Kosciuszko National Park in New South Wales, Australia: What to See and Do

The Kosciuszko National Park, covering about 6,900 square kilometers, is located in the southeastern corner of New South Wales, approximately 354 km southwest of Sydney. This natural area includes Mount Kosciuszko, the highest peak in mainland Australia, and Cabramurra, the country’s highest town. The park is characterized by its alpine climate and varied landscape of rugged mountains, making it a favorite destination for skiing and hiking enthusiasts.

Additionally, the park is the source of important rivers such as the Snowy, the Murray, the Murrumbidgee, and the Gungarlin, highlighting its ecological significance. Other notable peaks within the park include Gungartan, Mount Jagungal, Bimberi Peak, and Mount Townsend.

Surrounded by the Alpine National Park in Victoria to the south and Namadgi National Park to the northwest in the Australian Capital Territory, the park is close to the towns of Cooma, Tumut, and Jindabyne, which provide access and services to visitors, forming part of the network of National Parks of New South Wales, Australia.

Kosciuszko National Park

In recognition of its natural and cultural value, the park was included on November 7, 2008, in the Australian National Heritage List as part of the Australian Alps national parks and reserves, holding significant importance like the renowned Kakadu National Park.

History of Kosciuszko National Park

The Australian Alps region, located in the southern part of New South Wales, has been a place of great cultural and historical significance for both Aboriginal groups and European settlers. Traditionally, Indigenous groups gathered here during the summer in an annual pilgrimage to the Bogong and Snowy mountains. During these gatherings, men participated in the collection and consumption of Bogong moths, found in rocky outcrops, a seasonal food resource.

History of Kosciuszko National Park

European exploration of this area began in 1835, and in 1840, Edmund Strzelecki ascended Mount Kosciuszko, renaming it in honor of the Polish national hero Tadeusz Kościuszko. Subsequently, highland graziers began using these mountains for summer grazing, a practice immortalized in Banjo Paterson’s poem "The Man from Snowy River." These graziers left behind various mountain huts that are still preserved.

In the 19th century, the area around Kiandra became a gold mining center, growing to a population of about 4,000 and marking the beginning of skiing in Australia around 1861. However, by 1974, Kiandra had become a ghost town.

The area was officially designated a national park in 1967, after initially being proclaimed as the Snowy Mountains National Chase in 1906 and later as Kosciusko State Park in 1944. From 1949 to 1974, the ambitious Snowy Mountains Scheme was executed, including the construction of roads, dams, and tunnels, standing out as one of the world’s most significant engineering achievements.

Recommended Hikes and Activities

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What to See and Do in Kosciuszko National Park

The protected area of Kosciuszko in Australia offers various activities, with easy hikes for everyone and more challenging excursions. Everything needed for groups and guided tours.

Perisher and Thredbo Ski Resorts

Kosciuszko hosts four ski areas: Perisher Ski Resort, Thredbo, and Charlotte Pass Snow Resort near Jindabyne, and Selwyn Snow Resort in the northern section of Kosciuszko National Park. During the winter months, you can enjoy skiing or snowboarding on Australia’s highest slopes, both day and night. You can also practice cross-country skiing on the Nordic trails, sled down the slopes, and enjoy classic snow games in the Australian Alps.

Perisher and Thredbo Ski Resorts

Additionally, in Thredbo, alpine activities continue during the summer with Australia’s only lift-accessed MTB Park, an Alpine Bobsled, the highest golf course in Australia, shops, and restaurants in Thredbo Village. There is also a full summer event calendar and scenic chairlift rides during the summer season.

Perisher and Thredbo Chairlift Panoramic Views

Taking the Kosciuszko Express chairlift in Thredbo is one of the best summer activities in the Snowies. During the 15-minute ride, which covers almost 2 km and ascends 560 vertical meters, you can enjoy panoramic views of Mount Kosciuszko, the Snowy River, and the Ramshead Range of the Snowy Mountains.

Afterwards, you can take a break to enjoy a meal and a refreshing Kosci Pale Ale at Eagle’s Nest, Australia’s highest restaurant. Then, you can explore the trail behind the chairlift station to reach the Kosciuszko Lookout or even ascend to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko for a unique experience.

Hiking Route to Australia’s Highest Mountain

Mount Kosciuszko, Australia

At an elevation of 2,228 meters above sea level, Mount Kosciuszko is Australia’s highest peak and a must-do adventure in Kosciuszko National Park. The most accessible route to the summit starts from the top of the Kosciuszko Express chairlift, with a 13 km round trip that usually takes between 4 and 5 hours. This trail passes Cootapatamba Lake and reaches Rawson Pass, where it meets the Summit Walk from Charlotte Pass (and the location of Australia’s highest toilet!). The route from Charlotte Pass is a longer round trip hike of 18.6 km, typically requiring a full day.

The hike to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko or the mountain bike ride offers mighty views of the Snowy Mountains, crossings of the Snowy River, historic huts, snow eroded landscapes, and fascinating rock formations. This bucket-list experience is best done between December and March, after the snow melts, when wildflowers are in full bloom. If you want to discover more epic trails, check out our guide to the best hiking and mountain biking routes in the Snowy Mountains.

Charlotte Pass Lookout

Charlotte Pass Lookout

Beyond Thredbo and Perisher, at the end of Kosciuszko Road, is Charlotte Pass Snow Resort, Australia’s highest resort, located at 1,760 meters above sea level. During the winter, the resort is covered in snow and only accessible by snow transport from Perisher Skitube, but in summer it is easily accessible.

Charlotte Pass serves as the starting point for the hike to the summit of Mount Kosciuszko, but even a short walk along the Snow Gums Boardwalk to Charlotte Pass Lookout offers equally mighty views of the spectacular Snowy Mountains.

Snowshoeing Along the Thredbo River

Thredbo River

One of the visitors’ favorite activities in the Mount Kosciuszko region is walking or snowshoeing along the Thredbo River trail. This trail follows the course of the Thredbo River for 4 km, from Thredbo Golf Course to Dead Horse Gap. Along the way, you will find pedestrian bridges crossing the river, snow gum forests, granite rocks, and wildflower fields in spring and summer.

For a longer hike, you can continue along the Dead Horse Gap trail, where you will find snow gum forests, alpine heaths, and wildlife sightings such as wombats, kangaroos, and wild brumbies. Additionally, you will enjoy towering views of the Ramshead Range, Crackenback Mountain, and the Thredbo Valley.

Horseback Riding Alongside Wild Horses in the Thredbo Valley

Thredbo Valley

The brumbies, wild Australian horses, are a unique experience in Kosciuszko National Park and are often seen roaming freely in the countryside. Although you may not be able to ride them, you have the opportunity to see them in their natural environment during a horseback ride through the wild and picturesque Thredbo Valley.

Thredbo Valley Horse Riding in Crackenback offers a variety of trail rides throughout the year. The owners, Nev and Linda, enjoy sharing stories of the iconic Snowy Mountains rider while exploring the pristine nature alongside their mountain-bred horses.

Water Activities: Rowing and Fishing

Water activities in Kosciuszko National Park, Australia

The sources of the Snowy River are found on the snowy slopes of Mount Kosciuszko within the park, traveling all the way to the Pacific Ocean in the tranquil coastal town of Marlo, Victoria. Whether you’re seeking a peaceful rowing and fishing excursion, a guided kayak tour, or adrenaline-filled white-water rafting adventures, you’ll find unique experiences on the Snowy River.

Yarrangobilly Caves

Take a scenic tour along the Snowy Mountain Highway to discover the Yarrangobilly Caves in the wild northern region of Kosciuszko’s protected area. These limestone caves, approximately 440 million years old, are truly unique. With 217 steps, they feature soda straw stalactites, mighty stalagmites, and fascinating underground rock formations that stretch across six astonishing caves. Guided tours are available year-round, so be sure to dress warmly and bring your swimsuit.

After exploring the Yarrangobilly Caves, you can follow the short but steep path from the parking lot to the thermal pools. These pools, heated to 27 degrees year-round, are situated in a peaceful wooded setting beside the Yarrangobilly River. Here, you’ll find a picnic area, restrooms, and changing facilities to enjoy all day long.

Sampling Typical Alpine Cuisine

In the Kosciuszko region, there is a lively atmosphere for food and après-ski lovers all year round. You’ll find a variety of options including a wide selection of cafes and restaurants along the slopes at Thredbo and Perisher Ski Resort. Additionally, you can enjoy casual or fine dining at Lake Crackenback Resort, explore the famous Wildbrumby Schnapps Distillery on Alpine Way, and visit fun pubs and restaurants offering international and local cuisine in the charming town of Jindabyne.

Lake Jindabyne

Lake Jindabyne, Australia

Jindabyne is the gateway to Kosciuszko National Park and an excellent destination in its own right. Before you head out, make sure to stop by the Snowy Region Visitor Centre in Jindabyne to pick up maps, brochures, and your pass for Kosciuszko National Park. However, we recommend taking some time to explore the town of Jindabyne and the waters of Lake Jindy.

Alpine Country Holidays offers a wide range of vacation accommodation options in Kosciuszko National Park, from the shores of Lake Jindy to the alpine settings of Lake Crackenback and Thredbo Resort.

Areas of Kosciuszko National Park

The Kosciuszko National Park in Australia is divided into 7 areas or zones.

Thredbo-Perisher Area

The Thredbo-Perisher area serves as the main gateway to Mount Kosciuszko and is known for hosting the most popular ski resorts in New South Wales. In addition to offering excellent ski slopes, this region is ideal for alpine hiking, exploring mountain biking trails, and enjoying a variety of exciting adventures in the Snowy Mountains.

Lower Snowy River Area

The Lower Snowy River area encompasses the wild southern part of Kosciuszko. Here, you can camp beside the Snowy River and explore picturesque trails on foot, by bike, or on horseback. This area offers a different perspective of the Snowy Mountains, allowing you to immerse yourself in its natural beauty in a unique way.

Khancoban Area

The Khancoban area serves as the western gateway to Kosciuszko National Park. Here you can discover places for camping, fishing, and horseback riding in Geehi and Tom Groggin. Additionally, you can marvel at the views of Western Fall or explore huts and walks in the Jagungal Wilderness.

Selwyn Area

The Selwyn area offers the perfect base for exploring walks, trails, and the best fishing spots in the center of the park. It is an ideal place to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the outdoor activities that this beautiful region offers.

Yarrangobilly Area

The Yarrangobilly area is a highlight in the north of the national park. Here you can explore impressive caves on guided tours and swim in the thermal pool. Additionally, you can stay in the historic Caves House and enjoy walks and outdoor activities in the surrounding natural environment.

Tumut Area

The Tumut area is your starting point towards the north. Here you can discover water sports and wildlife at Blowering Reservoir. Camp and explore trails and hidden waterfalls in the park’s foothills. It is a perfect place to immerse yourself in nature and enjoy the scenic beauty of the region.

High Plains Area

The High Plains area offers you an unforgettable summer experience, with hikes, horseback riding, and bike trails leading to mountain huts, caves, and gorges. You can camp, stay in the historic Currango huts, and explore the wild beauty of northeastern Kosciuszko. It is a perfect place to connect with nature and enjoy outdoor adventures.

Biodiversity of Kosciuszko National Park

Kosciuszko National Park encompasses a variety of climatic regions that support diverse ecosystems. The alpine zone, located above the tree line, is the park’s most characteristic area and also one of the most delicate and smallest. In this area, we find a mosaic of alpine heaths, grassy meadows, feldmarks, bogs, and fens. The wind-exposed feldmark ecotope is endemic to the alpine region and covers just 300,000 square meters (3,200,000 square feet). It is especially vulnerable to careless tourist steps.

In the latest park management plan, nine distinct wilderness zones have been identified. These include areas such as Indi, Byadbo, Pilot, Jagungal, Bogong Peaks, Goobarragandra, Western Falls, Bramina, and Bimberi.

Fauna of Kosciuszko

Within the park boundaries, there are many species of plants and animals that are rare or endangered.

Among them is the corroboree frog, one of Australia’s most endangered species. The mountain pygmy possum, also at risk of extinction, and the more common dusky antechinus are other species that inhabit the park’s highlands.

Additionally, the park is home to significant populations of wild animals, including brumbies or wild horses. Park authorities have undertaken actions to control their numbers, generating public controversy over how to manage them. Estimates of the wild horse population within the park vary considerably, but it is estimated that by 2027, their numbers will be reduced to 3,000 according to the management plan published in November 2021.

Animals living in alpine areas have developed unique adaptations to survive in this environment, utilizing strategies such as hibernation, seasonal migration, and living under the snow during the winter months.

Mammals found in these tourist areas include the mountain pygmy possum (Burramys parvus), the broad-toothed rat (Mastacomys fuscus), and the dusky antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii).

Additionally, there are distinctive alpine skinks, such as the alpine skink (Cyclodomorphus praealtus) and the Guthega skink (Liopholis guthega).

It is not uncommon to encounter these native animals in lodges and other buildings within the tourist areas of Kosciuszko National Park. Learn about ways to visit wildlife in alpine resorts.

Wildlife crossings and artificial rock field habitats provide movement corridors across ski slopes and under roads for small mammals.

The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) carries out revegetation programs using endemic plant species to restore the habitat of native species.

Flora of Kosciuszko

The park’s landscape is largely dominated by alpine forests, where trees like the snow gum stand out. Along the ranges, montane and wet sclerophyll forests can also be found, housing abundant alpine ash and mountain gums. In the southern wilderness of Byadbo, dry sclerophyll forests and acacias prevail. Among the park’s diverse native trees, the large Chinese elm has naturalized.

Unfortunately, a considerable portion of the tree cover in the park’s lower sections suffered severe damage during the 2003 wildfires. Although fires are a natural component of the park’s ecosystem, the region will require a significant period to fully recover from the effects of those fires.

The alpine resorts of New South Wales host plant communities of great regional and national importance, mainly in alpine and subalpine areas:

  • Alpine herbfield
  • Subalpine herbfield
  • Dry heath
  • Wet heath
  • Bogs and fens (National and State Endangered Ecological Community)
  • Subalpine woodland

Many of these areas contain plant species that are exclusive to Kosciuszko National Park, such as:

  • Kosciuszko buttercup (Ranunculus anemoneus)
  • Vickery’s grass (Rytidosperma vickeryae)
  • Phebalium (Nematolepis ovatifolia)

Climate in the Kosciuszko Region

In the park’s higher areas, the climate takes on an alpine character, a rarity within Australia’s vast territory. However, it is important to note that intense winter snowfalls only affect the most prominent peaks of the main range. At Charlotte Pass, an iconic climate station, the lowest temperature ever recorded in Australia was -23 °C (-9 °F) on June 28, 1994.

Historical Glaciations in Kosciuszko

During the last glaciation, which peaked around 20,000 years ago in the Pleistocene, the highest peaks of the main range near Mount Kosciuszko experienced a climate conducive to glacier formation, the traces of which still endure. In that region, it is possible to observe moraine cirques, tarn lakes, roche moutonnées, and other glacial features. For example, Cootapatamba Lake, formed from ice that broke off the southern flank of Mount Kosciuszko, is the highest lake on the Australian mainland. Other bodies of water, such as Albina Lake, Club Lake, Blue Lake, and Hedley Tarn, also have their origins in glacial processes.

Despite some controversy over the exact extent of Pleistocene glaciation in the main range, and scant evidence of earlier glacial periods, the "David Moraine," a ridge approximately one kilometer long crossing the Spencers Creek valley, suggests the existence of a more extensive glacier in this area at some point; however, its glacial origin is debated. Additionally, evidence of periglacial activity has been identified in the area, manifested in the formation of terraces on the northwest flank of Mount Northcote. Frost also plays a significant role in soil erosion in the Kosciuszko region.

Best Time to Visit Kosciuszko National Park

The best time to visit Kosciuszko National Park can vary depending on the type of activities you wish to undertake.

If your goal is to enjoy the alpine beauty and winter experiences, such as skiing and snowboarding in the ski areas, then winter, especially between June and August, is ideal. During this time, the higher areas of the park will be covered in snow, creating an impressive landscape and offering opportunities for winter sports.

For outdoor activities with mild temperatures and hiking, cycling, and wildlife observation, spring and summer are the best seasons, with September to November being the ideal months to visit. This period is particularly beautiful, as the snow begins to melt, giving way to a burst of wildflowers in the alpine meadows.

Summer, from December to February, offers longer and warmer days, perfect for exploring the trails and enjoying panoramic views without worrying about extreme cold.

How to Get to Kosciuszko National Park

To reach the Thredbo-Perisher and Lower Snowy River areas in Kosciuszko National Park from Canberra:

  1. Travel approximately 100 km on the Monaro Highway to Cooma.
  2. Continue on Jindabyne Road (signs for Kosciuszko Road) for 45 km to Jindabyne.
  3. To reach Thredbo: follow Kosciuszko Road through Jindabyne for 3 km, then turn left onto Alpine Way. Thredbo Village is 33 km on the right (park entry fees apply).
  4. To reach Perisher: follow Kosciuszko Road through Jindabyne for 33 km to Perisher (park entry fees apply).
  5. Charlotte Pass is 8 km beyond Perisher. In winter, access is via snow transport from Perisher Village.
  6. To reach Lower Snowy River: follow Kosciuszko Road through Jindabyne for 1.5 km, then turn left onto Barry Way and drive 37.3 km to the park entrance.

From Cooma to Selwyn, High Plains, Khancoban, Yarrangobilly, and Tumut

To reach the Selwyn, High Plains, Khancoban, Yarrangobilly, and Tumut areas in Kosciuszko National Park from Cooma:

  1. Travel through Cooma.
  2. Turn right onto Snowy Mountains Highway and drive 51 km to Adaminaby.
  3. Enter the park 14 km from Adaminaby on the Snowy Mountains Highway.

To reach the areas of Talbingo, Yarrangobilly, High Plains, and Selwyn from the Hume Highway via Tumut:

  1. Travel through Tumut on the Snowy Mountains Highway or from Tumbarumba via Elliot Way and Cabramurra to Kiandra Link Road.
  2. Note that Cabramurra-Khancoban Rd (KNP5) is closed from the June long weekend to the October long weekend.

It is important to note that roads to Kosciuszko National Park can be congested, especially on weekends and public holidays during the summer. For updated traffic information, we recommend visiting the Live Traffic NSW website.

Access Points and Entrances to the National Park

  • Alpine Way via Jindabyne
  • Alpine Route via Khancoban
  • Elliot Way Access
  • Kosciuszko Road Access
  • Lower Snowy Barry Way Access

Parking Areas

  • Black Perry Lookout
  • Blue Waterholes Camping
  • Buddong Falls Camping
  • Buddong Falls Walking Trail
  • Bullocks Hill Camping