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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

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