Big River poppet head detail
Big River engine house
Big River is at the heart of the "Quartzopolis Goldfields". You can easily spend a full day exploring the old township and mine site, including the restored poppet head, steam winding engine and boiler plant. A little further afield is the old dam site and old sawmill.
Waiuta - Big River
Time: 3 hr 30 min - 5 hr one way
Distance: 11 km
The track is signposted from “Pro Road” Waiuta. It follows an old benched pack track and passes the Big River South Mine, the St George Mine and stamper battery, and other old mining sites. Return via the same track or continue on to Inangahua River or to Reefton on the 4WD track.
Big River Hut
Facilities: 20 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served
Big River – Inangahua swingbridge
Time: 6- 7 hr one way
Distance: 10 km
The journey passes the Golden Lead Battery historic site and joins the Progress Water Race Track, to finish at the Inangahua swingbridge picnic area. Parts of the track are quite steep and become more difficult in wet weather. Rewards include fine views and forest changes plus historic relics including coalmine trams, sawmills, hut sites and a quartz battery.
Reefton - Big River 4WD road
Time: 3 - 4 hr driving / 7 - 8 hr walking one way
Distance: 25 km
A four wheel drive track starts 9 km along Soldiers Road, after the Alborns Track carpark. Soldiers Road turnoff is signposted on SH7, just south of Reefton.
The track, twisting through regenerating beech forest, passes many mining sites before opening out to the barren Big River settlement. This track includes sections of gravel road and rougher rocky sections, as well as stream crossings which flood in heavy rain. It is for experienced four wheel drivers only. Enjoy lunch or an overnight stay at Big River Hut. Drive out the same way.
The road can also be used as a walking and mountain biking track.
Walking access is either from Waiuta or the Lewis Pass highway 11 km east of Reefton. 4WD access is from Reefton via Soldiers Road.
Reefton - Big River is a challenging ride on a rough 4WD track. It includes mixed surfaces of gravel, mud and rock with some steep descents.
Big River - Waiuta is technical benched single track that continues on from the end of the Big River 4WD track. Expect to experience a challenging range of surfaces from mud and corduroy to mixed flowing sections and smooth, gentle downhill.
Four wheel driving
The drive on the 4WD road into Big River is a challenging and classic trip.
The 4WD road into Big River from Soldiers Rd is a long and challenging horse ride for experienced riders.
Know before you go
Longer walks and overnight tramps call for something extra in terms of stamina, equipment, experience and provisions.
Weather conditions can change rapidly, particularly on the tops. Rain can quickly make even small streams treacherous to cross. Before starting out it is best to check with Reefton Visitor Centre for the latest weather and track information.
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.