Guthega Power Station public car park, NSW
Guthega Power Station public car park, NSW
A walk for those that love mountain huts.
The Whites River Hut Walking Track can be completed as a standalone walk, combined with the shorter Horse Camp Hut Walk, or done as part of the larger Schlink Hut Walk. Which walk you choose will depend on your plans but there are advantages to choosing this shorter option. At 17km in length, including a couple of off trail hut visits, this walk can be done in a single day by most keen hikers or if you want a more leisurely walk, as an overnight trip. This walk consists of two designated Alpine Huts, the Horse Camp Hut and the Whites River Hut, along with a private hut for the Snowy Hydro Scheme that is worth a quick detour to visit.
The Whites River Hut Walking Track starts at the Guthega Power Station visitor car park. The car park accommodates around 20 cars in designated parking spaces although on the day we were there, three cars had been parked creatively on the grassy area near the entry to the car park and others were parked along the road leading to the car park. We visited just after Christmas at around 11:00 am and managed to snag the last parking space. The following day when we returned form the walk it was even busier. Keep in mind that with so many people doing overnight camping during the warmer months, it is worthwhile getting there early otherwise you will need to park on the edge of the entry road.
Start the walk by heading across the bridge and around the back of the power station – you will see an access road the heading up the hill. This road, Schlink Trail, is your companion all the way to Schlink Hut. The first couple of kilometres up the hill is the most difficult part of this walk – it is steep but with a steady grade. Following this road is pretty easy but the only area of doubt is when it starts to flatten out and you come across a Y branch; at this point veer towards the right.
Your first destination is the Horse Camp Hut about 3.9km in from the start of the walk. The first indication you are approaching this hut is when you cross a concrete causeway and approximately 500 metres further on, you will come to a road on the left and a sign that indicates Horse Camp Hut is 400 metres away. Its not a big detour so you should stop in and visit. This is one of the best maintained huts in the alps. It’s a very attractive hut with well mown grassy areas that are reasonably flat with lots of options for camping. Just remember that the alpine huts are for emergency use only so don’t plan on sleeping in them unless absolutely necessary.
Return back to the main trail and turn left back onto Schlink Trail which will take you to your final destination on this walk which is the Whites River Hut around 8km from the start of the walk. When we did this walk we saw another unmarked hut on the way to the Whites River Hut which turned out to be a Snowy Hydro facility rather than a public hut. I walked down to have a look which only added about 250 metres to the walk before heading back to the main trail. Whites River Hut is around another 1km past this small hut – it is very obvious on the left and visible from the trail.
Many people walking this trail will extend their trip an additional 3km to Schlink Hut and as a result that is where the majority of hikers tend to stay if they are camping. Having said that the Whites River Hut is as popular a camp site but you will have a bit more solitude. In addition there is a better choice of flatter campsites located near to this hut making it easier to get your own space.
Once you have visited Whites River Hut head back to the main track and turn right back the way you came.
The park service likes you to camp well away from the huts and ideally you should camp a good distance from the water sources as well. Each hut also has its own composting toilet but there was no paper, so bring your own.
Be aware that there is a potential for snow in just about any month of the year in the high areas of the Australian Alps. While it typically doesn’t sit on the ground for long during the hotter months, the temperatures can drop below freezing. When we camped in late December we had ice on our packs and other gear not inside the tent the next morning so come prepared for icy conditions along with extreme heat.
The walk to the Whites River Hut is on management road and you will cross water sources every couple of kilometres so you don’t need to carry more water than what you need for the day. There are good water options along the main track including one that you need to cross to get to the hut which is only around 80 metres distance from the potential camp sites. If you are using the local water sources we recommend that you filter it just to be on the safe side.
Animal life was reasonably limited but we did see lots of birdlife, the occasional wallaby as well as good insect life. On the downside, the March Flies are active during the warmer months in the alps so while it’s tempting to wear shorts and short sleeves, its best not to.
The return trip back from Whites River Hut was shorter than the trip out as we didn’t make any detours or visit any of the other huts and will usually take most fit hikers 2-3 hours to arrive back at the Guthega Power Station. This walk is entirely on management road and while it would have been nice to have some formed trail rather than management road to walk on, it was still enjoyable and a great opportunity to explore some of the alpine huts. It’s also a good opportunity for some remote area camping.
For the average hiker looking at doing this walk, late November through to the end of March is the ideal time. People will also ski/snowshoe on this trail in the snow season but the track is not well marked and should only be done by those with good experience in back country winter time travel.
Just some of the trail signage at the trailhead car park
Guthega Power Station
Crossing the river to the power station
Dam piping heading up the hill
Trail sign at the start of the trail
Heading uphill at the walk start
Trail example going up the hill
Switchback on the initial uphill ascent
Just as you reach the top of the hill you come across a Y intersection – veer right at this stage
Waterway before Horse Camp Hut. This crossing is about 500 metres before the hut turn off
Horse Camp Hut front view
Horse Camp Hut chimney end
Horse Camp Hut back
Horse Camp Hut non chimney side
Water drum at each hut
Inside Horse Camp Hut
Another view inside Horse Camp Hut
Heading onto the main track from Horse Camp Hut – turn left
Dissapointment Spur offshoot
Australian Alps Walking Track
Dianella in flower along the management road
Hydro hut in the valley below – this is a locked hut but worth a look
Aquaduct near the hydro hut
Hydro hut used for workers only
River crossing on the approach trail to Whites River Hut. The hut is only a short distance past this crossing
Whites River Hut
Toilet at Whites River Hut
Inside Whites River Hut kitchen area
Mist on the return leg
Break time on the way back
Back up the last small hill
Dam pipe on the way back
Heading back towards the power station
Returning to the power station
Returning to the trailhead
Tim and Gill at Guthega
This short video includes a slideshow from start to finish of this walk that includes still and video images to give you a real time idea of what the walk is like
Travel to Jindabyne via Cooma and head towards Charlotte Pass. Turn off to the right when you see the road to Guthega. There is a park entry fee which you can pay for as a day or annual pass at the visitor centre in Jindabyne or at the toll gates on nearing the park. The visitor centre in Jindabyne opens at 8:30am most days but check the timings on the website just in case.
Follow Kosciuszko Road and turn right on to Guthega Road. Keep an eye out for the Guthega Power Station turn off just past ‘Island Bend’.
Entering Kosciuszko National Park
Park entry point
Turn off to Guthega – the sign is on the left pointing right not far from Sponners Lodge
Visitor car park at the Guthega Power Station
This walk was undertaken by the team from Australian Hiker