To prove just how exciting and easy winter tramping can be, we've found five walks we think are perfect for this time of year
Bush Stream Track, Te Kahui Kaupeka Conservation Park
3-4 days, moderate-difficult
This high country classic is one for early or late winter when there is a bit of snow around, but not enough to make a gruelling epic of the beautiful open tussock country that this walk is renowned for.
The tramp is part of the Te Araroa Trail and is distinctive for the series of old musterers huts that make for convenient accommodation. Each hut has its own quirky, time-worn character and while they’re perhaps not the warmest, you’ll still appreciate a roof over your head as the frost bites outside.
There are some mandatory stream crossings on the first day (if coming from the north via Bush Stream). Highlights include crossing Stag Saddle – at 1925m it’s the highest point on the Te Araroa Trail, and following Snake Ridge parallel to Camp Stream towards the cosy Camp Stream Hut. The views of Lake Tekapo and the Godley Valley from here are fantastic.
Southern Crossing, Tararua Forest Park
2-3 days, moderate-difficult
The Southern Crossing is on the hit-list of many an aspiring tramper and is well-known for its rich history and amazing views of the greater Wellington region.
You’ll need good weather – especially for the exposed and memorable Dress Circle tops traverse between Kime and Alpha huts. This section crosses Mt Hector (1529m), the second highest peak in the park. The peak’s war memorial cross, sometimes seen under thick rime ice, is an icon of the Tararuas.
Although a classic, it’s a route not to be underestimated. People have died walking it. Under a full cover of snow, you’ll want to be confident with your ice axe and crampon technique. Winter conditions can be variable in these ranges, but with deep snow and good weather, it will make for an unforgettable trip.
Grassy Flat Hut, West Coast
2 days, easy-moderate
This valley trip does not require above-the-snowline equipment. Enclosed by the big ranges of the Hokitika catchments, Grassy Flat Hut occupies a clearing surrounded by red tussock and mountain cedar. It’s modern and well insulated.
The tracks through these valleys were once used by prospectors during the gold rush. In places, the historic pack track is still obvious.
This walk can be extended into a three-day circuit by continuing over Styx Saddle to the Arahura Valley (see p24), although you’ll need to organise a car shuttle.
Lake Angelus, Nelson Lakes National Park
2-3 days, moderate
This trips combines valley and beech forest with the rugged, rocky tops of the Nelson Lakes region.
Heavy snow could make this trip difficult, so check conditions and the current avalanche status with DOC at St Arnaud.
Angelus Hut is in a beautiful location next to a lake (often frozen over in winter) and ringed with small peaks, and Mt Angelus itself, which is a worthy peak to bag if you have the time. The route out via Robert Ridge makes for some memorable winter ridge tramping with great views of the region.
Round the Mountain track, Tongariro National Park
4-7 days, moderate
One of New Zealand ’s classic tramps, and a singular location to visit in any season, Mt Ruapehu’s complete circuit is well-serviced with huts only a few hours apart, making shorter days possible.
The walk traverses an amazing variety of terrain including tussocklands, beech forest, montane podocarp and open scoria fields. A highlight is the exposed walk along the eastern side of the mountain, through the Rangipo Desert.
A big dump of snow can make this trip a real challenge.