This is definitely one of my favourite walks. Starting at the frigidly beautiful Haast River, the track climbs steeply through attractive beech forest to the tree line. It then climbs onto a narrow ridge and up further to Brewster Hut at 1400m of elevation. There are views of many high mountains to the west, and up towards Mt Brewster (2516m) and its glacier.
Stopping at Brewster Hut would be enough, but on our first ascent a party recommended we continue up to a ridge below Mt Armstrong for views east over more mountains. We did this our second time up and weren’t disappointed. (Although I was freaked out by the wind and precipitous drop over the other side!) This extension makes it a long walk, but it’s also possible to reach the summit of Mt Armstrong in an even longer day, and that might be our target next time. Of course, you can always stay the night at the hut, and Mt Brewster itself is apparently one of the more accessible high peaks in New Zealand.
Highly recommended for reasonably fit walkers. Track notes are at the end.
Brewster Hut Track: The Scenery
There are track notes on the DOC website. Crossing the Haast River hurts a lot because it’s so cold and also there are rocks under foot, so you might consider taking some sandals to speed things up a bit. This may be a dangerous river crossing if it’s flooded, but I’ve only ever seen it calm and maybe thigh height.
There’s a faint track leading further up the mountain from the hut, although you might lose it in the scree slopes, and I think it heads over towards Mt Brewster eventually. In the track notes we used (in Day Walks of New Zealand: Central Otago and Queenstown) they recommended staying to the left (north) of the slopes leading directly up to Mt Armstrong, so as to avoid various bluffs and a number of false summits. Our target wasn’t the summit of Mt Armstrong so we did this anyway, and ended between the summit and point 2023m. There may be snow on the slopes even in summer, so bring appropriate gear for that. We walked in hiking shoes and had to avoid the snow which added to the time required.
The start is a very long drive from Queenstown, but we’ve managed the drive there and back in a long day. It’s much more accessible from Wanaka.