Mount Field Tarn Shelf walk

Well it happened again, Tasmania has blown my mind with its epicness. Today we went on a hike up to the tarn shelf at Mount Field and did a nice 15+ km circuit from the Lake Dobson car park and pack. I highly recommend doing the circuit anticlockwise as the scenery just keeps getting better and better as you go.

The first stretch of the walk up towards Lake Webster is nice and gentle with a detour to Platypus Tarn being the highlight, although the climb back up to the main trail-head is somewhat strenuous. Lake Webster offers nice views but everything starts to ramp up on the visual front once you reach the hut at Twilight Tarn. It was built in 1927 by the Tasmanian Ski Club and still retains many of its original features and houses something of an impromptu museum with various skiing paraphernalia and food items from the early 20th Century.


From here the scenery changes dramatically as you approach Twisted Tarn which looks like a scene straight out of Lord of the Rings. The vegetation is dominated by the brilliant white of dead snow gum skeletons which add further to the fantasy atmosphere of this part of the walk. Some people might think it’s an eyesore to see so many dead trees but I found it absolutely beautiful. They are clearly ancient as their bark is twisted and contorted into a myriad of strange shapes. I looked it up to try and find the cause but can’t seem to find anything but it’s likely as a result of bush fires as you see similar white trees on the slopes of Mount Wellington from the devastating 1967 fires. It could also be a result of disease from insect species that are responsible for numerous large scale die-offs elsewhere.


It doesn’t take long (at least it didn’t feel that way) to get up onto the tarn shelf itself with Backhouse Tarn, James Tarn (the best one if you ask me, not being biased at all :D) and Johnston Tarn amongst others. You’ll eventually reach the first of the ski huts complete with ski-lift equipment which seemed so out of place in today’s scorching weather. There’s a couple of huts here which are essentially used as day shelters for hikers caught in inclement weather and for the storage of equipment to maintain the ski facilities. There’s numerous side trails and multiple pathways, however do please pay attention to the signs highlighting areas that are undergoing recovery and avoid those trails. This landscape is so ancient and pristine that it deserves our utmost respect.

You’re almost at the end of the main scenic part of the trail once you reach the first ski hut but there’s still plenty more to see in the area, including amazing panoramic views of the tarn shelf to one side and the impressive Lake Seal and Platypus tarn down below. dscf5448dscf5456dscf5457dscf5458dscf5466dscf5470dscf5472dscf5484dscf5475dscf5492dscf5495dscf5501dscf5522As I mentioned at the start of the post, I’d definitely recommend doing the circuit in an anticlockwise direction from Lake Dobson as there isn’t toooooo much to see before you get to Lake Webster. I can’t wait to get back up here and go for a cheeky dip in one of the tarns.

More information on Mount Field National Park. I highly recommend having a read through the Parks Service (linked) web page on Mount Field, it goes into fascinating detail on the geology as well as the flora and fauna of the park.

A previous blog post from the lower slopes of Mount Field. This post covers the lower slopes of Mount Field and includes Russell and Horseshoe Falls as well as the major draw-card to the area, the turning of the Fagus (The only deciduous tree in Tasmania)

See the map below which highlights the route we took (albeit clockwise).

Image via Hiking South East Tasmania

6 thoughts on “Mount Field Tarn Shelf walk

  1. Brilliant photographs, James, some of which raised questions in my mind. You probably didn’t have time to explain more about the ski-hut and its furniture and fittings but, next time, maybe you could develop that side of the story. Also, I wondered about the frequency of dead trees; I presume that, once they die, they are left there as nature intended, until they break down and become part of the soil. In other words, it’s nature doing its thing and not humans polluting the environment.

    I thought of you recently when I came across a blogger who wandered with his/her camera along the coast from Malahide to Portmarnock. I’ll track it down and copy the link to you.

    Best wishes,

    Maurice >

  2. Heading to AUS this year for my first ever trip and this will the the first day of our trip.Thanks for the excellent blogpost and overview!

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