Frenchmans Cap is the most prominent peak in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The 350 meter SE Face is the sheerest vertical drop in all of Australia and attracts hearty rock climbers every year. For those looking for a less technical route to the top, there is a 27k one way track which leads to a cirque below the summit and a well cairned route leading the rest of the way to the top. There are two unattended huts along the track. The Lake Vera Hut is located approximately 16k from the start of the hike and the Lake Tahune Hut is located 9k past that under the impressive quartzite cliff of Frenchmans Cap. Most parties take between three and five days to complete the track depending on weather and hiker fitness.
The most challenging part of the track may well be the mud encountered during the 9k walk through the Loddon Plains. Affectionately known as the "Soddon Loddons", during heavy rain it is not uncommon for the mud to be thigh to waist deep, although there are only a few sections where mud this deep will be encountered. For the most part the mud is between calf and knee deep. Although it is possible to avoid all the mud by walking around it, it is a much better idea to just walk through it. You will save hours of walking time by not going around, avoid creating more muddy areas and you’ll get to pretend you're 6 years old again and play in the mud.
A few minutes after you start your trip you reach a registration booth where it is a good idea to register your trip. Once you do this you cross over the Franklin River via a nice suspension bridge continue for flat ground for another 15 minutes where you come across a Phytophthora root rot washing station. Phytophthora cinnamomi is a fungus that kills many of Tasmania’s native plants. Mud and soil which is carried on vehicles, boots, gaiters and toilet trowels helps to spread the disease. Luckily the Frenchmans Cap Track is currently free of Phytophthora and it is a good idea to wash your boots and keep it that way. After the station you ascend a few hundred meters up and over a rise before descending into the Loddon Plains. Once you complete your trudge through the plains you ascend another few hundred meters through some stunning Tassie rainforest before walking the final couple of kilometers over relatively flat ground to the Lake Vera Hut. It is recommended that you give yourself at least 6 hours to complete this 16 kilometer walk.
From the Lake Vera hut you will walk around Lake Vera before ascending steeply through more stunning rainforest until you reach Barron Pass. Here you get your first really good views of Frenchmans Cap, the Artichoke Valley and the surrounding area. If you are lucky enough to hike this on a clear day you will be astonished by the natural beauty of the area. It is stunning! From the pass you will descend slightly before traversing below a ridgeline, then walk on relatively flat ground on the ridge and finally descending slightly to the Lake Tahune Hut. It is recommended that you allow 4 hours to reach the Lake Tahune Hut from the Lake Vera Hut.
From the Lake Tahune hut you ascend steeply towards an obvious cirque. You don't actually go to the cirque unless you intend to hike to Irenabyss, a steep and rugged track infrequently taken. There is a cutoff to Frenchmans cap before the cirque and a well cairned route leading to the top. Overall the scrambling is not all that difficult but there are two sections where hands and feet are required. That being said though, the climbing is quite straightforward and most should not find it too difficult. Hopefully you make it to the summit on a clear day because the views are stunning and an extended stay on top is highly recommended. From the top just go back the way you came.
It is preferable to go for Frenchmans Cap in the summer time. December - March offers best weather, however it still rains half of the days during those months. Because of the adverse weather conditions it may be wise to give yourself an extra day in your trip to increase the likelihood of you reaching the summit on a clear day. Tasmania weather is notoriously foul and weather conditions can change at any time. Clear warm days can turn into cold, windy and miserable days literally in a matter of minutes so carrying ample clothing is essential. It's always better to be over prepared than to be under prepared.
The start of the track is located along the Lyell Highway (A10) within the Wild Rivers National Park. The start is signposted beside the Lyell Highway about 200 km from Hobart and 55 km from Queenstown.
Vehicles may be parked in the car park beside the highway at the start of the track. Be warned however, some vehicles parked beside the highway have been robbed or vandalized in the past. If you are worried about this, an alternative is to park your car at Lake St. Clair and arrange transport with a commercial operator to the start of the track.
Because the track is located in a National Park, there are fees that apply. Currently, it costs $56.00 for a two month National Parks Pass for your vehicle and $90.00 for an annual pass.
If you plan on cooking anything you will be required to use a fuel stove as the entire track is within a Fuel Stove Only Area. Heavy fines can be imposed for lighting fires anywhere along the track. Devastating wildfires have ravaged the Frenchmans Cap area twice in recent decades. In 1966 much of the area around Artichoke Valley and Lake Tahune was burnt. In 1980 a campfire at Lake Vera caused more than 6000 ha of damage. Both of these fires were caused by humans and could and should have been avoided.
There are two huts along the track as well as several designated campsites. The Lake Vera Hut may be the nicest hut in all of Tasmania. It is new, has mattresses (which very few other Tassie huts do), a warm coal heater and has the capacity to hold 20 people. The Lake Tahune hut is considerably smaller but still has the capacity to hold 12 people. There are ample water supplies at both huts as well as composting toilets.
It is preferable to use the huts whenever possible to reduce trampling of vegetation around campsites, however it is essential to also carry a tent because huts may be full when you arrive. Carrying a tent will also allow you to stop when it is unwise to proceed.
There are a number of campsites just before crossing the river Franklin River, at the Loddon River, Philps Creek, Lake Vera (there are a number of good sites located just past the hut on the main track) and Lake Tahune (there is an overgrown track that leads from the hut towards the lake where a few sites can be found)
For those interested in doing technical routes on Fenchmans Cap you may find this link very helpful.