12 trips in Kahurangi National Park’s fabled Tablelands
Straddling a large undulating upland between the Takaka and Leslie rivers, the fabled Tablelands of this region have been a magnet for trampers and explorers since New Zealand’s earliest colonial days.
The magnificent scenery of this place and its juxtaposition between the rivers make it not only a through route to the Karamea and Cobb valleys, but a sought after destination for its diversity of landscapes, caves, shelters, huts and wild empty spaces.
Most come here from Graham Valley Road to Flora Saddle, or via the Cobb Valley tracks, seeking to experience this high country gem and follow a circuitous path along one of the many tracks that link the Tablelands’ main features.
The region is especially attractive for family groups and younger trampers, offering good huts, unusual rock shelters, and moderate tramping.
1 Mt Arthur
The highest easily-accessible summit in the area is Mt Arthur, 1795m, which can readily be climbed from Flora car park in a day to gain an excellent perspective over the Tablelands. From the summit, it is possible to descend, with care, through the dissected karst landscape, and onto the Horseshoe Basin route over to Salisbury Lodge.
2 Mt Arthur Hut
Just an hour or so up from the Flora car park is the beautifully sited Mt Arthur Hut. Located right on the bush edge, it too has a commanding view and easy access to the alpine flower fields on the lower slopes of Mt Arthur.
3 Salisbury Lodge
One of the region’s most popular huts, the 22-bunk Salisbury Lodge is well sited on the eastern edge of the Tablelands near Sphinx Caves, which can be explored with care.
4 Ellis Basin and hut
This remote sector is not actually on the Tablelands but is sometimes visited from the summit of Mt Arthur as a destination or part of the thru-trip along the Arthur Range to the Twins or Baton Saddle. The hut location is nestled amid more dramatic karst scenery.
5 Leslie Karamea Track
A major access track descends from the southern edge of the Tablelands along a forested ridge into the Leslie Valley and then to the Karamea Valley. The latter is sometimes followed to the Wangapeka Track as part of a seven- to nine-day trip.
6 Gridiron Shelters
These remarkable rock shelters and caves are located along the track between Salisbury Lodge and Flora Hut. Some have been equipped with bunks and ladders. Even if you don’t plan to stay, a quick visit is worthwhile.
7 Lake Peel
Aside from Lake Cobb, which is a hydro-lake, Lake Peel, situated at 1360m, is the Tablelands’ largest body of water. It occupies an ancient glacial cirque above which towers Mt Peel, 1654m, which is easily ascended from the lake shore.
8 Cobb Valley
Beyond Lake Peel, the poled route continues to the ridge overlooking Lake Cobb and a steep zigzag trail which descends to Myttons Hut, the Cobb Dam Road and Lake Cobb.
9 Pyramid Ridge
This intermediary ridge separates Flora Valley from the upper Leslie River and has an excellent marked route running along it, providing quick access between the slopes of Mt Arthur and Salisbury Lodge. Another track located here, Cloustons Mine Track, descends directly to Flora Valley.
10 The Twins
The highest summits in this region are the Twins at 1796m and 1809m. The higher Twin can be reached along the Arthur Range from Mt Arthur and requires some basic climbing skills to reach the top. The lower Twin is reached through Ellis Basin and then a long traverse to gain the ridge west of the peak.
11 Baton Saddle
This major landmark is another way into the Tablelands via the Baton River and Flanagans Hut, over the saddle and down to the Leslie River. It can also be reached along the Arthur Range from Ellis Basin.
12 Asbestos Cottage
This historic cottage was once the home of Annie Fox and Henry Chaffey who lived here as virtual recluses for 40 years from 1914. The hut was originally built by asbestos miners in 1897.