Just starting out on your tramping journey? Or would you like to introduce your friends to the mountains, but don’t want to frighten them with steep hills and dangerous tracks? Here’s 10 introductory trips to whet your appetite
1. Welcome Flat, Westland National Park
Brave the tourist traffic to follow in the footsteps of Charlie Douglas up the Copland Valley. This iconic tramp gives a glimpse of Westland’s lush podocarp forest, river and mountain scenery, while the hot pools are an added attraction for weary adventurers.
The well-graded trail skirts forested river flats along the Karangarua River before swinging east up the Copland. In places the old pack track is undercut, so boulder-hop along the river bank, enjoying the fresh breeze and open space.
Kereru are in abundance and you’ll most likely see kea and the ubiquitous weka.
The 31-bunk, two-storey lodge at Welcome Flat is truly a welcome sight. You will, no doubt, be heading for the legendary hot pools, a mere minute’s walk away. Reputedly the finest springs in the backcountry, they were discovered by Alf Dale in the mid-1890s while he was helping explorer Charlie Douglas blaze a trail up to Welcome Flat.
Lie back and drink in unrivalled views of the snow-capped Sierra Range.
Easy. 5-7hr. Start/finish 26km south of Fox Glacier township on SH6.
2. Lake Angelus Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park
The 28-bunk hut beside Lake Angelus is the jewel in the crown of Nelson Lakes. In the summer season, the place is swimming with foreigners deviating off the Travers–Sabine circuit, now part of the Te Araroa Trail.
In clear weather, nothing beats the stiff climb up Pinchgut Track onto the barren tops of Mt Robert, where a moderate tops traverse awaits. Good visibility is needed, though, to press on past 4th Basin, over a lip, sliding down scree into the picturesque cirque in which Lake Angelus resides.
In inclement weather, an escape exit is found via a gully that spits you out at Speargrass Hut, a couple of hours from the car park. This is a safer alternative if the cloud is low and the wind is up.
Moderate. 4-7hr. Start/finish from the Lake Rotoiti road end.
3. The Pinnacles, Coromandel Forest Park
Because of its close proximity to Auckland, Pinnacles Hut is one of the most populated places in the backcountry and thousands of young trampers have cut their teeth here.
However, the Coromandel has its own appeal, despite the obvious modification of the hills by logging and mining, which ironically, provides historical interest.
The most direct route is up the ‘Staircase’ which ascends Webb Creek. This leads to the Hydro Camp, a flat clearing in the scrub. From here, an undulating track skirts the ridge further east. A signpost points the way to New Zealand’s biggest hut, with sleeping space for 80. Kauri wrap round the verandah, a great place to lounge. If it’s too crowded, erect a tent by Dancing Camp Dam, an artefact from the timber milling era.
To climb to the Pinnacles proper (759m), follow the boardwalk and numerous steps for 45 minutes.
To complete a circuit, you can drop down the Billy Goat Track, skirting the Billy Goat Falls (180m), before crossing the Kauaeranga River.
Easy. 2.5-3hr. Start/finish from Kauaeranga Valley road-end.
4. Salisbury Lodge, Kahurangi National Park
With a fascinating history of deluded diggers and hut-bound hermits, its legacy of mining and mustering, the Kahurangi Tableland deserves a place on everyone’s tramping itinerary. Most of the climbing is done by car, then an all-weather, benched pack track leads into the heart of New Zealand’s second largest national park.
Flora Saddle is gained in a matter of minutes, though you will hardly notice as the gradient is gentle. Past the turn-off to Mt Arthur, the 4WD road takes you to the historic Flora Hut with its twin rooms, anachronisms from the 1930s when men and women had separate sleeping quarters. During the 1860s gold rush, a tent camp named Edwards Store was set up here.
After a couple of hours on the go, explore Gridiron Creek, with its two rustic rock shelters. A swingbridge spans a side creek, then it’s down into the Takaka watershed, round the bend to Growler Shelter and up Balloon Creek.
March upward through golden tussock and stunted silver beech to Salisbury Lodge, a monstrous affair complete with gas cooking and fancy toilets. Look out the window at stunning views of Mt Arthur and the Twins. Take a day off to climb Gordons Pyramid, visit Cloustons Mine, or do the Potholes Walk.
Easy. 3-4hr. Start/finish at Graham Valley Road, 30min from Motueka.
5. Waitawheta Hut, Kaimai-Mamaku Forest Park
In recent years, DOC has rebuilt some of the suspension bridges on the historic Waitawheta Tramway, ensuring easier access to this hut, which was re-sited next to an old timber mill site where a tramway turntable and haul lines can be explored. The 26-bunk hut is very popular, while short walks and interpretive displays make for an interesting stay here. A swimming hole and bridge are nearby.
The walk begins on an access corridor that cuts through grassy farmland, then soon gives way to native bush. After about 1.5hr, the track crosses a bridge to the site of a replica logging bogie. Follow the old tramline through the spectacular Waitawheta Gorge, where three river crossings will wet your boots.
The Waitawheta Tramway is a great example of New Zealand’s logging heritage with impressive engineering in difficult terrain.
Easy. 3-4hr. Start/finish at the end of Franklin Rd, near SH2 at Waikino in the Karangahake Gorge
6. Jubilee Hut, Silver Peaks Scenic Reserve
This scenic reserve, less than 30min from Dunedin, offers uninterrupted views of inland and coastal Otago.
Jubilee Hut provides the ideal overnight retreat. The track climbs a bulldozed road onto the western shoulder of Hightop. Past Sleepy Hollow, a gentle incline skirts the ridgeline to the old Green Hut site. A steeper track then climbs onto the backbone of the ranges. A vehicle track meanders along to Pulpit Rock then traverses the tops toward the Silver Peaks (777m). As you descend the Devil’s Staircase, dotted with large rock tors, the roof of the 10-bunk Jubilee Hut sparkles in the sunlight, nearly 2km away.
An alternative return journey can be made via ABC Cave on a 4WD track. This cavernous shelter is a more adventurous place to overnight. Further on, The Gap is an obvious indentation in the terrain. Parties can exit via Yellow Ridge and the new Philip Cox Hut, or past the Cat’s Teeth on Rocky Ridge back to the Silver Peaks. Often blasted by south-westerly storms, visibility can be minimal, so care is needed and water must be carried.
Moderate. 4-5hr. Start/finish on Mountain Track Road.
7. Oamaru Hut, Kaimanawa Forest Park
While the poled route through Poronui Station is easy, it provides a gentle introduction to overnight tramping, and a chance to adjust pack straps, or redistribute weight amongst the party. A corridor of pines is followed, as well as open paddocks, before dropping through ti-tree to the vast valley floor.
The hut is sighted before the Mohaka River is crossed, which in winter can be swift and cold. Then a full 30min across a golden tussock terrace brings you to Oamaru Hut, a tidy 12-bunker squatting on a high shelf with a grand view. Deer-cullers tell tales of the good old days when they took pot-shots at dozens of deer from the deck.
Further afield, up the river flats of the Oamaru, and via a long bush track over Waitawhero Saddle, is Boyd Lodge, a 16-bunk Lockwood cabin nestled above the Ngaruroro River.
A four day expedition can be made deep into the heart of classic deer-hunting country, walking a loop past Cascade Hut back to Clements Mill Road. A shorter, two-day circuit can be made over the summit of Te Iringa.
Easy. 3-4hr. Start/finish at the end of Taharua Road, off SH5.
8. Woolshed Creek Hut, Mt Somers Conservation Area
Mt Somers is a volcanic outlier 120km west of Christchurch. A tramping track circumnavigates the mountain and two huts, including the easily accessed 26-bunk Woolshed Creek Hut, provide shelter.
A 30min amble along an old tramway brings trampers to the old Blackburn site where signs inform of previous coal mining history. A giant four-tonne hopper lies abandoned in the forest, 80 years after the uneconomic venture began. The Miners Track winds up and over Trig R with its attendant rock cairn, skirting the valley wall. Look out for kea circling above.
The track leads into Woolshed Creek where the waterway enters a deep fissure in the rock. Soon you’ll spot the hut – a lonely dot beside a silver ribbon which winds through the ochre, windswept hills.
As a side-trip, explore the nearby Water Caves; a curious jumble of boulders, tomos, cascades and deep pools, perfect for a hot summer afternoon. A trail of red paint marks a rough route for the agile and adventurous to follow.
Easy. 2-3hr. Start/finish from the end of Jig Road, off Ashburton Gorge Road.
9. Sunrise Hut, Ruahine Forest Park
A great winter destination, Sunrise Hut is the most frequented hut in the eastern Ruahine Ranges. As well as a stunning grandstand view out to Hawke’s Bay and the Pacific Ocean, gas cooking and heating are provided – there’s even cell-phone reception here, at the lofty altitude of 1280m. In 2005, DOC extended this cabin to now house 20 and included warden’s quarters too, so you’ll most likely have company. The hut is serviced and will need to be booked through DOC’s website.
Leaving the car park, 10min up the track you will find the obsolete Triplex Hut. From here, the gentle gradient of the wide, benched path is easily negotiated, even after snowfall, until it leaves the shelter of the beech forest and makes a quick dash over the tops for the safety of Sunrise Hut.
Above the hut, along an exposed rocky ridge, is Armstrong Saddle, where in 1935 a Gypsy Moth piloted by Hamish Armstrong crashed into the mountain. Allow half an hour for this side-trip.
Easy. 2.5–3hr. Start/finish from North Block Road-end, 100km south of Napier.
10. Ces Clark Memorial Hut, Roaring Meg Ecological Area
A popular leg-stretcher for Coasters, the Croesus Track links the iconic Blackball mining town with Barrytown, 25km north of Greymouth. While a car shuttle would enable this full crossing of the Paparoa Range, many opt to walk up Blackball Creek to Ces Clark Hut and return the same way.
Architecturally designed and with views to die for, Ces Clark Hut has bunks for 16, with the adjacent Croesus Top Hut providing overflow accommodation. A coal-fired stove warms the place nicely, while picture windows gaze out over the Grey Valley to the prominent ramparts of Mt Alexander and Lake Brunner. Half an hour’s ramble along the benched track brings you onto Croesus Knob (1204m) for brilliant sunsets. The Mt Cook massif is visible further down the coast.
In addition to impressive panoramas and an excellent hut, the gold mining history of the area is well documented. Garden Gully Hut has been restored as an historic relic; beyond is a quartz stamping battery and disused mine. On Croesus Knob are the rusted remains of aerial tramways; twisted metal sculptures which lie testament to the endeavours of men in centuries past.
Easy. 4-5hr. Start/finish at the road end 1km from Blackball.