Overland Track, Australia

Explore a hiker's fantasy island on Tasmania's rough-and-wild long trail.
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Explore a hiker's fantasy island on Tasmania's rough-and-wild long trail.

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The Overland Track is no secret, but its remote location off the southern tip of Australia, together with its famously fickle weather, put it in a class by itself: a classic trek that always feels undiscovered. Tasmania's lost world surprises even the most jaded globetrotters with its surreal plants and animals on a weeklong, 50-mile crossing of Cradle Mountain-Lake St. Clair National Park. Look for native marsupials like Bennett's wallabies around Waterfall Valley and New Pelion Huts, pademelon (a smaller cousin of kangaroos) in the thick bush around Windy Ridge Hut, and, after dark everywhere, ringtail and brushtail possums, wombats, and quolls (rat-size marsupial).

Life-list moment: Snapping a photo of a Tasmanian devil in the spooky forest of pencil pine and eucalyptus. The dog-size mammals–Australia's infamous, yet elusive, carnivorous marsupials–have large heads, powerful jaws, and sharp teeth. And their disposition can be just as vicious as cartoon legend (though they pose no danger to humans). Look for Tasmanian devils after dusk, when the nocturnal predators hunt small prey like wombats.

Start at Dove Lake (hiking north to south) for the postcard photo of Cradle Mountain you'll score at the outset. The trail is well-marked, leaving plenty of time for key side trips from the following huts. Waterfall Valley Hut: Ascend Barn Bluff for the summit view of moors and glacial valleys; then return to the main track and hike to Lake Will, ringed in skinny pencil pine. New Pelion Hut: Scramble up Tasmania's highest peak, 5,305-foot Mt. Ossa (half of the island is visible from its crown). And in early summer (December), allow extra time for savoring the rainbow of prickly scoparia blooms that carpet Pelion Gap. Pine Valley Hut: Bag the multi-spired Acropolis and wander The Labyrinth, a lake-salted plateau ringed by peaks.