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The Paparoa Track

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September 2021 Issue

The Paparoa Track is the country’s first dual use Great Walk. It passes through a landscape as diverse as the Heaphy but is much shorter and can be walked in three days or ridden in one or two.

Smoke-ho car park to Ces Clark Hut

10.3km, 4-5hr

The first section has been in use for years. Known as the Croesus Track, it leads steeply past gold mining ruins and relics to 16-bunk Ces Clark Hut, which is right on the bush edge. There are magnificent views to Grey Valley and the Southern Alps. If there’s time, take the side track to Garden Gully (45min return) where a suspension bridge leads to a century-old quartz crushing battery and collapsed mine site. 

Mountain bikers will most likely skip this hut and ride on to Moonlight Tops Hut. 

Ces Clark Hut to Moonlight Tops Hut

9.7km, 3hr

The trail climbs through alpine scrub and tussock to the ridge of the Paparoa Range and follows this north above the Roaring Meg and Moonlight Creek catchments. On fine days, expect views to Aoraki/Mt Cook. The 20-bunk Moonlight Tops Hut is at 1000m and above the treeline, making it one of the most spectacular hut locations on the walk. It’s the busiest hut on the track and the most difficult to book as it’s the preferred hut of mountain bikers.

Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari Hut 

19.1km, 5-7hr

This section includes the dramatic escarpment – a gigantic sandstone bluff extending 2km along the main range and towering above the Punakaiki headwaters. The track traverses below Mt Hawera and then descends the ridge above Tindale Creek to 20-bunk Pororari Hut. The hut looks across the beech-forested head of Pororari Valley, sweeping from Lone Hand (947m) to the Tasman Sea. Roroa (great spotted kiwi) inhabit the surrounding bush.

Pororari Hut to Punakaiki

16km, 4-5hr

The track follows the Pororari River until a junction where the Inland Pack Track veers left – the route for mountain bikers – and the Pororari River Gorge beckons walkers dead ahead. Here, the river has cut a path through the limestone and the gorge is lined with lush rainforest. 

Total Ascent
Moderate / Difficult
3-4 days (1-2 days mountain biking). To Ces Clark Hut, 4-5hr; To Moonlight Tops Hut, 3hr; To Pororari Hut, 5-7hr; To Punakaiki, 4-5hr
Moonlight Hut (20 bunks), Pororari Hut (20 bunks), Ces Clark Hut (16 bunks)
Near Blackball, and Punakaiki on the West Coast

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