As the ski season winds up and the snow melts for another year, the New South Wales Snowy Mountains transform into a paradise for hikers. There is no question the most famous walk in the area is the trip to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko but the lesser-known Main Range Track from Charlotte Pass to the Blue Lake provides a great (and way less crowded) alternative if you want to get out into the fresh mountain air.
While the Kosciuszko summit walk can feel like fighting through Northbourne Avenue traffic at peak hour, there are times on the Blue Lake walk where it is just you, some awe-inspiring scenery and twenty thousand acres of sky, which combine to give that awesome sensation of being a very tiny speck in an amazing world!
The Main Range Track is snowbound between June and October and the only traversable on cross country skis or snowshoes to experience the walk on foot, plan your trip from November to Late May. The best way to tackle the walk is to drive to Charlotte Pass and walk from there (Kosciuszko Road access to Charlotte Pass is subject to seasonal closures. This is generally between the June and October long weekends but may extend depending on weather conditions). If you head past the Perisher Valley and Charlotte Pass resorts, you will hit a cul-de-sac parking lot and this is where your trip begins. A few different walks start from this point and there is a basic public toilet which is the last one before the walk, so make sure you take advantage of it - there aren't any further toilet facilities on the Main Range Track.
To throw you straight into the deep end, the start of the Main Range Track is a STEEP downhill path - keep in mind this is also the path out at the end and it is a killer! At the bottom of the hill, nature has created a ninja warrior style obstacle course involving the Snowy River and some ridiculously small stepping stones which have the added bonus of being seriously wobbly to add to the fun!
Once you make it across the river, the pace calms down as you walk through the undulating hills. There's a good mix of uphill and downhill sections so just when it feels like your burning legs are about to give up, there is a nice easy stretch to pep you back up. While the Kosciuszko walk is relatively well signposted so you have a good awareness of how far you have to go, at times there's a lack of information about how far there is to go in relation to reaching Blue Lake. (For the record, it's 9.3km and it takes longer to reach the Lake than it does to return to Charlotte Pass thanks to the slightly more downhill homeward trip - as a guide, allow for around four hours total walking time).
The Blue Lake is pretty special being one of only four glacial cirques on mainland Australia. The lake was formed when a glacier pushed into the mountain then receded and kindly created a 16 hectare, 28 meter deep lake for us to enjoy!
The day I took the walk, there was an amazing summer mountain storm brewing and rolling overhead which meant I only caught a quick glimpse of sun hitting the Blue Lake which made the water glow an amazing aqua colour - that little glimpse was mesmerising and I've made myself a promise to return on a clear day because it was amazing. And once you reach the lake, there's a lookout which lets you see Blue Lake at its show-off best and catch your breath before making the homeward trek.
If you're thinking of checking out the Blue Lake, keep in mind that the road to Charlotte Pass closes in the winter. Some parts of the walk are extremely steep and the weather in the mountains can change very quickly so be prepared and make sure somebody knows your walk plans. Last but not least, you'll need to buy a National Parks Pass for the drive - there is a booth on the way where you can pick one up. Then get out, get walking and enjoy this most amazing part of Australia!
Summer storm rolling in over Kosciuszko National Park