Driving through Tasmania these days, it’s easy to forget that a mere two centuries ago the countryside here was as wild as it gets. Those early pioneers had their work cut out for them, having to contend with not only rough terrain but also harsh weather. If you want to get an idea of what life in Tasmania was like before the roads, farms, towns and cities came, the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, part of the Tasmanian Wilderness Heritage Area, is the destination for you.
It is thought that Aboriginal people used to visit the area in the warmer months. From about the 1820s, shepherds started coming here, looking for grazing for their livestock. A surveyor, James Scott, named the Walls of Jerusalem in 1849. After the shepherds came the fur trappers, who left behind some huts, including Trappers Hut, which you can reach after a steep climb of about 4 to 5 hours. In the 1920s Reg Hall began visiting for recreational purposes and named several features, including The Temple, Wailing Wall, Pool of Bethesda, Pool of Siloam, Zions Gate, Ephraims Gate and Herods Gate. Hall introduced the area to other hiking enthusiasts and the Walls of Jerusalem National Park was eventually proclaimed in 1978.
Hiking is still the main activity in the park, with a large variety of bushwalking tracks among forests and alpine vegetation and past what can seem like hundreds of crystal-clear tarns and lakes. There are peaks like Solomons Throne and Mount Jerusalem to scramble up too. In winter, snow is common and you can try snowshoeing or even cross-country skiing.
The trails in the park are generally quite challenging and more suited to experienced hikers. You also need to bring your own equipment and food. There are some rather dilapidated huts that you can use for emergency shelter but it’s essential to bring your own tent and a warm sleeping bag. At Wild Dog Creek and at Dixons Kingdom you’ll find composting toilets but there are no other facilities in the park. Because the vegetation here is very sensitive to fire, you may only use fuel stoves for cooking and may not make any open fires.
Visiting the park takes some careful planning, since you’ll need clothing and equipment for extreme weather. One way to make things a little easier is to visit on an all-inclusive guided hike so you don’t need to buy all the gear you’ll need. If you prefer going your own way, be sure to bring a good map and compass.
To access the Walls of Jerusalem National Park, you need a valid Parks Pass. If you’re going on an organised expedition, this may be included in the package. However, you also can buy your Parks Pass online, on the Spirit of Tasmania ferry, at the Mole Creek Field Centre or at a Tasmania Travel Information Centre or Service Tasmania shop like the ones in Launceston and Deloraine.