Sawcut Gorge

Image: Shellie Evans | ©


Isolated Hill Scenic Reserve is typical South Marlborough: rugged bluffs and steep, dry hills drained by stony rivers.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

2 hr 30 min - 3 hr Expert: Route

Dog access

Dogs with a DOC permit only. Contact the relevant DOC office to obtain a permit.

About this track


Sawcut Gorge route

Time: 3 hr return

The marked route starts from the riverbed. From here, look out for the orange triangles directing walkers in and out of the riverbed.

After 45 minutes to an hour walking and crossing the river several times, you arrive at the reserve boundary. From here the route leaves the riverbed for a short while then meets Isolated Creek.

After 30 minutes you reach the spectacular Sawcut Gorge. The stream flows through this chasm, which is 150 metres deep, but in places, is only 2 metres wide.

Isolation Route

Time: 2 hr 30 min one way

Follow the route from the Blue Mountain Station carpark to Sawcut Gorge (1 hr 30 min).

Beyond the gorge the marked route continues in the riverbed for an hour to Isolation Hut. From here further marked routes give opportunities for exploring the surrounding hills and vegetation, for hunting or a climb up Ben More (1244 m).

Trampers staying in Isolation Hut are asked to write their name on the white board at Blue Mountain Station and sign the visitors book. This is to allow other trampers to see who is in the area and staying in the hut and whether they need to carry a tent.

Getting there

Turn off State Highway 1 on the north side of the Waima River Bridge 55 km south of Blenheim (72 km north of Kaikoura) into the Waima/Ure Valley and follow the narrow gravel road up to Blue Mountain Station, 12 km from State Highway 1.

The access to this area is through private property, please respect this by leaving the gates as you find them and parking appropriately. 2WD vehicles must angle park right to the edge of the drive in the carpark at Blue Mountain Station homestead. 4WD vehicles may go down to the lower carpark or onto the riverbed but are not to cross the river.

Nature and conservation

This is a geologically and botanically interesting area that invites exploration by experienced walkers and hunters.

The vegetation varies from beech forest to tussock grasslands, while some of Marlborough's unique and/or threatened plants cling tenaciously to the steep rock walls. Intensive goat, possum and weed control programmes are undertaken in this reserve to protect these plants.

Much of the rock here is stark white limestone, interspersed with grey wedges of argillite, sandstone and mudstone. Several pools along Isolated Creek smell distinctly of sulphur.

Know before you go

  • Follow the instructions of the Blue Mountain Station owners on the sign attached to the gate as you enter their property.
  • A Backcountry Hut Ticket or a Backcountry Hut Pass is required to stay overnight in the DOC huts in the area.
  • Marlborough has a dry climate and fire is a significant hazard to human safety, natural areas and agriculture. Open fires are not permitted at any of the East Coast reserves and only portable stoves should be used for cooking.
  • Take your rubbish away with you - no facilities are provided.
  • Purity of drinking water cannot be assured unless it has been boiled, filtered or treated.


Dogs are allowed in the reserve with a dog permit from the South Marlborough Area Office.

Permission to take dogs through Blue Mountain Station must be obtained from the landowners (Dave and Lauren Buick Phone (03) 575 6729). Permission will only be given with proof of current sheep measles treatment (treated between 48 hours and 1 month prior to visiting the area).

Dogs must be kept under control and not used for hunting until well within the DOC hunting area.

Follow these simple guidelines:

  • Keep your dog under control, preferably with a leash, at all times
  • A dog out of sight is a dog out of control
  • Carry a leash and use it
  • Ensure that your dog does not disrupt other people's enjoyment of the park
  • Clean up after your dog
  • Dog droppings may contain harmful bacteria or diseases that can easily spread to farm animals, so be sure to remove your dog’s waste.

Hunters should check where pesticides have been used on conservation land and ask relevant landowners about pesticide use before taking dogs into hunting areas.


Kaikoura i-SITE Visitor Information Centre
Phone:   +64 3 319 5641
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   West End
Kaikoura 7300
Postal Address:  
Wairau / Renwick Office
Phone:   +64 3 572 9100
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   Gee Street
Marlborough 7204
Postal Address:   PO Box 51
Marlborough 7243
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