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Maungatapu Circuit, Mt Richmond Forest Park

Image of the December 2021 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
December 2021 Issue

This walk is an exploration of Nelson’s mineral belt and even includes a Māori argillite quarry dating to the 16th century. By Darren Watts

The track begins at Matai Dam, continuing past the spillway and onto a forest road which soons splits; going left leads up the side of a hill, above the Matai River South Branch. 

The road sidles southwards, eventually gaining the ridge and 500m later there’s another track junction, with the trail to Dew Lakes to the right. 

This track climbs steadily through sections of native vegetation and mineral belts, until after about 600m Rush Pool is reached. This was created by Māori in the 16th century for quarrying argillite, and there is a quarry about 50m above the pool.  Harder stone from Nelson’s Boulder Bank was lugged to the quarry to aid in mining argillite, which was widely sought by Māori due to its ability to hold a sharpened edge for tool making and weapons. Stones should not be removed from this area. 

About halfway between Rush Pool and Dew Lakes, just past Pt682, the vegetation opens up, providing views towards Nelson and Tasman Bay. This is a good spot to rest and soak in the view. 

The track shortly leaves the open area and again enters the forest. The incline is fairly easy-going until about the 800m contour when it noticeably steepens and veers to the east to skirt the headwaters of a tributary to the Matai River North Branch. 

A short while later the track gains the Bryant Range where a sign points east to Dew Lakes and west to Dun Mountain and Rocks Hut, two and four hours away. 

The shallow, unspectacular lakes are reached within five minutes and trampers may wish to continue for 10-minutes to Maungatapu (1014m), where there are excellent views to Tasman Bay, Pelorus, Havelock and even the mountains of the Kaikōura ranges. 

The track drops off Maungatapu and veers to the north, passing through beautiful bush all the way to Maungatapu Saddle. At the saddle, the route meets the Maungatapu Track, a 4WD road that can be busy with motorcyclists during the weekend. 

The trail drops steeply from the saddle, quickly losing 510m in just 3.2km as it passes Surveyor’s Flat and reaches a bridge over the Maitai River North Branch. 

Walkers pass through a steep-sided gorge to reach the Maitai Dam lake, from where the trail climbs briefly to the 220m contour to skirt the water and regain the road, which can be followed back to the start. 

Distance
16.3km
Total Ascent
1265m
Grade
Moderate
Time
6-7hrs
Access
Maitai Valley Road end
Map
BQ26

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