Cradle Mountain: Hiking The Dove Lake Circuit

The Dove Lake Circuit is possibly the most popular and best-known walking trail in Tasmania’s Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

It’s a walk with a lot of sentimental value to us as it was our first introduction to the beauty of Tasmania. And unbeknown at the time, the catalyst for our move here, instead of Vietnam.

This iconic Tasmanian walk begins from the Dove Lake car park, which can be reached via shuttle bus from the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre. And can be walked either clockwise or anti-clockwise, but for this post, we’ve gone clockwise towards Glacier Rock.

And although most guides suggest around 120 minutes to complete the 6.2-kilometre circuit, the reality is you’ll be stopping continuously to enjoy the spectacular views, so allow around 180 minutes. Even longer if you’re a photographer.

Glacier Rock

From the Dove Lake car park, the walk to Glacier Rock will take you around ten minutes.

The path to Glacier Rock is mostly flat with a rough gravel surface that ends with a slight slope just before the fenced-off entrance to Glacier Rock.

Glacier Rock is the closest attraction on the circuit, and therefore often one of the busiest. Luckily most walkers don’t continue past the rock. So once passed, you often have the trail to yourself.

The rock now has a lovely viewing platform, which replaced the previous method of walking on top of the unfenced rock. Which could get a little dangerous in rough wet weather.

Viewing platform on top of Glacier Rock in Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania
Glacier Rock Viewing Platform

If you look carefully, the rock contains groove mark left by the glacial ice which carved the massive depression in which Dove Lake now sits.

Glacier Rock as seen from the other side of Dove Lake in Cradle Mountain National Park, Tasmania
Glacier Rock

Honeymoon Islands

Leaving Glacier Rock, the walking trail heads downhill before following the edge of the lake for a quite a distance.

There are a few optional detours from the trail which take you to some of the small beaches located around the lake.

Gravel beach found on the edge of Dove Lake, Tasmania
Dove Lake Beach

This section of the trail is open to the elements which affords you some impressive views of Cradle Mountain in front of you and across to the mountains on the opposite side of the lake.

The views are eventually replaced by a canopy of trees which turn the boardwalk into a long tunnel of green with some impressive lake views visible through the branches.

Boardwalk surrounded by rainforest trees
Forest Boardwalk

Eventually, the forest canopy opens up into what I think is the most beautiful area of Cradle Mountain. Everything you could possibly want from nature is here.

Boy in black walking on a wooden boardwalk through Tasmanian landscape
Ronin leading the Dove Lake Circuit walk

The area is encircled by mountains with Cradle Mountain truly dominating the scene. vegetation fills the area with the striking yellow button grass and various shades of green from the various species of trees. masses of trees.

Green trees, yellow button grass and the spiky Pandani fill every inch of the landscape, but none of this can compete with the dominating presence of Cradle Mountain, which looks over the entire area.

Everywhere you look is covered in colourful vegetation. Beautiful mountains encircle you. Waterfalls tumbling down the face of the mountain. Plus beautiful views over the lake and the honeymoon islands.

This section is roughly the halfway point of the walk and features a few seated areas to stop for a break or a bite to eat before continuing on.

Move away from the lake’s edge, the trail rises slightly as the boardwalk takes you through more fields of button grass as it climbs up towards the mountainside.

Mountains surrounded by tree and button grass
An ocean of Button Grass

Eventually, you’ll turn a corner and come face to face with a giant rock wall. Here the boardwalk gets narrow and cuts along below the impressive rock wall before curving up into a short but steep set of stairs.

Wooden boardwalk going underneath an overhanging rock wall
Under the rock wall

Once you’ve tackled the steep staircase, you’ll come to a section of the circuit that’s home to the unique deciduous beech, more commonly named Fagus.

Green beech tree leaf
Tasmanian Fagus

The Fagus is the only cold climate winter-deciduous tree in Australia, and can only be found nowhere else on Earth but in a few areas of Tasmania. So keep an eye out for this unique species.

If you’re on the trail during late April and May, you might even be lucky enough to witness the Fagus changing to red and gold.

From here the boardwalk takes a slight dive downwards and follows the contours of the lake until it reaches the Ballroom Forest.

Ballroom Forest

The Ballroom Forest is a patch of temperate rainforest which sweeps up the mountainside. The scenery in the ballroom is very much like Philosopher Falls, with bright green moss-covered trees dominating the area.

Wooden bridge leading into a rainforest
Entering the Ballroom Forest

The raised boardwalk through the forest is due to the shallow but wide creek that floods the forest floor as it runs towards the lake.

Wooden bridge crossing a small creek
Ballroom Forest

From the Ballroom Forest, you’ll encounter one of the two steep inclines found along the circuit. The incline leads to a seated rest area, so don’t panic if you tire yourself out a little.

From up here, you get some pretty impressive views. Looking back you can see Cradle Mountain, as well as the Ballroom Forest creeping up the mountainside, and the waterfall that feeds the creek.

Mountain covered in trees and a waterfall
The view back towards the Ballroom Forest

Boat Shed

A short climb later will have you on the relatively flat plateau leading towards the Boat Shed.

The decline from the plateau can be a bit tricky due to the large rocky steps, especially in wet weather. But the circuit is almost complete.

A short push will find you at the final attraction along the Dove Lake Circuit. The iconic Boat Shed.

Built sometime in the 1940’s, The Boat Shed is without a doubt the most recognised landmark in Cradle Mountain.

Wooden boat shed on the edge of Dove Lake, Tasmania
The iconic Dove Lake Boat Shed

The now battered and weathered Boat Shed blends perfectly into the alpine environment and has become part of the landscape as well as extremely popular with visitors.

The Boat Shed also signifies the near completion of the circuit. The trail makes one more short but steep climb up before turning downwards toward the ending of the circuit at the car park.

Entry Price

A valid National Parks Pass is required to access Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park.

Opening Hours

Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre is open daily from 08:30-16:30.

Check the official website for up to date information.

Facilities

  • Toilets
  • Seating
  • Car park

Location

Address: 4057 Cradle Mountain Road, Cradle Mountain. Tasmania, Australia.

Click to view map to the Cradle Mountain Visitor Centre.

Additional Information

  • Late April to May is the best time to witness the colour change of the Fagus

Recommended Equipment

  • Hiking boots
  • Wet weather gear
  • Warm clothing
  • Water
  • Food

Safety Advice

  • Weather can change dramatically. Bring appropriate gear and clothing
  • Walking trails are a mixture of gravel, rock and wooden boardwalks and contain potential trip and slip hazards

Conclusion

Dove Lake is without a doubt one of the most beautiful walking trails in the world and showcases the amazing wilderness of Tasmania. It should be on everyone’s Tasmanian itinerary.

Nearby Attractions

  • Ronny Creek
  • Snake Hill
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4 thoughts on “Cradle Mountain: Hiking The Dove Lake Circuit”

  1. Thanks for the informative site. We are heading to Tasmania at the end of January with our caravan for 3 months. We are determined to see it all! Where would you suggest we base ourselves (in the van)for a few days exploring the Cradle mtn area? Thx again

    Reply
    • I don’t think even 3 months is enough. Tassie has so much to see and do!
      We don’t often stay at Cradle Mountain because we only live a short distance away and we can make a day trip out of it, but we have stayed at the Wilderness Village and enjoyed it.
      For caravans though, I think the only option is the Discovery Parks, as most are either cabins or rooms.
      If you have a fridge and cooking facilities, I would suggest stocking up on food and supplies at one of the supermarkets at Devonport or Burnie as everything at Cradle Mountain is expensive.

      Reply

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