Barn Bluff from Cradle Cirque. Photo by Goldie_Oz
Barn Bluff is perhaps the most prominent peak in the northern section of Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park. The summit involves a day long approach, a Class 3 scramble with some exposure and, perhaps as a result of this, is considerably less frequented than the iconic Cradle Mountain.
On first appearance it looks remarkably like a classic volcanic plug. This is not the case. The mountain was formed by glacial action and erosion and is characterised, for the most part, by the dolerite slabs and boulders typical of the alpine regions of the state. Many of the summits in Tasmania are rather obscure tors perched only slightly higher than the alpine plateau on which they sit. Barn Bluff, like Cradle Mountain, presents a classic summit. The mountain’s nearest neighbours are quite distant and, therefore, the 360 degree panorama from the summit is uninterrupted and spectacular.
Barn Bluff north face
Most people approach Barn Bluff from the Ronny Creek car park in the north on the Overland Track. Public transport to the national park is readily available; follow the same directions as for Cradle Mountain
or Mount Ossa.
The route is heavily used, well marked and would be hard to lose only in the event of really bad weather – something not unusual in Tasmania. If you want to avoid the crowds, leave the Overland Track 500m after the start by taking a right turn onto the Horse Track.
Cradle Mtn & Barn Bluff on the approach
Barn Bluff from the Overland Track junction
This route is as well marked as the Overland and climbs steadily into the alpine above and to the west of Crater Lake. From the high point near Crater Mountain crossing the exposed Crater Plateau takes about half an hour before reaching the junction with the Overland Track just before the emergency/day shelter “Kitchen Hut”. There will be crowds of hikers here since this is the jumping off spot for folks doing Cradle Mountain as a day hike from cars. Carry on south past Cradle Mountain to get your first distinct views of Barn Bluff within 15 minutes or so.
An hour further on and you come to a well marked track junction. Right to Barn Bluff summit, or straight on for the Overland Track. If you’re doing this as a day trip, the summit is three hours return from this point. If you’re planning on camping, Waterfall Camp is 30 minutes further on down the Overland and around the spectacular Bluff cirque. With a full pack, the walk from Ronny Creek to Waterfall, by either route, takes 4-5 hours, with another couple thrown in if you want to add Cradle summit en route.
Barn Bluff from the south. Photo by Nelson
From details in the approach to the summit block and the last bit to the top refer to the North Face Route page
If you’re doing Barn Bluff as a side trip off the Overland Track, you will have paid your trail use and hut/camping fees in advance. If not, there is a $10/day fee to use the National Park trails as well as $20/day to park your car. The authorities simply trust that if you say you’re not doing the Overland, you’re not. As a non-through hiker, though, you may not use the huts and must carry overnight camping gear with you. If you’re spending more time in Tassie note that Parks offer an 8 week pass to park at and use all parks in Tasmania for $50. This pays for itself in less than 2 days. If you’ve already bought a day use pass, there’s a 48 hour upgrade window to the full 8 week package for simply the difference in price. If you smile nicely and plead ignorance (I speak from experience) the nice rangers will even use their discretion favourably with regard to the 48 hour grace period.
Early morning view of the SE side of Barn Bluff from camp in Waterfall Valley
Doing Barn Bluff as an overnighter means that you will camp at Waterfall Valley. Nowhere else is permitted. There are two public huts, but these are reserved for Overlanders. In addition there are some wooden tent platforms in the forest by the waterfalls slightly above the valley floor but, again, these are often reserved for guided parties. Most likely, therefore, you’ll be pitching your tent by the stream but in full view of the southeast aspect of tomorrow’s objective. Beware! There are leeches in the stream.
Fires are not permitted, so don’t forget a stove. There’s a composting toilet and a rainwater tank for all to use. Bennett’s wallabies, wombats and possums are around in abundance, particularly in the evening. The possums will enter your tent at night in search of food so you’re encouraged to stash it in one of the huts
Visit Cradle Mountain/Lake St Clair National Park
for up to date info on park/track conditions etc.
Refer to TasMaps
if you feel the need to carry a detailed map.
Barn Bluff summit view south to Lake Will.
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