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Rees-Dart Track, Mt Aspiring National Park

Approaching Rees Saddle. Photo: Ray Salisbury | Hot Pixels Photography
Total Ascent
Muddy to Shelter Rock Hut, 5-7hr; To Dart Hut, 4-6hr; To Daleys Flat Hut, 5-7hr; To Chinamans Bluff car park, 5-7hr
Shelter Rock Hut (22 bunks); Dart Hut (32 bunks), Daleys Flat Hut (20 bunks)
From Paradise, north of Glenorchy and one-hour from Queenstown Grade Moderate
CB10, CA10
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Rees-Dart (gpx, yo 91 KB)
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From Muddy Creek at the end of Rees Valley Road, a 4WD road crosses leasehold land along easy river flats. Follow marker poles across a boggy section beyond Arthurs Creek. A short grassy trail leads up to the site of the old Twenty Five Mile Hut, built by the Otago Tramping and Mountaineering Club. From here, the views of Mt Earnslaw (2830m) are spectacular. Twenty Five Mile Creek is usually a trickle, but a memorial plaque to two trampers who drowned here is a reminder of the danger streams pose when in flood.

The track then enters delightful beech forest where lush carpets of moss cloak each side of the benched track.

A swingbridge crosses to the true right. Later, the track spits you onto an old landslide which careered off Mt Clarke. Wade through long grass at Slip Flat, before the trail opens out onto exposed avalanche fans. The sidle route drops to a wooden footbridge, leading to Shelter Rock Hut on the east bank.

The upper valley becomes subalpine but is still easy going. At the valley head, the route follows a poled path to Rees Saddle (1471m). Zigzagging up the tussock, the ascent takes about 30 minutes and is not too exposed. From the saddle, you can climb to Pt2185 for a view of Lochnagar lake.

From Rees Saddle, a rocky and narrow sidle leads above Snowy Creek. This traverse could be dangerous if wet or snow-covered. Dart Hut is nestled above the confluence of the Snowy and Dart Rivers (note, the bridge over the gorge is removed during winter) and ample camping spots abound. Now in its third incarnation, Dart Hut was originally built in 1937 by the New Zealand Alpine Club.

Most parties spend a rest day at Dart Hut so they can visit Dart Glacier and Cascade Saddle. Follow the large rock cairns and poles up the desolate Dart Valley. The ground trail drops onto the level pan of moraine gravel near the terminus of the glacier.

Cascade Saddle sits some 400m above the Dart Glacier and Mt Aspiring’s perfect 3033m pyramid of rock and ice towers above the Matukituki Valley. Camping is only permitted near Cascade Creek where there is a toilet. The trail from the Dart Valley is loosely cairned and steep.

Continuing on the Dart-Rees Track, Veints Biv is  reached in three hours. The biv – a huge boulder cantilevered outward with a dry cave beneath – has room for at least 10.

Continue to Daleys Flat, home to an older 20-bunk hut, sporting a stunning view towards the Barrier Range.

The track continues around the 3km-long lake formed by a massive landslide in 2014 to reach Sandy Bluff. Here, the Dart cuts under the river bank, requiring a steep 70m climb to an exposed shelf.

The trail then ambles along a terrace above the braided Dart and then circles around Chinamans Bluff. The road end is not far off.