With seemingly endless expanses of deep fjords, snowy peaks, and lush forests, New Zealand poses an unlikely challenge for adventure planning: How do you know what’s best? Happily, the New Zealand Department of Conservation took a shot at picking out the greatest trail miles in the island nation, designating just over 375 miles of them “Great Walks.” These treks traverse the country’s diverse terrain and ecosystems, from high alpine passes to golden sand beaches.
Opening on December 1, 2019, the Paparoa Track is the tenth addition to the list, the first new Great Walk to be established since the Department of Conservation created the network in 1993. Subtropical palms line the 34-mile trail as it works its way across mountaintops and down through the Pororari River Gorge. Limestone cliffs carpeted with moss make way for ridgetop views of the surrounding coastal forest, part of Paparoa National Park. Added perk? Heated huts with mattresses and stoves.
On the first day of the three-day journey, the hike covers 12.4 miles, ascending through beech and podocarp forest before meandering along alpine ridges. Spend night one at the Moonlight Tops Hut, with sweeping views over river valleys to the Pacific Ocean. The next day, the trail descends into ancient hardwood forest before reaching the Pororari Hut. The last day, the trail follows the Pororari River through glades of nikau palms and dense ferns. There’s a reason for all the dense vegetation: the park’s 235 annual inches of rain make the Pacific Northwest seem like a desert.
A spur trail to the site of the former Pike Mine, as well as a memorial site for the 29 miners who lost their lives there in a series of disastrous explosions in 2010, is currently under construction. Paparoa National Park was expanded to preserve the mine site, and the track acts as a memorial to the miners.
Registration for trips beginning on or after the track’s opening on December 1 is now open—the huts have 20 bunks each, and cost $45 NZD (about $30 USD) per night for adults (free for kids 17 and under). Registration for all great walks will be open by June 14. Book the Paparoa Track online now.