Walk in the footsteps of early Maori and the first run-holders, through the rugged high country landscape and beside the mighty Clarence River.

Track overview

55 km one way

Walking and tramping

3 days (Kahutara car park to Goose Flat) Advanced: Tramping track

Mountain biking

Intermediate: Grade 3

Dog access

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

About this track


Kahutara car park to Warden Hut

Distance: 18 km

The vehicle track first crosses Kahutara River and then begins climbing through farmland. A fantastic panorama awaits the visitor at Blind Saddle (1190 m), a good place to pause and check the weather.

After Bushy Saddle (540 m), the track steepens; native forest clads the mountains on either side, gradually changing to shrublands then alpine vegetation near the top. As the track descends from the saddle, incredible landforms can be seen in the surrounding mountains. 

Near the valley bottom is Tent Poles Hut (emergency accommodation only), an historic, corrugated iron hut. Soon after, the track crosses Seymour Stream to Warden Hut (12 bunks). Nearby is historic Bluff Dump Hut, built in 1928. Warden Hut is a great base for weekend tramping and mountain biking as well as hunting (outside of the special lease area only).

Warden Hut to Forbes Hut via Seymour Stream

Distance: 9 km

Below Warden Hut, the track stays in the bed of Seymour Stream (being a bulldozer track, it is rideable on a mountain bike).

Historic Black Spur Hut is 2 km downstream from Warden Hut. Black Spur Hut was built in the 1920s out of slabs of poplar and is hidden behind a volcanic spur. Further downstream you will reach a junction in the track. Beyond this junction, the land is under special lease - vehicles must keep to the track.

At the junction, follow the track downstream to the confluence of Seymour Stream and Clarence River, where you will find Forbes Hut (10 bunks). Forbes Hut is a great base for fishing and exploring the historic Quail Flat area. As the hut is close to the river it also provides a stop-off for river users.

Warden Hut to Palmer Hut

Distance: 26 km

Turning left at the junction and crossing Seymour Stream, leads over foothills to Palmer Hut, situated at the confluence of Palmer Stream and Clarence River. On route you will find the historic Old Willows Hut, a slab hut from the early 1920s. From here an unmarked route, for experienced trampers only, crosses the Seaward Kaikoura Range via Palmer Saddle (970 m) to the Kaikoura–Waiau Road.

Forbes Hut to Quail Flat

Distance: 3 km

Follow the marked track over the flats to Quail Flat, the homestead area of Joseph Ward’s run. The cob homestead dates from the 1860s or 1870s. Visitors are welcome to look around the historic buildings at Quail Flat but accommodation is not available for public use.

Quail Flat to Goose Flat

Distance: 19 km

The marked track travels through scrubland and limestone country to Goose Flat Hut situated at Goose Flat. This is a good place for river users to stop over or for a spot of fishing.

Goose Flat to Stoney Flat

Distance: 6 km

Follow the track to the road end at the confluence of Fidget Stream and Clarence River. The road end at Stoney Flat is a good base for hunting and exploring.

Getting there

The main access into the Clarence is over Blind Saddle Road. From Kaikoura, follow SH1 south for 5 km to the Waiau/Mt Lyford turnoff and head inland to the car park at Kahutara River bridge, 25 km from Kaikoura. There is a locked gate here restricting horse and vehicle access.

Vehicle access beyond this point into the Clarence is arranged by contacting Colin Nimmo of Muzzle Station on +64 3 319 5791. A road maintenance fee is charged for motorised vehicles.

Know before you go

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date 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.


Dogs are allowed by permit only from Wairau/Renwick Office, and must have a current vet's certificate showing that they have been treated for Taenia ovis (sheep measles) less than 1 month and more than 2 days prior to entering the reserve. Certificates must be carried into the reserve and shown on request.


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
Back to top