Hiking Mount Kosciuszko has always been on my Australian bucket list. I like to climb mounts, so hiking to the highest peak of Australia is inevitably a seducing idea, and a lovely change of scenery after days along the coast during our Australia’s South East Coast road trip. But climbing Mount Kosciuszko in summer was different to what I imagined.
In this article, I’ll first discuss how hard it actually is to hike Mount Kosciuszko. Then we’ll look at the different tracks and which one is the best for different kinds of experiences. I’ll share tips on the equipment and other things needed to fully enjoy climbing Mount Kosciuszko in the summer.
Some put Mount Kosciuszko on the list of the World’s Seven Summits – the highest mountains of each continent. Is it really hard to climb Mount Kosciuszko?
The short answer is no, hiking to Mount Kosciuszko is not hard. Especially if you climb Mount Kosciuszko in summer.
Those who consider Australia as a continent gave Mount Kosciuszko a spot next to six other more serious summits, like Kilimanjaro (5,895 m) or Everest (8,848 m). It may not feel right to list it next to the world’s greatest mountains as it’s only culminating at 2,228 meters above sea level – which is not even half the height of the highest peak of Oceania (Puncak Jaya: 4,884 m). To be honest, I didn’t even notice the effect of altitude at the top of Mount Kosciuszko.
But no one can debate that in addition to being Australia’s highest mountain, it is located in a lovely National Park that offers a rare alpine landscape a few hours’ drive from major cities. And after living down under for many years, it was time to go to the top!
Despite being a short day walk accessible to most people with no particular level of fitness required, planning to hike Mount Kosciuszko – even in summer – should not be underestimated.
This article combines information from my experience climbing Mount Kosciuszko in summer, research and other hikers’ feedback to help you plan your trip. Find out about the different tracks, the gear needed, how much time you need, how to identify the mounts and some other important tips for a comfortable adventure.
1. Choose the best track to hike Mount Kosciuszko in summer
There are a few ways to go up to Mount Kosciuszko summit and they offer very different experiences.
Thredbo to Mt Kosciuszko walk
If you are not into hiking, you can catch a chairlift from Thredbo. From the top of the chairlift to the summit, it is a 13km return easy walk on a metallic boardwalk (more info). It is a very popular track in summer. It is also the first choice for those who aren’t confident hikers or with a lower level of fitness.
But why take the easy route when there is a longer and harder one?! The experience will be entirely different.
Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Kosciuszko walk
Another option to reach Mt Kosciuszko is to hike (or mountain bike) the Summit Trail from Charlotte Pass (more info). That’s the one we took for our way back. The track is large and easy (it was a road 40 years ago!) with great views for about 18km return. The length is the only difficulty of the trail when you hike Mount Kosciuszko in summer.
The option we chose for our Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Kosciuszko walk was more challenging.
From Charlotte Pass, we walked for a total of 6 hours to do a 22km loop via the Main Range Track to go up (more info) and the Summit Trail to go down. Main Range Walking Track was wild and the alpine views and conditions made us feel like we were conquering the mountain. An easier hike would not have been as rewarding.
During the Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Kosciuszko walk, we had to cross barefoot a couple of almost frozen rivers – even in summer. The pain isn’t as extreme as it sounds as the cold makes it go away quickly when you lose all sensitivity! We walked in clouds for hours with no view and strong wind gusts that pushed us off the path. We stepped on ice and snow (just for a minute, but still – you don’t expect snow in Australia in summer!).
The Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Kosciuszko walk felt like an adventure. And we shared the track with only a few other people, a good surprise in the middle of summer. During this peak season, more than 100,000 visitors reach Mt Kosciuszko summit.
Responsible travel tip: Hiking is a sustainable activity only if hikers preserve the sites they visit. When the number of visitors increases, it is challenging to keep the right balance to support conservation. Always remember to stick to the paths to prevent erosion. Take your rubbish (and the other trash you may find) back with you. And keep in mind human waste can contaminate water supplies, so use provided facilities when possible (Mount Kosciuszko has Australia’s highest toilets just before the summit) or dig a hole far from lakes and rivers otherwise.
2. Get the right gear to hike Mt Kosciuszko
At any season, the mountain climate is unpredictable and can quickly change. It is crucial to keep this in mind when planning to hike Mount Kosciuszko, even in summer. Apart from the length for those who aren’t used to long hikes, walking up to the top of Australia is straightforward on a calm summer sunny day. But it has the potential to lose all fun and even become a nightmare for the unprepared and unlucky hikers. Not that hiking Mount Kosciuszko is particularly dangerous, but some basic hiking equipment should be on your list for a comfortable adventure.
If you plan to hike Mount Kosciuszko in winter, I cannot help you with the equipment list as you’d need specific gear for the snow. I recommend getting in touch with a local to better understand the area and the climate during this period – and that exact day – to lower the risks.
Our visit was in the middle of summer. Still, Mt Kosciuszko’s climate surprised me. Luckily, it quickly changed for us in a positive way: we faced the cold wind gusts and no visibility in the clouds early in the hike to end up at the summit under a perfect immaculate blue sky. But what if it had been the other way around? It is annoying to carry extra equipment you’ll probably don’t need but to ensure this hike stays enjoyable if the weather changes, it seems necessary.
For hiking Mount Kosciuszko in summer, I recommend packing (non-exhaustive list, of course):
A Merino top
I find it’s the most comfortable fabric for colder weather as it keeps you warm when you need it but still is breathable and thin, so it is not uncomfortable if the temperature is warmer than expected. The model I own is quite similar to this one (click for more info*).
I recommend choosing a fabric that dries quickly. My trousers got a bit wet while crossing the river (everybody was fine lifting theirs above the knees… but I’m shorter than everybody!). I was glad it dried in just a few minutes. It is not the best to keep the heat, but I combine it with high socks when necessary. The model I own is quite similar to this one (click for more info*).
The jealous looks I saw when I put my thermal socks back on after crossing the cold river barefoot were almost as intense as the pleasure I had to get warm feet again. I initially purchased Merino socks for our Kilimanjaro trip, but I use them a lot more than I expected back in Australia for hiking and camping. Although they are nearly as thin as usual socks (which is important to feel good in the hiking boots!), they are a lot warmer and do not stay wet. The model I own is quite similar to this one (click for more info*).
If you have waterproof hiking shoes, they’d be appropriate to use for the Mount Kosciuszko summit hike. But they are not necessary at all – especially if you opt to walk from the chairlift, or if you take the Summit Trail. I walked the Main Range trail with running shoes and had no difficulty at all. But it would have been even easier with waterproof hiking shoes as it rained the day before and some parts of the path were muddy and a bit slippery. I left mine at home as I was trying to travel light for this trip, but if you’re looking for great hiking shoes, I really love my pair of Asolo*.
Dry bag with a second set of clothes
How good is your balance? If you lose it and fall into the cold river, as someone did just in front of us, your dry bag could save the day. It is also very comfortable to put on dry clothes after rain or extra clothes to keep you warm when you take a break. Dry bags are also good to reduce the size of what you pack: I love how it removes the air and shrinks my waterproof jacket! I own many kinds of dry bags, but a small one like the one below will be sufficient for this hike (click for more info*).
A beanie and a hat
Even in the middle of summer, you may need to cover your head to stay warm and to protect yourself from the sun. A hoodie was just enough for me, and while walking against the strong wind, I missed the beanie I left at home.
Waterproof and windproof jacket
Anyone doing the hike without these is taking a great risk of feeling miserable. Again, the weather changes quickly.
An emergency blanket
Although I have never needed it, always find room to bring this one. It can be used in so many ways during an unplanned event, for surviving or just for comfort, that it’s worth carrying it around. Plus, it is cheap, minimal and light. I own a simple one similar to this (click for more info*).
Hot water thermos
Although this is not a must-have gear, I just love having a hot drink when I feel cold. It warms up the entire body, it is great to rehydrate, and it makes a tasty meal with no extra weight. The Continental Soups, Miso soups or hot chocolate are my favourite drinks. The thermos I own is similar to this (click for more info*).
3. Allow plenty of time to hike Mt Kosciuszko
We are experienced hikers and used to long hikes, but it still took us a long time to complete the 22km loop to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. The Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Kosciuszko walk took longer than we expected.
And that’s probably because the weather conditions we had during the first half of the walk slowed us down.
The river was higher than we thought. We had to remove our shoes and carefully step into the water, choosing the right boulders that wouldn’t be too slippery. The clouds were blocking the views so we waited at some lookouts hoping for the clouds to clear up for a few seconds. We had a slower pace than usual when we were facing the strong wind gusts. And when it finally cleared up, we took our time to admire the beauty of the mountains around us. We felt blessed to see more than just clouds, finally! It would have been a waste to rush.
We initially planned to drive a few hours in the afternoon. But we finished late and were tired, so we did not get as far as we wished. It was not an issue as we were flexible with our itinerary and there are plenty of rest areas and camping spots in Kosciuszko National Park. However, if you’re not as flexible as us, I recommend staying two consecutive nights in the area (see below for recommendations).
4. Apply sunscreen regularly during the hike
When you’re cold, using sunscreen does not come as a reflex. But it’s necessary for the Snowy Mountains. The sun is powerful in Australia, especially in summer when the UV index is extreme. In winter, the reflection on the snow makes the sun more dangerous in the mountains than in the valley.
5. Have a plan to identify Mt Kosciuszko easily
Although Mt Kosciuszko is Australia’s highest peak, I didn’t identify it easily coming from Charlotte Pass. There are other peaks that look high not far from it. And apart at Blue Lake, there was no indication of the surroundings on Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Kosciuszko walk.
As I really like to see the mountain I am aiming for from as far as possible, I am a big fan of the PeakFinder app*. Using your phone GPS and your camera, it places names on the mounts in front of you. Excellent use of virtual reality. Alternatively, here are screenshots from the Summit Walk and the Main Range Walk (the two paths of Charlotte’s Pass to Mt Kosciuszko walk) taken with the app.
When is the best time to climb Mt Kosciuszko?
Summer is the best time to climb Mt Kosciuszko. You’ll increase your chances of having a warm and sunny day, although you still should be prepared for cold conditions. Spring is also a lovely time to climb Mt Kosciuszko when the beautiful wildflowers are blooming.
In autumn and winter, it’s a lot harder to climb Mount Kosciuszko because of the weather and the snow.
Where to stay near Mount Kosciuszko
We hiked Mount Kosciuszko during our road trip around NSW between Christmas and the New Year. We easily found free campsites near Charlotte Pass: Island Bend campground the night before (half an hour drive) and Geehi Hut after the hike, on the Alpine Way Drive (2-hour drive).
Before choosing your accommodation, I recommend deciding which track you’ll take to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. It takes more than one hour to drive from Charlotte Pass to Thredbo. So if you come to the region just for the hike, you may want to avoid wasting unnecessary hours in the car.
If you want to increase the pool to choose from and the number of activities available, Jindabyne (view here)* – where the road splits to Charlotte Pass or Thredbo – has a great offer. You may also find good deals in Crackenback (view here)* between Jindabyne and Thredbo.
Did you climb Mt Kosciuszko in summer? Share your experience in the comments below!
Where is Mount Kosciuszko?
Mount Kosciuszko is located in the Snowy Mountains in the south of New South Wales and close to the Victoria border. It is almost halfway between Sydney and Melbourne. It takes 6 hours to drive there from Sydney (via Canberra), and 6.5 hours from Melbourne. From Canberra, it takes 2 hours 40 min.
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