Hunter River

Image: DOC

Introduction

The Hunter River Valley is part of the Hāwea Conservation Park and nestled between the Young and Huxley ranges. Its open grasslands, braided river system and deep canyon gorges offer remote seekers a beautiful but challenging backcountry experience.

Track overview

Walking and tramping

Advanced: Tramping track

Mountain biking

Advanced: Grade 4

Other activities

  • Four wheel driving
  • Horse riding

Seasonal restrictions

Access via Hunter Valley Station -  closed 1 October to 1 December annually for farming practices. Access may also be declined at other times.

About this track

Description

The distance for the Hunter River Valley access below is measured from the Kidds Bush Campsite and Dingle Burn carpark.

The total length to the forks at the head of the valley is approximately 66 km one way. The distance of the actual valley from the mouth of the river to the forks is approximately 33 km.

Western side access

Kidds Bush to Scrubby Creek

Time: 10-12 hr
Distance: 45 km

The 4WD farm road from the Kidds Bush Campsite to Scrubby Creek crosses through the working high-country Hunter Valley Station. Access to the Hawea Conservation Park boundary at Scrubby Flat takes at least 4 hours by vehicle and 10-12 hours on foot.

Access for tramping, biking, horses and vehicles is dependent on permission and must be applied for from Hunter Valley Station at least 48 hours before the date of your trip – see Vehicle section below for access application details.

There are 22 gates along the length of the farm road – leave these as you find them.

From Terrace Creek the 4WD farm road follows the Hunter River Valley floor for approximately 30 km climbing 300 m in height at several points with regular steep drop offs from the farm road to the lake. The width of the farm road is generally not greater than 3-5 m and there are many blind corners and locations where passing is impossible.

The bridge at Little Hopwood Burn has been closed due to safety concerns, follow the signage for the detour route.

Over the first 25 km there are six river crossings to ford and past this on the river valley floor up to Scrubby Flat Creek, there are another four crossings.

Eastern side access

Dingle Burn Carpark to Scrubby Creek

Time: 13-14 hr
Distance: 46.5 km

It's 46.5 km to reach the conservation area from the public carpark on the Dingle Burn road. The first two sections of this access are described in the Lake Hawea Track and Dingle Burn Peninsula Track descriptions.

Travel up to Scrubby Creek follows extensive valley flats, weaving in and out of open grasslands, and pockets of forest and crosses the braided river several times. Access to the Hawea Conservation Park boundary at Scrubby Flat takes at least 13-14 hours on foot. 

Scrubby Creek to Ferguson Hut

Time: 1 hr 30 min - 2 hr
Distance: 7 km

From Scrubby Flat Creek there is no marked track in the conservation area and the main Hunter River has to be crossed at least 4 times.

Hunter Valley Track

Distance: 12.6 km one way 

The track begins at Ferguson Hut and finishes at the forks of the East and West Branches of the Hunter Valley. Popular sections of this track are: 

Ferguson Hut to Forbes Hut

Time: 2-3 hr
Distance: 10 km

From Ferguson Hut, follow the 4WD track to cross Ferguson Creek and carry on to the end of the main, grassy flat. From here on there’s no marked track. Follow and cross the Hunter River.

The track then leads through a narrow neck of forest on to Joes Flat. After the flat it re-enters the forest and emerges on a terrace at the bottom of Forbes Flat. Forbes Hut is halfway up the flat.

Beyond Forbes Hut

Beyond Forbes Hut there are several other routes. From the hut to the West Branch bushline (3 hours), follow the flat up and cross the Hunter River below the forks - take care as it can be dangerous after heavy rain.

Then cross the West Branch to the start of the track, on a ridge between the East and West branches. About an hour from the forks, the track crosses the river and continues on the true right to the bush line. From this point experienced trampers can reach the Wills valley.

Mountain biking

Biking on the formed track is permitted from the carpark to Turihuka Conservation Area and beyond to the open flats of the Hunter Valley. Permission to ride through Hunter Valley Station must be approved before entering or exiting via Kidds Bush.

This is a challenging ride with rough terrain if the intention is to enter and exit using the western and eastern entry and exit points. Riders need to be suitably prepared for remote backcountry terrain including being prepared for and knowing how to fix basic mechanical breakdowns (chain break, flat tyres).

Vehicles

Access is dependent on permission and must be applied for from Hunter Valley Station at least 48 hours before the date of your intended trip from Hunter Valley Station through the Hunter Valley Station website.

Apply for permission from Hunter Valley Station.

Access will be limited to 6 vehicles per day and a fee of $35 per vehicle will be payable to the Station to assist with the maintenance and repair of the track.

Vehicle access via Hunter Valley Station is generally not available from 1 May to 30 November annually due to winter conditions.

Access via vehicle is available to Scrubby Creek. The terrain is challenging and includes sections of narrow farm road with steep drop-offs, blind corners and multiple unbridged river crossings. There are multiple farm gates along the length of the track and drivers are expected after passing through these to leave them the way they found them.

Recommended minimum vehicle requirements include: a raised 4WD fitted with off-road tyres and snorkel, or other suitable means to avoid hydraulicing, and any 4WD travelling alone must have a winch. Motorcycles and all-terrain vehicles are not permitted.

Vehicle users should not have any expectation that assistance will be available for vehicles that become submerged, damaged or stuck on the track or in rivers. Anyone seeking access by vehicle agree to make their own arrangements for vehicle recovery.

Getting there

Eastern Side: From Lake Hāwea Township follow the unsealed Dingleburn Station Road for 14 km to the public carpark. No vehicle access is permitted beyond this point.

Western Side: Meads road gives access to the Kidds Bush Camping Area. Access along the western side of Lake Hawea to the Hawea Conservation Park beyond Terrace Creek requires prior permission from Hunter Valley Station Managers. See ‘vehicle’ section above on how to apply for permission.

To avoid a long journey on foot you may wish to fly by plane or helicopter into the Hunter Valley. Unless an authorised aircraft operator is being used, for helicopter of plane access you must obtain an aircraft landing permit from the Tititea/Mt Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre in Wanaka.

Know before you go

Unbridged rivers: There are river and stream crossings that become hazardous in heavy rain or snowmelt. Be prepared to turn back.

Access fee and permission via Hunter Valley Station: For fees and conditions see vehicle section above.

Private property: These tracks cross private land. Respect the landowner's livestock and property: stay on the marked track until you reach the conservation land, leave gates as you find them and use stiles where provided. Livestock can be unpredictable – keep your distance at all times/go around if necessary.

Dogs: Dogs are allowed in the conservation area under the following conditions:

  • Dog conditions via Western side: Permission is required from Hunter Valley Station Manager. If access is granted, dogs must be on a leash or confined in a vehicle at all times when travelling on Hunter Valley Station. If lost on Hunter Valley Station, the Manager must be informed immediately and an effort made to recover the dog quickly.
    No permission is required to transport your dog in and out of the conservation area via helicopter.
    Dogs must be under your control at all times.
  • Dog conditions via Eastern side: Dogs are not permitted via these tracks.

Huts and camping outside the conservation boundary: Use of Hunter Valley Station huts and camping outside the conservation boundary is not permitted under any circumstances.

Toilets: Kidds Bush campsite and the Turihuka campsite provide the last toilet facilities until Ferguson Hut. Leave no trace principles need to be applied when travelling through this valley.

Be avalanche alert:

There is ‘simple’ avalanche terrain in the following sections of the Hāwea Conservation Park:

  • Hunter Valley floor from Lake Hāwea to Forbes Hut
  • Scrubby Flat Creek track to maintained track end, and
  • Long Flat Creek track to maintained track end.

The McKerrow and Young Ranges have ‘complex’ avalanche terrain. 

This area has terrain that can produce avalanches that cross the track, usually from May into November. View avalanche information and the terrain rating for this track.

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.

Contacts

Tititea / Mount Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   0272696871
Fax:   03 4437660
Email:   mtaspiringvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   1 Ballantyne Road
Wanaka 9305
Postal Address:   PO Box 93
Wanaka 9343
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