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Mole Hut, Nelson Lakes National Park

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July 2023 Issue

An accessible bush-edge hut in Nelson Lakes National Park.

Mole Tops is a delightful tarn-studded tussock expanse at the northern end of the Ella Range. The tops are accessible on two good tracks that can be combined to make a satisfying circuit.

There’s a signposted car park beside Mole Stream, near Mataki Lodge. Access to the Jameson Ridge Track is back up the road a bit and across a stile on the edge of farmland. The track heads east, briefly diverting down to river level beside Mole Stream before climbing again through beech forest. While never strenuous, the gradient eases even more at about 1000m then becomes a pleasant amble along the forested ridge, with the trees becoming more and more stunted. Higher are a few tussocky clearings before the track emerges onto the tops proper.

Mole Stream begins here, draining the tops around Mole Saddle, and the official route does a long horseshoe around the saddle to reach Mole Hut. An unofficial route is quicker and leads directly to the four-bunk hut, set on the edge of the forest above the stream.

No stay here is complete without exploring the Mole Tops themselves. From the hut, follow a poled route to Mole Saddle, weaving through luxuriant red tussock. From here, an unmarked foot trail leads up the obvious spur, climbing steeply to the knoll named Mole Tops (1651m). At the ridge the superb views expand, with glittering tarns and carpet-like vegetation. These are Olympic swimming pool-sized tarns, and glorious camping sites. The rocky knoll at Pt1770m is worth scrambling up for even broader views over the mountains of Nelson Lakes, the more distant Victoria Range and Mt Owen.

The area was farmed in the past, and some of the tops’ open country has been burnt before.

From Mole Hut, the track follows the course of Mole Stream back to the car park. Keep an eye out for kārearea. They’ve been seen nesting in the area.

Total Ascent
3hr via Jameson Ridge Track; 3hr via Mole Stream
Mole Hut (standard, four bunks)
Tutaki Road South, 35km from Murchison
BS23, BS24

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