Famous for its distinctive purple door, and of course it’s wild alpine setting, Cameron Hut makes for a great 2-3 day trip. We stayed two nights and I fit in a solo climb of The Marquee (2412m), extending my sense of adventure significantly. But even if you visit only the hut you’ll be agog at peaks in the Arrowsmith Range towering above you, as you cook dinner surrounded by lumps and ridges of glacial moraine. It’s a special location.
For sure the walk in is quite long at 16km one-way, and the marked route a bit rough and overgrown in places. But you walk headlong toward the Arrowsmith Range, visible for most of the walk. They get closer as you work your way up the valley with the glacial-fed Cameron River always a presence. You won’t get those same views on the way back, (except over your shoulder), but familiarity with the route will speed things up a bit. And mountains lining the valley are an impressive presence themselves.
Cameron Hut Route: The Scenery
Day 1: Walking up the valley
I haven’t included many photos until further up the valley. You get an impression what the valley looks like from my first photo, and a couple I’ve included on the way back (day 3). You see bits of the Arrowsmith Range for most of the walk up, if not always as much as in the photo below. Note that I actually took a few of these photos as we walked out on day 3, but if the view is up the valley then they are included here.
I climbed The Marquee, but took a few photos in the valley early that morning.
Slow pan of the area …
Day 3: Walking out
We walked back down the valley on day 3, and although you don’t get views of the Arrowsmiths, there are still tall mountains lining the valley, and the Cameron River is nice.
Walking up the valley will likely take you a bit longer than walking down, and probably longer than DOC’s estimate of 6 hours. We took maybe 7+ on the way up, and just under 6 on the way back. I know of people who have got a bit lost and taken longer than that.
The route is sometimes overgrown, rough, and boggy, but there is no river crossing, so you just keep heading up the valley on the true right of the river (right looking downstream). You might get spiked by matagouri and speargrass on the way, but if you are ever facing a wall of vegetation you have probably gone the wrong way. Back track and you should find an easier way to proceed, sometimes nect to the river or on the rocky river bed.
It’s mostly flat with just one decent climb away from the river. Overall though there is a roughly 700m change in elevation over 16km.
Nearing the head of the valley
As you approach the head of the valley and pass Spean Stream you have the option of following some cairns up a bit for the high route. This is through tall tussock grass and speargrass, so is slow progress for a while, but you maintain good views of the area. The other option is to follow poles along the river, going left at the fork. The two routes join near the hut. I thought this would be obvious but another tramper who stayed on our first night got lost following this route and this delayed him a good hour or so. Perhaps he didn’t consult a map. Anyway, we took the high route there and back, which is the one currently marked on the topo map.
Cameron Hut is owned by Canterbury Mountaineering Club but is open to the public. In 2024 it costs $10 per person per night for non members. You can’t book a spot – it’s first in first served. There is flat ground near the hut so you could camp also, although I noticed it was pretty windy at that spot, even windier than up on The Marquee, 1100m above. The hut is tied down with four metal cables, suggesting it would otherwise blow away! Also, the hut is not heated, so beware in winter. More info on the DOC site, and you can pay on the CMC website.
The walk starts near Lake Heron, at the end of a rough vehicle track. It’s described as a 4wd track but is fairly tame I thought.