Grassy Flat Hut, West Coast
Image: Ray Salisbury | ©
Grassy Flat Hut
The newly built Grassy Flat Hut lies by the Styx River. This historic site was once a thoroughfare for prosepctors during the gold rush days.
Nestled amongst red tussock on a large river flat, its welcoming presence meets weary trampers attempting the Arahura-Styx circuit or Browning Pass track.
The hut was completed in June 2005 with comfort in mind. Large, north facing windows provide a view down and across the valley, while a covered deck space gives protection against the elements. With two communal bunk platforms, spacious 45 square metre interior, double glazed windows and efficient fire it can offer a cosy sanctuary for up to 10 people.
Yet Grassy Flat hut has not always been the luxury backcountry haven you find it today. Like many West Coast tales its origins manifest in the struggle to tame the natural environment.
It was in the 1860s that attempts were first made to forge out an accessible route for exploration and toil up the Styx Valley and onto Browning Pass.
Early accounts of walking the track describe its precarious nature, characterising it by “thick foliage,” “struggling branches,” and “stretches of boggy flat”. In the 1880’s the hunger for gold intensified activity in the area. However, the main rush ended and the tracks soon fell into disrepair.
In the 1920s and 1930s the tracks linking the Arahura and Styx Valley with Browning Pass became frequented by a growing number of recreational trampers and deer hunters. The tracks were maintained by the Internal Affairs Department and developed into the routes we enjoy today.
The growth of foot traffic in the West Coast back country created the need for adequate public shelter and sometime during the 1920s or 30s the first Grassy Flat Hut was built.
The old Grassy Flat Hut
A picture taken in 1938 by explorer J.D. Pascoe shows a basic corrugated iron hut with two small windows for light. There is little written account of this early hut but in 1956 it was described as “nearing the end of its useful life.”
In 1958 the first hut was constructed using the New Zealand Forest Service standard four bunk design, was modified again around 1969 to sleep 6 and once more in 1980 to extend the porch, replace windows and line the hut for warmth. It has been maintained and managed by DOC and finally replaced with the modern counterpart you see today.
Trampers can take comfort as they cross the Upper Styx River that a warm dry hut is waiting just along the track.
Grassy Flat Hut sits 12 km up the Styx River on the true left valley side.
Access to the Styx River is approximately 40 km inland of Hokitika. Follow the Kaniere/Kokatahi circuit road east from SH 6 in Hokitika. At Kokatahi turn left onto Kokatahi Rd and continue along for a good ten minutes. Access to the valley is on the right approximately 1 km after the Mark Wallace Styx River bridge. A gateway gives access to the river flats and a very rough 4WD track which terminates below a series of bluffs on the true right bank of the Styx River.
NZTopo50 map sheet: BV19
Grid/NZTM2000 coordinates: E1460531, N5249774
Before you go, buy 1 Standard Hut Ticket (blue for adults, yellow for youth) for each night's stay. Put this in the honesty box at the hut. Or buy a Backcountry Hut Pass that gives unlimited use at most Standard and Serviced huts for a 6 or 12-month period.