The Paparoa Wilderness Area is a large region of unmodified forests and ranges located to the north and east of Paparoa National Park.
It is surrounded by buffer areas – public lands under DOC management – and largely covers the catchments of the Ohikanui River, which flows north into the Lower Buller, the upper Gordon, Rough (or Otututu), and Stony (or Te Wharau) rivers. It also encompasses the Paparoa Range from south of Buckland Peaks to the ridge crest approximately four kilometres south of Mt Lodge.
This totality is an impressive, challenging, and diverse tract of mountain lands that will require excellent fitness, sound experience, and finely honed navigational skills to traverse.
Most of the summits are difficult to access, requiring at least three or four days to complete, and good visibility – a blessing not often bestowed on adventurers who journey onto the tops in this part of the South Island.
1 Ohikanui River
Probably the easiest way into the wilderness of Paparoa, the Ohikanui is readily accessed off SH6 in the Lower Buller Gorge where a road bridge spans the river. An old track can still be followed for a short distance, but the wilderness area begins several kilometres upriver and the greater part of the catchment is untracked and unbridged, with no huts. It is 30km from the highway to the headwaters.
2 Otututu River
Access is from the south in the Grey Valley and then via logging roads and old tracks until the Mirfin Creek area. Above here travel is more difficult and a medium-to-low river flow is necessary to make any sort of progress through the small gorges and rough bouldery terrain. A high route over the ridge between Mts Faraday and Micawber could be used to link the Otututu and Ohikanui.
3 Gordon River
A post glacial valley, the Gordon offers a difficult route from the Otututu to the main range and Mts Priestly or Dewar. There is an easy crossing from its head to the Nile River over a low saddle on the main range. This pass also offers an easy approach to Mt Priestly (1392m).
4 Gunsight Notch
Straddling the ridge of the main range between Mts Lodge and Ramsay, Gunsight Notch offers a steep and challenging route between the Gordon River and Henniker Creek (a tributary of Fox River).
5 Mt Uriah
The highest summit in the Paparoa Wilderness Area is Mt Uriah (1525m). It is not on the main range but is a sub-range between the Ohikanui and Otututu rivers, the latter providing the best access to the peak.
6 Buckland Peaks Hut
While not actually in the wilderness area, Buckland Hut, situated on the northern end of the range below Buckland Peaks, is a great place to enjoy the extensive views it grants out over the Lower Buller and Westport as well as along the Paparoa Range to the south. The hut can be reached in about 4hr from the highway.
7 Mt Kelvin
This summit, strikingly visible from Westport, can be reached in a long day’s tramp with adequate preparation and some experience of following untracked routes in rough country. Tailings Creek provides the surest way inland and then up onto the Sanatorium Ridge via a steep, rough, overgrown climb. Care is required to stay on the ridge and to find your way back.
8 Mt Euclid
At 1450m, this summit on the Paparoa Range could be reached by first traversing nearby Mt Fleming (1375m), which is accessible via its steep north-western face above the old forestry roads in Little Totara River.
9 Mt Faraday
This major summit (1485m) can be gained from the long ridge running east between the Nile and Sirdar watersheds. It is a challenging climb.
10 Fox River
The Fox River is well known for its excellent track into the Ballroom Overhang, a half-day walk through incredibly beautiful forest and limestone cliffs. Above the Ballroom, the track ceases and many kilometres of untracked valley continue east, rising to the Paparoa Range in the headwaters.
Download the pdf format of the Paparoa Wilderness Area map.