These five packrafting trips use well-established tracks to provide easy access. By Eva Dethlefsen
1. Hollyford-Pyke Loop, Fiordland National Park
With slow-flowing rivers and scenic lake paddles, this trip is made for the keen tramper transitioning to packrafting. Lean back and enjoy expansive views of the Darrans and Mt Tutoko from the Hollyford River. The less-visited Pyke Track is challenging on foot, but in a packraft you get to float down the pristine waters with ease.
Distance: 127km Time: 4-6 days Grade: I-II
2. Greenstone Caples Track, Greenstone and Caples Conservation Areas
Packrafting from this popular track is an opportunity to step away from the crowds and explore otherwise inaccessible gorges and deep pools on the Caples River. You’ll paddle through dense beech forest and enjoy stunning mountain views. The trip is done as an out and back along the Caples River or as a loop from the Greenstone Valley. Some of the gorges are impassable due to log jams so scouting ahead before entering is essential.
Distance: 61km Time: 3-4 days Grade: II
3. Gillespie Pass Circuit, Aspiring National Park
Carrying a packraft up the Young Valley and over Gillespie Pass is a test of fitness, but paddling the clear alpine waters of Siberia Stream will make it worthwhile. Trampers often get a jetboat ride to avoid a difficult crossing of the Makarora River and many also get picked up at the end to skip the 15km slog along the Wilkin River. Packrafters can save the expense and enjoy a lovely cruise with impressive mountain vistas.
Distance: 58km Time: 3 days Grade: I-II
4.Holdsworth – Kaitoke Track, Tararua Forest Park
There are several options along this classic Tararua tramp for packrafting spectacular gorges on the lower section of the Waiohine River from Totara Flats Hut. Scouting sections of the river is necessary to avoid log jams. There’s a multi-day through trip from Holdsworth or, if you are short on time, walk up the Lower Waiohine Track. For a great round trip, head over Cone Ridge to spend a night at Totara Flats Hut before rejoining the river the next day.
Distance: 36km Time: 3 days Grade: II+
5. Urchin Track, Kaimanawa Forest Park
This is an example of how a packraft can turn an out-and-back trail into an overnight round trip adventure, simply by walking the track over Urchin (1392m) and then floating down the Waipakihi River. There are camping spots by the river flats and there’s a small gorge with no more than grade II rapids before the take-out at the Waipakihi Road-end.
Distance: 24km Time: 2 days Grade: II