Introduction

Choose a tramp in Arthur's Pass National Park to suit your experience and ability - most trips require route-finding and river crossing skills.

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.

Trips for trampers with moderate experience

  • 3–6 hours each day
  • Suitable for people with low–moderate tramping experience
  • Basic route-finding skills needed
  • Some tramps require river-crossing
Route Above bushline River crossing Route finding Avalanche risk
Carrington Hut No Yes Yes No
Cass-Lagoon Saddle Track No Yes - side streams No Yes
Hawdon Hut No Yes Yes No
Casey Saddle - Binser Saddle Route  No Yes Yes No
Edwards Hut No Yes Yes No
Carroll Hut Yes No No Yes

Trips for trampers with moderate-high experience

  • 5–8 hours each day
  • Suitable for well-equipped people with previous backcountry experience
  • Map-reading and route-finding skills essential
  • River crossing skills essential
RouteAbove bushlineRiver crossingRoute findingAvalanche risk
Avalanche Peak Route Yes No Yes Yes
Avalanche Peak to Crow Hut Route Yes Yes Yes Yes
Harper Pass Route Yes Yes Yes No
Mingha-Deception Route Yes Yes Yes Yes

Trips for highly experienced trampers only

  • 7–10 hours each day
  • Suitable for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers only
  • Often difficult country – may involve rock scrambling
  • Many unmarked routes – map-reading and route-finding skills essential
  • River-crossing skills essential
RouteAbove the bushlineRiver crossingRoute findingAvalanche risk
Three Passes Route Yes Yes Yes Yes
Edwards-Hawdon Route Yes Yes Yes Yes
Harman Pass Route Yes Yes Yes Yes
Minchin Pass Route Yes Yes Yes Yes
Edwards-Otehake Route Yes Yes Yes Yes

Be aware of these factors

Weather in Arthur’s Pass National Park changes quickly

Sharp falls in temperature, heavy rain, and strong winds canoccur any time of the year. Always be prepared to change your plans. In bad weather you risk exposure if above the bushline, and drowning if crossing flooded rivers.

Remember
  • Get the latest weather forecast from the Arthur’s Pass Visitor Centre before setting out.
  • Be prepared for the worst.
  • Carry warm clothing and waterproofs.
  • Do not go above the bushline in bad weather.
  • Rivers rise very quickly during rain – even if it’s far away in the headwaters.

You must know where and how to cross rivers safely

Unlike the Great Walks and other easy tramps in New Zealand, many tracks and routes in Arthur’s Pass do not have bridges.

Rivers and major side streams rise rapidly after rain. Several trampers have drowned crossing swollen rivers.

Rivers and side streams tend to be higher in spring whensnow is melting.

Remember
  • Read the route guide and map carefully to see where the major crossings are. Before crossing assess the river’s speed, depth, colour, catchment area and run-out. Consider escape routes along your route.
  • Know how to choose the best crossing places: don’t cross discoloured rivers, surging water, or major rapids; watchout for sounds of rolling stones in the riverbed, or trees and debris being carried along.
  • Do not take risks. If a river is flooded, wait it out – better late than dead!

You need route-finding skills

Many of the routes in Arthur’s Pass require some route-finding skills. Tracks and routes are not always continuously marked – especially in wide riverbeds and above the bushline, where the landscape changes rapidly due to slips and floods. You will need to find the safest route.

Remember
  • Always take a topographic map and compass with you.
  • Do not rely on GPS – it will not work in the thick bush or confined spaces.
  • If visibility is poor, do not go above the bushline unless you have good navigation skills.
  • Write your tramping intentions in hut books as you pass through.
  • If you are lost or injured: Stay where you are. Find or construct a shelter if possible. Leave signs of your presence and conserve energy.

Avalanches are a seasonal risk on many tracks

Some high-level tracks and routes in Arthur’s Pass are exposed to avalanches in winter and spring. Some passes have year-round snow and ice.

Know how to stay safe from avalanches

Refer to New Zealand Mountain Safety Council for information on avalanche safety.

Back to top