Boulder Lake, Kahurangi National Park

Image: Crystal Brindle | ©


The route links the Aorere and Cobb valleys in Golden Bay. It is unmarked and suitable for trampers with a high degree of fitness and off-track experience.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

5-7 days Expert: Route

Dog access

No dogs

About this track


The Douglas Range links Aorere Valley to Cobb Valley. The description below describes the route from the Aorere Valley end.

It takes at least five days to walk the route, but you should plan for one or two extra days to allow for weather conditions - rain, flooded streams and freezing conditions can occur at any time of the year.

The route is suitable for trampers with a high degree of off-track experience and fitness. You should allow at least five days and, if possible, one or two extra days to complete this trip. Streams and rivers are not bridged and the route has many exposed sections.

Road end to Boulder Lake Hut (8-10 hr)

Moderate fitness and experience are required to do this section. The first 10 km of track is easy and takes three hours. From here the track passes over limestone-capped terrain with some slots to negotiate, passes the Black Cow hilltop and descends slightly to Beatham’s clearing where there is a small waterhole and a place for a small tent. Be aware that in drought this waterhole and the rest of the track will be dry all the way to Boulder Lake. Beyond Beathams the track climbs steadily through beech and manuka forest. The track sidles along the left of the Pulpit to eventually emerge at Brown Cow Saddle.

From Brown Cow Saddle the track is fully exposed to the weather conditions. Follow the poled route to the lake. The route sidles around to the right to a point beside a small rock outcrop on the skyline ridge. Continue to sidle under the bluffs of Brown Cow, crossing the top of a shingle scree which has some significant exposure to a bluff below - in winter this is potentially an avalanche zone depending on snow conditions. Then descend on a tussock spur down to the lake itself, emerging at the junction of Kiwi Creek and Boulder Lake where there is a campsite.

To reach Boulder Lake Hut continue around the eastern edge of the lake.

Side trip to dam wall and waterfall, the source of the Boulder River

From Kiwi Creek a 30 minute (one way) side trip takes you to view the remains of the dam wall, built by gold miners across the lake outlet stream. The water from the lake was led by a long series of flumes and aqueducts to sluice gold claims on the Quartz Range goldfields, 6 km away. A view of the spectacular 65 m waterfall, the beginning of Boulder River, can be seen by climbing to an obvious vantage point further to the west of the wall remains.

Boulder Lake Hut to Adelaide Tarn Hut (5-6 hr)

This section of the route requires a high degree of off-track experience and fitness. It is not for the inexperienced and is very exposed to harsh weather conditions. Streams and rivers are not bridged. Carry gas or liquid fuel cookers as wood fuel is unavailable at Adelaide Tarn and Lonely Lake huts, and a tent as these huts have limited sleeping space.

From Boulder Lake Hut continue up the valley to pick up rock cairns that lead up the only tussock spur to Green Saddle. There is an optional sidle to the left into Green Saddle, starting above the bush edge in this spur. Continue to the next small saddle before and under point 1450 metres. Here two large rock cairns on a quartz outcrop mark the first two sidles on the Anatoki side of this main ridge to the Needles Eye.

The first sidle is on a cairned animal track passing under point 1450 metres, then it gains and follows the stunted bush ridge to the second sidle under points 1411 metres and 1488 metres. Descend and sidle through the bush on a marked animal track to pick up cairns across a tussock face under the obvious rock ribs. This then leads to the top of the first finger of bush in a narrow gut under the Needles Eye. Climb this flax-filled gut to the Needles Eye (saddle). From the Eye descend directly onto a short tussock spur to an obvious track and terrace that leads towards Adelaide Tarn and hut. Do not attempt to sidle from the Eye around the Needle to the hut - it is steep and bluffed.

Adelaide Tarn Hut to Anatoki Forks Hut (5-6hr)

If going from Boulder Lake to Anatoki Forks Hut (standard hut, 6 bunks) directly, follow the cairned route from the Needles Eye, sidling down towards the saddle leading to Yuletide. This route passes under bluff and rocky sections on the northern slopes of the Needle, reaching the saddle, and then climbs up and over Yuletide Peak.

From Adelaide Tarn retrace the route back to the Needles Eye and sidle around the north side of the Needle. The route over Yuletide Peak is cairned. The route goes over Yuletide Peak then follows the long, rather broken ridge towards the Anatoki Forks. A marked track is reached and descends steeply through silver and mountain beech forest to the south branch of the Anatoki River. This river can be extremely difficult to cross in flood and it may be necessary to go up river to cross or wait it out. Once across the river the track meets the Anatoki Track. Turn left and follow the track to the Anatoki Forks Hut.

Lonely Lake Hut to Adelaide Tarn Hut (8-10hr)

All Grid References refer to map BP23 Gouland Downs.

From the hut head north up a small gully to a saddle north-west of the Drunken Sailors. From here sidle eastwards on the northern side of the Drunken Sailors to an open spur. Follow this spur north-eastwards to Grid Reference 636 642. From here follow the long ridge that drops to the north-east into the Anatoki River, arriving at Grid Reference 640 652.

From here, head up the Anatoki River to the forks at Grid Reference 626 665. Take the west branch of the river and follow it upstream until below the bluffs north-east of the Dragons Teeth. From here, climb northwards up a steep gut to emerge on the saddle east of Mt Douglas, Grid Reference 614 672. Proceed north-east down into the basin to Adelaide Tarn and Adelaide Tarn Hut.

Adelaide Tarn Hut to Lonely Lake Hut (8-10 hr)

All Grid References refer to map BP23 Gouland Downs.

From Adelaide Tarn climb up behind the hut to the saddle directly east of Mt Douglas, Grid Reference 614 672. A steep gut marked with a rock cairn gives access to the headwaters of the Anatoki River. Once in the bush at the base of this gut, head further southward until below the bluffs under the Dragons Teeth. From here veer eastwards following the course of the stream which becomes the Anatoki River.

Follow the Anatoki River downstream to Grid Reference 640 652. From this point climb the ridge to the south-west and emerge on an open ridge east of the Drunken Sailors. From here sidle on the north side of the Drunken sailors to pick up the cairns leading into a saddle and down to Lonely Lake Hut.

Lonely Lake Hut to Fenella Hut (6-8 hr)

From Lonely Lake Hut follow the non-maintained track that sidles up through bush onto the Douglas Range and the open ridge line. Follow the ridge, with the occasional optional sidle on animal tracks. Sidle across the scree under Kakapo Peak and regain the ridge, and then follow the cairned route that sidles below point 1550 metres and Waingaro Peak to reach a bushed spur. Continue down a well-marked track to Fenella Hut.

Note: The route from Lonely Lake to Waingaro Peak is cairned.

Fenella Hut to Trilobite Hut/roadend (4-5 hr)

From Fenella Hut the track drops down a series of glacier worn rocky steps and after about 20 minutes you reach Cobb Hut.

A short side walk takes you to Lake Cobb and Round Lake above it. From Cobb Hut continue down the valley, passing Chaffeys Hut (basic hut, 3 bunks) and finishing at Trilobite Hut (standard hut, 12 bunks) and the roadend.

Getting there

From Collingwood, take the Collingwood/Bainham Main Road. Turn off the road at the Bainham Store, 18 km from Collingwood, and follow AA signs along James Road to the Aorere River Bridge. Cross the bridge, the track start and intentions shelter are 100 m further on your left.

Nature and conservation

The Douglas Range Route includes spectacular views and passes through limestone-capped terrain, classic Kahurangi alpine ridges, tussock lands, beech and manuka forests, and lakes and rivers.

Highlights include a view of a spectacular 65 m waterfall on the first day of the route. This requires a small detour to the outlet of Boulder Lake where the remains of an old gold mining dam can also be seen.

Trout fishing can be done in the Cobb River. Each angler must carry a fishing licence.

Hunting is available in the Douglas Range Route area. Each hunter must carry a permit.

Know before you go

Experience required

The Douglas Range Route is classified suitable for Backcountry Adventurers ie, suitable only for experienced trampers who have a high level of backcountry experience including navigation and map reading skills. Most of this route is unmarked and follows natural features such as rivers, saddles and ridges. Streams and rivers are not bridged and the route has many exposed sections.

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:

  • BP24 Takaka
  • BP23 Gouland Downs

Trip intentions

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.

Please remember

  • Huts -  Backcountry Hut Tickets or a Backcountry Pass entitle 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. Standard huts on the Douglas Range Route require 1 Backcountry Hut Ticket per night. Serviced huts require 3 Backcountry Hut Tickets per night. Basic huts are free.
  • Water - it is recommended you boil, filter or treat drinking water collected in this area.
  • Weather - check the weather forecast before you go.
  • Environmental care - minimise impact on the environment by using a portable cooker. Use only dead wood in fireplaces at huts. 
  • Rubbish - there are no rubbish facilities in the backcountry. Carry out your own rubbish.

Remember - safety is your responsibility.


Whakatū / Nelson Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 546 9339
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   Millers Acre/Taha o te Awa
79 Trafalgar Street
Nelson 7010
Postal Address:   Private Bag 5
Nelson 7042
Back to top