Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP, Tasmania

This longish walk to the summit of Mt Rufus (1416m) takes in a variety of vegetation types and provides 360 degree views of the Tasmanian Central Highlands, mostly from a distance.

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP

Summiting Mt Rufus (1416m) provides extensive views of the surrounding area, including many other high peaks, although the summit itself is not much to write home about, and the distant mountains were difficult to capture with my camera phone. I probably enjoyed the walk as much for the variety of vegetation we passed through, which included myrtle beech, tall eucalypt woodlands, snow gums, alpine heath and grasslands.

The walk starts at the Lake St Clair Visitors Centre, the usual end of the multi-day Overland Track. The area is pretty remote, but we did it as a day trip from Hobart, involving a windy 2.5 hour drive each way. It’s a fairly long hike at 18.5km and 740m of change in elevation, but straightforward enough, and there are a few alternative tracks along the way. More on track notes at the end.

The Scenery

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
A humongous fungus. Not all that big perhaps, but I just wanted to write those two words together.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
An unnamed tarn I liked the look of. (Not even on my map).
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Snow gum bark.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Shadow Lake and Little Hugel (1275m) behind.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
The track returns down that hillside.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Probably a Billy Button. I saw only one.

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Leopard fungus. At least that’s what I’m calling it.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Myrtle beech forest.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
More snow gum bark.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
The pandani had particularly attractive colours and shapes in this area.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
More fungus action. This time bright orange mushrooms.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Many flowered bushes.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Walking up a long stretch of grassy alpine slopes to the rather nondescript summit of Mt Rufus (not visible here).

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Layered sandstone formations.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
A thoughtful person had drawn a smiley face in the sand 🙂
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Not yet at the summit, but I liked the view with the rock formations in the foreground.

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP

Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
I zoomed in to get this picture of Frenchman’s Cap (distant centre), a reasonably famous peak in Franklin Gordon Wild Rivers National Park. A bit hazy with just a digital zoom.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
On the summit. Taken by a friendly American couple who looked to be in their late 60’s or possibly older. I think it gave heart to Sophia that we might still be doing this in a few decades time. Sophia is squinting a bit; either that or smiling too much to keep her eyes open properly. And she pointed out that she had sunglasses marks around her eyes. A nice photo anyway.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
View from the summit.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Sophia with Lake St Clair behind; at 167m deep it’s Australia’s deepest freshwater lake.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Mount Olympus rear centre.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
A grassy bowl shaped depression.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
It’s interesting how trees manage to survive. This snow gum was completely dead except for one branch emerging out of one of the old trunks.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Here’s a close up. It’s almost like it’s glued on.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
More attractive pandani.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
I’m pretty sure these were snow gums, but not the gnarly low lying things I’m used to seeing, but rather giant trees, which Tasmania does well (there were bigger trees than these, but as snow gums these are huge). They splayed out more at the top than depicted here using my panorama function, which necessarily alters perspective to fit everything in.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
Interesting bark colours and shapes at their base.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
That wispy hangy stuff you see a lot of in NZ.
Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP
This bush is all over southern and central Tasmania.

Track Notes

We used Days Walks Tasmania for track notes, and they describe a few alternatives including the shorter Shadow Lake Circuit, and a side trip to Little Hugel (1275m), which I might try next time. For online options Trail Hiking Australia describes the walk, and Tas Trails covers the shorter Shadow Lake Circuit option.

The track is always obvious and there are signs along the way at track junctions. We walked anti-clockwise, which needs you to follow the signage to Shadow Lake rather than Mt Rufus; we returned via the more direct route to the summit.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

4 thoughts on “Mt Rufus Circuit, Cradle Mt-Lake St Clair NP, Tasmania”

    1. Ah, good to know the blog has been useful 😀. I personally thought that walk was most attractive for the variety of vegetation we passed through, although I’m always happy to enjoy views when I can. I’m currently back in Tasmania doing walks in the north, which has thankfully been mostly bushfire free. It’ll take me a while to post them on the blog though because I still have a backlog from a holiday in NZ over Christmas!

      1. I’ll keep an eye for your latest posts… I’m still working through my January walks in Tassie. Sounds like we almost crossed path – I headed over to NZ to do the Tongariro Circuit hike in late January, after my Tassie trip!

        1. Ah right. In fact our paths crossed digitally only a couple of days after I read your first comment. I happened to look up Meander Falls on Google Maps to see if it was worth going, and found your pictures on there! Funny coincidence. Based on those we did the circuit walk and in fact it was one of the best of the trip. So thanks for that 🙂 I’ll keep an eye on your blog. I have a Facebook page where I post photos from new walks as I do them, and new posts from the blog. And also an Instagram account. (All @hikingscenery). I’m well behind as I say, so over the next two months or so I hope catch up on about another 15+ posts.

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