Top family-friendly trips to try next weekend
Libretto Range, St James Conservation Area and Lake Sumner Forest Park
Moderate to difficult multiday trip suitable for experienced adults and older children
If you are experienced trampers with older children then this is an excellent challenging trip which will fulfil your needs of stream-bashing and untracked ridge tops.
It’s an easy walk to Boyle Hut and beyond to Boucher Stream. Follow Boucher Stream to the flat saddle near Pt1674, but don’t be tempted to leave the stream too early. Similarly, don’t plan to camp on the boggy saddle. Just over the ridge to the south is a fantastic campsite with good tarns. The walk south along the Libretto Range is glorious. Dotted with tarns there are plenty of basins for camping and swimming, so don’t hurry.
There are places along the ridge that require caution but nothing too difficult and there is also a track off Faust Peak making the decent to your car relatively easy.
Most adults would do this trip in three days, but if you take your time and walk short distances each day – ensuring the children are having fun – it may take as many as six.
Powell Hut, Tararua Forest Park, Wairarapa
A moderate trip for those kids who want a challenge
A fine hut, with good facilities (including gas cooking rings), the popular Powell Hut makes a good destination for kids wanting to extend their tramping experience to something a little more challenging. The 28-bunk hut occupies a commanding position below Mt Holdsworth, overlooking the Atiwhakatu Valley and Wairarapa lowlands. Between October and April the hut must be booked in advance.
Beginning from the Holdsworth Road-end, the well-graded track takes 4-5hr for school-age children, although kids will need reasonable fitness. There are no unbridged stream crossings and shelter and water can be found at Mountain House, named after a former hut that used to occupy a nearby site. Recent track upgrading has eased what were rocky scrambles in the last steep climb to the hut.
If your kids still have energy, and weather permits, take them to the summit of Mt Holdsworth, a further hour away.
Waihaha Hut, Puroera Forest Park, King Country
An easy tramp through native bush
Built in the mid-1990s, this DOC hut replaced an older Forest Service one in the same clearing.
The track to the hut begins from a car park on SH32, west of Lake Taupo. Beginning in tanekaha forest, it follows the Waihaha Valley and crosses the Mangatu River on a bridge. Most of the track is undulating, with the only significant climb just beyond the bridge. Past this ascent, the track passes through the Pokaiora Clearing, a diverse mix of shrubs and wetlands (listen for fernbirds here), with a glimpse of an ignimbrite-walled gorge of the Waihaha River below.
The final section of the track wends through podocarp forest to a clearing partially occupied by the comfortable 10-bunk hut. Allow 4.5hr for a tramp with school-age children.
Pinnacles Hut, Coromandel Forest Park
An easy, historic overnighter to New Zealand’s busiest hut
With 80 bunks, Pinnacles is the largest hut in the country and serves as accommodation on the popular historic Kauaeranga Kauri Trail, which attracts trampers by the droves. To ensure bunk space, book well in advance of your trip.
From the Kauaeranga Valley, the track ascends steadily beside Webb Creek before reaching the Hydro Camp, beyond which the route crosses undulating terrain through secondary forest to reach Pinnacles Hut. For school-age children, allow 4hr. Extensive kauri logging occurred in the area during the 1920s. Near the hut is the Dancing Camp Kauri Dam, one of the best-preserved timber dams in the country, which makes a worthwhile diversion. Older children will enjoy the scramble up the steep Pinnacles, negotiating ladders, for an extensive view. After a night at the hut, the Billygoat Track provides an alternative route back to the Kauaeranga Valley.
Sunrise Hut, Ruahine Forest Park, Hawke’s Bay
An easy, safe trip along a good track to a popular hut
This trip suits family groups because of a good, benched track, no river crossings, and a warm comfortable destination at day’s end. Nestled in Buttercup Hollow, near the bush-edge of the eastern Ruahine Range and partially sheltered by stunted beech trees, the 20-bunk Sunrise Hut overlooks the Gwavas Range, farmland and Hawke’s Bay.
Access is from a car park on North Block Road, from where the track passes through grand forest before the ascent begins in earnest, zigzagging uphill. For school-age children allow up to 4hr to reach the hut. On a good day, take the track beyond the hut (allow 40-60min) to Armstrong Saddle, site of an historic plane crash, which offers views of Mts Ruapehu and Ngauruhoe. The track passes close to steep drop-offs and the saddle itself is exposed to strong winds.
Haurangi Hut, Rimutaka Forest Park, Wellington
An easy trip to a hut that can be sole-booked
The Orongorongo Valley has long provided an introduction for youngsters to spend their first night in the bush.
One of DOC’s newest huts in the valley, Haurangi Hut, was built in 2010, and is set on the true right of the valley, upstream from the Turere Bridge.
From the Catchpool car park, allow 3.5hr to reach the hut with school-age children on the Orongorongo and Big Bend tracks. Younger kids will manage the walk too, given more time and rests. Like other huts in the valley, Haurangi must be booked through DOC. This gives you exclusive use of the 10-bunk hut – including its gas cookers, pots, plates, cups, utensils and solar lighting – meaning parents can enjoy slightly lighter packs on the walk in.
Hawdon Valley, Arthurs Pass National Park
Easy overnight trip suitable for all ages – younger children may need help with river crossings
This is a wonderful little valley to explore and would be a good first overnight trip if you are new to tramping. It involves river crossings so it’s no good with a bad forecast, but it’s a great place to teach children about river safety when the river is low. There is a nice new hut a few hours walk up the valley, and there is also excellent camping at the old hut site (just down valley of the new hut).
There is so much on offer in this valley that you can’t help but be immersed in the beauty and nature that surrounds you. It is a valley that you will return to time and time again.
Helicopter Hill, Craigieburn Forest Park
Easy, half day walk suitable for all ages
This little hill on the edge of the Craigieburn Range has everything you need to enjoy a family day out. It is only 90-minute’s drive from Christchurch, yet gives you a real feeling of being in the middle of the mountains.
The walk starts at the Craigieburn Campsite and is mostly a benched track to Lyndon Saddle (1130m), then follows up a good track to the top of Helicopter Hill. The walk is easy, yet little ones will feel a sense of achievement upon reaching the 1250m summit. The views across the basin towards the Torlesse Range are outstanding.
It’s a walk for that awkward time when your second baby is being carried and your first born still can’t walk very far. It’s also a good place to teach kids how to self-arrest on the steeper snowy slopes.
Woolshed Creek Hut, Hakatere Conservation Park
A moderate overnight – or longer – trip with plenty of views and history
One of the very best overnight family walks in Canterbury is the half day walk into the large, modern Woolshed Creek Hut near Mt Somers. Not only is the hut a major drawcard, being set in a spacious high country valley, but there are also the views of the Alps, historic coal mine site complete with relics, spectacular canyons, and in summer some great pools for swimming. And to that you can also add waterfalls, an airy swingbridge, rock scrambling, riverside wanders and the possibility for a return route via a high sidle track above the canyon.
The main track to the hut is varied and passes through beech forest and then climbs to a high open plateau where the views of both Woolshed Creek and the nearby Arrowsmith Mountains are breathtaking.
The trip could easily be extended to three days to allow for additional exploring or if your party is fit you could complete the Mt Somers Walkway, on which the hut is located, over a saddle to Staverley and staying the second night at Pinnacles Hut.
Surat Bay to Cannibal Bay, Catlins region
An easy day out among sea lions, penguins and wild Catlins Coast
It is difficult not to get excited about wild coastal scenery that is easily accessed and that also boasts unique marine life, in this case the Hooker’s sea lion. If you add some easy beach walking, huge seas, isolation and penguins then the Surat to Cannibal Bay beach walk in the Catlins on the very south coast of the South Island rates highly. Together, the two bays and intermediate headland of False Inlet make up only 5km of sandy walking, but as the road ends for both are some distance apart you will most likely have to retrace your steps to see both bays, but in this stunning costal setting that’s hardly a negative and it also increases your chances of seeing and photographing the massive bull Hooker’s sea lion which often lie both on the beach and up in the dunes.
Yellow-eyed penguin can also be seen here coming ashore in the late evening and making their way to their burrows up in the scrub. Aside from the wildlife there are also some fascinating rock platforms to explore at both bays and if you want to extend your stay there’s the nearby motor camp at New Haven.