Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut, Kahurangi National Park NZ

Mt Owen (1875m) in Kahurangi National Park is one of NZ’s most unique mountains, famous for limestone rock formations & spectacular views.

Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut

Mt Owen (1875m) is a fabulously gnarled and crevassed lump of limestone, and the tallest mountain in Kahurangi National Park, at the top of the South Island. As one of the most unique mountains in NZ, climbing it had been on my to do list for a few years. It ended up being the last mountain we climbed on the South Island, before leaving the country after four years living there. There’s not only spectacular views from the summit, but a good variety of plant and bird life, and the final rocky kilometre to the summit is otherworldly. Highly recommended.

The most common route to the summit is via Granity Pass Hut, where you can stay a night or two. Although a bit longer than other routes up the mountain, there’s good variety along the way, and it’s easy to navigate. See my track notes at the end for details.

Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut: The Scenery

Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
There was a moment of very pleasant lighting in the forest.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
I waited patiently with my telephoto lens fitted to capture this almost dinosaur like weka emerging from the forest. Then later I took one at point-blank range on my phone with one hand when doing my teeth. Hey ho.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
One of the local weka at Granity Pass Hut. I took this photo with my phone when doing my teeth.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
There was a lot of birdlife in the forest. This is the New Zealand Fantail / pīwakwaka. Very difficult to photograph sitting still.

Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut

Pictures between the hut and summit here.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
There were two young rock climbers staying in the hut – just 18 years old. Here they are in action on the Spruce Goose route.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Here’s Sophia making her way up through the limestone.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
We had to walk through this sort of terrain to reach the summit.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Summit shot as the morning clouds cleared, gradually revealing the views. Looking SE here past ‘Pisa’.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Lots going on to the NW.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
I liked the look of some of the distant mountains in Kahurangi National Park. Looking like mountains I’ve seen in Canada.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Layers of topography viewed from the summit.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
More limestone.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Replica Hill. There was a group of people camping to the left, possibly cavers.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Mt Bell in this shot on the left.
On our way back down…
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Mt Owen is famous for it’s limestone rock formations, including deep, narrow crevasses and fissures in the rock.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
A close up of one of those fissures/ crevasses. Best not to fall in.
After leaving Granity Pass Hut…
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Nice vegetation in Ghost Valley.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
The dracophyllum were flowering.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
Blue Creek valley.
Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
On our way down the ridge before re-entering beech forest.


Track Notes

Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut
It’s a marked track all the way to Granity Pass Hut. From there it’s an unmarked route on an impact track until you get to the rocky summit area. From there you can follow cairns to the summit. It is easy to loose your way in amongst all the rocks but not too hard to get back on track again.
To Granity Pass Hut

The route starts at Courthouse Flat camspite, accessible from Nelson. (In early autumn the bumble bees were a real nuisance at the campsite, so I wouldn’t have wanted to stay there). From there it’s a fairly long slog up a ridge through bushes, then into beech forest. (Note you can go via the Blue Creek Track also, but I heard this is more challenging, with some scrambling required in the forest).

This is not the best walking experience, but as you climb steeply down to Blue Creek and enter Ghost Valley the walk start gets more interesting. There’s lots of bird life and the vegetation is attractive and varied.

Granity Pass Hut is in a nice location, and we stayed there, but some others took a tent up onto the mountain. It is very bushy around the hut so suitable camping spots are limited.

From the hut to the summit

Accessing the summit from Granity Pass Hut is mostly straightforward, with the biggest challenge being finding your way up through the many rocks and fissures towards the summit. There are cairns to help you, and if you don’t see one for a while just backtrack and find where you went wrong. There is some easy scrambling required on occasion. Try not to fall into a fissure.

More info

DOC have more info on the route, but note their estimate of 7 hours return from the hut to the summit is a significant overestimate. You won’t need that long – most people were up and down in about 3 hours or so, although you’ll want to spend time up on the summit area in good weather. There’s lots to see and a few different vantage points for the best views. One night is enough for this walk but we took our time and spent two nights.

Author: Edward Hathway

I'm a clinical psychologist and keen hiker.

2 thoughts on “Mt Owen via Granity Pass Hut, Kahurangi National Park NZ”

  1. Edward, thanks for all your reports, reviews, photos and notes. I read them avidly and use them for planning my hikes, although I don’t have the experience or the spouse to quite follow in your footsteps!

    1. Thanks for the feedback Laura 🙂 Always nice to know I have an audience. I liked walking just with Sophia or else alone, so that I only walked in a group twice in NZ! This did contribute to me becoming quite experienced, as I had nobody to rely on (Sophia’s a good walker but a shocking navigator! 😄) That’s all very well but it means I didn’t meet many people in NZ (except through work). I know some people who joined tramping clubs to meet people and a couple of people that met their spouses through those groups.

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