Image: Brian Dobbie | ©
This route is suitable for fit, well equipped and experienced back-country trampers only. The best seasons to go are summer and autumn due to snow/ice on alpine sections during winter. Times are a general guide only.
Note: True Left and true right refer to the side of the valley or river when looking downstream.
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 tramline 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: 3 - 4 hr
From Cedar Flat Hut follow the short section of track to the upstream swing bridge and cross to the true right. The track to Adventure Ridge Bivouac begins between Median and Esma Creeks and is a typical West Coast ridge track, it climbs steeply to a bush terrace then up adventure ridge itself to alpine scrub and tussock. Adventure Biv is located at the top end of a tussock clearing at an elevation of 1,020 m.
Time: 3 - 4 hr
From the bivouac follow the track through the tussock and alpine scrub. It climbs and sidles before dropping into, crossing and climbing out of, a deeply cut tributary of Zit Creek. Once in the open tussock the route is marked with poles (orange triangles mounted on thin fibreglass stakes) and climbs a spur (steeply in places) directly to the ridgeline of the Toaroha Range about 500 m north of Zit Saddle.
The poles guide you directly over the ridgeline down to and across a tussock terrace before dropping steeply down a rocky gut to an un-named tributary of the Kokatahi River. The creek is followed until about 50 m above the confluence with the Kokatahi. Exit on the true right here and head upriver for 50 m to Kokatahi Hut.
In misty conditions good route finding skills are required as the marker poles are difficult to see from one to the next.
Time: 4 - 5 hr
Note: This is a fine weather route only – even at normal flow it has a number of swift river crossings.
From the hut travel to the confluence of the Kokatahi River and the unnamed stream from Zit Saddle. Cross the Kokatahi to pick up the cut track on the true right. The route alternates between sections of cut track and riverbed travel, crossing the Kokatahi three times before ending up on the true left above the Top Kokatahi Swing Bridge.
From the swing bridge the track remains on the true left until a cableway is reached. Cross this cableway to the true right and continue downstream along the river edge for 200-300 m then pick up the track through the forest and follow this to Crawford Junction Hut which is sited on a low terrace overlooking the Crawford/Kokatahi confluence.
Time: 3 hr 30 min – 4 hr
From the hut follow the track off the terrace and down to the bed of Crawford Creek. Head upstream, boulder hopping past the swing bridge, and pick up the track to Farquharson Creek. Cross Farquharson Creek and rejoin the track on the far bank. Following the track towards and then up alongside Crawford Creek before climbing out of the creek and sidling around the hillside.
The track continues to sidle around the hillside until it drops down into Crawford Creek about 750 – 800 m below Top Crawford Hut. Remain on the true left of the creek all the way to the hut, which is located on a low tussock terrace a few hundred metres upstream on the true left branch of the Crawford Stream.
Note: Farquharson Creek can be difficult to cross if it is running higher than normal. A good crossing place is upstream at the mouth of the gorge.
Time: 3 hr 30 min – 4 hr 30 min
From the hut, travel downstream until just before the junction of the two branches of Crawford Creek. Cross to the true right bank and pick up the large orange triangle and then follow orange markers through a tussock/scrub covered gut. After a few hundred metres the track begins to climb steeply through scrub covered bluffs until it tops out on a small terrace. From here a few poles mark the route which climbs and sidles up and across steep scree slopes in a north/north-easterly direction to Lathrop Saddle.
In the winter and spring these slopes are snow covered and often icy. Ice axes and crampons are essential tools at these times. Marker poles from the northern end of Lathrop Saddle lead the way down a steep spur to Browning Bivouac. It is easy to miss these poles in misty conditions.
Time: 1 hr 30 min – 2 hr
From Browning Bivouac the track drops steeply down the hillside and into an unnamed creek. Once in this creek, travel varies between boulder hopping and sections of track. This continues until the track veers away from the creek on the true left before continuing downhill and eventually joining up with the Styx Valley track. From this junction it is about a 5-minute walk upstream to Grassy Flats Hut.
Time: 3 hr 30 min – 5 hr
Follow the track downstream via the tussock flats, cross to the true right near the bottom end of the flats. From there follow the orange markers and pick up the old benched track formation. Follow this until the roadend is reached, crossing numerous side streams on the way.
Turn off the Kokatahi/Lake Kaniere circuit road at the signpost '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.
Permission to cross the farmland must be obtained from the leaseholder, Terry Sheridan, telephone +64 3 755 7967.
This route traverses alpine ridges and crosses two alpine saddles. It demands experience and good route finding skills.
Throughout winter and into late spring the alpine areas will have a cover of snow, especially the southern side of Lathrop Saddle. If travelling the route during this part of the year it is recommended that each member of your party carries an ice axe and crampons and is familiar with their use.
Styx Valley Track is very rough with numerous slips to be negotiated. These slips are moving after each rain event and can be difficult to cross by inexperienced people.
The Styx River has cut into a vertical gravel cliff 20 minutes from the Styx car park. To continue up the valley be prepared to cross the river at normal flow below and above this slip. Parties or individuals that are not confident with river crossing should travel through via the Arahura valley.
The alternative via the Arahura Track has a major slip south of Snowball Creek. Caution is advised when crossing this slip.
This information is an indication of conditions only.
Topomap: NZTopo50 BV19 Lake Kaniere.
Huts: Huts generally contain no cooking equipment trampers are advised to travel 'self contained'. A tent or fly could also be carried.
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.