gifts for hikers

The Snowy Mountains – Iconic Australian Treasure

  • Updated: April 4, 2019
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The Snowy Mountains, located in southern New South Wales, are an iconic Australian treasure, home to a diverse climate, history, fauna and flora. 

This is a guide on all the important information about the mountain range including the notable mountains and hikes to enjoy.

The Snowy Mountains

Climate: Alpine 
Parent Range: Australian Alps
Highest point: Mount Kosciuszko at 2,228m

Physical Geography

Geology

The Snowy Mountains form part of the Australian Alps which started forming around 860-400 million years ago by different marine sediments when south eastern Australia was covered by sea.

The ancient rocks have been folded and uplifted many times by natural forces before they reached their current height.

Later the land that formed the Australian Alps was flattened by erosion, leaving a series of plateaux.

During the most recent ice age, the area around Mount Kosciuszko was the only area to be covered by glaciers.

Topography

The Snowy Mountains are Australia’s highest mountain range. Part of the mountains, known as the Main Range, contains mainland Australia’s five glacial lakes. The Blue Lake is the largest of the glacial lakes.

On the slopes flow Muuray, Murrumbridgee and the Tumut rivers as well as the Snowy River.

Most of the Snowy Mountains fall within the Kosciuszko National Park.

The Snowy Mountains is also home to the Snowy Mountain Hydroelectric Scheme as well as all four of Australia’s snow resorts.

Climate

The climate of the area varies with altitude. The higher regions an alpine climate, which is very unusual for mainland Australia. 

Only the peaks are subjected to consistent snow and the area can be snow-covered for up to 6 months a year. The peaks experience large natural snow-fall every winter.

The ranges are characterised by cool, crisp air with temperatures ranging for 6 degrees Celsius in July to 21 degrees Celsius in January.

Wildlife and Plants

The Snowy Mountains are home to many rare or threatened plant species. The Kosciuszko National Park, which houses much of the Snowy Mountains, is where you will find one of Australia’s most threatened species, the corroboree frog.

Other endangered animals include the mountain pygmy possum which is located in the high country of the park, where you will also find the more common dusky antechinus. The area is also home to a booming population of wild horses.

The flora in the high country is dominated by alpine woodlands, characterised by snow gum and the mountain range is also home to the mountain plum-pine.

Motane and wet sclerophyll forests occur across the ranges, supporting large strains of mountain gum and alpine ash.

Wattle forests predominate the southern Byadbo wilderness area.

Amongst the many native trees, the alien large Chinese elm has become naturalised.

The Snowy Mountain Regions

The Main Range

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Photo by Mr Lau

The Main Range within the Snowy Mountains contains many of the highest peaks in mainland Australia, including Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak and one of the seven summits.

The Ramshead Range

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Photo by Dustaway

The Ramshead Range is an area of rocky peaks located in the Monaro Region of New South Wales and the alpine region of Victoria. This range is home to Mount Twynam.

Notable Snowy Mountains

The Snowy Mountains are the highest mountain range on the continent of mainland Australia and contain the highest mountain in mainland Australia, Mount Kosciuszko.

The range is also home to the 5 highest peaks on the Australian mainland, all of which are above 2,100m above sea-level, although they significantly shorter than highest peaks in other countries.

Below is a list of the 5 most notable mountains in the Snowy Mountains.

Mount Kosciuskzo

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Mount Kosciuskzo is the highest peak in the Snowy Mountains as well as the highest peak in mainland Australia. It is 2,228m above sea-level and is situated in Kosciuszko National Park and forms part of the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains.

The first ascent of this mountain was in 1840.

Mount Townsend

Mount-Townsend-Australia

Photo by Scott Meyering

Mount Townsend is the second highest peak in Australia’s mainland. Like Mount Kosciuszko, Mount Townsend is located in Kosciuszko National Park. The peak stands at 2,209m above sea-level. Its craggy peak arguably makes it more dominant than the slightly higher Mount Kosciuszko, which has a more rounded top.

Mount Townsend’s parent range is the Main Range.

Mount Twynam

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Mount Twynam is located in the Main Range of the Snowy Mountains and is the third highest peak in mainland Australia at a height of 2195m above sea-level.

It is located approximately 8km north-east of Mount Kosciuszko.

Mount Twynamn is close to the border of New South Wales and Victoria and has a spectacular view over Blue Lake Cirque and the Western Falls.

The mountain is relatively accessible by track yet is rarely visited.

Mount Rams Head

At 2,190m above sea-level, Mount Rams Head is the fourth highest peak on Australia’s mainland.

It is located in the Rams Head Range of the Snowy Mountains an also falls within the Kosciuszko National Park.

The mountain is an all-season tourist attraction.

Rams Head

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Photo by Mark Zareba

Rams Head North Mountain is the 5th tallest peak in mainland Australia and stands at 2,177m above sea-level.

Rams Head North Mountain lies northeast of Mount Rams Head and south of Mount Kosciuszko.

Notable Hikes in the Snowy Mountains

Mount Kosciuszko Summit Walk 

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The Mount Kosciuszko Summit Walk is certainly a must-do for all Australians as well as all avid hikers. The 18km hike takes you to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, the highest point in Australia and one of the seven summits.

The 4-hour hike is great for all ages and all ability levels. Throughout the hike you will be treated to incredible views of the Australian Alps and Bogong Peaks. Enjoy the beauty of the Snowy River as well as the unique alpine fauna and flora, like the wild flowers and snow gums. You will also see rock formations and ancient glacial lakes.

Main Range Track

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Photo by Mick Stanic

This track is considered one of Australia’s great day walks. The 22km trail begins and ends at Charlotte Pass and will take you across the Snowy River up over Mt Carrathers towards the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, then down to Rawson’s Pass and back towards the starting point.

You will need a decent level of fitness to complete the trail. The best time to go is between December and March when the wild flowers are in bloom.

Dead Horse Gap Walking Trail

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Photo by Brendan Goodger

This beautiful 5km trail will take you between 2-3 hours to complete and you will find yourself 600m above the Thredbo Valley. The trail is mostly downhill, so it won’t be too challenging.

You will walk through snow gum forests, alpine heath and meadows, where you will experience incredible views of Australia’s backcountry as you are surrounded by the Rams Head Range.

Mount Townsend Guided Hike

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This 22km guided hike is the perfect choice for outdoor lovers. The hike takes you to the summit of Mount Townsend, the second highest peak in mainland Australia. The hike, which will take you around 6 hours is an intermediate/advanced level hike which will require a good level of physical fitness.

You will experience the beauty of the Main Range, with amazing views overlooking the mountain tops as well as spectacular views of New South Wales.

Nichols Gorge Walking Track

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Photo by Tony Hawke

The Nichols Gorge Walking Track takes you through some exciting scenery, including Cooleman Cave. Further along on the 7km loop you will come across sections dotted with ancient fossils of brachiopods and sea lilies.

You will walk along Cave Creek and traverse plains of snow grass with incredible views of the surrounding mountain ranges. You will also see awesome views of Nichols Gorge.

Travel Insurance

If you plan to hike in the Snowy Mountains, make sure that you are adequately insured for up to 4000m. We recommend World Nomads. Use the calculator below to get a quick quote.

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