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The Heaphy Track

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September 2021 Issue

The Heaphy Track can be walked in either direction, though we think it’s best walked in four days or ridden in two or three from the Golden Bay end.

Brown Hut to Perry Saddle Hut

17.5km, 5hr

Trampers may wish to spend a night at the 16 bunk Brown Hut, resting on the edge of Brown River at the very start of the track, in order to get going early on the tough first day: there’s a relentless 800m climb to the track’s high point at Flanagans Corner. Views on the way are sparse, although there are some opportunities when overlooking the Aorere River and Mt Olympus. The climb is consistent, but rarely steep. From Flanagans Corner, it’s an undulating walk to Perry Saddle Hut, which boasts impressive views across the valley and a nearby swimming hole.

Perry Saddle Hut to James Mackay Hut

24.2km, 6-7hr

This is the longest day, but as two huts are passed there are options to shorten this day. The trail begins with an easy descent to Gouland Downs. The vegetation changes immediately west of Perry Saddle, and soon peters out to the golden tussock of the downs, where trampers might see takahē. Within a few hours, Gouland Downs Hut is reached. From here, it’s through mossy forest, with several caves to explore. At the forest edge, the landscape opens up and continues west to reach Saxon Hut – a good spot for lunch and a swim in a nearby swimming hole. Continue west, sidling past Mt Teddy and over boardwalks to James Mackay Hut, perched on the slopes of Otepo.

James Mackay Hut to Heaphy Hut

20.5km, 6hr

The coast can be seen dead ahead as the easy downhill begins through bustling forest with occasional views of the Heaphy River. Lewis Shelter is reached after 3hr (Note, DOC closed the hut at this location in 2021 and replaced it with a shelter). It’s beautifully situated on the riverbank, a stone’s throw from the 148.8m Heaphy River suspension bridge. The next 3hr passes eventfully, with stunning views of the river, limestone formations, caves and impressive coastal forest – including massive rātā. Heaphy Hut sits at the mouth of the river. 

Heaphy Hut to Kohaihai

16.2km, 5hr

The final day is possibly the most riveting. The track follows a dramatic coastline over rugged beaches, diverting only to sidle over headlands. The mountainous forest is laden with nīkau palms and the track remains mostly flat. However, there’s one final push over Kohaihai Bluff before the track’s end. 

Distance
78.4km
Total Ascent
4068m
Grade
Moderate
Time
4-5 days. Brown Hut to Perry Saddle Hut, 5hr; To Gouland Downs Hut, 2hr; To Saxon Hut, 1.5hr; To James Mackay Hut, 3hr; To Lewis Hut, 3.5hr; To Heaphy Hut, 2.5hr; To Kohaihai River Mouth, 5hr
Accom.
Brown Hut (16 bunks),Perry Saddle Hut (28 bunks), Gouland Downs Hut (eight bunks), Saxon Hut (16 bunks), James Mackay Hut (28 bunks), Lewis Hut (20 bunks), Heaphy Hut (32 bunks). Multiple campsites
Access
From Aorere Valley Road end, Collingwood, or Karamea Kohaihai Road end, West Coast
Map
BP23, BP22

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Heaphy Track (gpx, 306 KB)

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