Hiking Tasmania – Walking up The Needles in SW National Park, Tasmania

Quite simply, this bushwalk up the Needles is not only one of the best Hobart day walks, but one the best hikes in Tasmania full-stop! If you love hiking Tasmania then you’ve got to put the Needles on your bushwalking ‘to do’ list – just don’t tell anyone, ok? 😀


Getting to The Needles hike in Tasmania

Looking back as we climbed the last peak

Looking back through the buttongrass as we climbed the last peak

Three days in the rugged south west of Tasmania? Yes please!!

It was a very belated birthday present for Karen, but we really wanted to turn it into a three day weekend. So over the Queen’s birthday weekend we made our way up to Strathgordon for a few days full of wood fires, sightseeing (through the fog!) and bushwalking.

As we had some very average weather during our time away, we weren’t able to squeeze in as many long walks as we would have liked. Thankfully on our last day the sun broke through the clouds, so on our return to Hobart we thought we’d give the hike up the Needles a crack.

We made our way there from Strathgordon, but it would be just as easy to drive up from Hobart and finish this off in a day quite easily.

To get there, just follow the Glenora Road up the western bank of the Derwent River, or the Lyell Highway up the eastern bank, through Bushy Park and turning left at the gorgeous little town of Westerway towards Mt Field and Maydena. It will probably take around 1hr 15mins to cover the 80kms to Maydena from Hobart.

The Needles car park

The Needles car park

The start of the hike is located near the car park at the top of the mountain range, about 15 minutes drive to the west of Maydena. There’s a big sign there telling you that at 651m it’s the “Highest point on road”.


Hiking Tasmania – How to walk up the Needles

1. Making sure you lock up your vehicle, walk down the hill towards the sign looking for a small rock cairn on the left hand side of the road.

2. Leave the road at the cairn, following the fire trail that lies just behind the trees.

Turn left at Albuquerque!

Turn left at Albuquerque!

3. Keep an eye on the right-hand side of the fire trail, because the turn-off isn’t all that obvious. Pink ribbons are the give away that you’re at the right spot. It should only take a few minutes to walk to this point after leaving the road.

Make a right hand U-turn at the pink ribbons

Make a right hand U-turn at the pink ribbons

4. Only a few metres into the scrub and you’ll pass the walker registration box. To be honest we didn’t use it. It’s only a relatively short walk and the weather conditions were perfect.

Some of the graffiti scrawled on the box made for interesting reading…

  • Machine porn – “I love chainsaws
  • Political commentary – “Good riddance Paul Lennon
  • Public health message – “Scabies
  • Religious commentary – “Shitchrist

All quite charming, putting a smile on our faces as we commenced the bushwalk proper!

5. It had been raining for the last few days so the path at this stage was very wet and muddy in parts (ankle/shin deep at its worst). You definitely want to be wearing waterproof boots 😀

The trail initially passes through some fairly thick bush, but the higher you go the more open it becomes. While the trail is quite steep, it is well-formed and offers plenty of small, natural steps to help you ascend.

After about 20-30mins the trail levels out as you get up close and personal with one of the massive boulders that give this ridge line the name “The Needles”.

Looking northwest towards Lake Gordon (and Clown #2)

Looking northwest towards Lake Gordon (and Clown #2)

6. For the next 20 minutes or so the trail slowly rises, leading you up through more of the jagged rocks on either side, towards the large peak in the distance. Along this section there is very little vegetation above knee height, and the path remained wet in places. Looking back we were greeted by an awesome view of the massive rocks, with Tim Shea in the background and Mt Field West on the horizon. Absolutely stunning!

Looking back (mono...and my personal favourite!)

Looking back (mono…and my personal favourite!)

Looking back (in colour...the people's choice!)

Looking back (in colour…the people’s choice!)

7. The last section of the hike is a short (5-10mins) but steep scramble up the tallest peak of them all. Standing at around 980m high, The Needles is very impressive!

From the summit you get incredible 360 degree views from lakes Pedder and Gordon in the west, to Tim Shea and Mt Field West to the north east, Mt Mueller and Mt Anne to the south, and Mt Wedge to the south west.

South to Mt Mueller

South to Mt Mueller

West towards Lake Pedder

West towards Lake Pedder

Looking back towards the car park where we started from

Looking back towards the car park

An interesting thought occurred to us while surveying the terrain to the west. The previous day we had completed a short hike into the Florentine rainforest along the Timbs Track in some extremely damp and misty conditions (click here for our hiking notes for the Timbs Track), with the walk terminating at a lookout along an exposed ridgeline.

At the time we were struggling to get our bearings in the swirling mist, but every once in a while this massive jagged peak would emerge from the darkness, but we couldn’t work out which one it was. We thought it was Wyld’s Craig, but after climbing The Needles we realised that we were actually standing at the top of that very peak we’d been looking up at the previous day!

We’ve placed an arrow showing the location of the lookout on the photo below to give this some perspective.

Our location the previous day!

Our location the previous day!

After taking a copious amount of photos and spending some relaxing time just soaking in the views with a cup of hot miso soup in hand, we reluctantly made our way back down the ridge.

Our final thoughts on this walk up The Needles?

This was an awesome little walk, taking only about 2-2.5hrs all up. As mentioned above, it is quite steep so keep this in mind if you’re limited physically in any way. To be honest you could quite easily stop half-way up as well, making this a 1hr return hike, but the views obviously aren’t anywhere near as good as if you do the full hike.

Considering how close this is to Hobart, you could easily drive up here in the morning, complete the walk (having lunch at the peak), and then return to the car in plenty of time to be back in Hobart by dinner time.

One thing to be aware of is the propensity for the Tasmanian weather to change at any time, extremely rapidly! The Needles is a series of high and very exposed peaks that can suffer the full brunt of the southerly weather systems that scour this part of the State. So make sure you check the weather forecast, take sufficient layers of warm clothing, and perhaps a snack or hot drink to keep the energy levels up!

Reward-to-effort ratio = 10/10
Leech count = 0
Snake count = 0

Quite simply, this is not only one of the best Hobart day walks, but one the best hikes in Tasmania full-stop! If you love hiking Tasmania then you’ve got to put the Needles on your bushwalking ‘to do’ list 😀


Are you looking for other Tasmanian walks like the Needles? Check out these three sensational options:

  • Mt Wellington Walk – This loop walk takes you past the soaring ‘Organ Pipes’, up the Zig-Zag track for some of the best views of Hobart, onto the iconic summit and then back down again. It’s another awesome Tasmanian short walk.
  • Cape Hauy – Stand on top some of the tallest sea cliffs in the world and admire the sweeping coastal views from Cape Hauy. Anyone visiting and hiking Tasmania has got to experience this amazing walk.
  • Mt Maria – If you’ve got a few days up your sleeve and want to escape the rat-race – take the ferry to Maria Island and spend a day saying g’day to wombats and walking up Mt Maria. The views from the top are incredible! <– If that wasn’t enough, there’s also a great hike to ‘Bishop and Clerk‘ on Maria Island!

Happy hiking folks!

Andrew and Karen.

20 Comments

  1. We’ve added a rock marker for the trailhead as an arrow pointing to the entrance and cleared some of the scrubby branches as well as we missed it on the way up. It’s a lot more visible now.

    1. Nice work!! I haven’t been up that way in ages. I really should go back and do that walk again.

      Did you do the climb while there?

      1. Tried to.. we missed the turn and went further up the trail and found more rock cairns so we figured we were on the right track… turns out that that track goes up into the boggy area and then just kind of peters out in the scrub. We got about 3/4 of the way up through thigh height scrub before the rest of the group gave up and turned back. Bunch of sooks 🙂 I was having a great time.

        The view was awesome even from that height and there is a bit of snow left on the nearby peaks.

        We went back and accidentally found the right track about 400m up from the box while pushing back through the bushes. The right track was wet, muddy, wet, slippery, and wet. The bush was tough but at least it was dry.

        A note for future readers.. there are signs on the road up stating that the Needles are ~1000m meters ahead. Ignore these as they seem to be randomly placed on the roadside and do not reflect the actual distance to the parking area.

        1. Ha! Sounds like good fun 😀

          It’s a bit weird that there are so many false leads and distractions with this bushwalk. I reckon it’s one of the best in Tasmania and yet so little has been invested in opening it up to the public.

    1. This brochure produced by Parks should help: http://www.parks.tas.gov.au/file.aspx?id=6977 As far as I know there’s only the one motel-style accommodation available and that’s at Lake Pedder Chalet. There is also a camp ground a few kilometres south of Strathgordon. We didn’t stay there though so I couldn’t tell you if it’s any good.

      It’s a pretty remote area, so make sure you stock up on any food you’ll need while in the National Park, as it’s an hour or so to drive back to Maydena where the nearest corner store is located (there’s nothing at Strathgordon as it’s an ex-Hydro village).

      Cheers!

    1. With all your back country experience I can’t believe you haven’t been up there yet!

      After getting back to Hobart it actually got me thinking about Mt Mueller. Have you climbed that one at all?

  2. I always wondered where the track start was!!!! but with your photos made it very clear the last thing I want to do is walk up and down the highway looking for a track lol

    1. No problems Max, glad I could help! We were a little confused ourselves and had been given conflicting info re: the start, so I thought it would be worthwhile making it crystal clear for anyone else interested in the walk.

      (sorry about the delayed response, I’m overseas at the moment with very little internet access!)

  3. Thank you Andrew. I’m based in Perth with my fiancé but we’re getting married later this year and relocating. Tasmania is on our list of places to possibly live, but definitely visit.

    1. You won’t regret it! Such good value. Are you based in Hobart? I dropped by your blog and noticed that it said Perth… cool blog by the way. I like your writing style and will be ‘following’ with interest!

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