Home / Trips / Nelson-Tasman

St Arnaud Range Tarns, Nelson Lakes National Park

Image of the December 2019 Wilderness Magazine Cover Read more from the
December 2019 Issue

If you have only one day to get a taste of the big skies and endless peaks of Nelson Lakes National Park, this out-and-back trip to the tops of the St Arnaud Range is a must. It’s also the perfect trip for those seeking remote tarn-side campsites.

Setting out from Lake Rotoiti campground, the track passes through a lush forest canopy, steadily climbing through red beech, broadleaf, and putaputawēta.

While the grade is relatively moderate, it’s a long upward journey through the forest before there are any views of the valley below.

Emerging from the bush, the track sidles up to Parachute Rocks (1400m), named for the parachute-shaped gravel scree located to the north.

It’s just another 200m to the crest of the St Arnaud Range, through tussock and some crumbling scree. Views from the tops are breathtaking, with Robert Ridge and the rest of Nelson Lakes to the south, the Wairau Valley and Raglan Range to the east, Mt Richmond Forest Park to the north, and Kahurangi National Park to the west.

The basins on the eastern side of the range are sprinkled with dozens of blue tarns surrounded by tussock – take your pick and set up camp.

– Meghan Walker

Support Wilderness

Since 1991, Wilderness has had one simple goal: to help Kiwis ‘See more, do more, live more’ of New Zealand.

If you value our mission, please consider subscribing. As a loyal supporter, you’ll receive these benefits:

  • New Zealand’s best outdoor journalism We’ve won multiple awards for our journalism and magazine production.
  • NZ’s best trips. Browse more than 610 trips with downloadable maps and route notes.
  • Trustworthy gear reviews. Each month we review gear we’ve been bashing and thrashing for months so you can determine if its worth your money.
  • Member benefits. Our WildCard provides discounts at more than 20 partners throughout New Zealand.
  • Your support goes a long way. Your subscription will help us fund NZ’s best outdoor journalists and writers and ensure Wilderness will be there to inspire the next generation of outdoor Kiwis.

A subscription costs as little as $7.00/month for instant access to all articles, trips, gear reviews and gear guides.

View all our subscription options and join the club.

Already a subscriber? Login Now.

10.46km return
Total Ascent
Easy / Moderate
8hr return
From St Arnaud