Located in a hanging valley in the Darran Mountains, Lake Marian is one of New Zealand’s must-visit hiking destinations. It can get incredibly busy there in summer but during the winter months, it’s possible to have the entire track to yourself.
A swingbridge crossing of the Hollyford River begins the trip in spectacular fashion, high above the crystal clear alpine water.
For the first 200m, the track follows the river and on a well-maintained surface. It then deviates away from the river and starts climbing gently alongside the thundering falls and rapids of Marian Creek into the area known as Marian Falls. There’s a viewing gantry here from which to both gaze and navigate through the falls. The immense power of mother nature is on display here as huge moss-covered boulders and trees are moved and shaped by the area’s high volumes of rain. During high flows, the sound is deafening and it is worth the drive from Te Anau just to walk this section but for those who push on, the track soon becomes more demanding.
At the end of the viewing gantry, the track changes from a walking to a tramping track. It becomes much rougher underfoot with exposed tree roots and sharp rocks to step over. The gradient becomes steeper but is never too extreme.
An abundance of ground ferns line either side of the track. At the lower levels they almost completely cover the forest floor. Providing shelter for the ferns is a variety of beech trees and native podocarps.
As the elevation increases, the forest cover reduces and, during winter snow could be encountered.
Around 90-minutes from the gantry, just on the bushline, the trees part and the lake and valley appear. Like most snow-fed alpine lakes, Marian is a strikingly beautiful turquoise colour.
Huge 2000m peaks surround the lake with the four peaks of Mt Crosscut at its opposite end. If the weather is calm and the lake is still, a perfect mirror reflection of the valley will be displayed. It is an incredibly idyllic and serene scene, one which will have most people struggling to leave.
Note, it is not advised to venture around the lake during winter as there is high avalanche risk.