Toaroha Swingbridge, Hokitika
Image: Brian Dobbie | ©
This track is suitable for fit, well equipped and experienced backcountry trampers only. The best seasons to go are summer and autumn due to snow/ice on alpine sections during winter.
It traverses rugged river valleys and crosses two alpine saddles. The alpine sections demand experience and good route finding skills. Throughout winter and into late spring the alpine areas will have a cover of snow and mountaineering experience is required.
Times shown are a general guide only.
Time: 3 - 4 hr
From the car park follow the rough farm road down to river level, then pick up the orange triangular markers and follow these across the open flats to the bush line and the start of the track. The track initially follows an old logging-tram line over a low terrace before exiting onto the river bed and following the true right bank. On this river bed section watch out for boulders tumbling from the steep gravel faces above. (If the river is running high, a flood track travels above the gravel faces; there is a sign posted turn off for this before the riverbed is reached).
After about 1 km of river bed travel, the benched track recommences 200 m upstream from an unnamed creek then climbs steadily above the Toaroha Canyon. It descends gradually to the lower end of Cedar Flat where a short rock hop and track leads to the Cedar Flat Bridge which is crossed to the Cedar Flat Huts. There are various small hot springs a short distance up Wren Creek, which enters the Toaroha River on the true right opposite and upstream from the huts. (Cross the lower swingbridge and follow the sign-posted track to reach these). The springs seem to alternate in hottest temperature and best output. The newer of the huts at Cedar Flat contains 12 bunks and is heated by a woodstove.
Time: 5 - 6 hr
From Cedar Flat Hut follow the short section of track to the upstream swing bridge and cross to the true right. The track continues on the true right bank crossing several large side creeks. Be wary of these after rain, Median and Esma Creeks in particular can quickly become uncrossable.
From opposite Mullins Creek the track becomes steeper and alternates between climbing and dropping back into side creeks. The route finally descends to the Toaroha riverbed and crosses to the true left. Be careful; during rain this river crossing can quickly become impassable.
After boulder-hopping alongside the river for a few hundred metres the track moves away from the river and on to a scrubby/tussock terrace. Follow cairns, poles and short sections of track to Top Toaroha Hut which is on a tussock flat above a small lake. Top Toaroha Hut contains 6 bunks and is heated by a woodstove.
Time: 2 - 3 hr
From the hut, poles mark the route across the boggy flats to Bannatyne Creek. Follow the track on the true left of this creek. Cross Bannatyne Creek to a major side creek coming in from the true right and travel up this creek to a tussock face. Take care - the side creek is steep in places.
Follow the poles across the tussock face before dropping again into Bannatyne Creek. Continue up this creek until you reach cairns/poles at the bottom of a steep tussock/scrub gut on the true left. Climb this gut and follow the poles to the Toaroha Saddle Bivouac which serves as a shelter but can also sleep 2 people.
Time: 1.5 - 2 hr
From the Bivouac follow the poles down to the scrub line where a well marked track drops steeply down the ridge to the Mungo River. Just above the Mungo River the track travels downstream on the true right to Poet Hut. If you intend to stay at Poet Hut do not cross the swing bridge you pass on the way. Poet Hut contains 4 bunks and is heated by an open fire.
Note: The route between Toaroha Saddle Bivouac and Poet Hut does not go over the true Toaroha Saddle but passes over a low saddle to the west.
Time: 3 – 4 hr
Travel to Bluff Swing Bridge is a mix of riverbed and track until Poet Creek. Here the track climbs steeply to sidle a steep face high above a gorge in the river before dropping down to the swing bridge. Cross the swingbridge and pick up the track again which climbs steeply to the scrub/tussock bench high above the Hokitika River.
Bluff Hut has been relocated to a position just a few minutes along the track from its original precarious perch. Bluff Hut sleeps 6 people and is heated by a woodstove.
Time: 2 - 3 hr
From Bluff Hut follow the track upstream initially through scrub then tussock, poles mark a route over a large tussock knob before dropping down to follow the Hokitika River. Follow the poles and the riverbed until more or less directly below Frew Saddle. The route from the riverbed to Frew Saddle is poled. A short but steep climb leads to the top and Frew Saddle Bivouac, which is located on the Whitcombe River side some 100 metres down from saddle.
Take care on the climb to the saddle if the tussock is wet or snow-covered. Frew Saddle Bivouac although generally used as a shelter, can also sleep 2 people.
Time: 4 - 5 hr
From the Bivouac follow the poles to Frew Creek. Travel is generally via the creek bed with some sections of track on the true left. The last and longest section of track leads over a high point and drops back into the creek which is then crossed to the true right.
From here the track leaves the creek and follows along a bush spur to Frew Hut which is located a short distance above the Whitcombe River near the mouth of Frew Creek. Frew Hut sleeps 10 people on two platforms and is heated by a woodstove.
Time: 3 - 4 hr
From Frew Hut the true right bank of the Whitcombe is followed to the Collier gorge Swingbridge. There is only one section of track to follow, the remainder being boulder hopping close to the river.
Cross Collier Gorge swingbridge and follow the track on the true left. Through Collier Gorge the route alternates between scrambling around and over huge boulders near the river and following short sections of track cut around the more difficult parts.
Rapid Creek is reached after crossing a forested low terrace and boulder hopping for a further 200 - 300 m. Once across Rapid Creek a further 300-400 m of boulder hopping takes you to a short section of track which leads to Rapid Creek Hut. Rapid Creek Hut contains 4 bunks and is heated by a woodstove.
Time: 2 - 3 hr
From the hut follow the 300 - 400 m of track to the cableway across the Hokitika River. Cross this and follow the benched track, dropping to the Hokitika riverbed some 600 m from the road end. From the road end there is approximately 5 km of rough farm road to follow before the Hokitika Gorge Road is reached. From Hokitika Gorge Road it is about 30 km to Hokitika.
Turn off the Kokatahi/Lake Kaniere circuit road at the sign post 'Access to Toaroha Valley', cross the bridge over the Kokatahi River and follow the road as far as your vehicle will allow. Farm gates should be left as they are found.
Alternatively access can be gained from the Whitcombe Valley Road (Hokitika Gorge Road) and the route walked in the reverse order to that described.
Topomap: NZTopo50 BV19 Lake Kaniere and BV18 Kokatahi
Huts: Huts generally contain no cooking equipment and trampers are advised to travel “self contained”. A tent or fly could also be carried. You need to purchase tickets before using the huts.
Hazards: Flooded rivers and side streams; ice and snow during winter. Throughout winter and into late spring the alpine areas will have a cover of snow. In this event it is recommended that each member of your party carries an ice axe and crampons and is familiar with their use.