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Backpacker Magazine – March 2012

Died and Gone to New Zealand

Hiker heaven, redefined, is a month-long hike/paddle/camp in Adventureland.

by: Jonathan Dorn and Michael Lanza

Whanganui River, North Island (Michael Lanza)
Whanganui River, North Island (Michael Lanza)
Mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest, North Island (Katie Herrell)
Mountain biking in Whakarewarewa Forest, North Island (Katie Herrell)
Narnia Track, South Island (Jonathan Dorn)
Narnia Track, South Island (Jonathan Dorn)
Queen Charlotte Track, South Island (Scott Bischke)
Queen Charlotte Track, South Island (Scott Bischke)
Doubtful Sound, South Island (Michael Lanza)
Doubtful Sound, South Island (Michael Lanza)
Rees-Dart Track, South Island (James Kay)
Rees-Dart Track, South Island (James Kay)
Abel Tasman Coast (David Wall)
Abel Tasman Coast (David Wall)

Online Exclusive
View interactive maps of these routes at backpacker.com/nz12.
REES-DART TRACK, SOUTH ISLAND
Hike through classic Southern-Alps scenery on a 37-mile route that has everything but the crowds.
Just 30 minutes after leaving the Muddy Creek trailhead, where this trek begins, expect to stop for a well-deserved photo session. The Rees Valley sprawls out ahead, golden grasslands dissected by a braided, meandering river. A fat waterfall tumbles over cliffs. Glaciers pour off a row of sharp peaks slashing at the sky. Most likely, you’ll have the scene to yourself—setting the tone for this entire trip. Although just spitting distance from the world-famous Routeburn Track, with scenery copied and pasted from the same Southern-Alps template, the longer and more rugged Rees-Dart remains largely overlooked. Other than at the huts, expect to see almost no one else. A swinging bridge crosses the Rees River at mile 8.4, leading to a forest of moss-draped, twisted beech trees, where the ferns and greenery put Olympic National Park to shame. Stay the first night at Shelter Rock Hut, then ascend about two miles past tussock grasses and the daggerlike fronds of a plant called Spaniard, to 4,747-foot Rees Saddle. Time your arrival for morning or evening, when soft light makes the greens, browns, and grays glow on mountainsides where enormous fins of rock erupt from the earth. From there, descend steeply into a gorge wallpapered with waterfalls and cross the foaming Snowy Creek on a footbridge to reach the Dart Hut at mile 16. Allow an extra day at Dart to make the 12.4-mile, out-and-back hike to 5,000-foot Cascade Pass. The route follows the angry whitewater of the Dart River upstream, ascending hundreds of feet above the heavily cracked, dirt-streaked glacier that spews the gray river from its snout. The trail crosses a glacial moraine of rocks and dirt, where little more than mosses and lichens grow. In the open terrain, look for New Zealand’s endemic kea, an alpine parrot that sings with a high-pitched chortle as it slices the air. Cascade Pass commands a sweeping view of the lushly green Matukituki River Valley. The sharp pyramid of Mt. Aspiring towers above the valley, and icy mountains stand shoulder to shoulder for as far as you can see. The next day, from Dart Hut descend the Dart Valley for 10 miles, through more otherworldly forest interspersed with meadows below glacierdraped peaks. Spend your last night at Daleys Flat Hut before the final day’s 10 miles along the Dart River to the Chinamans Flat trailhead.

Do it Hike counterclockwise to have the strong downstream wind in the Dart Valley at your back. Don’t attempt the trek during heavy rain; some creek fords become impassable. Start at the Rees trailhead (Muddy Creek) and end at the Dart trailhead (Chinamans Flat). The shuttle between trailheads is more than an hour long and rough, so park your van in Glenorchy and get transportation (starting from $70NZ per person, buckleytransport.co.nz or infotrack.co.nz). Pack a stove and cookware for huts on this track. Info doc.govt.nz Cost $$




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READERS COMMENTS

Niky
Mar 23, 2012

oh my god...i must go there..it's fantastic...=O

Sara
Feb 27, 2012

Just got back from the south island, and we brought along this artciel to hike the Narnia Track. Initially, when we stopped by Flock Hill, they told us that only guests staying there were allowed to hike it! After some persuading, they agreed to let us do it (we had to fill out permit-like paperwork and keep it with us). While the scenery was gorgeous and we're glad we did it, we got horrible directions on how to do the hike and didn't receive any map. So, we ended up just kind of wandering around the area and after a few hours of walking came across a sign that said "narnia track", but we still weren't really sure where the actual track was. The area is a working ranch, so we kept wandering off on different vehicle tracks, only to have them peter out to nothing in a grassy field. So, we enjoyed the scenery and everything, but it was kind of a confusing wandering kind of a day rather than an actual route.

Honora
Feb 17, 2012

Does it cost anything to hike on Flock Hill station. I'm sure if it doesn't, they're be so thrilled that you've publicised them to this extent.

SuJi
Feb 16, 2012

Better yet...have spent over 6 months there on 2 diffeerent occasions visiting this paradise for hikers....have purchased older (Mitsubishi)vehicles on both occasions and then sold them for exactly what we had paid for them...costing nothing except the insurance and gas

Tony
Feb 16, 2012

The Queen Charlotte is an excellent track which can be walked or mountain biked at certain times of the year. Highly recomended!

Dingo (New Zealand)
Feb 16, 2012

New Zealand certainly has the wow factor when it comes to hiking regardless if you are visiting the North Island or the South Island. It reallly is the outdoor playground of the world.

jacksukow@hotmail.com
Feb 16, 2012

A much better option than 180 dollars a day to rent a camper van
which you will have to pay another fee to park , is to rent a car from
a local rental agency for only $30 a day, and camp or stay at hostels
for ten to sixty dollars per night.

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