Hartz Mountains National Park
Hartz Mountains National Park is a window into the south-west wilderness, offering views of remote mountain ranges as far as the southern coast. As well as spectacular views of a landscape which has been shaped by glaciers during past ice ages, the park offers a variety of unique features. Waterfalls tumble off the dolerite range that runs through the centre of the park and small glacial lakes dot the plateau. The park contains a wide variety of vegetation from wet eucalypt forest and rainforest through to alpine heath on the exposed mountain tops.
The park was included in Tasmania's Wilderness World Heritage Area in 1989, in recognition of its spectacular natural and cultural values.
Take your time and enjoy short strolls out to the glacial lakes in the area, or try the more challenging walks up to the range top. Its highest point, Hartz Peak (1255 m), provides panoramic views into the heart of the southwest.
Hartz Mountains is 84 km south-west of Hobart. From Hobart, drive south on the A6 (Southern Outlet), following the signs to Huonville and Geeveston. In Geeveston turn right on the Arve Road (C632), which is clearly signposted for Hartz Mountains National Park. Much of the C632 is a winding, steep, but good quality sealed road. A sign marks the turn-off to the park. The last section of the road continues for 10.5 km and is unsealed and can sometimes be closed by snow. Check the local road conditions by phoning (03) 6264 8460 if in doubt.
Please be aware that when driving between sunset and sunrise you are sharing the road with wildlife.
There are no camping facilities in the park but camping is permitted. You must be 500m from any road. Please use fuel stoves and practise minimal impact bushwalking techniques if you intend to camp. More sheltered camping is available at Tahune Forest Reserve on the Huon River, where there are toilets, a shelter, tables, fireplace and wood. You can reach this shelter by going back along Hartz Road, then heading west along the Arve Road. Tahune Reserve is managed by Forestry Tasmania.
Day visitor facilities
The park facilities are basic, with a toilet, water and picnic shelter available near the entrance to the Waratah Lookout track. The shelter has an open fireplace, free gas barbecue, and tables. Firewood is supplied and a recycling station is provided for rubbish collection. A walker registration booth has been erected at the car park at the end of the road, but there are no other facilities here.
The Hartz Mountains experience typical south-west weather conditions. This can be a wild, inhospitable and isolated place. Rain falls on more than 220 days of the year so it is necessary to carry waterproofs and warm clothing with you at all times. In all seasons there can be snow, high rainfall, extremes of temperature, strong winds and sudden weather changes, which can provide a dramatic contrast to conditions in the forested lowlands you have just passed through. The current weather forecast should be checked before heading to the park.
Nature walks (short walks)
There is an array of walks to do in this park to help you experience its special features. You won't need special footwear for the short walks, though comfortable and solid walking shoes are a good idea.
Waratah Lookout (5 minute return walk) -- This walk is a great introduction to this park, giving you a look out over the forests you have just driven through. A very easy gravel track leads to a viewing platform overlooking the Huon Valley. Old myrtle forest grows immediately below the lookout, with views of forest across the Huon Valley to the Wellington Range. But don't forget to stop to look at the interesting plants beside the track. On visits in December and January you will be treated to a blaze of red from the Tasmanian waratah in flower.
Arve Falls (20 minute return walk) -- A leisurely walk follows the path of the Arve River through alpine herbfield and snowgum woodland to the edge of the plateau where the Arve Falls tumble into the valley below. Signs along the way tell you about the landscape and its special plants. This walk starts from a small car park about 1 km past the Waratah Picnic Shelter.
Lake Osborne (40 minutes return) -- If you want to experience the many varieties of forest and moorland then this walk is an ideal start. A gentle uphill climb through forest takes you across the Hartz Plateau to this picturesque glacial lake. You will pass through a grove of young rainforest, containing myrtles, sassafras and pandani. Beyond the forest look out for the Devils Marbles, large boulders dumped onto the plateau by glaciers. A section of woodland and open moorland then leads you to the lake which is fringed with ancient King Billy pines. You can also learn, from signs along the trail, the story of how fire and ice have shaped this landscape and its vegetation.
Bushwalks (longer walks)
For the more adventurous, on these walks you may encounter steep terrain and sections of track which are wet, muddy or rough underfoot. You will need good footwear, preferably walking boots. A warm hat and gloves, as well as gaiters and overpants, should be worn or carried in addition to your usual walking gear.
Lake Esperance (2 hrs return) -- A fascinating walk through woodland and snowgums, up to the high country where cushion plants and ancient King Billy pines encircle the lake. You may hear the haunting call of the mountain currawong as you wander along the plateau. A short distance along the track you will pass a memorial to Sydney and Arthur Geeves, who perished near here in 1897 in the harsh blizzard conditions that can occur here at any time.
Hartz Pass (3.5 hours return) -- This is an ideal place to get a view into the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area, but is a steep uphill climb. You will need to be a reasonably fit walker.
Hartz Peak (5 hours return) -- Hartz Peak is the highest point of the Hartz Mountains, and in fine weather the summit offers one of the best views of the south-west. The jagged outline of Federation Peak can be seen on the horizon. This is a walk only for fit, experienced walkers, as it is a steep uphill climb and the route is not clearly marked beyond Hartz Pass. Along the ridge from Hartz Pass you may encounter extreme weather with poor visibility and strong winds. You will need strong footwear for this section which climbs steeply over loose rocks and boulders. Allow plenty of time for the many stops to enjoy the breathtaking views.
It is important to register your walk, even the shortest one, at the registration booth next to the carpark. Don't forget to sign out at the end of your walk. But remember that this book is usually not checked by rangers until a group is reported overdue. The raised boardwalk on many tracks can become difficult when covered in ice or snow.
Drivers should note that beyond Geeveston the road to Hartz Mountains is unsealed and severe weather conditions may exist. Your vehicle could become stuck in snow, and there is the risk of death from exposure to cold. If the road is snow covered, you should not proceed.
The Aboriginal people that lived in this area probably belonged to the South East group whose territory ranged from New Norfolk to Bruny Island, throughout the D'Entrecasteaux Channel and inland to the Huon Valley. The recorded name for people from the Huon area was the Mellukerdee.
The Mellukerdee people would have used the coast for resources such as shellfish and muttonbirds and travelled further inland for wallabies and plant foods. The Hartz Mountains area and surrounding forests continues to have significance for today's Tasmanian Aboriginal community.
The first Europeans to explore the area were timber-getters in search of the Huon pine. They were also looking for possible routes west to Port Davey to reach the stands of pine that were there. The Hartz Mountains were named after a mountain range - the Harz Mountains - in northern Germany.
Among the early settlers in the 1840s were the Geeves family who founded the township of Geeveston. They explored much of the southwest and cut the first track from Geeveston to the Hartz Mountains. As a result of this track, Hartz Mountains became one of Tasmania's earliest popular bushwalking destinations. The spin-off for the town of Geeveston was that it would receive its first benefits from tourism. Surveyor Jones reported at the time that 'the track from Geeveston to the Hartz Range is, in the season, doing good work by attracting numbers to Geeveston'.
Tragedy struck on 27 November, 1897 when the elderly Osborne Geeves, his three sons, Arthur, Richard and Osborne, and their cousin, Sidney, were overtaken by a blizzard when returning to Hartz hut from a prospecting expedition near Federation Peak.
Osborne Geeves' ill-fated party struggled on over Hartz Pass to Ladies Tarn, but both Arthur and Sidney were faltering and suffering poor vision, and their loads were taken. Within a few hundred metres of the old Hartz Hut (it was located near the present car park) all the party were exhausted and stumbling. Sidney was carried and dragged by Richard to the hut but he died soon afterwards. Arthur was left with his father, and died in his arms with the last words, 'Don't leave me, father'. Both had died of hypothermia (a lowered body temperature) as a result of prolonged exposure to severe cold. This is a stark reminder of the unpredictable nature of the weather in highland Tasmania.
Today a memorial to the two men is located in the park near the place where they perished, only five minutes walk along the Hartz Peak track.
In the early 1900s a new industry was established, which involved the extraction of eucalyptus oil from the varnished gum. The oil was distilled and used in a variety of medicinal preparations.
The increasing popularity of the Hartz Range as an area of outstanding beauty led to it being set aside as a Scenic Reserve in 1939.
The forests in the Picton Valley between here and Federation Peak were the centre of a major conservation battle in the late 1980s. Logging in these forests was the cause of well publicised protests and arrests at Farmhouse Creek. In 1989 extensions to the World Heritage Area incorporated sections of this forest, as well as the Hartz Mountains National Park.
Since then sections of the reserve have been revoked for logging, while new areas have been added. Hartz Mountains National Park now encompasses 7226 ha.
Hartz Mountains National Park ranges from 160 metres at the Picton River to 1255 metres above sea level at Hartz Peak. Most of the park is above 600 m. The sedimentary rocks of the lower altitudes, in the south, are amongst the oldest rocks in the park. They were formed from sediments deposited by marine, glacial and freshwater sources between 355 and 180 million years ago.
The great backbone of rock extending almost the entire length of the park is dolerite. This igneous rock which is very resistant to weathering, intruded into the earth's outer crust around 165 million years ago during the break-up of Gondwana. This area has also been modified over time by several ice ages. The cirques, horn peaks, aretes and glacial troughs were all formed during glacial activity on the Hartz Range.
Most animals in the park are nocturnal, however echidnas and platypus are sometimes observed during the day. In the evening Bennetts wallabies, Tasmanian pademelons and brushtail possums are often seen.
Several frog species can be heard calling during the day. This includes the moss froglet which was previously unknown until it was discovered at Hartz Mountains in 1992.
A variety of birds can also be seen in the park depending on the season. Some of the more common birds include the eastern spinebill, green rosella, forest raven and several honeyeaters.
As you drive into the park you will notice changes in the vegetation from wet eucalypt forest, through mixed forests dominated by stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua), to rainforest communities with myrtle (Nothofagus cunninghamii), sassafras (Atherosperma moschatum), leatherwood (Eucryphia lucida) and native laurel (Anopterus glandulosus).
At higher altitudes the vegetation continues to change in response to the lower temperatures and extreme conditions. The trees become shorter and the canopy more open, until eventually they are replaced by shrubs. Alpine communities, those above the treeline, and sub-alpine communities, those just below the treeline, dominate the park.
The sub-alpine forests are dominated by three eucalypts, snow gum (Eucalyptus coccifera), varnished gum (E. vernicosa), Australia's smallest eucalypt, and yellow gum (E. subcrenulata). The understorey is made up largely of heath plants, including the Tasmanian waratah (Telopea truncata).
Hartz Mountains National Park
via Huonville Office
22 Main Street
Huonville TAS 7109
Phone:03 6264 8460
Fax:03 6264 8473
Information for this National Park has been supplied courtesy of Parks and Wildlife Service Tasmania