Climbing the island’s highest peak is one of Australia’s toughest day walks – and one of its most rewarding. Because much of the track is unmarked, you’ll need a local guide (the only way to do the challenging trek), but that makes it far more interesting anyway.
The 14km trek starts casually enough, with a one-kilometre amble along a grassy vehicle track to Little Island, a cove at the base of the mountain. Then it gets serious. Wearing a helmet (supplied en route), you’ll edge along a narrow goat-track called the Lower Road. Don’t look down: there’s only thin air between you and the surf smashing into the rocks far below.
After that it’s an uphill trek through forest zones that change with altitude, aided by fixed ropes on the steepest sections, until you reach your reward: the 27-hectare summit plateau with its sky-high views, Tolkienesque cloud forest, views to Ball’s Pyramid (a rocky monolith rising eerily from the sea 23km away) and a sublime sense of satisfaction.
Two local guides run Mt Gower treks, on alternate days: former Lord Howe Island ranger Dean Hiscox for Lord Howe Environmental Tours and third generation mountain guide Jack Shick for Sea to Summit Expeditions.
For walks that aren’t quite as strenuous, see Walking tracks.