bluff Track, Great Western Tiers
Looking south-east (ish) from where the track descends off the summit plateau of Quamby Bluff.
Great Western Tiers
The climb: from 730m asl to 1227m

The straightforward but steep climb up to Quamby Bluff (1228m) passes through myrtle beech forest and boulder fields, finishing in heath on the summit plateau, where there are extensive views of the surrounding area, including the Great Western Tiers. Not as epic as some of the other Tasmanian climbs in this list, but still a good walk.

Hartz Peak (1254m) and Mount Snowy (1160m)

Hartz Peak & Mount Snowy Track
Hartz Peak and Emily Tarn left, and the Devils Backbone distant centre, and just to the right Ladies Tarn and then Lake Esperance. Viewed from Mount Snowy.
Hartz Mountains National Park
The climb: from 850m asl to 1254m (approx 520m ascent & descent)

The weather put on a bit of a show for us when we climbed to Hartz Peak and Mount Snowy. Starting off in sleet, we ascended through a thin layer of snow into thick mist, which then cleared to reveal excellent views of the surrounding area. A classic Tasmanian alpine day walk. 

Not so much change in elevation to summit these mountains, but they both have pointy peaks and there are great views, so they made the cut.

Mt Amos (454m)

Mt Amos Track, Freycinet National Park
Wineglass bay from Mt Amos (454m).
Freycinet National Park
The climb: from 40m asl to 454m

Wineglass Bay in Tasmania is one of Australia’s most photographed beaches, and the best views are from the summit of Mt Amos (454m). We did this walk on our first trip to Tasmania in 2008, so I don’t remember it very well. Nevertheless, after reviewing my old photos I realise it’s an excellent walk. Not a tall mountain by any means, but there are large rocky sections, great views, and it’s steep enough to feel a bit adventurous. 

If you want more information on walking in Tasmania’s wild places then check out the Tasmanian Parks and Wildlife Service website.

Victoria

The Victorian Alps contain some of Australia’s highest ground, and climbing the two highest peaks involves the two biggest ascents in this list. There are other mountainous regions outside of the Victorian High Country, and I’ve included two other great peaks to climb from elsewhere in the state.

Mt Bogong (1986m)

Mt Bogong ascent, Victoria
Looking down Eskdale Spur from the summit plateau of Mt Bogong (1986m).
Alpine National Park
The climb: from 600m asl to 1986m

Mt Bogong is Victoria’s highest mountain at 1986m of elevation, and is apparently Australia’s highest freestanding mountain. There’s no road to the top, so if you want to summit the mountain and see the excellent views you have to climb it from the bottom, a satisfying 1500m ascent along a well marked track. Definitely one of the best Australian walks I’ve done, for the combination of views, variety of vegetation, and peak bagging gratification.

Mt Bogong ascent, Victoria
Looking out over many layers of hills from just above the treeline, on our way up Mt Bogong (1986m).

The initial section of the walk from Mountain Creek camping area passes through attractive tall forest. Once above the treeline there are extensive views over distant hills, and the alpine and sub-alpine scenery of the mountain itself is also very nice. This includes some fire damaged areas on Eskdale Spur that have their own interesting aesthetic. I found climbing Staircase Spur and descending via Eskdale Spur to be a very worthwhile circuit.

Mt Feathertop (1920m)

Mt Feathertop via Bungalow Spur, Alpine NP
The Razorback Ridge viewed on our way up Mt Feathertop (1920m).
Alpine National Park
The climb: from 570m asl to 1920m

I find climbing steeply up 1000+ vertical metres to the top of a pointy mountain very satisfying. So when I read that climbing Victoria’s second highest mountain involved a 1440m vertical climb over 11km I thought it justified our first bushwalking trip to Victoria.

You steadily climb up through lush forest at first, into mountain ash woodland, then snow gums, and finish in alpine meadows. The views extend over the Victorian high country, and inspired me to visit Mt Buffalo* on that same trip.

(*The peaks on Mt Buffalo are definitely worth a visit, and that mountain’s big walk, (the so called “Big Walk“), is a very satisfying 1000m climb. However, the peaks are just short walks from the large alpine plateau on top, and the Big Walk does not visit a peak. So these excellent walks don’t get into this list).

Mt Feathertop via Bungalow Spur, Alpine NP
So many wildflowers on the way up Mt Feathertop: this is one of two collages I put together.

Cathedral Range / Sugarloaf Peak (920m)

Cathedral Ranges Southern Circuit, Victoria
Looking down the spine of the Cathedral Range.
Cathedral Range State Park
The climb: from 380m asl to 920m

The Cathedral Range is a small but prominent mountain range in Victoria, about two hours north-east of Melbourne. It comprises a seven kilometre ridge of upturned rock, and climbing onto and then along this ridge makes for a fun day walk. A circuit at the southern end takes in the highest peak in the range – Sugarloaf Peak at 920m of elevation. And climbing this can be made more adventurous by taking the Wells Cave Track option. There are extensive views from the top, and for much of the way as you walk north along the range, descending back down to the start at about half way.

Mt Stapylton (469m)

Mt Stapylton Track, Grampians NP
Sophia resting near the summit of Mt Stapylton. It was a hot day and not much shade.
Grampians National Park
The climb: from 260m asl to 469m

Mount Stapylton (469m) was a great introduction to the rugged Grampians National Park in Central West Victoria. It felt more remote than it was, and looked quite arid, with plenty of weathered rock and impressive cliffs. The surrounding Wimmera Plains are flat as a pancake farmland that stretch as far as the eye can see. So although this is a small mountain, it nevertheless makes for a great peak to climb.

Mt Stapylton Track, Grampians NP
A natural rock ampitheatre is a feature of the walk up Mt Stapylton in the northern Grampions.

And you can easily fit in an even smaller bonus peak on the same day: Mt Zero, where there are good views back to Mt Stapylton.

For more information on walking in Victoria have a look at the Parks Victoria website.

New South Wales

Although NSW has some great hiking and wonderful scenery, we are a bit short of pointy mountains to climb in my home state. The Warrumbungles are one exception, and I’ve included two peaks from that mountain range. The Castle is a big hunk of rock just inland of the NSW South Coast near Ulladulla, and climbing this was one of my hiking highlights to date. You don’t climb my three other selections from anywhere near the bottom, but they are still great peaks to visit.

The Castle (847m)

The Castle Track, Morton NP
A zoomed in shot of Byangee Walls from the Castle. (The walk up here is also good.)
Morton National Park
The climb: from 100m asl to 847m
The Castle Track, Morton NP
Mt Nibelung (and to the left Mt Owen) from near the top of the Castle.

The Castle (847m), one of NSW’s most challenging and spectacular day walks, is situated in Morton National Park on the South Coast of NSW near Ulladulla. The views are possibly the best I’ve seen in NSW, and with just enough exposure near the top to get the adrenaline flowing, it makes a memorable walk for any fit bushwalker.

The Castle Track, Morton NP
My wife Sophia climbing The Castle; the tail of the “Tadpole” in the background.

You don’t walk all that far (11 or 12 kms) but the terrain slows you down in some sections, and there’s a decent change in elevation of about 800m. Starting in rainforest, you’ll soon ascend into dryer forest, then skirt the western edge of the Castle’s lower walls with views of Mt Nibelung and Mt Owen. It’s then up through cliffs with progressively more expansive views of the Budawangs, until you reach the summit plateau. Make sure you walk to the southern end for the best views of Byangee Walls.

Bluff Mountain (1200m) via Grand High Tops

Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops Circuit, Warrumbungles
Bluff Mountain (1200m). You climb it from behind!
Warrumbungle National Park
The climb: from 500m asl to 1200m

The Grand High Tops Circuit with an added side trip to Bluff Mountain (1200m) is arguably the best walk in the Warrumbungles, especially for views. From Grand High Tops there are classic views of the pleasingly named rock formation, The Breadknife, which is a tall, thin and sheer slice of rock that you pass on the way up. There are also great views of nearby Crater Bluff, and of Belougery Spire, both prominent and striking hunks of rock.

Bluff Mountain & Grand High Tops Circuit, Warrumbungles
A panorama from Grand High Tops. The Breadknife centre left, and Belougery Spire to the right.

Climbing Bluff Mountain gets you away from the crowds somewhat, and feels more remote then the rest of the walk, so it’s well worth bagging this peak.

Mount Exmouth (1206m)

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
Possibly my favourite shot from the summit of Mt Exmouth (1206m), combining the views with many grass trees in flower, the signature characteristics of this walk.
Warrumbungle National Park
The climb: from 440m asl to 1206m

Mt Exmouth (1206m) is the highest point in Warrumbungle National Park, and I’ll admit to a spot of peak bagging in doing this walk. Nevertheless, I’d read that the views from the summit were excellent, and they were, although a bit hazy on an overcast day. Unexpectedly though another feature of this walk stole the show, and that was the preponderance of fabulous grass trees on the final ascent to the summit. I’ve never seen so many in my life, and they were fine specimens indeed. So I’d recommend this walk even just for these, but the views will be an added bonus.

Mt Exmouth via Burbie Canyon, Warrumbungles NSW
One of my favouraite grass tree shots with my wife Sophia demonstrating scale, and hence the advanced age of these wonderful plants.

Mt Tate (2068m)

Mt Tate Circuit, Kosciuszko National Park
The view from the summit of Mt Tate over the Main Range.
Kosciuszko National Park
The climb: from 1570m asl to 2068m

I didn’t really know what to expect on this circuit walk up Mt Tate (2068m) in Kosciuszko National Park, but it turned out to be one of the better walks I’ve done on mainland Australia. The views from the summit of Mt Tate are particularly good, and include looking over the rocky plateau of the Main Range towards some of Australia’s other highest peaks.

There isn’t a big ascent to summit the mountain, but the route through colourful and varied alpine scenery is off track and feels remote, so this is a quality walking experience away from the crowds.

Mount Sentinel (1917m)

Mount Sentinel via Blue Lake & Mt Twynam
Looking up at Mount Sentinel. Sophia to the right for a bit of scale.
Koscuiuszko National Park
The climb: roughly 700m – 800m of ascent and descent from Charlotte Pass (1830m)

The landscapes of Kosciuszko National Park are uniquely attractive, if not always particularly dramatic. But that impression changed rather after climbing the isolated peak of Mount Sentinel (1917m), which provides excellent views of the so called Western Fall of the Main Range. Mostly out of reach for the casual day hiker, I hadn’t seen these rugged and sometimes near vertical drop offs before. But the Sentinel happens to stick out in the middle of it all, and hence provides some of the best views on all of the mainland.

And while you’re there you may as well walk on over to Mt Twynam (2196m), Australia’s third highest mountain. There’s not much of a climb to get there, but you get to bag an extra peak so why not!

Mount Sentinel via Blue Lake & Mt Twynam
Mount Sentinel to the right. Not a high peak but fairly isolated and surrounded by dramatic mountain scenery.

Mt Solitary (950m)

Mt Solitary Track, Blue Mountains NP
Sophia and friends on the Ruined Castle, with Mt Solitary in the background.
Blue Mountains National Park
The climb: a down then up walk – roughly 700m of ascent & descent

When Sophia and I first started regular bushwalking we did the first half of this walk as far as the Ruined Castle. This is already a classic Sydney bushwalk. But continuing on to the summit plateau of the stately looking Mt Solitary provides more great views, and the added satisfaction of a big day’s walking in fairly isolated country.

There’s actually no net change in elevation on this walk, but you drop off the cliffs on Narrow Neck Plateau (well, walk carefully down them), and then ascend a few hundred metres to the summit plateau of Mt Solitary. As the name suggests, Mt Solitary stands alone, so it does feel like you’ve climbed a mountain. And this is about the only mountain-like walk in the whole of the Sydney area, so it made my list.

If you want more information on bushwalking in NSW then go to the National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) website.

And for hiking information Australia-wide have a look at Trail Hiking Australia. But not before you check out the rest of my blog! 🙂

The Mountain Locations

Barn Bluff ascent, Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park
The western face of Cradle Mountain in mist. This shot proved to be popular on Instagram.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

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