If you’re looking for an overnight hike in New Zealand without the crowds, head to the Breast Hill Track at Lake Hāwea, near Wanaka, for an adventure to Pakituhi Hut. But be warned – this little 4km hike might well kick your ass, says Explorer Brooke Nolan.

Highlights
  • A quaint New Zealand hut that sleeps eight people (at just $5 a night!)
  • Stunning views across Lake Hāwea and the surrounding landscape including Mt Aspiring/Tititea
  • Getting to the top without crying
One Overnight Hike Please!

With a few days to kill before I started a mountaineering course in Aoraki National Park, I decided to warm the legs up with a solo overnight hike. With no idea where to go I popped into the DOC (Department of Conservation) in Wanaka for some words of wisdom.

‘Hey,’ I said with a smile. ‘I’m looking for a fairly easy overnight hike to a hut. Nothing too busy or touristy, and also not too hard as my next week is going to be pretty full on.’ 

I didn’t want to tire myself out too much before the five days of mountaineering, so when the woman at the DOC told me about the 4km Breast Hill Track to Pakituhi Hut, it looked like a winner. ‘It’s steep to start with,’ she said. ‘But nothing too hard.’

With her words of encouragement ringing in my ears I packed up my car, bought some ramen noodles, drove the short distance to Lake Hāwea, and headed on my merry way up the track.

Up and Over the Breast

From Dingle Burn Road the track is a steady climb rising 400m straight up. I knew about this part from the route description; it was steep, but steady zig zags (or switchbacks if that’s your lingo) meant it wasn’t too bad. At the top, you hit a small saddle, followed by an ascent to the highest point at 1,300m.

It was here that I realised that a New Zealand DOC worker’s definition of ‘easy’ was certainly not the same as mine. That, or she was the devil in a DOC costume who toyed with hikers for shits and giggles. 

Each step after the saddle was ‘one step forward, five steps back’, as I slid on the scree slopes. After nearly four hours, my thighs burning, being blinded by the incessant sunshine, melting in the 30 degree heat, and the hut STILL nowhere in sight, I decided to call it quits. 

I sat down, defeated. How had I been beaten by a 4km trail? And how had it been four hours and I still wasn’t there? Did this hut even exist or was it a myth like the Tooth Fairy or Santa? (Sorry kids) I knew I could get down to my car in time before darkness, which felt safer than going on. So. That’s what I was gonna do. 

A Vision in Khaki

But then…my guardian angels arrived. A lovely young couple found me sitting dejectedly on a rock. ‘You’re literally 10 minutes away,’ they said. ‘We promise. You definitely shouldn’t turn back.’

They were right, and 20 minutes later (I know, I know) I was at the hut chatting about the hike with the only two other people there. A dad and his nine-year-old daughter on her first overnight hike EVER. Oh, and they didn’t find it ‘that hard’.

Hard or not, it was 100% worth the effort. The views on the way up are incredible; stretching across Lake Hāwea and the surrounding landscape including Mt Aspiring/Tititea. And the hut (just $5) a night has only eight bunks and offers a real taste of wilderness without having to travel far from Wanaka and the surrounding towns.

There’s an option to do a loop (which can turn it into a three day hike if that tickles ya fancy), but with plans already in place I headed down the way I’d come. 

Turns out the hike really was a little bit cursed and I had an allergic reaction to the pollen which was blowing everywhere from the wild flowers. 50,000 sneezes later I finally made it to the bottom where I found a note under my windscreen wiper from my guardian angels. ‘We told you it was worth it!’ And yep, even with the swollen eyes, they were right.

Fees And Opening Hours
  • $5 (no bookings – first come first served)
Essential Gear
  • Sleeping bag
  • Cooking stuff
  • Decent hiking shoes
  • Hiking poles if you’ve got old woman knees like I have
  • The will to carry on 

 

How To Get There

Head to Dingle Burn Road in Lake Hāwea

Skill Level

Intermediate 

Distance Covered

8km which feels like a million years