The Complete Guide to the Frenchmans Cap Hike

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The Frenchmans Cap hike is one of Tasmania’s more challenging wilderness bushwalks. The 44-kilometer trail leads hikers through a variety of stunning and challenging alpine environments high into the West Coast Range to the exposed bluff of Frenchmans Cap.

Along the trail, two huts are provided free of charge by the Tasmanian National Park Service for hikers to sleep in. The highest hut at Lake Tahune was completed in 2018 and must be one of the finest architecturally designed free camping huts anywhere in the world!

The Frenchmans Cap hike, however, is not for the faint of heart. The trail is long and arduous with serious elevation gains and temperamental weather. Even in summer walkers should be prepared to face sub-zero temperatures and surprise snowstorms!

Here is everything you need to know about the infamous Frenchmans Cap walk.

Suspension bridge on the Frenchmans Cap Hike
Suspension bridge on the Frenchmans Cap Hike

Why Is It Called Frenchmans Cap?

There are a couple of different tales of how the mountain became known as Frenchmans Cap depending on who you talk to. Some believe it was named by French convicts held on Sarahs Island, who were reminded of the caps worn by French soldiers during the French Revolution. Others suggest that the peak was named after its resemblance to a French chef’s hat.

Where Is Frenchmans Cap?

Frenchmans Cap is located in the Franklin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park in southwest Tasmania approximately 3 hours of 200km from Hobart. The Frankin-Gordon Wild Rivers National Park is part of the Tasmanian Wilderness World Heritage Area which covers approximately one-fifth of Tasmania. What makes this area so unique is that it meets seven out of the ten criteria to be included on the World Heritage Area List. In fact, only one other World Heritage site ranks in more categories than the Tasmanian Wilderness.

How to Get to Frenchmans Cap?

There is no easy way to get to Frenchmans Cap without your own car as there is no practical public transport available.

If driving is not an option there is an infrequent and expensive shuttle that runs between Hobart and Queenstown. You can find up-to-date information and timetables on the Area Connect website.

The Frenchmans Cap trailhead is located between Derwent Bridge and Queenstown on the A10 approximately 3 hours from Hobart.

There are plenty of rental car companies in Hobart which will allow you to explore Tasmania at your own pace.

Beware the road is windy!

When Is the Best Time To Hike Frenchmans Cap?

A woman walking in the forest on the the Frenchmans Cap Hike
Even in summer rain and cold temperatures are common on the Frenchmans Cap Hike

Frenchmans Cap is open year-round, however, the most comfortable time to hike Frenchmans Cap is during the summer. Winter means frequent snow. It requires careful planning, experience, and specific snow hiking equipment. Summertime means more favorable conditions with milder temperatures, long sunny days, and a better chance of getting a view from the top. During the summer park rangers tend to the trail and huts, outside of the summer months you will be on your own.

Can I Hike the Frenchmans Cap Trail in Winter?

Yes!

If you are an experienced hiker with the right equipment and proper planning it is possible.

Are There Huts to Stay in Along the Frenchmans Cap Hike?

Lake Tahune Hut with Frenchmans Cap in the back ground on the Frenchmans Cap Hike.
The Lake Tahune Hut along the Frenchmans Cap hike is one of the most beautiful hiking huts in the world!

Yes.

There are two huts available to stay in on the Frenchmans Cap walk. The Vera Hut is the first hut located approximately 15.5 kilometers from the trailhead. The Vera Hut can accommodate 20 people (10 during COVID) but it would be a tight squeeze. It offers a heater, basic kitchen, tank water, and wooden bunks where you can lay a hiking mattress. Outside the huts, tent platforms are provided for when the hut is full or for those wanting to get into nature or prefer camping alone. Tent campers are of course welcome to use the hut for cooking and warming themselves!

The next hut is Lake Tahune Hut located another 5.5 kilometers from Lake Vera. The hike to Lake Tahune Hut is a challenging section of the trail taking walkers up to the spectacular Barron Pass and down into the saddle below Frenchman’s Cap. The Tahune Hut can accommodate 24 people and is a state-of-the-art facility. Like Vera, there are several tent platforms near the hut.

The Lake Tahune Hut is an award-winning, architecturally designed hut purpose-built with its stunning and remote location firmly in mind. Floor to ceiling windows taking in the absolutely jaw-dropping views across the West Coast Range and beyond.

This hut also sets a benchmark in sustainable designs. The state-of-the-art facility is self-powered by micro-hydropower from the nearby lake allowing the facility to stay warm in the winter and allowing you to charge your electronics deep in the Tasmanian Wilderness! Don’t forget to check out the loo, which surely boasts the most magnificent views of any long drop toilet anywhere in the world!

Are There Other Campsite Along the Frenchmans Cap Hike?

Yes.

There are two camping areas along the Frenchmans Cap hike. The first camping area is located just before the Frenchmans Cap suspension bridge approximately 10 – 15 minutes from the Frenchmans Cap trailhead. It is the perfect place to spend the night to ensure an early start the following morning on the trail.

The second camping area along the Frenchmans Cap trail is just after crossing Lodden River. The hike from the trailhead to the Lodden River camping area took us between 2 – 2.5 hours to complete.

Do I Need to Make a Booking For the Frenchmans Cap Walk or Frenchmans Cap Huts?

Yes.

There are two huts along the Frenchman’s cap trail with indoor sleeping bunks (BYO mattress) and outdoor tent platforms for those who wish to camp. There are also two tent sites. Walkers are required to stay in these designated camping areas.

While there is generally plenty of space at the camps and huts, during the current COVID-19 pandemic, the Tasmania National Parks requests that you make a Frenchmans Cap booking prior to hiking. This is in order to monitor the number of people hiking and camping to ensure social distancing is maintained.

At any time, space in the huts is not guaranteed and walkers should always carry a tent in case the huts are full or you need emergency shelter.

How Long Is the Frenchmans Cap Hike?

A woman looks out toward Frenchmans Cap along the Frenchmans Cap hike
The Frenchmans Cap Hike is long at almost 45 kilometers return

The Frenchmans Cap trail is a total of 45km which is broken up into the following sections:

  • Carpark to Vera Hut – 15km
  • Vera Hut to Tahune Hut – 5.5km
  • Tahune Hut to Frenchmans Cap Summit – 1.6km

The Frenchmans Cap Trail ends at the summit and you can walk back out the way you came in.

Alternatively, continue your journey onward along unmarked trails toward the Irenabyss where the trail runs into the Franklin River.

How Difficult is Frenchmans Cap?

Kelli hiking to the summit of Frenchmans Cap above Lake Tahune
Kelli hiking to the summit of Frenchmans Cap above Lake Tahune

It is difficult.

The trail has a total of 2,600 meters of elevation gain and includes some brutally steep climbs.

The unpredictable weather can also add to the challenge of this hike. One of the wettest places in Tasmania, Frenchmans Cap receives up to 4,000mm of rain and snow a year. With an average of 20 wet days per month, you’d be lucky not to have any weather on your hike.

The trail has had some upgrades including stairs to help traverse particularly steep sections, and boardwalks rerouting hikers around the ‘Sodden Flodden’ flood plain which had become a bog thanks to heavy use. Nevertheless, it remains a rugged and challenging trail.

The Frenchmans Cap hike is considered the toughest of the hutted hikes in Tasmania. It is recommended that you test yourself on the Overland Track, Three Capes Walk, or another of Tasmania’s multi-day hikes first to make certain you are up to it.

We left the Frenchmans Cap as the last walk on our Tasmanian trip, having completed the Freycinet Peninsula Circuit, two of the “Three Capes”, and the Cradle Mountain Circuit via Scott Kilvert Hut. With a freak snowstorm on the Thursday we had planned to set out and a lunch reservation on the Sunday we were due to return, we had two and a half days and two nights to complete the hike. At this pace, as a couple of fit walkers with some bushwalking and hiking experience, the trail was achievable and enjoyable, but certainly challenging.

How Many Days to Hike the Frenchmans Cap Trail?

If like us, you like to walk quickly and get bored hanging around huts and campsites, we recommend hiking the Frenchmans Cap hike in three days (two nights). We found that although the hikes were long (and hard), we had plenty of time to relax and rest up based on a three-day itinerary.

If you want to take the hike a little slower, many people find a three-night or even four-night itinerary a nicer pace. Giving yourself an extra day or two will also give you a better chance of getting some clear weather at the summit as you will have some extra time to wait at the top hut.

What is the Best Itinerary for Hiking the Frenchmans Cap Trail?

Sunrise on the Frenchmans Cap hike
Sunrise on the third day of the Frenchmans Cap hike

There are a couple of different itineraries to choose from when hiking the Frenchmans Cap trail. You can choose to hike the trail in a single day (lordy) or over one, two, three, or four nights. Doing the hike in a day or two for us would be grueling and not much fun.

We had planned to hike the trail over four days and three nights however a blizzard and heavy rain on the day we planned to set out saw us camping in the car an extra night. In the end, we had two and a half days and two nights which we found was the perfect amount of time for us. We still had plenty of extra time to relax when we arrived each day and didn’t feel rushed.

This was our Frenchmans Cap itinerary.

Day 1 – Part I – 15.5 km, moderate

If you are following the standard Frenchmans Cap itinerary, the first day will take you from the car park to Vera Hut, the first hut on the Frenchmans Cap hike. Start your morning hiking at a slow incline for the first 45 minutes before arriving at the base of Mount Morrow. From here it is a steep 20 minutes climb up to reach the top of Mount Morrow before a gentle descent down to the Lodden River. To reach the Lodden River, it took us a total of 2 hours where you can sit and have a nice break, but beware of the mosquitos.

The next half of the track is relatively flat passing until the final 45 minutes to the Vera Hut where you ascend through a moss-covered forest at a steady incline to reach Vera Hut. If you are walking over three or four nights this will likely be your first stop. We had lunch here before setting out for the Lake Tahune Hut.

Day 1 – Part II – 5.5 km, strenuous

The next section of the Frenchmans Cap hike is tough as you head up to Barron’s Pass. The first forty-five minutes start out deceptively gently as you walk along the lake and up a stream. The next hour, climbing steadily up toward Barron’s Pass is arguably the most challenging section of the trail (save for the summit which you can do without your pack). The relentless climb takes you up and up through the dense moss-covered jungle. It is worth it, however, when you reach the top with a stunning view over Tasmania’s Western Wilds.

The mountains around Frenchmans Cap
The views along the Frenchmans Cap hike are spectacular

From here it should take another 1.5 hours to traverse the ridge before descending to Lake Tahune. Weary from the previous 18kms, this last section seemed every bit as challenging as the climb to the top of Barron’s Pass. You’ll be excited to see the Lake Tahune Hut and not just because it’s one of the most impressive hike huts ever.

Day 2 – 8.7km, moderately strenuous

The second day begins with the trek to the Frenchmans Cap summit. If possible check the weather forecast (you can get reception from the helipad) and try to aim to be up there when it’s predicted to be clear. Leave heavy packs behind in the hut.

Despite being only 1.5 km from the peak, it takes approximately 1 hour to reach the summit. The first 15 minutes of the hike are relatively steady with a steady ascent upwards. Then comes the fun!

About 15 minutes in, the path becomes more of a scramble as you scale the rocky bluff to reach the summit.

We were lucky enough to summit on a clear morning and could see hundreds of kilometers in all directions. Wilderness as far as the eye can see. We could even make out Cradle Mountain where we had previously hiked just the week before!

Eddie climbing the summit of Frenchmans Cap via the Frenchmans Cap hike
Reaching the summit of Frenchmans Cap is challenging,but at least you don’t have to do it with a full pack

The descent from the summit takes only approximately 30 minutes to reach Lake Tahune Hut where you can gather your belongings and prepare for the hike back down to Lake Vera.

From here, the return journey follows the same path down the mountain. The 5.5km journey feels a bit easier on the way down.

Day 3 – 15.5km, moderate

The last day is the easiest walking day retracing your steps to the car park. Nevertheless, finishing the final section still feels like an accomplishment, having completed 30km already on the Frenchmans Cap hike.

Should I Carry a Frenchmans Cap Map?

It is always smart to carry a topographical map when hiking. We downloaded a topographical map on our phone prior to departure but the trail was well marked and we did not use it. The weather, however, can change quickly on top of the mountain and it is always advisable to carry one with you.

You can order a printed or digital map from TASMAP.

What Should I Pack to Hike the Frenchmans Cap Trail?

Kelli walking before sunrise along the Frenchmans Cap hike
Don’t forget a torch on the Frenchmans Cap hike

The Frenchmans Cap trek is challenging, so making sure you pack properly is important. You definitely do not want to overpack on this hike as the trek is tough enough as it is.

Camping Gear for the Frenchmans Cap Hike in Summer

Cooking Gear for the Frenchmans Cap Hike

Other Gear for Hiking the Frenchmans Cap Hike

NB: We also took a drone not realising that drones are banned in Tasmanian National Parks! Save yourself the weight and leave it behind.

Clothes to Pack for Hiking the Frenchmans Cap Hike

Extra Winter Eqipment for Hiking the Frenchmans Cap Hike

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Descending from the peak along the Frenchmans Cap hike
Descending from the peak along the Frenchmans Cap hike

The Frenchmans Cap hike was one of our favorite hikes in Tasmania and one of the best hikes we have completed in Australia.

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If you loved the Frenchmans Cap hike as much as we did, let us know in the comments below!

The view from the Frenchmans Cap summit
The view from the summit of Frenchmans Cap

Looking for other amazing multi-day walks in Tasmania? Check out the stunning Freycinet Peninsula Circuit or the Cradle Mountain Summit via the Scott-Kilver Hut!

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14 thoughts on “The Complete Guide to the Frenchmans Cap Hike”

  1. This walk sounds challenging but would be a great hike! It’s great that there are huts you can stay at along the way, this makes it easier if you don’t have to pack tents to carry. I hope I can do this one day!

  2. Wow these views! I definitely need to add this to my bucket list. I love a challenging hike and the looks like it’s worth it too by those scenic views!

  3. What a great guide for this hike! It looks like a very adventurous but awesome one, would love to do it one day. And of course, I want to stay in Lake Tahun Hut, it looks fabulous! 🙂

  4. What an incredible and strenuous hike with spectacular views! Loved the idea of having free huts in the park to rest and sleep. Loved reading through your detailed post.

  5. This looks like an incredible hike. I’m always on the lookout for new hiking trails, especially multi-day ones. Adding this one to my bucket list for sure!

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