This route takes you from open east coast river flats, over a rugged, untracked alpine pass into the rainforest of the Taipo River. Finish by climbing up and over Kelly Range or by continuing down the Taipo River to the road.
Note: True left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when facing and looking downstream.
Time: 4–5 hr
Refer to the Carrington Hut route guide.
Time: 3 hr
From Carrington Hut follow the track upstream to the riverbed of White River. As you walk upstream, look for a place to cross White River to get to Taipoiti River on the opposite bank. If there is a need to use the Clough Cableway because of high river levels, we advise against continuing the route as you will experience further difficult river crossings later on.
If there is snow up the Taipoiti, the route will be difficult. During winter and spring, avalanches can funnel into the gorge over the cliffs.
Climb and scramble up through the steep gorge, crossing from side to side when necessary. At the top of the gorge, waterfalls tumble over impassable cliffs. Pass these waterfalls. The poled route to Harman Pass starts near here, beside a small stream.
Once out of the Taipoiti gorge you can see the main Taipoiti branches into two streams, each running down a deep gully. A well-worn cairned and poled trail crosses the true left branch relatively soon then climbs upwards, well above the true right gully. As the second stream becomes smaller and more open, cross it; and after a short walk you will be at the top of Harman Pass. (If you are walking down from Harman Pass, enter the Taipoiti well to its true left to avoid the bluffs and waterfalls).
Time: 4 hr
From the large cairn on Harman Pass veer down and slightly right and survey your route ahead carefully. Be aware that there is an intersection of routes here. Ensure that you are following the correct route towards Mary Creek; do not follow the route towards Ariels Tarns and Whitehorn Pass. Head for the marker pole down the slope and on the right.
The route is marked with poles through the bluffs down to Mary Creek. Cross the creek and climb to the terrace by scrambling up an obvious worn trail in the low bluffs. Route-marker poles show the way across the terrace to the open riverbed of Mary Creek. The descent to Mary Creek is relatively steep with low vegetation.
Boulder-hop downstream following the marker poles crossing the creek as needed until a large orange marker on the true left. Here the track to Julia Hut starts. This track is well marked with orange markers.
Follow the track to the swing bridge that crosses Mary Creek a few hundred metres above its confluence with Julia Creek. Cross this bridge and follow the track for 300 metres to Julia Hut.
The newer Julia Hut has 6 bunks and an efficient stove. The older Julia Hut (4 bunks) is a few minutes further down the track.
A spring near here seeps through the gravel riverbank. By digging a pool in the gravel you can create a hot bath for two people. A bit of excavating, and damming a channel of cold water to the hot pool, gets the temperature just right.
To reach the hot spring, follow the short section of track, opposite the front door of the new hut, down to the river. Boulder-hop down the true right until just before you reach a gorge. At this point the characteristic sulphur smell marks the spot.
Do not immerse your head in the spring as there is a risk of contracting amoebic meningitis.
Time: 6 hr
Follow the track down the true right of Taipo River and over the 3-wire bridge across Tumbledown Creek. It takes 2 hours to reach the swing bridge across the Taipo. Mid Taipo Hut (6 bunks) is about 20 minutes downstream from the bridge across scrubby flats.
From the hut continue over open flats for a short distance before entering the forest and crossing Hura Creek. After heavy rain Hura Creek quickly becomes impassable.
Once across Hura Creek follow the river flats for 5 to 10 minutes until a section of track climbs and bypasses a gorge. Continue over easy flats or in the riverbed on the true left of the main Taipo River until the river narrows. Dunns Creek and other side creeks are forded along the way – in heavy rain these side creeks rise quickly and may become impassable.
Care is required climbing an extremely steep route up a fresh landslide area and over a bluff to a new 3-wire bridge that crosses the Taipo River. This bridge is high above the river and trampers should be confident with using this type of structure prior to taking this part of the route. Walking poles, ice-axes etc should be securely stowed on your pack prior to crossing the bridge.
From the 3-wire bridge, continue across bouldery riverbed and gorse-covered flats toward Dillon Hut. Orange poles mark the easiest way.
Alternatively, a little further on from Dillon Hut is the old Dillons homestead. This is an older alternative with considerable character.
Time: 2–3 hr
It's an easy walk out down Taipo River following the old 4WD track. Currently where the river runs hard against the bank there is a marked track in the bush that bypasses this section. Before the Taipo runs into a gorge the track veers away from the river and climbs over a small saddle. The track ends on SH73 about 10 kilometres west of Jacksons Tavern.
Time: 6 hr
This is a fine-weather-only alternative. From the hut, walk to Seven Mile Creek. This is the last place for water until the tarns on Kelly Range. Follow the creek bed upstream until the banks draw close together. Orange markers and a sign show the start of the track on the true left. The track passes old mining water races and climbs through forest of twisted rātā for about 600 vertical metres.
Once at the bushline you are halfway to the hut and there is still a 300-metre vertical climb to the top of Kelly Range. The superb views above the bushline make the long climb worthwhile. The route across Kelly Range is marked with pole markers, which are easy to find on a clear day, but almost impossible to find in low visibility or snow cover.
Carroll Hut is situated in a tussock basin east of the saddle. It does not have any form of heating.
From Carroll Hut the track runs directly across the tussock in front of the hut to the lip of the basin. A benched section of track descends by sidling down across steep scrub to the bushline. Once in the bush it drops more steeply and emerges at Kellys Creek, 5 minutes from the main road. Time from Carroll Hut to the road is 1 hour 30 minutes.
Note: Parties walking into the Taipo from Kelly Range may have difficulty finding the track in poor visibility. From Carroll Hut the poles go past the tarns on Kelly Saddle and run along the north-western side of Kelly Range above Seven Mile Creek. When you get to the large tarns on Kelly Range, the poled route turns and drops down the spur to the track to Seven Mile Creek. The broken and fault-scarped spur is very confusing to follow down the bush track to Seven Mile Creek. Make sure you find the poles to take you down the correct (lower and most northern) ridge.
The trip starts at State Highway 73 on the true right of the Waimakariri, just south of the Waimakariri road bridge (about 10 km east of Arthur’s Pass village).
Good knowledge and preparation will make or break this trip.
What to expect:
Experience: Suitable for fit, well-equipped people experienced in off-track travel.
Best season: Summer and autumn, extreme avalanche danger in winter and early spring.
Required maps: NZTopo50 Otira BV20, Moana BU20.
Hazards: Flooded rivers, rockfall and avalanche.
Safety: This route guide must be read in conjunction with Tramping in Arthur's Pass National Park (PDF, 762K), and New Zealand's Outdoor Safety Code.
Before setting out, check the latest track conditions and avalanche advisory with the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
|Arthur's Pass National Park Visitor Centre|
|Phone:||+64 3 318 9211|
|Fax:||+64 4 471 1117|
106 Main Westcoast Road
PO Box 51008
Arthur's Pass 7654
|Full office details|
|Phone:||+64 3 756 9100|
|Fax:||+64 4 471 1117|
10 Sewell Street
Private Bag 701
|Full office details|
Auckland and parts of the Waikato are at Level 3. DOC huts and campsites are closed in these regions. The rest of New Zealand is at Level 2.