It’s the end of the ski season, but New South Wales’ Snowy Mountains are also known for springtime adventures. From hiking to riding, this region is home to Australia’s five highest peaks including Mt Kosciuszko (2,228m), all alongside the area’s rich fauna, much of it found nowhere else in Australia.
During the warmer months, the inter resorts at Thredbo, Perisher, Charlotte Pass and Mount Selwyn change into alpine trails for bushwalking, mountain biking and horseriding. And as the snow melts, the crystal-clear mountain rivers become perfect for fly fishing and kayaking.
Take a break with a tipple – the region is famous for its sparkling wines (available at any of the many cellar doors), and apple cider at Batlow. Also worth trying are locally-made schnapps and craft beer.
MTB IN THE SNOWIES
Come spring, the Snowies offer a network of dirt tracks and sealed roads, ideal for biking.
The Cascade Hut Trail is an idyllic track year-round. The remote path twists through snowgum woodland and the virtually untouched Pilot Wilderness Area where you can spot wild brumbies (feral horses). This versatile trail, which is part of the Australian Alps walking track, is great for beginners and experts alike. From Dead Horse Gap to the rustic and cosy Cascades Hut (where you can sleep over), it’s a 10km ride one-way, or 20km return trip.
Bikes can be hired in several towns, including Cooma, Jindabyne and Thredbo, as well as at Lake Crackenback Resort where you can purchase a day pass to access the resort’s 25kms of mountain bike tracks and the ‘pump and flow’ track designed by MTB world champion Caroline Buchanan.
The roads in the Snowy Mountains are home to the annual L’Étape Australia by le Tour de France, a unique road cycle event that this year will feature the reigning Tour de France champion, Chris Froome, riding alongside amateur cyclists on 2 December.
Another cycling event is the Thredbo Cannonball MTB Festival (6-10 December), Australia’s biggest gravity-inspired MTB festival where amateurs and some of the world’s best riders descend on Thredbo for five days of gravity-fuelled action.
HORSE-RIDING IN SNOWY MOUNTAINS
Immortalised in Banjo Patterson’s 1890 poem The Man From Snowy River, the magnificent Snowy Mountains is a good place to experience horseriding.
More adventures are available around Jindabyne, where Australia’s highest peaks and beautiful Lake Jindabyne provide a majestic backdrop. You can opt to go horseriding in a sanctuary for wild brumby horses. These feral horses first arrived in Australia in 1788 with the first fleet of prisoners, and are today free-roaming throughout Australia. Although found in many areas around the country, the best-known brumbies are found in the Australian Alps region.
A variety of horse-riding tours are available in the region, some taking you along brumby trails and through snow gums, or through wilderness areas that feature alpine streams, steep forested ridges and pretty meadows.
HIKING MOUNT KOSCIUSZKO
A great way to experience the spectacular scenery of the Snowy Mountains is on foot. There are many walking tracks, from heritage and waterfall trails to challenging hikes in Kosciuszko National Park. If you’re visiting Kosciuszko National Park after the snow has melted, a walk to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko is a must-do between December and March.
Starting at the top of the Kosciuszko Express chairlift at Thredbo, this popular day-walk takes you to the rooftop of Australia. After the scenic chairlift ride, the 13km return trail (4-5 hours) takes you past the rocky granite outcrops of Ramshead Range, and alpine wildflowers.
The longer summit walk from Charlotte Pass (Australia’s oldest and highest snow resort at 1,765m) is 18.6km return (6-8 hours). The trail to the mountain-top weaves past alpine wildflowers and snow gums, across the Snowy River and the historic Seaman’s Hut to Rawson Pass.
For the less adventurous, there is the Bullocks Walking Track, also in Kosciuszko National Park. Starting from Thredbo Diggings campground or Bullocks Flat SkiTube carpark, this short track meanders along the Thredbo River taking around an hour each way.
Hikers will be treated to views of rocky, often snowcapped summits, and the rivers are so clear you can often spot fish swimming past. Wallabies and kangaroos are also common along the track, as are wildflowers such as the yellow bossia and purple hovea. Around dawn and dusk, look out for platypuses along the river’s edge and pools.
In Perisher Valley near Charlotte’s Pass, the Porcupine Walk winds from the Perisher Valley Reservoir through snow grass and snow gums to Porcupine Rocks, huge granite boulders with panoramic views of Thredbo Valley and beyond.
From Mount Selwyn Resort, the 10km-return Four Mile Hut trail (with hiking, mountain biking and horseriding) winds through snow gum forests and grasslands blanketed with pretty wildflowers in summer.
The clifftop Wallace Creek lookout offers a vantage point over the Great Dividing Range while at nearby Goldseekers track, hikers may catch a glimpse of endangered pygmy possums which can be found in the hollows of old gum trees.
Found only in Kosciuszko National Park is the iconic endangered species, the southern corroboree frog. This striking – if camouflaged – frog with its bright yellow and black stripes is a resident of the sphagnum bogs in the park, and faces extinction primarily due to a disease known as the amphibian chytrid fungus, although feral pigs have also ravaged its preferred habitat.
Pristine waters from melting snow caps flow each spring into rivers and lakes teeming with jumping trout and native fish like the Murray cod and golden perch. Fishing in most wild rivers and streams is permitted from October to June but you’ll need a recreational fishing licence (easily available) before casting your line; Thredbo River in particular is famous for fly fishing.