Best Day-Tramps around Hanmer Springs, Lewis Pass & Reefton

Spectacular and varied tramping on this selection of day-hikes around Hanmer Springs, Lewis Pass & Reefton.

There are mountains galore to the north and west of the resort town of Hanmer Springs, with two quite contrasting landscapes on offer. Directly to the north of town are dry and sometimes barren landscapes characterised by colourful heath plants, tussock and scree. There are a few tracks to choose from, but many more choose-your-own adventures, as the country is pretty open. Further west towards Lewis Pass and on to Reefton is a wetter landscape of forested valleys and grassy, sometimes rugged peaks. The tarns are often a highlight of these walks.

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Kellys Hill via Carroll Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ

A steep climb through lush West Coast forest to Kellys Hill (1394m) via Carroll Hut for excellent views over numerous peaks and valleys in Arthur’s Pass National Park and to the west.

This is a nice but steep walk up through lush West Coast forest to Carroll Hut, then up to Kellys Hill (1394m) on a marked route for excellent views over Arthur’s Pass National Park and out to the West Coast. There’s some scrambling required in a few places to get up through the forest, but otherwise it’s a fairly straightforward and shorter walk than many in Arthur’s Pass. It’s a good option if you want a West Coast experience that is accessible from Christchurch in a day, and you don’t mind a rough forest track. Continue reading “Kellys Hill via Carroll Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park NZ”

Goat Hill via Barrack Creek Route, Arthur’s Pass NZ

Magnificent views on an adventurous route up through lush West Coast forest & along a rocky alpine ridge to Goat Hill (1656m) in Arthur’s Pass National Park near Otira.

This somewhat adventurous climb up the Barrack Creek Route to Goat Hill (1656m) was our first walk on the West Coast side of Arthur’s Pass National Park. The views are really spectacular, and include Mt Rolleston and numerous other peaks, the Otira River, Deception Valley, and the attractive Barrack Creek Valley. Also, the vegetation is different enough to add interest for someone used to the plants back east. The route is quite rough in sections, both through the forest and up towards the summit, and requires some scrambling. If you are okay with this then it will only add to the adventure. All in all a very satisfying day tramp that we’ll be sure to repeat. And you’ll probably have the place to yourself.  Continue reading “Goat Hill via Barrack Creek Route, Arthur’s Pass NZ”

Ten NZ West Coast Short Walks

Ten short walks that sample some of the best scenery on New Zealand’s West Coast. All good options for stretching your legs on a road trip.

On our first trip to New Zealand’s picturesque South Island West Coast we met with the area’s infamously wet weather. But during gaps in the weather we fit in quite a few short walks, something we wouldn’t usually do. These turned out to be an excellent way to sample a wide variety of the area’s famed scenery. All of my selection could be done over 3 days on a road trip between Canterbury and Otago (eg, between Christchurch and Wanaka/ Queenstown) travelling via the Lewis Pass / Route 7 and Haast Pass / Route 6. 

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Sluice Box Bridge Short Walk, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve NZ

The Sluice Box Bridge Short Walk follows the Lake Daniell Track for about 5 minutes to a small picturesque gorge formed by the Maruia River.

The Sluice Box Bridge Short Walk is a very short walk, but is a nice way to stretch the legs if you are driving to or from the West Coast (or Nelson) via the Lewis Pass. It’ll only take 5 minutes to get to the bridge on the Lake Daniell Track, however you might like to spend some time down on the rocky Maruia River bed. The river narrows to a short gorge here, the Sluice Box, and is a lovely green colour. The surrounding area is quite picturesque. Track notes at the end. Continue reading “Sluice Box Bridge Short Walk, Lewis Pass Scenic Reserve NZ”

Pipeline & Tram Tracks plus Powerhouse Walk, Reefton, West Coast NZ

A pleasant short walk between the town of Reefton and the village of Blacks Point, plus visit a historic power station site.

After doing a couple of excellent walks in Victoria Forest Park (the Klondyke Routes and Mt Haast Route) we took a day off to look around the historic mining town of Reefton. To do so we walked about 2-2.5km into town from our accommodation in the small village of Blacks Point along the Pipeline and Tram Tracks. These made for pleasant walking through mostly native forest with a bit of scrub, with just a short ascent and descent at the start and end. We later did the short Powerhouse Walk, learning about the hydro scheme that powered the southern hemisphere’s first electric street lighting. There’s almost nothing left of this but they are going to build a replica I believe. Continue reading “Pipeline & Tram Tracks plus Powerhouse Walk, Reefton, West Coast NZ”

Mt Haast Route, Victoria Forest Park, West Coast NZ

Fabulous 360 degree views from the top of Mt Haast (1587m) in Victoria Forest Park, accessed on the steep but straightforward Mt Haast Route.

The Mt Haast Route in Victoria Forest Park near Reefton promised to be a short but steep walk to good views from the summit of Mt Haast (1578m). But the views were better than I had anticipated, so much so that I would rate these views high up in my NZ walks to date. The scale of the surrounding glacial topography is not as big as some areas in New Zealand, but it’s very attractive scenery. There’s a real feeling of space up there, with countless peaks, ridges and glacial valleys in all directions. And the lush West Coast forests on lower slopes contrast nicely with the light coloured tussock grass and shrubs on the summits and high ridges. I barely notice the effort I’m expending when I’m enjoying a walk, and so it was on our way steeply down from the summit, despite tired knees from weeks of regular walking over the summer. Highly recommended. Continue reading “Mt Haast Route, Victoria Forest Park, West Coast NZ”

Klondyke Spur & Valley Tracks, Victoria Forest Park, West Coast NZ

A varied walk up the Klondyke Spur Track to above the bushline, with great views before you return via tarns & the Klondyke Valley Track.

On our first trip to the South Island West Coast we’d been denied views on our only long walk of the holiday due to the typical cloudy and wet weather. So with a good long weather window in late summer we headed west again, and our first of two excellent walks was this circuit up the Klondyke Spur Track and down the Klondyke Valley Track. The views were very good, but there was also a nice variety of forest and alpine vegetation, and a number of picturesque tarns in two alpine basins. A period  of off-track walking (linking the two tracks) adds to the adventure. Continue reading “Klondyke Spur & Valley Tracks, Victoria Forest Park, West Coast NZ”

Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock Walk, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ

Very short walks to good views of the Franz Joseph Glacier. Can sometimes be extended on the Franz Valley Walk.

On a typically wet and cloudy visit to Franz Josef Glacier we wanted to at least get a good look at the glacier before moving on to our next destination. We did get a look from Rata Lookout two days earlier on the Alex Knob Track, however with some clear weather on the morning we left we stopped to do two very short walks, both with glacier views: The Forest Walk to Glacier View (the first part of the Franz Valley Track), and the Sentinel Rock Walk, which is a short side trip up a hill. You get a decent look at the quickly receding Franz Joseph Glacier from the end of these tracks, however the highlight is probably the overall Franz Valley. Continue reading “Forest Walk & Sentinel Rock Walk, Franz Josef Glacier, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ”

Alex Knob Track & Lake Wombat, Westland Tai Poutini National Park NZ

The Alex Knob Track passes through very attractive forest to a peak (1303m) with excellent views of Franz Josef Glacier.

The Alex Knob (1303m) Track was top of my list of walks to do on our first visit to the West Coast of New Zealand. I’d read it provided better views of the Franz Josef Glacier compared to those further down in the valley that most tourists visit, and of course it was a peak to bag. Unfortunately the West Coast weather does not often cooperate, and those views of the glacier will have to wait. Luckily the walk provided very attractive forest scenery, with lush rainforest on the lower slopes, and then a unique collection of trees and plants higher up as we approached the bushline. We also visited Lake Wombat as a side trip on the way back, although this can be a short walk in its own right.

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