Moeraki Valley Track
Image: Petrus Hedman | Creative Commons
This route is suitable for well-equipped and experienced backcountry trampers and climbers only. The best seasons to go are summer and autumn.
Time: 4 - 5 hr
The track up the Moeraki valley initially follows the Haast-Paringa Cattle Track. The initial section of track detours from the original Cattle Track to avoid the lowland swampy landscape around Windbag Creek, but soon picks up the original track line. The flat, well benched track then follows the Moeraki (Blue) River to the Moeraki Valley Track junction, just before the swingbridge to Blowfly (Blue River) Hut. Turn left at the junction, following the sign for Horseshoe Flat Hut.
The track meanders through mixed beech and podocarp forest on the true right of the river. The track then follows a branch of the Moeraki River before emerging onto the first of a series of swampy clearings with groves of ribbonwood and scrub. Be careful to follow the track markers through this area.
In general the track leads along the base of the hill and doesn’t follow the meandering course of the river. However, at one point where the track has been eroded, it is necessary to follow the river bank until markers are found again. Shortly before the hut, the track comes out onto the gravel river bed.
Time: 2 hr
Follow the markers through the bush until the route emerges onto grassy flats. Follow the flats upstream until a suitable crossing of the river can be found.
The river will be impassable during and after moderate to heavy rainfall. Do not attempt to cross in these conditions or if rain is forecast while you are further up the valley, as you will be unable to return to Horseshoe Flat Hut.
If it is safe to do so, cross the river and continue upstream over the gravel flats until markers indicate the beginning of the route through the bush again. From here the route climbs through open beech forest.
There is a short section of scrub before a crossing of a creek flowing from Zelian Saddle. Middle Head Hut is located near the confluence of this creek and the Middle Head branch of the Moeraki River.
Time: 2 hr
The side-trip into Middle Head Basin from the hut is worthwhile. The route continues from just above the hut, and descends to the Moeraki River.
Cross the river (impassable during and after rain) to the true right, and follow a marked route uphill through beech forest. Continuing past a rock biv, the route eventually drops down and emerges into the scrub and finally tussock of Middle Head Basin. The route ends here.
Access to the track is signposted approximately 40 km northeast of Haast on SH6 at the Windbag Saddle. There is a small parking area on the side of the road.
Maps: NZTopo50: BY13 Lake Paringa
Hazards: Flooded rivers, rockfall and steep grades. This trip should not be attempted when it is raining, rain is forecast or the river is running high.
If you are travelling beyond the snowline then make sure you check avalanche conditions, are sufficiently equipped and experienced to assess the conditions and choose a safe path through avalanche terrain.
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.