Arthur’s Pass National Park is rugged and mountainous; its backcountry tracks and facilities are not as developed as most other national parks in New Zealand. There are limited options for people with little or no tramping experience as most trips require route-finding and river-crossing skills.
The mountain ranges of Arthur’s Pass National Park have been a climbing mecca since 1891. Mt Rolleston (2275 m) near the summit of Arthur’s Pass is a popular climb for novice mountaineers to cut their crampons on.
State Highway 73, the main road between Greymouth and Christchurch in the South Island, goes right through the park and the village of Arthur’s Pass. Winding in places, it is one of the country’s most scenic routes.
It’s a two hour drive from Christchurch in the east, and about one and half hour’s drive from Greymouth on the west coast. Regular bus services operate between Greymouth, Hokitika and Christchurch. The scenic Tranzalpine Express offers a daily, spectacular train journey between Christchurch and Greymouth, stopping at Arthur’s Pass.
Arthur’s Pass National Park is rugged and mountainous, with weather that can change rapidly with little warning. All visitors should be prepared for wet and cold conditions, even in summer, and for sudden changes in weather. Most tracks involve river crossings - high rainfall causing rivers to rise quickly. Check Arthur's Pass National Park weather forecast – NIWA website.
Avalanches usually occur in Arthur's Pass National Park from May to November. Find out about avalanche danger in Arthur's Pass National Park.
For those planning overnight trips, there are many backcountry huts which trampers can use. The tracks are not as developed as they are in other parks and are not continuously marked. Check at the DOC visitor centre for up-to-date information on track conditions.
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date and time to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
There have been reports of cars being broken into and disabled at track ends.
Arthur's Pass National Park is situated between Canterbury and the West Coast in the South Island of New Zealand.
There is a striking difference between the habitats on either side of the main divide. Mountain beech/tawhai dominates eastern slopes. To the west is mixed podocarp rainforest and red-flowering rātā, with a luxuriant understorey of shrubs, ferns and mosses. A historic highway and railway runs through the middle.
Above the bushline, snow tussock and alpine meadows can be seen quite easily on a short walk off the road, at the summit of Arthur’s Pass.
Look out for the kea – alpine parrots famous for their inquisitive nature. The endangered great spotted kiwi/roroa – the ‘mountaineer’ of kiwi – are also found in the park along with more common forest birds like bellbirds/korimako and fantails/pīwakawaka. The open braided rivers of the Waimakariri and Poulter provide nesting grounds for birds such as wrybill/ngutu parore and black-fronted tern/tarapirohe. Find out about native birds in Arthur's Pass National Park.
Arthur’s Pass was established in 1929. It was New Zealand’s third national park and the first one in the South Island. Jacks Hut is a rare surviving example of a roadman’s cottage. Read about Historic Arthur's Pass.
Go high up into the mountain pass that Māori first used to travel from east to west in search of pounamu/greenstone. Travel by car, train or bus, then go and see one of the horse drawn coaches that carried passengers through this rugged landscape in the 1800s - the trip was much bumpier back then!