Location: Hartz Mountains National Park
Length: 3.4 kilometres return
Grade: Level 2 (no experience necessary with a hardened track and gentle climb)
Distance from: Hobart - 81 km, Launceston - 281 km, Devonport - 362 km
The Lake Esperance Walk begins at the Hartz Peak trailhead. The walk up to the lake is mostly on boardwalk with a very slight grade. This 2-hour return hike is perfect for those without any bushwalking experience. You'll get breathtaking views of southeast Tasmania and the Huon River Valley from this glacial lake up on the Alpine Highlands of Hartz National Park.
Hobart sits just 1 hour and 20 minutes to the northeast of Hartz Mountains National Park and Lake Esperance. Launceston is nearly 4 hours to the north and the drive from Devonport takes about 4.5 hours. But no matter where you come from, you'll have to drive through the picturesque Huon River Valley, its rolling hills and its orchards along the way. The drive to Hartz Mountains National Park is as nearly as beautiful as the lake itself.
The Huon Highway weaves its way through the bountiful Huon River Valley on its way to Geeveston. Here you'll branch off onto an unpaved road up to the national park. Take a moment to appreciate the road as it was carved by the Geeves Family in the mid-1800's. The family founded Geeveston below and worked tirelessly to make the national park a nationwide success. All of their hard work paid off as the national park was a big hit in early Australia. The park was named a scenic reserve 1939, a national park in 1951 and was included in the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area in 1989.
Right at the outset of the walk, you'll find a monument to two members of the founding Geeves Family. The monument pays respects to the fallen men trying to traverse Hartz Pass back in 1897 during an unpredictable winter storm. The blizzard was so intense that the Geeves men, including the founding patriarch, became overcome. They quickly moved to a makeshift shelter on the pass, but it was too late; the two men died of hypothermia. It's a startling reminder of the unpredictable weather in the area. Always remember that the weather can change dramatically in a short period of time on this scenic walk.
You'll find the trailhead is well marked sitting near the national park's visitor centre. A boardwalk weaves its way through scrubby bushland before opening up onto an Alpine plateau. Once you reach the plateau, turn around and look behind you. You'll be stunned by the beauty of the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and the Huon Valley below. The walk continues to very gradually gain elevation in the Alpine Highlands along a well-marked track. You'll find a sign at the 1.5-kilometre mark that will lead you to Lake Esperance while the main trail continues to Hartz Peak. A 100-metre-long boardwalk takes you to a platform which has a bench for your enjoyment of the scenery. You may find hikers sitting here enjoying the lake as a resting point on their way up to the more challenging Hartz Peak beyond.
The lake itself is a tarn that was ripped into the Alpine Highlands by a glacier. The crystal-clear waters are spectacularly beautiful on a windless day. When there's no wind, you get a perfect reflection of the mountains off in the distance and taking a picture is a must. On a windy day, the lake ripples with windy surf to interrupt any reflection.
There are plenty of facilities at the visitor centre which you can find at the trailhead. You won't find any facilities on the trail so pack accordingly. And make sure to pack an adequate amount of water as you'll be physically active for a half-day.
Pack clothing for all types of weather -- sun, rain, wind and snow. The weather on the Alpine Highlands changes quickly so you can't put too much trust in a forecast nor can you trust simply looking out the window at a lower elevation. Make sure you're prepared for whatever the weather may be when you get to the trailhead so you don't have to turn back and miss out on this stunning glacial tarn.
While the majority of the hike takes place on a boardwalk, you might run into some slippery surfaces or ice. Make sure to walk in sturdy shoes and pay attention to where you step.