Be dazzled by the transformation of the New South Wales Snowy Mountains — around five hours southwest of Sydney — into an adventure playground each spring and summer when the snowmelt reveals hidden trails and other pleasant surprises. Whether you're into hiking, horse riding or mountain biking, here's how to explore this picturesque alpine wonderland, and where to refuel on wine and comfort food afterwards.
Step into natural beauty
Immerse yourself in spectacular alpine scenery while exploring the region on two feet. Choose from dozens of tracks where you can be wowed by waterfalls, learn about the region's history, or challenge yourself on a hike through Kosciuszko National Park. This is one of the largest national parks in the state, and is home to Australia's highest mountain, Mount Kosciuszko (2,228m).
Bask in the achievement of scaling the continent's highest peak as you soak up the views from the summit of Mount Kosciuszko. From the ski town of Thredbo, the Kosciuszko Express Chairlift zips you up 560 vertical metres to the start of the walkway to the mountain's summit. Challenge yourself on this day hike, with plenty of uplifting views along the way.
Get a buzz traversing Australia's highest suspension bridge (1627m above sea level) on the Guthega to Charlotte Pass Walk, which opened in 2022. The first stage of the multi-day Snowies Alpine Walk, which will stretch for 55km when completed, is a 9km day walk linking the alpine villages of Guthega and Charlotte Pass. Feel soothed by your surroundings as you follow the trail along the upper Snowy River, winding through a surreal sub-alpine landscape dotted with gnarled snow gums and bursts of wildflowers.
Or tackle the less strenuous but similarly scenic Bullocks Track. Starting from the Thredbo Diggings campground or the Bullocks Flat Skitube carpark, this 2.5km trail meanders alongside the crystal-clear Thredbo River (look out for platypuses at dusk and dawn) with a dazzling backdrop of the jagged Ramshead Range, often capped in snow. Look out for adorable grazing wallabies en route.
Put in some pedal power
Feel enlivened by the cool mountain air on your cheeks as you navigate the Snowy Mountains on a mountain biking adventure. Enjoy a scenic introduction into the untouched Pilot Wilderness Area on the Cascade Hut Trail, a remote path that twists through snow gum woodland and fields of wildflowers. A small part of the 650km Australian Alps Walking Track, the 10km one-way trail is great for both beginners and experienced mountain bikers.
Hire a mountain bike (or road bike) in a number of Snowy Mountain towns, including Cooma, Jindabyne and Thredbo, as well as from Lake Crackenback Resort and Spa, which has 18km of mountain biking trails on its doorstep. The resort can also arrange a shuttle to Thredbo for bikers keen to tackle the Thredbo Valley Track; it's a scenic 17km ride back to the resort, or 37km if you follow the recent extension of the track to the Thredbo Valley picnic area.
Or get your adrenaline pumping in the Thredbo Mountain Bike Park, delivering a mix of cross-country and gravity trails as well as a skills park and flowing single tracks offering superb views over Australia's highest peaks and alpine lakes. Discover trails for every experience level, from a kids-only area to chairlift-accessed gravity trails, plus two-hour beginner, intermediate and advanced clinics daily, for those looking to fine-tune their skills.
Slow your pace to take in the historic sites, rolling fields, eucalypt forest and historic bridges and cottages lining the Tumbarumba to Rosewood Rail Trail, 21km of sealed and safe tracks following the region's one-time rail line. With its gentle gradient and sweeping curves, you'll find it's perfect for families.
Jump in the saddle
Experience the Snowys from an exciting new perspective atop a trusty steed. South of Jindabyne, Snowy Wilderness resort is set on more than 3,000 hectares of alpine high country. Check in to one of its eco-friendly one- and -two-bedroom lodges, then explore ridges, gullies, rivers and forest on guided horse treks lasting from a couple of hours to a week. Nearby in Crackenback, Thredbo Valley Horse Riding offers a range of trail rides across its 1,100-hectare estate. Admire the scenery from your elevated perch as you clip-clop across alpine streams, up steep forested ridges and through pretty meadows. Experienced guides are on hand to assist kids and non-riders on easy trails, while young children will thrill to a pony ride.
Enjoy a taste of the region
Deepen your knowledge of the Snowy Mountains' surprisingly sophisticated cool-climate wine scene on visits to its cellar doors. Local sparkling wines regularly take home awards, but the area is also known for excellent pinot noirs and chardonnays. Settle in for a tasting, or perhaps a wine-paired lunch overlooking the vines at Courabyra Wines, or savour the intimacy of the award-winning cellar door experience available by appointment at Mount Tumbarumba Vineyard.
You can also linger over gin, vodka or schnapps made from locally sourced fruit at Crackenback's Wildbrumby, which has a distillery door and café overlooking a sculpture garden. Or pair local beer with a hearty meal and serene lake views at Jindabyne Brewing. Find a scenic perch and sip everything from a fresh and fruity golden ale to a rich, malty red larger. Alternatively, relax over a craft brew in an achingly picturesque farm-style setting at Dalgety Brewing Company, a 10-minute drive north from Dalgety.
Uncover a new favourite local feed at the likes of Jindabyne Emporium, a casual eatery and overlooking Lake Jindabyne bar (try the decadent Canadian-inspired poutine), or take a bite out of Batlow, home to some of Australia's sweetest, crispest apples. Seek out its shrine to this fruit, the iconic Big Apple statue, for a fun selfie. Sample local hand-crafted cider at Crafty Cider, which has a cellar door in nearby Kunama. Or time your visit for the end of the apple harvesting season to join locals in celebrating cider brewed in Batlow and beyond at the annual Batlow CiderFest in May.