Park at the top of the Northern Motorway and walk down Waitati Valley Rd until a gate with a faded ‘No access – water catchment area’ sign. The sign is years out of date, and there’s a track past the gate. It leads to a bridge and then follows a pipeline for 15 minutes before a sign marks the turn-off to Burns Saddle.
This area is well placed to catch the fog that often accompanies the prevailing nor’easters. A nearby track is called Cloud Forests of Leith, for good reason. So it follows that the climb to bushline will be a muddy one.
A stroll along a scrubby ridge leads leads to a short descent to Burns Creek. Then it’s a sharp climb up a rutted and slippery track to the saddle. This is a junction of four routes and you’ll have used them all by the end of the trip. Head left up the slope.
The track goes straight up the hill, with the gradient easing as it approaches the plateau of Swampy Summit. There’s a variety of communication installations on this hill, so an access road traverses the top. Turn right, to reach the northern end of the plateau. This offers a great view across the head of Silver Stream to the Silver Peaks. From there, the descent of the Swampy Ridge Track, initially sharp, leads back to the Burns Saddle Track.
After a short climb through manuka, the track levels off somewhat and heads for the saddle. At the saddle, turn left, climbing briefly before beginning the long descent of Rustlers Ridge.
This eventually joins up with Pipeline Track to complete a loop that will have you back at the car park.