- Carpark to Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut, 2-3hr; Hut to northern end of lake, 30min; Lake to Thompsons Flat Hut, 30min
- Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut, Thompsons Flat Hut
- Marble Hill car park, Lewis Pass HIghway
Thompsons Flat Hut, Lewis Pass National Reserve
Ringed with mature beech forest and gentle peaks, Lake Daniell is a jewell of a location and is suited to trampers with kids or those looking for something cruisy or a low elevation option in bad weather. With the forecast looking horrendous for the Main Divide, our party of four settled on a trip into this tranquil lake and a night at Thompsons Flat Hut, about 30 minutes past the head of the Lake.
From the Marble Hill parking area on the Lewis Pass Highway, the well-graded trail passes first the Sluice Box, an interesting fault through which the twinkling teal Maruia River runs. If you’re lucky you might spot trout here. The track then follows the flanks of the Alfred River and then Frazer Stream to the outlet at the southern end of the lake. The easy track weaves through mature beech forest and mossy terraces, with gentle gradients and boardwalks over the boggy sections.
The Manson-Nicholls Memorial Hut is located on a grassy flat where the track meets the lake and is a modern 24-bunk DOC hut with a log burning stove. The hut was built by volunteers as a memorial to Brian and Sharon Manson and Phillip Nicholls, three young trampers who were killed in 1974by a landslide while they sheltered from a severe storm in the old Lake Daniell Fishing Club Hut, situated at the northern end of the lake.
The current hut has its own jetty which provides the perfect place to dip your feet in the lake after the walk up the valley. For many, this peaceful spot will be the ideal spot to chill for the afternoon and watch the sunset colour the clouds above the lake. There’s plenty of camping space here too and it’s a popular fly fishing spot.
Those looking for a longer walk (or to get more solitude if the hut is busy) can either camp at any one of a number of spots along the eastern or northern lake edge or walk on to Thompsons Flat following an old 4WD track. At the large clearing there is an unmaintained (but serviceable) ex forest service hut. While the clearing here is not as pretty as Lake Daniell, it’s still a nice spot to spend a night. Note that Thompsons Flat and the hut are private, but open to public access. Permission is not required, but please show respect while you are in the area.
The Upper Maruia Valley and Lake Daniell area are home to long tailed bats and South Island kaka, so keep your eye out for these rare indigenous species. DOC is running an extensive monitoring and pest trapping programme titled Te Maruia Waka Huia (Maruia Treasure Box) in the region to protect the existing populations.