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Frenchmans Cap is a 46km, grade 5 return hike located in Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, Tasmania. The hike should take approximately 3-5 days to complete.
This track leads to the summit of the magnificent white quartzite dome of Frenchmans Cap (1446 m), the most prominent mountain peak in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park, a part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. The track passes buttongrass plains, unusual rainforest where Huon pine grows alongside King Billy pine, and spectacular glacial valleys, up to Lake Tahune, perched under the huge and spectacular cliff face of Frenchmans Cap. The silvery Precambrian quartzite is some of Australia’s oldest exposed rock.
The track is considerably more arduous than many other Tasmanian walks, including the Overland Track, so it is recommended that you gain experience on other Tasmanian walking tracks before attempting Frenchmans Cap. The track is often rough and muddy and is steep in places. To do the summit climb you must have good weather and a good head for heights and exposure. Most walkers spend between 3 and 5 days completing the return trip, a distance of about 23 km each way. You may want to allow extra time to wait at Tahune in case the summit is cloudy, as the views from the summit are a highlight of the trip. Allow extra time for adverse weather.
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.
Private vehicles may be parked in the carpark beside the highway at the start of the track. Walkers are warned, however, that some vehicles parked beside the highway have been robbed or vandalised. An alternative is to park your car at Lake St Clair and arrange transport with a commercial operator to the start of the track.
Visitors wishing to use public transport to access the start of the walking track should visit our web page on Access to Tasmania’s National Parks, Reserves and Walking Tracks.
When to walk
The months of December-April have long daylight hours and warmer average temperatures. However, walkers are warned that rapidly changing weather conditions can occur at any time of the year. These can include howling winds, sleet, snow, relentless rain and blazing sun. All of these varied conditions can be experienced even within a single day.
Weather forecasts can be obtained from the Bureau of Meteorology.
What to bring
Warm waterproof clothing, proper equipment and adequate preparation are essential. Fuel Stoves are essential. Full details are found in the Before you Walk – Tasmania’s Essential Bushwalking Guide and Trip Planner.
The 1:50,000 scale map called ‘Frenchmans Cap Map And Notes’ is needed for this walk. It shows the track, huts, plus walking notes and safety information on the reverse. You can get the map from outdoor gear shops, and online at TASMAP.
Accommodation near the start of the track
The start of the track lies in the heart of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area. There is no accommodation or facilities. The closest hotels and other facilities are at Derwent Bridge or Queenstown.
Fees and permits
You are required to pay a fee to enter the national park. Updated information on park entry fees can be obtained online – see our price list. Bookings are not required to do the Frenchmans Cap Track, and no other permits are required.
For your safety please record your trip intentions in the log book at the Franklin River (near the start of the walk) and also in the logbook at each hut. Accurate logbook information also provides the statistical basis for proper management of the area. Please remember to sign out at the end of your walk. Your entries may save your life should you become lost or overdue. However, the books are not checked regularly and a search will only be mounted if someone reports you as being overdue.
Leave details of your trip with a reliable friend or relative. If this is not possible, a trip intentions form can be completed and left at the visitor centre at Lake St Clair, or you may wish to register and de-register your trip at a Tasmanian Police Station.
Huts and camping
There are two unattended huts along the track which have bunks but no cooking stoves or utensils. Lake Vera hut accommodates 20 people; and Lake Tahune hut accommodates 16 people.
It is preferable to use the huts when possible, to reduce trampling of vegetation around campsites. However, it is essential that a tent be carried as the huts may be full when you arrive. Carrying a tent will also allow you to stop when it is unwise to proceed, due to adverse weather, injury or tiredness.
The recommended camping locations are: Franklin River – a number of sites can be found just before crossing the river; Loddon River; Philps Creek – first crossing; Lake Vera – a number of suitable sites are located along the track a short distance after crossing the bridge near the hut; and Lake Tahune – take an overgrown track that leads from the hut towards the lake which veers a little to the left.
The time taken to walk sections of the track can vary greatly depending on weather conditions and personal fitness. Times given below are an average.
- Lyell Highway to Lake Vera Hut (6 hours)
- Lake Vera Hut to Lake Tahune Hut (4 hours)
- Lake Tahune Hut to summit (1-2 hours)
Few places on Earth have water as pristine as in the Tasmanian wilderness. Of course, the water within our national parks is not treated. It may therefore not meet the National Health and Medical Research Council’s Guidelines for drinking water. The Tasmanian Department of Health and Human Services thus advises that as a precautionary measure, untreated water should be boiled (1-3 minutes) before drinking or being used for food preparation. Other forms of water treatment (iodine, water filters) may also be used.
Take special care to keep water supplies clean, particularly around the huts. Always wash 50m away from streams and lakes, and do not use soaps and detergents. Don’t throw food scraps into streams or lakes. Both huts have tanks for collection of rainwater.
Modern composting toilets have been installed near both huts. To ensure efficient operation of the toilets, please follow the instructions provided. In areas away from the toilets, faecal waste must be buried 100 m away from any watercourses or campsites. Carry a lightweight trowel in your pack, dig a hole 15 cm deep and bury your waste and toilet paper. Cover it well to deter animals.
Fuel Stove Only Area
You will require fuel stoves for cooking as the entire track is within a Fuel Stove Only Area. Heavy fines can be imposed for lighting of fires in these areas.
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. Regeneration of alpine plants is extremely slow and, in the case of the King Billy pines there are still no young seedlings in localities where all the parent trees were killed. In 1980 a campfire at Lake Vera caused more than 6000 ha of the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park to be burnt. Both of these wildfires were the result of carelessness and could have been avoided. Fires are permitted only in the heating stoves at Tahune and Lake Vera Huts.
Heating in the Huts
Brickette fuel ( Similar to heat beads in BBQ’s) is used in the heating stoves at both huts. This is flown in at a considerable expense so please use it responsibly. Carrying in fire lighters as part of your kit may be an advantage to get the brickettes burning in the heaters. The new heater at Tahune hut requires all ash to be removed from it before startup otherwise the heater will not perform efficently.
Think conservation – don’t light the heaters if the thermometer in the hut reads 10 degrees C or more. putting on extra clothing is a non- polluting way of getting warm.
Keep on track
Recent track work has greatly improved access across the once notorious Sodden Loddens’, an area infamous for its mud. (James Calder complained about the mud in 1840!) There are still muddy patches, however, as is typical of wilderness walks in southwest Tasmania. You can keep some mud out of your boots by wearing gaiters, but don’t bother trying to keep your boots dry, it’s a waste of effort! Try and minimise your impact with every step you take. Always walk in the centre of the track and be prepared to walk through the mud – attempting to skirt bogs only makes them bigger and causes more environmental damage. It is also usually much quicker to walk straight through. In places you will notice many young King Billy pines regenerating where once was trampled earth, so please stay on the track!
Beyond Philps Lead, the track is either fairly firm underfoot, or has boardwalks or steps.
Track upgrading is occurring in places, mostly at high altitudes where trampled vegetation is slow to regenerate. The alpine vegetation above Lake Tahune is particularly sensitive to trampling and is extremely slow to regenerate. You can assist in minimising damage by stepping on rocks, rather than vegetation, whenever possible.
Keep your party size to no more than 6 people. Large groups can be difficult to accommodate at huts and campsites and have greater social and environmental impact.
Phytophthora root rot
Phytophthora cinnamomi is a fungus that kills many of our native plants. Mud and soil, which is carried on vehicles, boots, gaiters and toilet trowel, helps to spread the disease.The Frenchmans Cap Track is currently free of Phytophthora. To prevent infecting this area your boots and all gear that comes in contact with the soil should be cleaned of any mud or dirt prior to your walk.
You will come across a washdown station about 20 minutes from the start of the walk. It is vital that you use this facility. Please follow the directions at the washdown station.
For further details see our Phytophthora root rot pages.
Do not camp within 30 metres of lakes and streams as these areas erode most easily.
Carry something for collecting water so as to limit the number of trips that need to be made for water (a well rinsed, empty wine cask bladder is recommended). Do not dig drains around tents.
Use hot water and a scourer to clean plates and cookware. Soaps and detergents are not welcome in the bush. Despite their name, biodegradable products still impact on water-life. Dish washing should be done 50 metres away from water and the waste water scattered.
Keep wildlife wild
Animals such as possums and native mice can carry disease by licking your cookware and cause rubbish to be scattered when they break into garbage bags. At night, hang your food and rubbish in the huts or stow securely in your packs. The vestibule of your tent is not a secure place. Rigid plastic containers are useful for storing food.
Do not feed animals and ensure that no food scraps are left in huts or outside. Processed food is not part of their natural diet and, in some cases, can lead to the death of native animals, as well as result in unnaturally high populations occurring in the vicinity of huts. See our web pages on keeping wildlife wild for more details.
All rubbish must be carried out with you. Rubbish includes cigarette butts!
Do not attempt to burn any rubbish in the hut stoves. Much of it will fall through the stove grates and be discarded as litter outside the huts.
Please don’t put any rubbish into the composting toilets, as this restricts the composting process. Used sanitary pads, tampons, condoms and baby nappies are items of litter and must be carried out.
Please leave the huts clean and tidy. Don’t leave unwanted food and clothing in the huts.
For more information on walking softly, please read our Essential Bushwalking Guide and Trip Planner.
The weather in Tasmania’s high country can change rapidly. The track beyond Barron Pass is entirely above 900 metres and may be subject to high winds, mist, rain, hail and snow – even in summer. Rain normally falls on 15 to 20 days each month during summer and more often in other seasons.
It is always wise to carry a first aid kit.
Emergency position indicating radio beacons (EPIRBs) can be hired (subject to availability) from the Parks and Wildlife Service at Cradle Mt and Lake St Clair and from Service Tasmania in Hobart.
For detailed information on planning your walk and a gear checklist, see our Essential Bushwalking Guide & Trip Planner.
Max elevation: 1337 m
Min elevation: 367 m
Total climbing: 2979 m
Total descent: -2979 m