Walls of wonder
One of the world’s most famed bushwalking locales offers an experience of biblical proportions that starts with a three hour drive from Launceston.
The Walls of Jerusalem NP offers heavenly hiking
TASMANIA’S WALLS of Jerusalem National Park is among the world’ s most over qualified World Heritage sites. It’s one of the main properties protected within the Tasmania Wilderness World Heritage Area, which encompasses 15,800 sq.km – about 20 per cent of the state – and includes the Cradle Mountain–Lake St Clair, Franklin–Gordon Wild Rivers, Southwest and Hartz Mountain national parks, as well as the Adamsfield and Central Plateau conservation areas.
Natural highlights of the 518sq.km Walls of Jerusalem NP include glacial-carved valleys, ancient pencil pine forests, alpine lakes and dolerite peaks, all of which offer stunning landscape photography opportunities. The park is most famed as a bushwalking destination, offering walks that range from day-long and overnight to a six-day (or longer) circuit that explores the park from north to south and back again. This variety means the park offers something suited to all skill and fitness levels–the perfect location for taking that next booted step in a new walking career, while offering challenges for experienced walkers. The walking season runs from about September to May.
The Walls’ northern access area is roughly three hours drive south-west of Launceston, passing through Deloraine (a chance to grab last-minute supplies) and then Mole Creek, before reaching the turn-off from Mersey Forest Road to Fish River car park. Then, after signing the Tasmania Parks and Wildlife Service walker registration book, the real adventure begins.
THE LONG WAY ROUND
To appreciate the wonder of the Walls, a six-day circuit of the park is a must, albeit only for experienced walkers. Ideally, you’ll have completed other full-pack, multi-day treks and be comfortable carrying food and a day’s water (there are ample chances to ref ill), plus all your gear (see “Packing It In”, opposite). You’ll need to think in terms of time rather than distance, due to the terrain encountered along this circuit and its side-trips.
The park’s tracks are easy to follow and mostly signposted. But you should still be adept at basic navigation and carry topographic paper maps of the park, and a compass and emergency beacon. GPS devices are fantastic but can fail or run out of power, so should not be your sole navigation aid. If you take one, remember spare batteries. All this might sound daunting, but experienced walkers will always pack this equipment. With proper preparation and the essential gear you can focus on why you’re there: to enjoy one of Australia’s premier multi-day bushwalking experiences.
The Walls circuit is a far-from-subtle introduction to the park’s landscapes. The initial ascent begins straight from the Fish River car park; following the rock-strewn track upwards immerses you immediately in dense forest, with towering eucalypts and lush tree ferns lining the track. You’ll ascend 500m to the park’s boundary line, just above the f irst of the area’s historic huts. Trappers Hut was, as the name suggests, initially used by trappers, and later bushwalkers (although, as for all huts in the park, you are now only allowed to stay in it in an emergency). Even allowing for the ascent’s steepness, the f irst section is cracking good fun, and hints at what lies ahead during the next six days as you explore this wild place.
ABOVE IT ALL
Once you reach the park boundary you’ll come to the junction of the Walls of Jerusalem and Junction Lake tracks. This point is where you start and finish the circuit itself. You can opt to go south on Junction Lake Track and complete the circuit anticlockwise, but we recommend turning south-east onto the Walls of Jerusalem Track first. This is because you want your introduction to the park’s many natural highlights to happen on the first day.
You will now be at an elevation of about 900m and soon move out of the dense timber onto the Central Plateau and the first of the circuit’ s many highlights–Solom ons Jewels.Th isis a flat area dotted with small alpine lakes bordered by native pine trees – and the second (after the park title itself ) of what will become regular encounters with the park’s unique naming convention.
The park’s name is thanks to 19th-century surveyor James Scott, and in the 1920s Launceston solicitor Reg Hall continued the biblical theme. Landmarks have been assigned such titles as Zion Gate, King Davids Peak, Herods Gate, Wailing Wall, Pool (and Vale) of Bethesda, Lake Salome and The Temple – all epic names but seemingly appropriate because this is a truly epic landscape.
The traverse of Solomons Jewels is straightforward and followed by a short ascent to Wild Dog Creek campsite, perched at the base of King Davids Peak, which at 1499m is Tasmania’s 10th highest. The campsite has raised tent platforms to protect fragile vegetation below, and there’s a self-composting toilet about 50m further up.
There is also water here, but boil it before drinking. It’s a three- to four-hour journey from Fish River car
THE VIEWS – ESPECIALLY OF THE MYRIAD LAKES TO THE EAST – ARE OUTSTANDING.
park and the pristine Pool of Bethesda. It’s a further 1.5-hour traverse before ascending Damascus Gate and reaching the trailhead of two side-trips – an ascent of Solomons Throne, at the junction of the West Wall and the Wailing Wall, and The Temple, to the east.
We recommend Solomons Throne. Scrambling up a scree f ield then climbing through a square-edged notch cut out of the West Wall soon sees you at the summit of Solomons Throne, with 360-degree views across the park. Take in the Great Pine Tier and Bernes Valley to the south-east, Mount Jerusalem to the east, Chinamans Plains to the south and Lake Adelaide to the south-west. Return to the Damascus Gate junction and continue south-east to your next camp at Dixons Kingdom Hut. This is reached after an hour of walking along an undulating track that takes you through an emerald-green wonderland of lush grass and native pine trees before entering a clearing beside the hut.
Dixons Kingdom Hut is where the track to 1459m Mount Jerusalem is accessed. This steady ascent is about an hour (one-way), and takes you over plenty of the rocks and boulders synonymous with the park, past alpine tarns and over false summits before you reach the cairn marking the true summit. The views – especially of the myriad lakes to the east – are outstanding.
THE END GAME
The circuit loops south then east, then south again during the next two days. The walk south-west through Jaffa Vale from Dixons Kingdom Hut is brilliant, with the chance to spot wallabies and birdlife
hiding in buttongrass moorlands, before you turn east and follow Lake Ball’s shoreline, passing the hut with the same name. You join Junction Lake Track at the head of Lake Adelaide and can camp here or turn south to follow Lake Adelaide’s eastern shore to a campsite halfway down. This is recommended because it brings you closer to the next day’s objective: camping at Lake Meston and ascending 1350m Mt Ragoona.
To reach Lake Meston and camp at the head of the lake from here is a two-hour walk across Adelaide Plain, one of the world’s best examples of a glacial valley. Accessing the Mt Ragoona ascent is via a sidetrack near Lake Meston Hut, midway along the lake’s western side. The three-hour return trip from the hut is awesome fun, negotiating scrubby, then rocky terrain to Mt Ragoona plateau. This is dotted with boulders and alpine tarns for the last hour to the summit and views of Cradle Mountain and the rugged ramparts of the Western Arthur Range.
From Lake Meston campsite it’s a full day to f inal camp at Stretcher Lake. Backtrack north along Junction Lake Track, past Lake Adelaide and then through more valleys to Stretcher Lake, which is accessed via a 15-minute side-track. A short walk around the lake before sitting back to enjoy the sunset makes a brilliant last night.
It’s a three-hour walk from the last night’s camp to the car park. Rejoin Junction Lake Track, follow it to Trappers Hut and descend to Fish River car park. Time it right and you’ll be enjoying lunch and a celebratory beverage at the Mole Creek Hotel. Not a bad way to finish six days in Walls of Jerusalem NP.
It’s worth making the most of an early morning alpine start to cross through Herods Gate, about 10 minutes walk from the Wild Dog Creek campsite.
This walk in the valley below Wild Dog Creek campsite takes you past some pretty alpine tarns.
This scrambling ascent to Solomons Throne is a must-do 15-minute sidetrip accessed via a track off Walls of Jerusalem Track, at Damascus Gate.
Lake Meston Hut sits on the western shore of the lake bearing the same name. A track from here leads to the summit of Mt Ragoona.
Take a break at the top of Solomons Throne and check out the incredible views across the south-west section of the Walls of Jerusalem NP.
The setting sun lights up pretty Stretcher Lake on the last evening of the circuit – a fantastic sign-off after six days in this spectacular pristine landscape.