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

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.

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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.

Bookings are open for trips 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

For the first hour of the track, you’ll pass through mixed podocarp and beech forest and cross a wire suspension bridge over the Smoke-ho Creek. The track then zig-zags up the dividing ridge between Blackball Creek and Roaring Meg catchments for the next hour until you reach the turn-off to the Battery Track.

The track then climbs more steeply into subalpine forest leading towards Ces Clark Hut. You’ll pass the historic Croesus Top Hut just before reaching Ces Clark Hut. Croesus Top Hut is kept for historic purposes – you cannot stay at Croesus Top Hut. However, in an emergency, you can use it for shelter.

Ces Clark Hut is on the edge of the bushline, set among low alpine scrub and with spectacular views. On a fine day you will be rewarded with views of Lake Brunner, the main divide, and down to Aoraki Mount Cook.

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.

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