This is Hobbit country. Cross a brook through a mossy rainforest. Pass through tunnels formed by overhanging branches. Climb over and under fallen trees. Watch the leaves stir. Emerge from the forest to see towering white gums. From here, rise above the buttongrass, over streams, through squelching mud, up to the top of the mountain. Now, survey middle earth (with the help of a fallen theodolite, if you please!). You have arrived at the top of Mount Donaldson!
I thoroughly enjoyed climbing Mount Donaldson. It was the right mix of a unique environment, an adventurous trail and stunning scenery. I may have complained about my “uphill leg muscles” feeling sore at some stage, but the views were worth it. I say views, because each part of the walk was very beautiful. If your “uphill leg muscles” start complaining, have a rest and then soldier on because the view from the top is absolutely amazing! You can see the Pieman River winding through the trees, the takayna/Tarkine sprawling out below you (listen for a waterfall) and the waves pounding the rocks on the coast. You can also see a silica mine (still operational), the road into Corinna, and mountains to the north, east and south. It is breathtaking!
Be warned: weather on the West Coast of Tasmania is unpredictable. You can experience pouring rain, a hail storm, roaring winds and beautiful sunshine all within half an hour! (We experienced all of this on our cruise on the Arcadia II, which you can read about here). The walk is quite slippery as you near the summit because you are essentially following the path of a few streams. If you have limited mobility or there has been (or will be) a lot of rainfall, I recommend reconsidering doing the walk. Cloud cover can also limit visibility. That said, it was a misty morning when we set out but the sun was shining and the sky was clear by the time we reached the summit. For good measure, it rained as we neared the forest on the way back down! Four seasons in one day.
What to Bring
It goes without saying that you’ll need waterproof clothes. I found that one layer of merino thermals topped by my raincoat and waterproof pants was all that I needed when I was moving. When you reach the summit, you’ll also want to have your scarf, beanie and gloves on hand. Wear good hiking shoes. We always carry a first aid kit, about a litre of water per person and a good dose of snacks (fruit, nuts, etc.). In summer, don’t forget your hat and sunscreen. You will definitely need your camera; the views are spectacular!
Your phone won’t have reception on or near Mount Donaldson. If you are worried about not being able to call emergency services, you can hire personal locator beacons and satellite phones from various places in Tasmania before you head to the West Coast. Whatever the case, make sure that you register your walk with the staff at the Tarkine Hotel (Corinna) first.
You can access the walking track to Mount Donaldson either by foot from Corinna (ask for a brochure from the helpful staff at the Tarkine Hotel) or by car. If you’re driving, drive about three kilometres down the Western Explorer (from the Corinna/Savage River end). Take care when driving on the Western Explorer. It is unsealed, rocky and has unexpected turns. When you have crossed a bridge, you’ll see the walking track to the left and a small, circular space where you can park to the right. For information on how to reach Corinna, read my post here.
The walk up to the summit of Mount Donaldson is free of charge. Remember to take your rubbish out with you and keep to the paths. The grey mud is firm enough to step on; avoid the black mud though! It’s very slippery!! It takes about three hours to complete the Mount Donaldson walk if you are fit and don’t have too many stops. If the ground is a bit slippery, plan to take about four hours. Enjoy your time in Hobbit country! We even hummed the “Lord of the Rings” tune as we descended… you’ll see why when you do the walk for yourself!