The roads end at Hartz Mountains National Park. You can't drive any further west into the wild reaches of Southwest Tasmania than this towering national park. A massive dolerite range is pockmarked with tarns and holds up wet eucalypt forests and alpine heaths with stunning views of the incredibly rugged lands beyond.
This stunning park creates a beautiful backdrop for the Huon River Valley below. Stop at one of the Huon River Valley's many orchards to pick and pack apples for your adventure into the park while the park itself towers overhead.
The rugged mountains of this National Park are less than two hours from Hobart. The drive will take you along the western banks of the Huon River to Geeveston, one of Australia's most southerly townships. Here you'll purchase your final provisions before heading into this untamed land. Launceston is a little less than four hours away and a drive from Devonport will take you four hours and 30 minutes. But no matter where you're coming from, you'll have to drive down the Huon River Valley known for its rolling hills and productive orchards.
This national park consumes 72 km² of Tasmania's most rugged lands. But this park is tiny compared to the national park that borders to the west. The Southwest National Park, which you can peer into on the many peaks inside Hartz, is a stunning 6200 km². There is no vehicle access to the southern reaches of the Southwest National Park and a mountain hike in Hartz is one of the best ways to see this inaccessible land; a land which is completely untouched by human activity.
People come to Hartz Mountains National Park for the hiking. Glaciers have cut high elevation lakes into the plateau formed by this dolerite mountain range. Waterfalls cascade off the range and it's all to be explored on foot.
There are three recommended short walks of under an hour in the park. These include a short walk up to Waratah Lookout, a stroll to Arve Falls and a flat hike to Lake Osborne.
Waratah Lookout is an easy five-minute walk on a gravel track that allows you to see down the Huon Valley with its abundance of rolling hills and orchards. Visit this track in December or January and you'll gaze upon a sea of red created by the flowering and wild waratah plants.
The Arve Falls track takes you through rare snow gum woodland and a colourful alpine herbfield to the edge of a plateau. There you'll be able to see the towering falls splashing down in the valley below. There are informative displays along this track to educate you about the landscape and its special plants.
The Lake Osborne hike is a gentle uphill climb to this impressively blue glacial Lake. The track takes you by the Devils Marbles which are large boulders dumped on the plateau by ancient glaciers that have long since melted.
The longer hikes include Lake Esperance, Hartz Pass and the intrepid Hartz Peak. A medium level of physical fitness is required as well as knowledge of Tasmania's unpredictable weather.
Lake Esperance is marked by the call of the mountain currawong. This two-hour return hike takes you through woodlands and snow gums. It starts at a memorial to Sydney and Arthur Geeves who perished in the area in 1897 during an unpredictable blizzard.
Hartz Pass will take you more than three hours and is a steep uphill climb that will give you stunning views of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. But the crown jewel hike of the park has to be Hartz Peak. The highest point in the park allows you to peer into Tasmania's most protected lands beyond. You'll be able to see mountain ranges spanning all the way to the southern coast from your 360° panoramic view at the summit, and you'll get a gauge on just how large Southwest National Park is to the west.
Geological Features, Environment and Climate
Hartz Mountains National Park is marked by dolerite peaks rising out of a plateau. This area was carved out by glaciers which left oddly placed piles of boulders and carved small alpine lakes, known as tarns, into the landscape. You'll also find wet eucalypt forests and alpine heaths throughout the park.
The weather in the southwest of Tasmania is unpredictable and the high elevation of this National Park only makes it more unpredictable. Storms can gather at a moment's notice and you should always be prepared for bad weather. Precipitation in the area requires hikers to bring waterproof footwear for even the shortest of walks.
Wildlife and Birds
The animals living in the park are mostly nocturnal. It's rare, but you'll be able to catch a glimpse of the echidna and platypus during the day. At dusk, you'll be able to see wallabies, pademelons and brushtail possums emerge from their homes to feed. And if you're really observant, you'll be able to spot the endemic moss froglet which was not identified in the park until 1992. Birds in the area include eastern spinebill, Forrest Raven, honeyeaters and green rosella.
Facilities and Camping
You won't find any camping facilities inside this park, but you are allowed to at least 500 metres from any roadway. This open camping policy is not suitable for everyone, but you'll find plenty of accommodations down the mountains in the Huon River Valley below. Just remember that the road from the park to Geeveston is unpaved and you'll be sharing that Road with wildlife at dusk.
At the park entrance, you'll find a toilet, running water and a picnic shelter. You'll also find a fireplace, gas barbecue and tables with firewood provided. The park also performs rubbish collection at the entrance and maintains a walker registration booth. Always register before setting out on a nature walk in the park.
The history of this park is the history of the Huon Pine. The first Europeans to set eyes on this land were looking for this majestic tree. They were also looking for an easy overland way to Port Davey in the deepest reaches of the Southwest National Park to timber the Huon Pines growing there. These early explorers named these mountains after a range in Germany.
The Geeves family arrived in the 1840s and built the first road into the park from the town they founded it below. This road allowed Hartz Mountains National Park to become one of the first and most popular hiking destinations in Australia. The attraction also led to an economic boom for the tourist town of Geeveston.
The park increased in popularity until it was set aside by the government as a scenic reserve in 1939. In the 1980s, the timber industry threatened the areas around the national park but logging was revoked in nearby Picton Valley to preserve this area's beauty. As a result of this renewed conservation effort, new areas were added to the national park which now encompasses more than 7,226 hectares.