IntroductionThe Taipo Valley is often travelled as part of a popular route from the Waimakariri River via Harman Pass. This guide describes the route from SH73 to Harman Pass only.
This route is suitable for well equipped people with previous backcountry experience. The best seasons to go are summer and autumn. The times described are a guide only.
Main Road to Dillon Hut
Time: 2 - 3 hr
Walking from the car park at SH73 to Dillon Hut will take you 2-3 hours following the vehicle track. Aproximately 2 km from the main road, opposite the confluence of Cheeseman Creek, the Taipo River has cut into the true right bank and there is a new bench track above the river. Take note of track markers to follow this route.
Dillon Hut is on a grassy, tree studded flat about 800 m up the Taipo Valley from Seven Mile Creek. The old Dillon’s Homestead, which sits on the true left of Seven Mile Creek, provides good ‘character’ accommodation. This hut is maintained by the Kumara Hunting Club, a group of local enthusiasts.
Dillons Homestead Hut
Dillons Hut to Mid Taipo Hut
Time: 3 to 4 hr
Less than 1 hour of walking up the valley from Dillon Hut will bring you to Scotties 3 Wire. Cross the 3 wire bridge to the true left riverbank, then a steep climb will take you to the top of a bushed terrace. The track continues along the terrace for several hundred meters before dropping steeply back down and out onto a series of river flats. These flats are followed for a few kilometres.
About 600 m beyond Dunns Creek, the track sidles into the bush and the track continues to follow the river from above. The track opens out to river flats again below Hura Creek. After crossing Hura Creek, pick up the cut track leading to Mid Taipo Hut 500 m beyond. During heavy rain Seven Mile, Dunns and Hura Creeks quickly become impassable.
Mid Taipo Hut
Mid Taipo Hut to Julia Hut
Time: 2 - 3 hr
From Mid Taipo Hut head upstream for about 1500 m to the Mid Taipo Swing Bridge. Using the bridge, cross to the true right bank and continue up river. From this point on the track crosses various side streams and alternates between riverbed and bush travel. A three wire bridge gives access across Tumbledown Creek. The old Julia Hut (an open fireplace and loads of character) is in a clearing on a terrace just upstream of a large tarn.
The newer hut is a few minutes further along the track, on a lower terrace.
A short track leads from the front door down to the Taipo River. Approximately 450 m downstream on the true right of the Taipo some hot springs can be located on the river’s edge (follow your nose as you get closer). You may need to dig them out to create a pool. Don’t put your head under the water as there is a risk of contracting amoebic meningitis.
Julia Hut (old)
Julia Hut to Harman Pass
Time: 3 - 4 hours
From Julia Hut follow the track upstream then cross the Mary Creek Swing Bridge. The track climbs and sidles above Mary Creek before eventually dropping down to the creek bed. Initially travel remains on the true left but after half an hour or so marker poles lead you across to the true right and up toward the gorge in Mary Creek.
Cross the creek below the gorge and follow the markers climbing and sidling high to avoid the gorge. Keep following the marker poles, dropping into and crossing Mary Creek above the gorge and climbing through easy bluffs to Harman Pass. In misty/cloudy conditions it is difficult to see the poles and care should be taken to locate and follow them.
Access into the Taipo Valley is via a rough gravel track from SH73. The track begins opposite the first farmhouse on the left after crossing the Taipo River Bridge while driving toward Otira, and climbs over a high terrace.
The carpark adjacent to SH73 has parking for 2WD vehicles. The road is not maintained past this point.
4WD vehicles can continue from here to as far as the Taipo River where the end of vehicle access is signposted. From this point, vehicle access is not recommended – the Taipo river here is deep, swift, and should not be crossed, even by experienced 4WD drivers. Further streams and creeks, especially Seven-Mile Creek are frequently impassable because of flooding.
- Call at the DOC office for the latest track conditions and to purchase your hut tickets prior to starting the trip.
- This information is an indication of conditions only. Times shown are a general guide only.
- Storm damage to the route and re-growth of vegetation will slow progress. Allowances must be made for possible delays through bad weather and track damage.
- True left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when looking downstream.
Topomaps: NZTopo50 BV20 Otira and BU20 Moana
Huts: Huts generally contain no cooking equipment trampers are advised to travel 'self contained'.
Hazards: Floods regularly affect the river and side streams. If you're planning to travel through to Harman Pass during the winter/early spring be aware of avalanche risk in the side streams of Mary Creek. Ice axes and crampons may be required.
Crossing rivers: If you plan to cross an unbridged river, you must know how to identify an unsafe river, and where and how to cross safely. You should also be prepared for being unable to cross.
If the river is flooded, you cannot find safe entry and exit points or are unsure it’s safe, do not try to cross. Turn back or wait for the river to drop - this often takes a few hours after rain, so be ready and pack emergency shelter and extra food.
A river is unsafe if there is:
- discoloured water
- debris in the water (such as branches)
- water flowing faster than walking pace
- movement of rocks in the water you can hear
Learn more about river safety on the NZ Mountain Safety Council website.
Respect farm property: The Taipo Valley is a working farm with a mixture of freehold land and DOC grazing licence. The farmer allows access over the freehold section of land on the condition that parties respect the area and show consideration for stock and property. Hunting parties in particular must remember that there are other people and domestic stock in the valley and to take care at all times.
Thieves targeting cars at Arthur's Pass
There have been reports of cars being broken into and disabled at track ends.
- Don't leave valuables in your vehicle.
- Consider using more public parking sites – ask at the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre for alternative options.
- Report any suspicious activity to police on +64 3 363 7400.