- Victoria Forest Park
- Kirwans Hut, 12 bunks
- From the end of Boatmans Road, 16 km north of Reefton
To go tramping on the West Coast is to explore history. Everywhere you turn there are monuments to miners who carved a living from the earth. In their search for gold and coal, numerous tracks were created by those intent on finding wealth and that elusive big payday.
Kirwans Track, near Reefton, is one such trail rich in mining history.
The track starts at the end of Boatmans Road and the former site of Capleston, a town of 1000 people and seven hotels in 1877. Head over farmland to an old benched road that marks the start of the track proper.
Soon, there's a swingbridge, with the track continuing gently along the true right of Boatmans Creek.
It isn't long to the first historic relic: a short tunnel where water was diverted through a cliff for the combined Fiery Cross Gold Mine and Just In Time site. Today, the tunnel leads to a modern swingbridge; replaced in the last few years to better accommodate the mountain bikers who also use this track.
Following the river's true left, the track narrows but is clearly an old miner's trail. The grade is easy and climbs steadily. It crosses Topffer Creek before rising through pleasant mature bush.
More than 1000m of ascent is required to reach Kirwans Hut. The final 2km is spent traversing a broad face in open forest.
The hut is situated in a small clearing below the bushline and has a panoramic view over the Inangahua and Grey valleys as well as the Main Divide as far south as Aoraki/Mt Cook.
At 1315m, Kirwans Hill is a modest climb from the hut, first through silver beech then along a tussock ridge.