Hiking Mount Gower

June 18, 2019

Ranked as one of the world’s best day hikes, the Mount Gower walk is renowned for being as tough as it is rewarding, taking in the incredible views of World Heritage-listed Lord Howe Island and its pristine natural environment.

Mount Gower stands 875 metres tall and offers game walkers breathtaking 360-degree vistas of crescent-shaped Lord Howe Island and the turquoise blue waters of the Pacific Ocean beyond. At the summit, a lush cloud forest offers hikers rare encounters with flora and fauna found nowhere else on the planet.

Standing beside its smaller twin, Mount Lidgbird (777m), the extinct volcanic peaks dominate the southern tip of the island, creating their own weather and watching over the island paradise with a sense of mystique and awe likened to a scene out of Jurassic Park.

Under the guidance of one of two local guides, visitors can climb to Gower’s summit on an eight-hour, 14km return hike. Complete with rope-assisted climbs and dizzying drops, the hike is not for the faint hearted and requires a moderate degree of fitness.

Starting at sea level, the hike begins as a gentle stroll along the coastline from the island’s lagoon to Little Island, just down the road from Capella. Hikers then strap on a helmet and use the ropes that are fixed to the sheer cliff face to navigate the first ascent of Mount Lidgbird, climbing up around 50-60 metres.

The track, named ‘Lower Road’ then winds around the edge of the vertical cliff before reaching Erskine Creek, a tranquil outcrop with a freshwater stream flowing from deep within the mountain. With tree roots as footholds and ropes for assistance, the track climbs steeply for the final section of the hike.

Nearing the peak, the vegetation undergoes a rapid change; a bonsai-esque mist forest with a wonderland of ferns, trees, mosses and orchids that are more than 500 years old and seen nowhere else in the world. The endemic Lord Howe Island Woodhen is also seen foraging through the damp undergrowth. A truly unique micro-climate with incredibly cool and clean air, it is also the world’s primary nesting place for the human-friendly Providence Petrel. Guides will summon a flock of petrels from the sky with a “Woo…hee! Woo…hee!” call, and they descend to land and climb all over walkers. And when the clouds part at the summit, there is a breathtaking vista of the island lagoon to the north, and the equally impressive Balls Pyramid to the south, making the hike well worth it.

Local guides Jack Schick from Sea to Summit Expeditions: https://www.lordhoweislandtours.net/ and Dean Hiscox from Lord Howe Environmental Tours: https://lordhoweislandtours.com/ lead a small number of walkers to the top of Gower on alternate days of the week, sharing extensive island knowledge and history along the way. Jack Schick is a fifth-generation islander and third-generation mountain guide with an eccentric personality to boot. Dean Hiscox was the Lord Howe Island Ranger for 16 years and is also an A-Class bird bander and manager of the Island’s Woodhen monitoring program. Both offer a memorable and personalised experience, limiting the group to a maximum of 15 hikers.

In 1995, an official record was set by island descendant, Philip Whistler, who got to the top of the summit and back in an overall time of 1 hour 41 minutes and 10 seconds. 19 years later, Philips son, Ollie Whistler, set off on the ‘Mt Gower Challenge’, beating his father’s record by just 47 seconds, after collapsing 50 meters out from the finish line. Ollie’s mum, Michelle Whistler also completed the challenge alongside Dean Hiscox’s daughter, Kayla. The race and community fundraising for the event raised money for the local island school.

“For around 70 per cent who climb it, Mt Gower will be the most physically demanding experience of their lives” says Ian Hutton, the island’s resident ecologist. The thigh-burning, full-day hike to the summit sits atop many bucket lists, and whilst recommended for intermediate to experienced walkers, it truly is one of the world’s most rewarding day hikes.

Returning to the luxury comforts of Capella Lodge, we recommend soothing weary soles by indulging in the post-Gower Foot Therapy treatment at the Capella Spa.

Essential Gear

– At least 3-4L of water
– Backpack (can be provided by Capella)
– Snacks and lunch (provided by Capella)
– A lightweight windbreaker/rain jacket
– Hat
– Hiking shoes or boots with solid grip
– Camera
– Licensed guide, it is not possible to complete the hike without.

We recommend booking in advance to avoid disappointment.