The East West Route links the Kahutara River in Clarence (Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia) Conservation Park with the Sedgemere Lakes area in the Molesworth Recreation Reserve.

Track overview

115 km one way

Walking and tramping

5 - 6 days Expert: Route

Seasonal restrictions

A permit is required for travel above Saxton Hut between 1 January and 30 April.

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


This route is unmarked and is suitable for trampers with a high degree of off-track experience and fitness. You should allow at least 5-6 days and, if possible, 1-2 extra days to complete your trip.

Kahutara car park to Forbes Hut

Time: 9-10 hours
Distance: 27 km

Follow the signposted 4WD track over Blind Saddle for 18 km to Warden Hut. It is a further 9 km via Seymour/Herring Stream to Forbes Hut.

Forbes Hut to Lake McRae Hut

Time: 7-8 hours
Distance: 15.5 km

From the Forbes Hut walk approximately 2 km upstream along the Clarence riverbed to a small unnamed stream (1631460E-5325794N) on the true left of the Clarence River. You may need to cross the river several times. When crossing the Clarence River care should be taken do not attempt in flood or high river flows.

Head in a northerly direction up the true right of the unnamed stream. Watch carefully for a blazed trail through the briar (the trail is marked but can be is easily missed). The trail opens out and continues upstream to a clear easy saddle. 

From the saddle continue north following a small stream down. Turn west into the main stream, following it down to the Elliott Stream. You can take advantage of the well worn stock trails and follow them down to the Elliott Stream Junction. Follow the Elliott Stream in an upstream direction through the willows and grassy clearings.

The route is reasonably easy going, but has some muddy patches and fallen trees to negotiate. Follow the stock trails to the Elliott Bivvy, situated at 1631536E–5329078N by a side creek up an old bulldozer trail, 3 hours from the Forbes Hut. The Elliott Bivvy is in a stand of large poplars and elms.

From the Elliott Bivvy return to the Elliott Stream, travelling upstream to the head of the Elliott Stream following the most practical route and utilising the stream bed and stock trails. At the headwaters, pick up the old bulldozer track; follow it over the rise to a view of Lake McRae. Walk along the northern edge of the lake, this is easy travelling when the lake level is low but could be hard travelling when the water level are high. From the northwest corner of the lake follow the old bulldozer track down a short distance to the Lake McRae Hut.

Lake McRae Hut to Molesworth Cob Cottage Campground

Time: 6-7 hours
Distance: 22 km

From Lake McRae Hut follow the old bulldozer track down the true right of the Tweed River for approximately 1.6 km then turn west and head up the true right of the side stream to a well-defined side spur.

Climb the spur and follow a reasonably well-defined sidle westwards under high point marked 1193 m and then through to a saddle on the ridge. Follow this ridge up west north west for approximately 1 km, and then sidle through to an unnamed saddle. From here, sidle around under high point 1502 m to Robinson Saddle.

From Robinson Saddle head north west down through the tussock and patches of scree on the true left of Robinson Creek. It is approximately 20 minutes to the creek bed from Robinson Saddle. Following Robinson Creek down it is easy going, staying mostly in the creek bed with some stock trails that you can follow on both sides of the creek. There is also an old bulldozer track that comes up the creek a fair way and this can be followed where it still exists.

Once down in the lower reaches of the creek the bulldozer track can be followed on the true left out to the road where Robinson Creek meets the Awatere River. From there, follow the 4WD track downstream past the confluence of the Awatere River and Yeo Streams to where the 4WD track meets the main Molesworth Road. Turn right and follow the Molesworth Road for 700 m to the Molesworth Cob Cottage.

Molesworth Cob Cottage Campground to Saxton Hut

Time: 5-6 hours
Distance: 19 km

From the cob cottage head north down the Awatere Valley Road towards Blenheim for 800 m. Turn left onto the obvious 4WD vehicle track that follows the willow-lined Molesworth Stream. This track crosses the stream several times and gradually ascends to Saxton Pass, about 1 hr 30 min away.

Keep following the vehicle track as it descends through Guide Gully to the Acheron River turn down stream to the Molesworth Road and the Acheron River Bridge. It takes about 1 hr from Saxton Pass to the Acheron River Bridge. From here cross the bridge and walk 3.5 km along the Molesworth Road to before the Saxton River Bridge to where a 4WD track leaves the Molesworth Road.

Follow the 4WD track crossing the river in several places up to the Saxton Hut which is located on a flat terrace (1612585E–5344061N) at the confluence of an unnamed stream (locally know as Boundary Stream) and the Saxton River.

Saxton Hut to Severn Hut

Time: 8-9 hours
Distance: 11 km

Travel up the unnamed stream (locally know as Boundary Stream) to the ridge between the Saxton and Severn rivers. Do not try to pass through the saddle - climb towards high point 1764 m up the scree ridge. From the Saxton Hut this takes approximately 6 hours. From high point 1764 m, follow the leading ridge directly west down to Severn Hut.

Severn Hut to Sedgemere Sleepout

Time: 6-7 hours
Distance: 20 km

From Severn Hut follow the Severn River downstream to 1 km before the confluence with Waimea Stream. Cross the Severn River up onto a terrace above Waimea Stream. Cross over the terrace and cross Waimea Stream to the southern side of the stream climbing to mid slope where you can follow reasonable well defined stock tracks along the true right of Waimea Stream.

At the head of Waimea Stream head down to Bowscale Tarn. At the western end of Bowscale Tarn follow the vehicle track to the Sedgemere information kiosk and then a further 500 m to the Sedgemere Sleepout.

Getting there

The main access into the Clarence is over Blind Saddle Road. From Kaikoura, follow SH1 south 5 km to the Waiau/Mount Lyford turn-off and head inland to the car park at the Kahutara River bridge, 25 km from Kaikoura.

There is a locked gate, restricting horse and vehicle access. Contact the DOC office in Renwick for information on horse and vehicle access to the Clarence.

Nature and conservation

The East West route travels through the stunning Clarence (Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia) Conservation Park, Molesworth Recreation Reserve and Leatham Conservation Area.  

Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia Clarence protects some of the highest mountains in New Zealand outside the Southern Alps. It is of national significance geologically and for the many rare, interesting and unique native plants and animals it harbours. This valuable conservation land is managed by the Department of Conservation following purchase by the Forest Heritage Fund in 1993.

Today Molesworth is managed by the Department of Conservation with Landcorp Farming Limited responsible for farming operations under a lease agreement.

Know before you go

  • Remember - safety is your responsibility.
  • Huts - Backcountry Hut Tickets or a Backcountry Pass entitles you to stay in DOC huts. Tickets or a pass can be purchased at a DOC office and most i-SITEs. Get your tickets or pass before you start your trip. The huts on the East West route and Leatham Molesworth route are Standard - 1 Backcountry Hut Ticket per night.
  • Water - it is recommended you boil, filter or treat drinking water collected in this area.
  • Weather - check the weather forecast before you go.
  • Hunting and fishing - each hunter must carry a hunting permit; each angler must carry a fishing licence.
  • Environmental care - minimise your impact on the environment by using a portable cooker. Use only dead wood in fireplaces at huts. There are no rubbish facilities in the backcountry.
  • Rubbish - carry out your own rubbish.

Experienced required

The East West route is suitable for trampers who have high level of back country experience including navigation and map reading skills. Major sections of these routes are unmarked and follow natural features such as streams, rivers and ridges.

Trampers should be well equipped, fit and self-sufficient. Poor visibility due to mist on the tops can make route finding and orientation difficult. The terrain is often rough. Rain and flooded streams can alter your plans and freezing conditions can occur at any time of year.

Maps required

Trampers will need to carry and know how to use a topographic map. The relevant 1:50,000 Topo50 maps are:

  • BT26 Mount Clear
  • BS25 Severn
  • BS26 Mount Muller
  • BS27 Tapuae-o-Uenuku
  • BT27 Kaikoura
  • BT25 Mount Northampton

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.

We also advise you to carry a GPS and an emergency beacon (hire outlets are listed on


  • Wasps are a known hazard and are particularly common from December until April. Carry antihistamine if you are allergic to their stings.
  • Avalanches occur in winter.
  • River Crossings are unavoidable on this route. Some rivers, especially the Clarence River, may be uncrossable after heavy rain. Do not attempt to cross a flooded river.


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
Rotoiti / Nelson Lakes Office
Phone:   +64 3 521 1806
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   View Road
St Arnaud
Postal Address:   PO Box 55
St Arnaud 7053
Rangiora Office
Phone:   +64 3 313 0820
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   32 River Road
Rangiora 7400
Postal Address:   PO Box 349
Rangiora 7440
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