Image of the December 2013 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
December 2013 Issue
Home / Articles / Wild Range

9 trips on the Nelson Tops

Map by Geographx

These sprawling ranges located between the Hope and Hurunui rivers in Lake Sumner Forest Park run in an almost direct east to west line from the upper Hope through to the Main Divide of which they then become a part and could be said to continue all the way to the Trent Valley.

While there are no named summits on this range, there are numerous spot heights varying from 1400m to 1600m with the highest summit a 1688m peak north-west of Hope Kiwi Lodge.

This range just invites exploration, either into its remote tributaries, its hidden huts, or along its length. There are numerous routes possible but, aside from the main valleys, no tracks. Thick bush and scrub, especially in the west, often make some routes impractical.

1 Hurunui Hut

One of two largest huts in the surrounding valleys, 15-bunk Hurunui Hut is located just 5km above the head of Lake Sumner and makes a good base for exploring the Hurunui River or as a waypoint on the march to the valley head. It is comfortable and situated in heavy bush with a view of the distant ranges.

2 Mackenzie Hut

This hut is located in the head of MacKenzie Stream, a large feeder of the Hurunui, and can be reached by crossing the main river and following the bush track to the hut. The head of the valley drains the Main Divide and has numerous 1600m summits on the crest. There are possible routes onto the Nelson Tops north of the hut. MacKenzie Bivouac is nearby in the East Branch of MacKenzie Stream.

3 Three Mile Stream Hut

This hut is on the popular bush circuit around the back of Macs Knob from the head of Lake Sumner through McMillan and Three Mile streams. It makes a good round trip if visiting the region with some extra time or as an alternative track to reach Hope Kiwi Lodge. Routes onto the Nelson Tops from these catchments are not good with thick bands of scrub on most faces and ridges.

4 Hurunui Hot Springs

A well known hot spring located about an hour’s walk above Hurunui Hut, it is reasonably large and will take three people. There is also another hot spring nearby in MacKenzie Stream.

5 Hope Kiwi Lodge

A 20 bunk hut located on an attractive grassy flat in the mid reaches of the Hope River. It’s popular with school and family groups and has all weather access with swingbridges over both the Hope and Boyle rivers. The hut is also on the route of the Lewis Pass to Arthur’s Pass tramp and so receives of lot of attention from trampers. The Kiwi Pack Track is the main route over Kiwi Saddle to Lake Sumner.

6 Hope Pass

At the head of the Hope River is Hope Pass, 951m, leading to the Tutaekuri River on the western side of the Main Divide. The pass is relatively easy and has a poled route leading to the western side where remote valleys can be followed out to the Ahaura River.

7 St Jacobs Hut

A pleasantly sited hut in the mid-reaches of the Hope Valley, St Jacobs Hut makes a fine base for exploring the upper catchment, for hunting, or as a waypoint on the regularly-used route to Lake Man. The Nelson Tops are also accessible via steep bush faces behind the hut or further upstream opposite St Jacobs Flat.

8 Macs Knob

At the head of Lake Sumner is Macs Knob, 1435m, and while not actually part of the Nelson Tops it makes an excellent view point for both these tops and the lake basin. It has a marked track ascending from the river flats. As Three Mile Creek runs around the north side of the knob a route could be found down to the stream and hut from the knob.

9 Lake Sumner

At 10km long and up to 2km wide, bush-fringed Lake Sumner is both big and beautiful. It can be paddled in good conditions or a track can be followed along its northern shore to the Hurunui River outlet. There are some camping possibilities around Evangeline Stream.