Paparoa Track

Image: Jason Blair | DOC


Paparoa Track crosses the Paparoa Range. It takes you through alpine tops, limestone karst landscapes and thriving rainforests, and provides breath-taking views.


2020/2021 bookings

Bookings are open for trips from 1 October 2020 to 30 June 2021.


Track overview

55 km one way

Walking and tramping

3 days one way Intermediate: Great Walk/Easier tramping track

Mountain biking

2 days one way Advanced: Grade 4

Dog access

No dogs

About this track

Paparoa Track

Time: 3 days walking, 2 days mountain biking (no e-bikes)
Distance: 55 km walking, 56. 2 km mountain biking (no-e-bikes)

On this page:


      • Explore the spectacular Pororari River Gorge with dramatic limestone cliffs, beech forest and glades of subtropical nīkau palms.
      • Sit back and enjoy in incredible sunsets over the Tasman Sea from the Moonlight Tops Hut.
      • Follow in the footsteps of gold miners on the historic Croesus Track. Take a side trip to Garden Gully to see gold-mining remains.
      • Enjoy the stunning views. You’ll spot the Lone Hand rock formation on the way to Pororari Hut.

Watch video 

Places to stay

There are three Great Walk huts on the Paparoa Track: Ces Clark Hut, Moonlight Tops Hut and Pororari Hut. Huts have bunks, mattresses, heating, gas cooktops, toilets, and a water supply. A DOC ranger may be present. The huts do not provide food, cooking utensils or showers. Backcountry Hut Passes can be used at Ces Clark Hut but not at Moonlight Tops or Pororari Huts.

There are no campsites on the track.

You'll need accommodation the night before your walk - camping at Smoke-ho car park is not permitted.

Fees and bookings

Fees are charged per person, per night to stay in huts on the Paparoa Track. There are no fees to complete a day walk/ride on the track or for entry into Paparoa National Park.

New Zealand citizens, those ordinarily resident in New Zealand*:

  • Adult (18+ years): $45 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): free but booking still required

International visitors:

  • Adult (18+ years): $45 per person, per night
  • Child (17 years and under): $22.50 per person, per night

New Zealand rates:

  • "Ordinarily resident in New Zealand" means those:
    • who hold a residence class, student or work visa; and
    • who have lived in New Zealand for six of the previous 12 months; and
    • for whom New Zealand is their primary place of established residence.
  • Proof of eligibility will be required for the New Zealand rate. Acceptable eligibility proof.

Backcountry Hut Passes can be used as payment for Ces Clark Hut, however you'll need to book online, then claim a refund.

To claim a refund, email with your booking reference and a scanned copy of your Backcountry Hut Pass.

All three huts must be booked in advance. Book Paparoa Track online.

2020/2021 bookings

Bookings are open for trips from 1 October 2020 to 30 June 2021.

Walking options

  • For a 1 or 2 night trip to Pororari Hut, see Paparoa Track: Pororari Hut Track.
  • For a 2 night trip, stay at Moonlight Tops and Pororari Huts. It's not feasible to stay at Ces Clark Hut and Pororari Hut – it's 28.8 km and a 10 hr walk between these two huts.
  • For a 3 night trip, stay at Ces Clark, Moonlight Tops and Pororari Huts.

Track description

Smoke-ho car park to Ces Clark Hut

Time: 4–5 hr
Distance: 10.3 km

The track begins at Smoke-ho car park and follows the historic Croesus Track. The track retains some of the original stonework and is steep and rough in places. This part of the track is much rougher than the rest of the Paparoa Track because of its heritage nature. It winds through mixed podocarp and beech forest, with occasional views of Blackball Creek. Keep an eye out for the rare blue duck/whio.

The track then zigzags up the ridge between the Blackball Creek and Roaring Meg Creek catchments, then climbs more steeply into subalpine forest. If you're biking you may need to get off and push. On a fine day you'll be rewarded views of Lake Brunner and the Main Divide down to Aoraki/Mount Cook.

Ces Clark Hut is on the edge of the bushline, set among low alpine scrub and with spectacular views.

Side trip: Garden Gully

Time: 45 min return

Take a side trip along this historic track to see relics of the gold-mining days.

Turn off the Paparoa Track at Garden Gully junction. Historic Garden Gully Hut, a miner’s hut dating from the 1930s, is just a few minutes down the track, but is not recommended for accommodation.

After crossing a suspension bridge, the track forks. To the left is a marked route up the creek to a century-old quartz crushing battery (5 minutes walking). To the right, the track climbs to the mouth of the collapsed Garden Gully Mine (15 minutes walking).

Ces Clark Hut to Moonlight Tops Hut

Time: 3 hr
Distance: 9.7 km

Beyond Ces Clark Hut you pass through alpine scrub and tussock with expansive views of Grey River/Māwheranui and Tasman Sea.

The track follows the ridge of the main Paparoa Range through open alpine vegetation above the Roaring Meg and Moonlight Creek catchments, with views of Aoraki/Mt Cook on a clear day.

Moonlight Tops Hut has panoramic views across the Punakaiki River headwaters around to the escarpment, Pike Stream and Paparoa National Park.

Side trip: Croesus Knob

Time: 1 hr 10 min return

The turn-off to Croesus Knob is a 30-minute walk beyond Ces Clark Hut. From the main Paparoa Track, a rough route climbs to the top of Croesus Knob (1204 m), where there are spectacular views down to Aoraki Mount Cook and out to Tasman Sea.

This route is not suitable for mountain bikes and is not maintained to the same standard as the main Paparoa Track.

Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari Hut

Time: 5–7 hr
Distance: 19.1 km

Paparoa Track winds along the top of the escarpment, with steep cliffs and stunning views. There is an emergency shelter on the nothern end of the escarptment. About half-way to Pororari Hut, you descend from the escarpment through ancient podocarp forest. The track then follows the ridge above Tindale Creek to Pororari Hut. Keep an eye out for the Lone Hand, a gnarled outcrop of rock on the north side of the Pororari River.

Pororari Hut to Pororari River car park or Waikori Road car park

Time: 4–5 hr
Distance: 16 km to Pororari River car park, 17.1 km to Waikori Road carpark

The track descends into the upper Pororari River valley and follows the river. In some places it follows an old track which was built c1912–1914 to establish a settlement in the valley. The track sidles along a spectacular gorge and descends through beech forest interspersed with northern rātā.

At the junction of the Inland Pack Track and the Paparoa Track, hikers and mountain bikers diverge. Walkers take the Pororari River Track through the Pororari River Gorge; mountain bikers follow the Inland Pack Track over a low saddle into the Punakaiki River valley to Waikori Road car park. Both tracks pass through lush rainforest with glades of nikau palms.

Mountain biking

Smoke-ho car park to Ces Clark Hut

Time: 2–3 hr
Distance: 10.3 km

Ces Clark Hut to Moonlight Tops Hut

Time: 1 hr 30 min – 2 hr 30 min
Distance: 9.7 km

Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari Hut

Time: 4–5 hr
Distance: 19.1 km

Pororari Hut to Waikori Road car park

Time: 2 hr 30 min – 3 hr 30 min
Distance: 17. 1 km

Paparoa Track is a well-formed track with numerous swing and suspension bridges. The track is Advanced: Grade 4 with a mixture of long, steep climbs, narrow track, poor traction and obstacles that are difficult to avoid or jump over. It's a particularly tough ride to Ces Clark Hut. The track is generally exposed at the outside edge. Most riders will find some sections easier to walk.

Plan to spend one night on the track.

Rough section of the track up to Ces Clark Hut
Rough section of the track up to Ces Clark Hut
Image: Ben Hodgson | DOC

  • E-bikes are not allowed. E-bikes are prohibited under the Paparoa National Park Management Plan. These were considered for Paparoa Track when the plan was reviewed in 2016, but were decided against until we understand how the track will handle standard mountain bike traffic. This rule will be reviewed in 3-5 years following a full review of the use of e-bikes on public conservation land.
  • Riding at night is not allowed, to protect nocturnal species found on the track.

This is a shared-use track. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.

Mountain bikers give space to walkers
Mountain bikers and walkers share Paparoa Track
Image: Jason Blair ©

Getting there

The nearest towns are Blackball, Greymouth and Punakaiki. 

The track can be accessed by road at:

  • Smoke-ho car park at the end of Blackball Road, 8 km north of Blackball.
  • Pororari River Track carpark on SH 6, 1.2 km north of Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki
  • Waikori Road carpark on SH 6, 2.4 km south of Pancake Rocks at Punakaiki

Several operators provide shuttle services to/from Paparoa Track. Find transport around the coast (West Coast Tourism). We recommend leaving your car at your accommodation - Smoke-ho car park is small and for day use only.

Nature and conservation

DOC works in partnership with the Paparoa Wildlife Trust in the south-east ranges bordering the Paparoa National Park. The Trust maintains a trapping network that effectively controls 10,000 to 15,000 ha of land. This programme, in conjunction with the 12.5-ha pest-proof kiwi crèche on the Atarau plains and the Paparoa great spotted kiwi/roroa recovery project, has delivered significant gains for kiwi.

History and culture

The Ngāti Waewae hapū (sub-tribe) of Ngāi Tahu are the kaitiaki of Paparoa National Park, guardians of the area’s native species and ecosystems. This kaitiaki responsibility is passed down the generations and draws on mātauranga (traditional knowledge) to care for the land, rivers and species.

In the 1860s, the discovery of gold on the West Coast sparked a gold rush and a sudden influx of European settlement. Between 1881 and 1899, the Croesus Track was constructed to allow better access to mines in upper Blackball Creek. The first part of the Paparoa Track follows this route. You can see the remnants of the gold-mining days by taking a side trip to Garden Gully.

The section of track between Pororari Hut and Punakaiki also follows historical routes.

The stretch between Waikori Road car park and the Pororari River follows the 1867 Inland Pack Track, once one of the main access routes between Greymouth and Westport. The track up the Pororari River was originally built to open up the area for farming. Few farms were formed and the route languished, but it was revitalised in the 1950s for a short-lived uranium-mining venture.

On 19 November 2010, 29 men perished in an underground explosion at the Pike River Mine. Created in partnership with the families of those 29 men, the Department of Conservation and Ngāti Waewae, the Paparoa Track is a memorial to the men and a thank you to New Zealanders for their support of the Pike River families.

Know before you go

Your safety is your responsibility

Know the Outdoor Safety Code - 5 simple rules to help you #makeithome.

Stay on the marked tracks

The track is well marked but if you become lost you should stop, find shelter and stay calm. Put on extra clothing to keep warm and assist rescuers should you hear them searching for you.

There is no cellphone coverage on most of the Paparoa Track.

Be prepared for all conditions

Weather in Paparoa National Park is changeable with annual rainfall averaging around 6,000 mm (235 inches). Heavy rain, snow, ice, fog and strong winds are possible at all times of the year, especially on the exposed sections of the track.

You must be well equipped and prepared for all weather conditions and carry warm and waterproof clothing. If the weather becomes severe, stay put in a hut or turn back until conditions improve.

If you are hiking or biking the track in winter, check for snow and ice conditions before you leave and allow extra time. If in doubt, consider changing your trip to another day.

Check Paparoa National Park weather forecast

Hypothermia (too cold)

During cold, wet and windy conditions, hypothermia (drop in core body temperature) can become a serious problem. From initial stages to unconsciousness can take as little as 30 minutes.

  • Prevention: wear warm and weatherproof gear. Eat and drink regularly during your walk/ride.
  • Watch for symptoms: people may shiver, be clumsy, confused, have slurred speech, and deny they have a problem.
  • Treatment: immediately make or find shelter; get the person into dry, warm clothing, put them into a sleeping bag, give them warm, sweet drinks, monitor them and seek immediate medical help.
Heat exhaustion

This can be serious and is usually caused by physical activity in a hot environment and not drinking enough water.

  • Prevention: carry and drink water regularly throughout your walk.
  • Watch for symptoms: headaches, thirst, weakness, dizziness, nausea or vomiting.
  • Treatment: move to a cool shaded area to rest, remove excess clothing and give water to drink.

Some sections of track in the Pororari Valley may become impassable during times of very heavy rainfall. There is also a risk of landslides. There is danger of treefall in extreme wind events. Do not attempt to travel between Pororari Hut and the carparks in Punakaiki if these conditions occur. Take shelter in Pororari Hut and wait until conditions improve.

Be prepared for difficult riding sections

The section to Ces Clark Hut is a tough mountain bike ride as it's rough and narrow in places. Make sure you have the skills, fitness and time to tackle it.

Watch out for Ongaonga (tree nettle)

New Zealand’s native tree nettle, Ongaonga, may be seen along the Paparoa Track in the Pororari Valley. It's sting is painful - don't touch its leaves.

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.

What to take

Personal equipment

  • Backpack (40–60 litre size for multi-day hiking)
  • Waterproof/plastic pack liner
  • Sleeping bag (3–4 season)
  • First aid kit (including insect repellent, sunscreen, blisterkit, personal medication e.g. antihistamine for allergy to wasp stings)
  • Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil, highenergy snack food)
  • Safety equipment relevant to the track and time of year (e.g. map, compass)
  • Drink bottle (1-2 litre capacity)
  • Eating and cooking utensils (knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup, pot/pan/billy, cleaning kit, tea towel)
  • Matches or lighter in waterproof container
  • Toiletries
  • Torch/flashlight and spare batteries
  • Rubbish bag
  • Booking confirmation and ID
  • Use a toilet when you see one and be prepared with a back-up toilet option
  • Camera
  • Ear plugs for communual bunkrooms


  • For multi-day walking you'll need at least one set of clothes to walk in and another dry set to change into at night
  • Walking boots or firm footwear (should be comfortable and well broken in)
  • Socks (wool or polypropylene)
  • Shorts (quick dry material)
  • Shirt (wool or polypropylene)
  • Under layers, top and bottom (wool or polypropylene)
  • Mid-layers (wool or polar fleece)
  • Raincoat (waterproof, windproof with hood)
  • Overtrousers (wind and waterproof)
  • Warm hat and gloves
  • Sunhat and sunglasses
  • Extra socks, underwear, shirt/lightweight jersey
  • Gaiters
  • Lightweight shoes for inside the huts


You can't buy food on the track.

Bring food that is lightweight, fast cooking and high in energy value. For example:

  • Breakfast: cereal/porridge/oats, firm bread, honey or other spreads
  • Lunch: cracker biscuits, cheese, salami, jam/jelly, fruit
  • Dinner: instant soup, pasta or rice, dried vegetables or fruit, cheese or dehydrated (freeze-dried) meals

You'll also need water, snacks, biscuits, muesli bars, tea or coffee, powdered fruit drinks and emergency food in case of any delays on the track.

Pike29 Memorial Track

The Pike29 Memorial Track is under construction until at least December 2020 - it can’t be used until it opens. An opening date will be confirmed closer to the time.


Paparoa National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 731 1895
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Address:   4294 Coast Road
RD 1
Runanga 7873
Postal Address:   4294 Coast Road
RD 1
Runanga 7873
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