Snow on Kirwans Track
Image: Dave Quested | ©
40 km loop
The walk up to Kirwans Hut is one of New Zealand's classic overnight tramps. There are some incredible historic relics to be seen in this area including the Kirwans Reward mine, an aerial ropeway and the Lord Brassey stamper battery. The well formed track up to the hut was originally hand crafted by miners.
The Waitahu and Montgomerie Rivers are superb trout fishing spots and there is great swimming to be had in the Waitahu River. A favourite spot is beneath the Clematis Swingbridge – just watch out for sandflies.
If you're a hunter, then the Brunner Range is the place to be. It stretches north from Kirwans Hut and is best known for red deer and wild pigs, although there are also a few chamois. Read more about Greymouth hunting.
Time: 6 hr
This track can be accessed from the Capleston car park at the end of Boatmans Road which turns off the Reefton Highway 12km north of Reefton.
There is a steady 6 hour climb up a well-formed pack track to the modern Kirwans Hut near the bushline. A 50 minute side trip to 1297 metre Kirwans Hill provides views of a ruggedly beautiful part of the Victoria Range.
Kirwans Hut is built on a stunning site in an alpine clearing just above the bushline. On a clear day you can see all the way down to Mount Cook.
Time: 4 hr
From open-cast quartz mine workings near the hut, a steep descent partly follows the line of an old cableway to the Lord Brassey stamper battery. The Lord Brassey is an impressive structure holding fifteen 500kg+ stamper rods, that were originally lifted by a water powered pelton wheel, then dropped down to crush gold bearing quartz. DOC workers restored this structure in 2009. From here a track descends to Montgomerie Hut.
There is also fabulous camping next to the Kirwans Creek/Montgomerie River confluence, just down the track from the Lord Brassey stamper battery. Take your tent and a trout fishing rod.
Time: 3 - 4 hr
This track leads down the Waitahu Valley to Gannons Road bridge. From here, Gannons Road leads back to the main highway 5km north of Reefton. The track was previously a rough 4 wheel-drive road. The section between Montgomerie Hut and Clematis Gorge Swingbridge is now permanently closed to vehicles, however you can still 4 wheel-drive the section between Clematis Gorge Swingbridge and Gannons Road bridge.
Time: 1 hr 30 min - 2hr
If you have left your car at Boatmans Road end, there is a short track leading you back over from Gannons Road bridge. It involves a steep climb and follows old forestry roads in some places.
The ride up to Kirwans Hut and back is a stunning, wilderness mountain bike ride. Mountain biking can also be done up the Waitahu Valley.
These are shared-use tracks. Follow the mountain bikers code: respect others, respect the rules, respect the track.
From Reefton, drive 10km north toward Westport. Look for the Kirwans Track sign pointing right off the main road down Boatmans Road. The road turns to gravel before reaching the car park at the old town site of Capleston.
There is an easy ride up the Waitahu Valley four wheel drive road. After the Clematis Swingbridge the track rapidly becomes rougher.
You can visit the Kirwans Reward mine and associated aerial ropeway. The Lord Brassey stamper battery, a gold relic saved from collapse, is a must see.
The track up to Kirwans Hut from Boatmans Road end has bridges over all stream crossings so this track can be safely accessed in all but the most extreme weather condtions. However, the track down the Waitahu Valley from Montgomerie Hut crosses several fords, so take care if it has been raining heavily.
Wasps can be common from December to April, carry antihistamine if you are allergic to their stings.