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Where to go this winter

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June 2022 Issue

Don’t let the cold weather put you off hitting the trails this winter. We’ve cast the net wide to find five trips to entice you outside. By Sam Harrison and Shaun Barnett

1 The Silver Peaks, Dunedin

A fossil fuel-free weekend trip‭ ‬from the heart of Dunedin

With petrol prices going crazy, what better time for a fossil fuel-free getaway. 

Just nine hours walk (or a 30-minute drive) from Dunedin will lead you into the heart of the Silver Peaks, a series of rugged scrub and forest-covered hills just north of the city. 

The route starts by climbing the tussocked tops behind Dunedin to join the Swampy Summit Track and onto the Swampy Ridge Route to Hightop, which provides access to the traditional Silver Peaks loop. Jubilee Hut is a convenient overnight destination roughly halfway, but there are ample alternatives. Camping spots abound at the bottom of the Devil’s Staircase or there’s the unique experience of sleeping in ABC Cave. For the adventurous, an off-track route connects Silver Peak with The Gap, via a traverse of the scrubby and rocky ridge linking the two. 

Grade Easy-moderate Access Dunedin or the Mountain Road car park (the Mountain Road car park gate is locked, so the road from there to Phillip J Cox Memorial Hut must be walked).

A layer of mist is a common sight on Totara Flats during the winter. Photo: Sam Harrison

2 Tōtara Flats Hut, Tararua Forest Park

A perfect trip for novice winter trampers

A perfect winter weekend for new trampers (or those wishing to encourage others to give it a go) is the five-hour walk up the Waiohine River to the comfortable 26-bunk Tōtara Flats Hut.

The trip begins by crossing the river on New Zealand’s highest swingbridge. It then follows a path above the Waiohine, sidling through podocarp forest interspersed with nīkau palms. After the bridge over Makakaka Creek, the track sticks close to the river before breaking out of the bush at Tōtara Flats.

It’s easy walking along the flats and there’s ample opportunity to camp. The hut sits just beyond the flats through a small section of bush, opposite to where Tōtara Creek meets the Waiohine River.

A track leads from the hut to a swingbridge which connects to Tōtara Creek Track. This leads to the Holdsworth road end and the two tracks combined make for an excellent through-trip.

Grade Easy Access Waiohine Gorge Road car park.

Nothing beats a warm fire on a winter’s day. Photo: Sam Harrison

3 Camp Creek Hut, West Coast

A cosy West Coast escape complete with a hot bath

This hut is tucked away in the hills behind SH73. It’s a homely six-bunk Forest Service hut built in 1979 as a base for studying possums. With a fire going, the hut’s a cosy place. One artefact of its past is a wood-fired outdoor bath, perfect for a winter soak beneath the stars.

The track climbs alongside Camp Creek from the Lake Brunner Road car park before dropping into the creekbed, requiring navigation up the steep boulder-choked valley. After about a kilometre, the track climbs steeply out of the creek and sidles above before crossing it just before the hut, where a letterbox marks your arrival.

If the three-hour walk isn’t tiring enough, a route for experienced trampers goes up a spur behind the hut to the open tops of the Kaimata Range. The route then leads on to Pt1784, and an unmarked route continues on the exposed ridge to Mt Alexander which, on a good day, offers some of the best views in the country.

Grade Moderate-difficult Access Lake Brunner Road car park, just off SH73.

Crow Hut was built by DOC in 2008 and is a great destination walk to do with friends. Photo: Sam Harrison

4 Crow Hut, Arthur’s Pass National Park

A perfect spot to enjoy the mountains

Nestled beneath the glaciated peak of Mt Rolleston (2275m) is 10-bunk Crow Hut. It’s the perfect spot to take in some of the best features of Arthur’s Pass        National Park.

Two popular routes lead to the hut, which can be linked to create an ‘almost’ loop beginning at Arthur’s Pass Village and ending at Klondyke Corner. The harder of these two routes climbs steeply from the village towards Avalanche Peak. Initially in beech forest, the track soon breaks out on to open tussock tops and shingle scree.

Avalanche Peak offers spectacular views over the surrounding mountains but as the name suggests, caution should be taken with this route if there is snow on the ground (check conditions with DOC before you go).

From Avalanche Peak, a loosely marked route follows the scree-covered ridge towards Mt Rolleston until a marker indicates where to drop into the Crow Valley. A vertical kilometre of steep scree ensures a quick descent, which will warm you up on even the coldest winter day.

Once at Crow River it’s a simple matter of walking downstream to Crow Hut. To complete the loop, follow the track downstream to the Waimakariri River. This can then be followed with a few river crossings until the car park at Klondyke Corner.

Grade Moderate-difficult Access Arthur’s Pass Village or Klondyke Corner.

5 Te Puia Lodge, Kaweka Forest Park

A steamy retreat 

What better way to cheat winter cold than with a hot tub? Well, two hot tubs actually. Uniquely, this pleasant overnight tramp to Te Puia Lodge is bookended with natural hot springs. The Mangatutu Hot Springs lie 10min from the road end campsite, while the Mangatainoka Hot Springs are 45min past Te Puia Lodge.

At the trailhead, grab your togs and stroll to the recently refurbished Mangatutu Springs tubs, set high above the Mōhaka River (don’t soak too long or you’ll never get out). Afterwards, follow the benched Te Puia Track as it wends its way up the scenic and snaking Mohaka River. While up-and-down in a few places, the track is reasonably level and passes through stands of mānuka and occasional copses of beech forest. Allow 3hr to reach the 26-bunk Te Puia Lodge – the largest hut in the park.

Stay here or take your tent along to the Mangatainoka Hot Springs, reached on a well-marked track to the confluence of the Mōhaka and Mangtainoka Rivers. Near the two hot tubs (also recently refurbished), are good places to camp.

Grade Easy Access Makahu Road end.