Mount Kosciuszko (pronounced KOZ-ee-OS-koh) is the easiest of all the eight Seven Summits, making it a prime destination for travellers wanting to reach the summit of one of the eight Seven Summits, but find all the other Seven Summits a bit too challenging. As these trails draw many visitors from all over the world, it makes these trails one of the prime hiking destinations in Kosciuszko National Park.
While the title of "Australia’s premier alpine walk" is often given to the Overland Track in Tasmania by the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service, the Mount Kosciuszko summit trails are some of the most spectacular alpine trails you could find at such high elevations in Australia. Additionally, due to proximity of major facilities nearby (Thredbo and Charlotte Pass), these trails give you a feeling of being "remote" while actually not really being that "remote" in a sense that you would get in the midst of the Outback (but that doesn't mean you shouldn't take the usual precautions).
While the feeling is comparable to the Outback, but with mountains and snow instead of flat dry landscapes and low-elevation desert, the trails are quite clearly signposted and marked, but can be covered in snow.
Snow regularly covers the trails, and almost always does during winter so ensure that you wear adequate clothing and footwear. If you didn't bring any, there are stores at Thredbo or Perisher where you can get winter clothing, but these are really high-priced, and the same items can be bought elsewhere for lower prices.
In summer, some of the trails aren't even regarded as hikes by the locals of the Snowy-Monaro region; they are "walks", such as the Kosciuszko walk. The only two things that are a must if you're doing the Kosciuszko walk or the Summit walk are drinking water and a jacket. You should probably also bring hiking sticks (preferably the ones with a snow cover), as there regularly is snow for the last 2 km before the summit, even in summer. Otherwise, you are pretty much good to go, though you might need a lift pass if you are doing the Kosciuszko walk (see below).
In winter and early spring snow covers most of the trails in the sections that have elevations of above 2000 metres (6500 feet). Thus you need much more preparation, and hiking the Mount Kosciuszko summit trails in winter can pose an experience more like hiking in the Canadian Rockies in early spring – or the point is, snow covers the track. Hiking sticks, good snowboots, adequate clothing and plenty of water (you may get stuck in bad weather) are all musts. Consider bringing snowshoes. You should also check the weather forecast, although low visibility, extreme winds and heavy snowfalls can all occur without warning. Storms can bring gusts of 40 m/s (150 km/h, 80 kn), and 1 m (3.3 ft) of snow in a day. Cold temperatures are possible in the area; the record is −23 °C (−9 °F). The NPWS visitor centre staff is available for queries about local conditions. Be ready to postpone or skip the trip if the weather isn't favourable. Nonetheless, a tour guide isn't necessary when hiking Mount Kosciuszko.
If you are attempting the Main Range Track, which takes the entire day, you should also pack some food, but not too much – enough to last you 9 to 10 hours minimum. For the other hikes, simple snacks like chips should cover you for the day.
The high elevation (in Australia, at least) should not pose any major issues – for most people, 2000 metres is nothing and will certainly not cause altitude sickness. There are signs throughout that will signpost the area's elevation, such as the one pictured to the right.
Even though elevation shouldn't pose a major issue, a topographic map is a must during winter as the path and the trail-markings are covered under the snow, though not necessary during summer, as the trails are well signposted. However, if you weren't time-limited during winter, consider attempting these trails during spring or autumn for safety reasons.
Consider renting out a PLB from a NSW National Parks office. Also make sure to check out these alpine safety tips from the NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, which has up-to-date information. Filling out a trip intension form is strongly advisable, especially for the Main Range Track, and may be required in winter. In the "park name" field, don't click "Kosciuszko National Park", but instead the more specific "Thredbo-Perisher area" (all trails are in this district).
Parking in Thredbo is often time limited, but there is a parking lot without any time limit a few hundred metres southwest next to the Thredbo Alpine Hotel, for free. The parking does quickly run out though, so make sure to come early if you're not staying overnight in Thredbo.
Kosciuszko walk - Thredbo to Mount Kosciuszko
Perhaps the most famous of all walks in the park, the Kosciuszko walk - Thredbo to Mount Kosciuszko (coloured on map), often shortened to Kosciuszko walk, is a 6.5 km (4.0 mi) walk, and 13 km (8.1 mi) return. The walk starts at 1 Thredbo Top Station, and ends at the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, rated as a Grade 3 walk under the Australian Walking Track Grading System.
You won't need anything special to do this walk, though if you're doing this walk when snow levels are high, enough that it covers more than a tenth of the route, you might want to carry some hiking sticks, but otherwise, it is not necessary. If you're unsure, check the weather forecast on the Bureau of Meteorology website and check snowfall levels for the last seven days. Otherwise, water is a must (around two litres should do you fine for the ascent), and definitely bring a jacket – it can get really cold out there, even in summer.
Unlike other walks in Kosciuszko National Park, there is no road access to Thredbo Top Station, and you will need to take the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift up to Thredbo Top Station, which departs from Thredbo, and passes should be purchased on the Thredbo ski resort's website.
Once you have arrived at the Thredbo Top Station, turn left at Eagles Nest Restaurant and use the track to the left of it to go around the restaurant. The hike starts from this point. Also while here, make sure you utilize the toilets here, as there won't be any up there until Rawson Pass. From here, the walk is fairly straightforward, and there are clear signs pointing out where to go.
The first two kilometres of the walk is where you can first notice all the small waterfalls that fall because of the melting ice – they're all over the place, on both sides you look. This section is the most "crowded" section of trail, where some travellers who feel they cannot do further than 2 km turn back. This section takes about 20–30 minutes to do, depending on walking speed, and while the trail ascends from 1937 metres to 2067 metres (which is not a lot), it is a very slow ascent, and this section had road access. Theoretically, this part is wheelchair accessible. After the 2 km, you reach the park's first point of interest, 1 Kosciuszko lookout. There are no signs with the name of the lookout, but it's quite obvious that the lookout is there.
After the lookout, it is another 2 km to the next lookout, which also takes between 20–30 minutes to do. It's a bit of an ascent from here, but not long after, you won't be going up, but rather down for about 200 metres as you cross the uppermost point of the Snowy River. After crossing the Snowy River, the trail then ascents again and on occasion during summer, and almost always during spring and autumn, a small bit of the path may be covered in snow! About here is also where you'll notice that you'd have passed the halfway mark, and where Mount Kosciuszko becomes prominent. From there, the alpine landscapes may feel "typical", as the trail passes through mostly alpine landscapes. At the end of the section, you'll arrive at 2 Cootapatamba lookout, overlooking Lake Cootapatamba – the highest lake on the Australian mainland, and the glacial lake is definitely one of its kind. However, the lookout is not the most prominent one, as the only thing that marks the lookout is a plaque, that has "Cootapatamba lookout" in all caps – if you don't want to miss it, look on the left of the path while walking.
The next major stopover of the walk is about 900 m further up at Rawsons Pass, where the Summit walk and the Kosciuszko trails merge. There's nothing too special between the two stopovers, except maybe the views along the way, and maybe the views of the lake. At Rawsons Pass is where there's a large "2100 metres" sign, and that is where the last stopover that has toilets is. From there, it's just another 1.5 km to the summit, which is the hardest part of the trail.
You'll also notice that the surface of the last 1.5 km is radically different, and snow regularly covers the track, though it is mostly passable all-year (though the track get be quite some centimetres below the snow). As you slowly wind your way around the mountain, you'll slowly notice the summit, and the trig marker. Not long after, you'll be at the summit of 3 Mount Kosciuszko. The trig marker officially marks the highest point of the Australian mainland, and after you've come here, you've officially climbed one of the Seven Summits.
You'll then need to climb down, which takes about 1.5 to 2 hours to do, though it may be longer when snow covers the trail. As you'd mostly have gone uphill when climbing up the summit, you'll mostly now be going downhill, except for one small hill near the Snowy River just before the Kosciuszko lookout.
Once you come back to Thredbo Top Station, and supposedly you left in the morning, then you'd be at the top-station at lunch before you'll have to take the chairlift down again. If you're a statistics buff, and really want to have lunch, then perhaps consider going to 1 Eagles Nest Restaurant, which is the highest restaurant in Australia (and the only restaurant in the area before you have to go down). The food found is mostly a mix of Australian and American cuisine, and has an excellent selection of alcoholic drinks available.
Otherwise, if you're feeling for a bit more of a challenge and are prepared to walk another 8 kilometres, then perhaps try going down the Dead Horse and Thredbo River trails, which goes down to Siberia, NSW before heading back east alongside the Thredbo River.
Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk
If you think that the Kosciuszko walk is too easy for a seven summit climb, and you're looking for a bit more of a challenge, the Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk (coloured on map) may be the right walk for you. The walk is 18.6 km (11.6 mi) return, and 9.3 km (5.8 mi) one way, taking about 6 to 8 hours to do return. The track is rated as a Grade 3 walk under the Australian Walking Track Grading System, and the last 1.5 km (0.93 mi) from Rawson Pass to the summit is shared with the Kosciuszko walk.
The walk starts at 2 Charlotte Pass, which has some tourist facilities. Keep in mind that if you don't use them, there won't be any until Rawson Pass. The first 4.5 km (2.8 mi) trail is mostly just a gentle ascent, and the path is very wide – enough that a car could go on it if it needed to. Snow is not a common encounter outside the snow season, but there are patches of snow alongside the path, so chances of you slipping because you didn't bring anything special for this track is relatively low in this section, though it's a different story in winter. After the 4.5 km (2.8 mi), you'll arrive at the first major important point of interest, the 4 Snowy River. Nothing too special about this river, but from here, you'll be able to see the river widen up, eventually making its way down to Victoria. From here is also where you'll notice to see the rugged mountains more clearly, but Mount Kosciuszko isn't prominent just yet – you'll need to go a bit further up for that. However, not easily being able to spot Kosciuszko does not mean the other mountains are not spectacular – the entire range is just as photogenic, if not more.
From the Snowy River, you'd have walked about half of the route towards the summit, and it will be a further 1.5 km (0.93 mi) to the next important stop on the hike, 5 Seamans Hut. The hut was built in 1929, in stone with 2 rooms, which tells the story of how this place used to be before Kosciuszko National Park was protected by the state government and became a national park. Today, it's a memorial to two skiers, Laurie Seaman and Evan Hayes. In this 1.5 km, the track also starts to narrow further, snow regularly covers the path, and becomes more steep – but still, it is passable.
From Seamans Hut, it's another 1.6 km (0.99 mi) of hiking until you get to 6 Rawson Pass, where the two trails of the Summit trail and Kosciuszko merge together, which continues up to the summit. In this section, the path is completely covered in snow during winter, mostly during spring, partially during summer and only really "snow-free" in the early months of autumn. Though it is often covered with snow, there is not much of an ascent as the trail goes around around one of the mountains and between the pass. Also, while you're at the end, utilise the toilets if you need to, as there are no toilets anywhere else in the surrounding vicinity.
From the pass, you're at an elevation of 2100 metres and you've only got 1.5 km left. The path slowly curves around the mountain, and before you know it, you'd have reached the top of Mount Kosciuszko, officially climbing one of the Seven Summits. From the summit, you can actually quite clearly see the path you came from, and see the surrounds of the ranges you'd have climbed by doing this hike.
Main Range Track
The Main Range Track (or Main Range walk) covers the entire Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk, but after Mount Kosciuszko, the track continues further up northwest, passing Blue Lake before coming back down to Charlotte Pass. It is even more challenging than the other two walks in the surrounding vicinity, and has been rated as a Grade 4 walk. The distance of the walk takes about 22 km (14 mi), and takes around 7-9 hours to do. There are clear signs pointing out this route, but do note that the trail is very steep, and doing this walk in winter is not a good idea – weather can be unpredictable, and it's long.
You'll probably need hiking sticks, even in spring, and try to wear snowboots if possible. Snow will cover around at least 20-30 per cent of the route during spring, and even in summer, you can expect around 5 per cent of the route to be covered in snow. As with the rest of Kosciuszko, rain regularly hits the track, and it is advisable to bring a raincoat, if you're willing to carry it.
It is worth noting that if you're desperate to see the alpine landscapes of Australia, but are not able to or not fit enough to do the trail, there are other easier routes to see the park's alpine landscape – perhaps try the Kosciuszko walk if you're not feeling confident enough.
To avoid duplication and for convenience in regards to signage, this itinerary will cover the anticlockwise (counterclockwise) route, starting from Charlotte Pass, passing Blue Lake, the Mount Kosciuszko summit, and then back down the Summit trail.
The first 100–200 m (330–660 ft) are quite steep, but the trail is not going up, but it's going down, descending towards the 7 Snowy River. About a few metres into the route and you'll see some pretty impressive views as seen on the photo on the right. Not before long, you'd have descended to the edge of the river, where you'll need to cross the river. The water at this point is very shallow, so be prepared to get your shoes wet, and maybe your ankle too. There's actually two crossings, but the second one is only a couple of centimetres.
After crossing the Snowy River, the trail quickly ascends again, and not before long, you'd be seeing the rather drier alpine parts of Kosciuszko, which is not really a spectacular site, but to the left, you'd be seeing some of the most finest uninterrupted views of the snow-capped mountains. You'll also notice that the surface changes and becomes gravel the entire way.
Before you even realise, not long after, you'd be at another crossing, but this time at a creek. However, the length of the crossing is less than a metre, and from here is where you'll see the true wilderness of the Australian Alps with snow covering the route. Continue on the route for about another 400 metres, until you arrive at a T-junction.
Once at the T-junction, turn right onto Blue Lake Walk (coloured on map), a 1-kilometre walk to the main point of interest only on this route, 8 Blue Lake. Though only 1 km, the walk takes about 15-20 minutes to do as the track is poorly maintained, narrow, and a sudden 100 metres change in elevation, but the views of the lake are well worth the trip. The Blue Lake Track does go further south towards the 9 Blue Lake Creek, but the track is not really maintained, and there's a good chance the track may be overgrown with vegetation.
Once you're out of Blue Lake Track and back onto Main Range Walk, continue on straight, for what would be the hardest part of the journey, as the track continuously goes up at this point and it will be this way until about 1.25-1.5 hours on a distance of about 6 km (3.7 mi).
After that 6 km, you're not done with the hills though, but it does start to settle once at 10 Mullers Pass, and is that way for 2 km (1.2 mi).
Once at the end of Mullers Pass, the track then goes onto the last 1 km (0.62 mi) of the Kosciuszko walk, which is comparatively easier to do than the 6 km, and not before long, you'll be at the summit of 11 Mount Kosciuszko, perched at 2,228 metres, officially climbing one of the Seven Summits.
Though you'd have climbed Kosciuszko, you're not finished with the walk yet. From here, the walk just follows the same track as Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk, but in reverse. To prevent duplication, going down is not covered here, but in § Mount Kosciuszko Summit walk.
Dead Horse and Thredbo River trails
The Dead Horse Gap track and the Thredbo River track are two connected trails, and is probably the least appealing of them all. Not only are they the least appealing, but they are also the most steepest, and there are relatively few scenic views outside the pristine clear alpine river – however, it is the only way to get to and from the Thredbo Top Station to Thredbo Village and Friday Flat without using a chairlift, and while nearly every single traveler uses the chairlift when walking Kosciuszko walk, it's the only alternative to the chairlift when closed.
You don't really need anything too special to do this hike, apart from the usuals of hiking sticks, plenty of water, and good clothing to protect you from the cold. Snowboots are a must in winter, but zero per cent of both trails are covered in snow during summer or autumn.
This article covers the route starting on the Thredbo River Track going southwest, then heading north going up Dead Horse Gap track. Make sure you remember that it's the other way around if you're coming down from Kosciuszko walk.
From Thredbo, the track starts just to the left of the 12 Thredbo Golf Course – the trail isn't exactly marked here, but you'll see the classic NSW Parks green and black colored signs once you pass the golf course. The next 4 km is pretty straightforward as the trail runs parallel to the Thredbo River, and there is a low chance of you getting lost.
You would also notice that the trail gradually ascends about 300 m (980 ft), until 13 Siberia (yep, it's really called Siberia), which one thing that sets it apart is that the snowfall in Siberia is comparable to the snow up at Thredbo Top Station, except that you can drive to the locality, and it almost always snows like it does in Europe, Ontario or New York. From here, the track then continues northwest marking the start of the Dead Horse Gap track.
The first 2.5 km of the Dead Horse Gap trail is pretty steep, as the trail travels from the road up to the higher parts of Thredbo, and the trail is not really advisable to do in winter, and though only 2.5 km, it can take more than 40-60 minutes to do.
The rest of two 2.5 km is pretty straightforward, and you'd have arrived at the T-junction of 14 Kosciuszko walk. It's a few hundred metres north of the Thredbo Top Station, but that marks the end of the Dead Horse Gap Trail.
The levels of precaution you need to take will significantly vary. On some trails (like the Kosciuszko or Summit trails), there are few to no safety issues to worry about that are specific to the trail. For the other three, note that the trails are very steep and remember that these three trails do not receive many visitors due to this very reason.
As three of the five trails pass through remote locations, it's advisable to let someone know you are going to hike these trails. For the two easier trails that are not remote (Kosciuszko and Summit), it is not necessary, but advisable. Also fill out a trip intention form and consider renting a personal lighter beacon for free. Free PLBs can be rented at any one of these NPWS offices.
The weather conditions in Kosciuszko can change rapidly without much notice. Check the weather forecast for either Thredbo Top Station or Charlotte Pass no earlier than a week before you are hiking.
If hiking in winter and using a GPS device, remember that batteries go flat much faster in the cold. Bring spare ones. Don't rely on a smartphone.
Of particular note is the newly-opened Snowies Alpine Walk, a 55-km trail that opened in June 2022 that's supposed to rival the Overland Track in Cradle Mountain-Lake St Clair National Park, Tasmania. Much of the trail is made out of all three Mount Kosciuszko summit trails along with some additional trails towards Guthega, Perisher Valley, and Lake Crackenback.