Being able to snowshoe your way to the top of Australia might sound strange. However, since the winter season is June-August and mountains are more like high country hills, it is not surprising that you can attempt to snowshoe Australia’s highest peak in Kosciuszko National Park in one, albeit very long, day.
Mt. Kosciuszko forms part of a huge alpine ridge that runs down southeast Australia, petering out towards the sea in the province of Victoria. Mt Kosciuszko itself is 2228 meters (7310 ft) above sea level. However, the entire area is elevated, which makes the snowshoeing in Kosciuszko National Park a paradise.
The ski village of Thredbo lies at the base of Mt Kosciuszko. Thredbo has a European air about it, nestled in a valley and dotted with Swiss chalets or modern resorts. It was populated after WWII by many European immigrants as it reminded them of home. But it is also unmistakably Australian, surrounded by pristine snow gums. It is also the birthplace of one of Australia’s most enduring legends – the Man from Snowy River.
Snowshoeing in Kosciuszko National Park
Snowshoers needn’t be put off by the large ski presence in the area. Just minutes from the resort, there are plenty of snowshoeing opportunities where you feel like you can get away from it all.
For more challenging snowshoeing, Mt. Kosciuszko is a 6.5 km (4 mi) hike. Starting from the village, take the chairlift to the top and keep going along the marked track.
However, take care, as the weather can often be treacherous. A guided tour is highly recommended as the sunny Australian weather can lull you into a false sense of security, and high winds and ice storms can get up at any time.
Dead Horse Gap
On a smaller scale, take a three-minute drive or a twenty-minute walk out of town to Dead Horse Gap. Don’t let the name put you off; this is a lovely little valley, a favorite of snowshoers.
The Dead Horse Gap Walk is a full-day walk and takes you up a steep hill through gnarled snow gums up onto the ridge where you can look down the valley at the skiers.
Keep walking along the ridge until you come to the ski lift terminal, where it is a short lift ride down to Thredbo Village. Or, if you would rather go downhill, do it the other way around and take the lift up to the top and walk down to Dead Horse Gap.
On the other side of Dead Horse Gap car park, take a walk on the Cascades trail. This is an idyllic place to wander and enjoy the beauty and stillness of the Australian Alps.
Keep to one side of the river and wander for as long as you like, or walk to Teddy’s Hut, a ruined hut on the delightfully named Boggy Plains. This is another full-day walk (10 km/6.2 mi). On the trail, you will more than likely see brumbies, the Australian name for wild horses, on the way. Brumbies are not aggressive and will tend to race off as soon as they see you.
Merritts Nature Track
Close to civilization is Merritts Nature Track. This 4 km (2.5 mi) uphill track runs parallel to the ski field but is free of skiers as tall mountain ash trees cover it. You can walk to the top and catch the ski lift back or wander in and back for as long as you like.
Apres Near Thredbo
At night there are plenty of accommodation options ranging from bunk bed hostels that are warm and dry to luxury spa accommodation. Likewise, you are never short of somewhere to have a beer in Australia.
The Thredbo Alpine Hotel in the centre of town does a roaring trade and serves basic pub food, but it is a great place mid-afternoon to sit in the sun and enjoy the view. For something more upmarket, try Segreto for Italian cuisine with an Australian twist or Credo for a great oyster and tapas menu.
Have a beer or a robust Aussie red and have a toast to Australia’s highest mountain. After climbing the roof of Australia, you may feel like your work is done, but Australia’s alpine region is so vast that it is just the tip of the iceberg. There are plenty of smaller resorts in the area to explore for backcountry snowshoeing, but for the moment, at least, the roof of Australia takes some beating.
Thredbo is located in Kosciuszko National Park, 310 miles southwest of Sydney, an easy 5-6 hour drive from Sydney. You can drive all the way to Thredbo village, but you must carry chains in the car.
When to go:
The Australian snow season typically runs from the end of June to mid-September.
Where to stay:
Thredbo Alpine Hotel – retro hotel located minutes from the ski resort chair lift
Squatter’s Run – a luxury self-catering apartment in the centre of town.
Currawong Ski Lodge – private accommodation in the centre of Thredbo with excellent views of the mountain and valley
This article was first published on December 19, 2005. The article was most recently updated on May 2, 2021.
Have you gone snowshoeing on any of these trails in Kosciuszko National Park? Please share your insights and recommendations in the comments below.