Hiking to Mt Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass

It’s been on my bucket list for a while now, but finally, I have completed the hike to Mt Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass.

If you’ve also been dreaming of conquering Australia’s tallest peak, it is possible for us mere mortals who don’t climb mountains.

Now that I have navigated this beautiful, challenging terrain, I can tell you that you’re in for an awesome experience.

Here is my first-hand account to help you prepare, execute your hike, and make the most of your journey. 

“The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.” – Lao Tzu

Ready to get started?

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Planning Mount Kosciuszko

This is no ordinary mountain. Sure, it is one of the seven peaks on the Seven Continents trail, but this one is not like the others. Our special Australian mountain is a mere 2228m (7310 feet) tall.

Mount Kosciuszko does not need you to be a mountain climber, plan for months in advance, stay overnight or even be particularly fit. Most ordinary people can simply come to the Snowy Mountains and go for a day hike to reach the top.

The Path to Mt Kosciuszko

A path meandering up a mountain. There is a sign that says Main Range Track

There are three main routes to reach the summit of Mt Kosciuszko:

  • Take the chairlift up from Thredbo. From there, it’s a 13km round trip hike to the summit, on fairly easy, slightly uphill paths.
  • Take the Summit Trail from Charlotte Pass, a 19km round trip, mostly on a gently rising path (which is also and access road for emergencies and National Park employees)
  • Take the Main Range trail, a 22km loop that returns via the Summit trail. This is more difficult, with undulations and some less developed sections of the trail.

I took the third option. So we walked along the Main Range trail on the way to Mount Kosciuszko and came back via the Summit trail.

It may be the hardest route, but I can confirm it is also the most scenic and worth the effort. Sure, there are a few hills, but it’s perfectly doable for the average person.

You will have stunning views over the Snowy Mountains, including seeing the Blue Lake, Albina Lake (two of the four glacial cirque lakes in Australia) and the Ramshead Range.

Best Time to Hike Mt Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass

Looking along a green valley with a small stream running through it.

In the warmer months, from December to March, the temperatures hover between cool to mild, making this a fantastic time for hiking.

Plus, the alpine wildflowers are in full bloom, providing a splash of color against the stunning backdrop of the mountain range.

This also means it’s the most popular time for hiking. While the Main Range part of the walk is unlikely to be crowded, you will find a reasonable amount of traffic on the last section to the top, once the three paths have joined.

In winter, the path is likely to be under snow. This doesn’t mean you can’t hike, but you will need to be better prepared for the cold conditions.

This could be a great challenge for the more experienced hiker looking for a little more solitude.

Gearing Up for the Hike

A sign at Charlotte Pass lookout with the Snowy Mountains and Mt Kosciuszko behind

A successful hike starts with suitable gear, especially if you’re taking on a trek like the one from Charlotte Pass to Mount Kosciuszko.

Don’t underestimate the importance of packing a comprehensive kit; it’s your safety net and comfort while exploring the great outdoors.

Essentials

The unpredictable alpine weather means dressing in layers is key; this allows you to easily adjust to the changing conditions, ensuring comfort whether you’re feeling the chill of a brisk morning or the warmth of a sunny afternoon.

Even on a beautiful day, I was comfortable in a thin t-shirt, a light zip-up jacket and a wind-proof outer jacket. It was still cold on the windy side of the mountain, and my zips were undone on the sheltered side.

Sturdy hiking boots are non-negotiable – they provide the necessary support and grip on varied terrains, from rocky paths to slippery slopes, safeguarding your ankles and enhancing your overall hiking experience.

Sunscreen is another critical item; despite the cooler temperatures at higher altitudes, the sun’s rays are more intense, making skin protection essential.

Applying a high-SPF sunscreen can shield your skin from harmful UV rays and prevent sunburn, allowing you to enjoy the breathtaking views and pristine nature without worry. Don’t forget the lip balm too.

I was fully covered and sunscreened, but missed a small patch behind my ear and I did feel it for the next day or two.

Gear

To take hiking poles or not to take hiking poles?

We saw many people in both camps. We did not take poles, but there were times I would have liked to have them – and other times were they would have just been a burden.

I think overall, we made the correct decision for us not to take the poles. I absolutely do not think you need them for either the Thredbo or Summit trails.

But if you like to use hiking poles and you are happy to carry them for big chunks of the hike – like for the 1.7km metal grate creates the path in one section – then I think they will be useful.

Food and Water

Since you are going to spend 6-8 hours and walk up to 25km you will need to make sure you have enough food and water for the day.

My preference for carrying water is to use a hiking daypack with a water bladder. It means I have constant access to the water without needing to stop and pull it out from my backpack.

I don’t tend to drink a lot while I’m walking, but I recommend you take at least 2 litres of water, perhaps even more.

Take some trail snacks and lunch with you on the walk. I like simple food when I walk, so my food consisted of a sandwich for lunch, some grapes and some lollies for a sugar boost.

A sign showing a map of the area around Charlotte Pass and the walking trails leaving from here.

Navigation

In summer it is almost impossible to miss the path. There may not be a lot of signage, but it is very clear where you need to go.

If there is some snow around, you may like to carry some navigational aids such as maps and compasses.

You can also hire a Personal Locator Beacon free of charge from the National Parks people at the Snowy Region Visitor Centre in Jindabyne or the Perisher Valley Office.

Phone Coverage

Phone coverage should not be relied on at any time during this hike, but there were many times when both my husband (on Telstra) and I (Optus) did have coverage, including right on the summit of Mount Kosciuszko.

So assume you won’t have coverage and think of it as a bonus when you do.

Looking across the tops of mountains. The ones in the front are green, behind they are shrouded in blue haze.

Leave No Trace

The ethos around “leave no trace” revolves around respect—for nature, for future visitors, and for ourselves.

The principles are not only about refusing to litter but about preserving the natural state of the landscape, allowing others to experience its beauty just as you did. 

Since you are in a national park, you will not find any rubbish bins here so be prepared to carry out everything you bring it. This is especially important if you are planning an overnight hike.

Refrain from picking plants or moving rocks, as it will disturb the habitats of local fauna. Also, leave any cultural or historical artefacts untouched.

We didn’t see any wildlife, but if you do, observe from a distance and never feed animals—it can harm their health and alter natural behaviours.

Getting to Charlotte Pass

Looking along a path down into a valley where a river can been seen. Two people are walking on the path. On the other side of the river mountains rise up. The path continues up the mountains. The golden morning sun is shining on the tops of the mountains.

The small village of Charlotte Pass is the highest permanent settlement in Australia. The nearby starting point of the Mt Kosciuszko trails sits at 1835m above sea level.

It’s about half an hour’s drive from Jindabyne to Charlotte Pass, and probably ten minutes from Perisher village. The starting point of the hike is literally the end of Kosciuszko Road.

You will need to pick up a pass to enter the national park. You can either get it in advance on the app, at the visitor information centres or there are manned offices on the road you can stop into – like toll booths.

When I visited in January 2024 the price for us was $17/car per day, but there are a range of different options which you can read about here.

There is really not much here at the starting point, not even a car park, so you will need to park along the road to do your hike.

It’s a really good idea, therefore, to get here early, especially if, like us, you are planning this hike in peak season. I think we picked the busiest time of the year – the Australia Day long weekend.

We were only two hundred metres or so from the starting point, but the cars were stretched kilometres down the road when we returned. It’s a long enough hike without adding those extras on at the end.

There is a lookout here with views towards Mount Kosciuszko and toilets. Take advantage of them because there is only one more toilet on the trail.

The Hike

The Snowy River crossing made up of rocks in the stream

I mentioned it above, but I want to reiterate that starting this hike early is a good idea, especially if you know it’s going to be busy.

Our plan was to arrive just as the sun was coming up, so that meant we were starting on the trail a little before 6:30am.

Even in January, on what was going to be a superb day, it was around 3 degrees (Celsius) as we parked the car.

The first kilometre or so of the hike is all downhill, towards the Snowy River and the first crossing. You will need to step your way across a trail of rocks to get to the other side.

If you are planning to walk this trail, it is always recommended you walk the loop in this anti-clockwise direction, because there is a chance the Snowy River here could be impassable, and it would not de ideal to have to walk 20+km back the way you came.

While walking down to the river is a nice easy part of the hike, you do spend the time looking directly towards the path back up the other side, knowing that you will soon be tackling that.

Take it slow and steady, and soon you will be at the 4.3km mark, which is a viewpoint over the Blue Lake. You can continue directly on, or do a short detour to see the lake.

Blue Lake, and alpine lake in the Snowy Mountains

During our hike, the detour was only 350m to a closer viewing platform over the lake, the rest of the path down to the lake was closed. If that path is open, it’s 1.4km each way to see the lake up close.

The trail continues upward until you reach the summit of Carruthers Peak, Australia’s seventh-highest mountain. Here you will have incredible views out over the Snowy Mountains beyond.

A hazy blue view from a mountain across the top of other mountain ranges disappearing into the distance

While you might be almost blown off the mountain by the wind, make sure you do stop and take in the view before moving on towards the next landmark, Albina Lake.

After climbing consistently for a while, now you can rest a little as you walk along the metal boardwalk that has been installed to protect the native vegetation.

A selection of wildflowers

Here is where I really started to notice the variety of wildflowers that were blooming all over the mountains.

I loved the views over Albina Lake and along the valley behind. It’s that classic mountainous landscape that stretches for miles with a sparkling blue lake.

Looking down into a mountain valley with a beautiful blue lake and rolling mountains disappearing into the distance

After this, the climb ramps up a little. We were also now on the protected side of the range, so it started to get warmer.

You will now be able to see the Kosciuszko Summit, so you will know you’re not too far away.

About 1km from the top the Main Range track joins with the other tracks, and you wind back around the windy side of Mount Kosciuszko before reaching the summit.

It’s with a mixture of joy and relief that you will spot the marker that sits at the very highest spot – and then you will join the line of eager hikers wanting that photo of them at the top.

Or perhaps there won’t be a line…

People milling around on the top of a mountain. Some are standing on a path, others sitting looking at the view.

But if you come on a busy day like we did, you will likely find 100 people at the top, sitting enjoying a snack before the descent, taking plenty of photos and celebrating the achievement of hiking Australia’s highest mountain.

We reached the summit a little before 11 am, so in total it was around 4.5 hours at a steady pace. Many people passed us going faster (even some runners) and we passed some others going slower, so I would say this is a reasonable timeframe.

Josie standing with her hand on a tall stone cairn that marks the top of Mount Kosciuszko. Josie is wearing a black cap, sunglasses, a black unzipped jacket and a grey t-shirt. In the background are views over the mountains and valleys beyond.

The Descent

After spending half an hour admiring the view and eating our sandwiches, it was time to take the Summit trail back to Charlotte Pass.

The walk down is shorter and easier, and not just because it is downhill. Now the walk is on a roadway that is used for vehicle access when required.

People walking along a mountain path

About 2km from the summit you will come to Rawson Pass and the highest toilets in Australia.

I had heard some horror stories about the toilets, so I was a little hesitant about using them, but really, for who isolated they are and the constant stream of “customers”, they weren’t too bad at all.

It’s around another kilometre before you will reach Seamans Hut, an emergency shelter for people who make need it.

It’s interesting to take a look inside and imagine a snowy night huddled in there – not something I actually want to experience.

A rustic, small stone hut on a mountain side with a sign saying "Seamans Hut. For day use and emergency overnight shelter only". There are summer grasses all around.

It’s still easy walking as the Snowy River is crossed again, with nowhere near the descent and climb required at the earlier crossing. There is even a proper bridge this time too.

We arrived back at the car park at around 1:15 pm – and boy was I glad I did not have to hike another kilometre or two down the road to my car as some people would have to do.

My Fitbit told me I walked over 36,000 steps and 25km in total, so now it was time to put my feet up and rest for a while.

My Final Thoughts

Looking across a mountain range. Small fluffy clouds sit just above the peaks in the distance

As I look back on my hike to climb Mount Kosciuszko, I can honestly say the hardest part was the length of the hike.

I’m not especially fit, and I detest hiking uphill at the best of times (yet I always seem to want to do it!) but the climbs were bearable. Hard, but bearable.

A few years ago I climbed Mt Kinabalu on Borneo, and this was half the height, half the pain and half the time! So much easier!

We saw plenty of families on the trail at the top (mostly from Thredbo), and bike riders can go as far as Rawsons Pass, so we saw many of them of the last section back too.

Taking on the hike to Mount Kosciuszko from Charlotte Pass is an adventure that will leave you with memories that last a lifetime.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or someone looking to step out of your comfort zone, it offers unparalleled views, a sense of accomplishment, and a glimpse of the natural beauty of the Australian high country.

Remember, the mountain welcomes all who respect its trails and vistas. Embrace the challenge and enjoy every step.

The summit awaits, and the views from Australia’s highest peak are a reward that’s well worth the effort.

Here’s to your Mount Kosciuszko adventure – may it be one of many highlights in your outdoor explorations!

Where to Stay near Mt Kosciuszko

If your purpose is to do this hike, I recommend three places to look at for your accommodation.

The closest place is the tiny village of Charlotte Pass. Mostly a ski resort, there are options available here all year.

A little further down the road is Perisher, also a ski resort, but again there are limited accommodation options all year.

If you want more services and other things to do, stay in Jindabyne. This was the option we chose.

We stayed in a cabin at Discovery Parks Jindabyne which was a great location.

Looking for more Australian adventures? Read these next
A Port Arthur Day Trip from Hobart, Tasmania
8 Things to Do on Rottnest Island in Winter
Places to Stop on the Great Ocean Road
Great Barrier Reef Experience, Cairns

TRAVEL PLANNING ESSENTIALS

Find flights – I always use Skyscanner as my starting point when searching for flights. One search will give many options including airlines I may not have thought of. This means I can find the best possible flights to suit my needs

Book accommodation – my go to is always Booking.com for the best places to stay. It’s not just hotels anymore, but hostels, apartments, B&Bs and more. I love that the bookings are usually cancellable, and that I can book now and pay later.

Hire a rental carRentalCars.com is my go to here. It allows me to do just one search and it finds cars from many of the different supplies, so no checking multiple websites to compare.

Get travel insurance – you would have heard by now that saying “if you can’t afford travel insurance, you can’t afford to travel”. If we’ve learnt anything from the last couple of years it should be how essential travel insurance is. I use CoverMore for my insurance.

Pick up an eSIM – I tried an eSIM on my last trip and it was fantastic. I set it up before I went so it was ready as soon as I landed, and I still had access to my home number for emergencies. Get your own eSIM at Airalo.

Book activities, tours & attractions – I use a few different websites for this. Viator and Get Your Guide tend to be the first places I look. In Asia, Klook often has more options, and in Australia it’s Experience Oz.

Manage your money – the best way to manage your different currencies is with an account from Wise. You can hold money in many different currencies, and use them with the ATM card or from your phone.

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