The 34km overnight hike to French Ridge Hut in Mount Aspiring National Park will see you tramp through cool forests, across swing bridges, wade through a river crossing, and scramble for hours up a rocky mountainside – but the views are more than worth it.


  • Grand mountainous views
  • Steep, scrambling hike
  • River crossing
  • Icy swimming pools

Finding French Ridge Hut

I love it when everything falls into place and it’s easy to get away for a hike. 

We woke up at sparrow’s fart Saturday morning and drove through farmland to the Matukituki Valley, dodging sheep and cattle. We arrived at the Raspberry Flat car park for morning poos before popping on our overnight bags for the sunrise hike.



The Matukituki Valley is super inspiring. You walk for two hours near a shallow river, through the flat farmland admiring ridged rock faces and towering peaks, making lists of what your next mission in the valley will be. 

Read more: Aotearoa / NZ’s Copland Track is a Dreamy Hike and Hot Pools Combo

The grassy track is quite populated depending on what time of day you begin, especially the first section between the car park and Aspiring Hut. Lots of people actually ride their mountain bikes through this part of the trail to get through the valley quicker and onto their next section. 

Continuing past Aspiring Hut, the route has such a satisfying variety of scenery. We marched through cool forests, galloped over swinging bridges, rock hopped over small streams, and tramped grassy tracks beside tall waterfalls that trickled into the valley floor. 

Swim, Wade, Scramble

Popping out of the forest we spotted a sweet little swimming spot, clear blue water with a sandy bottom. It wasn’t really secluded enough for skinny dipping but when you’re in nature it’s all natural right? Let’s just say we timed it well!

Read more: Staying Safe Around Swimming Holes



You’d think after swimming in the cold pool the river crossing ahead would be a piece of cake. There is an alternate bridge route ahead but a mate encouraged us to do the crossing. A hot (or rather icy) minute of barefoot screams were had in the freezing water temperatures, that’s for sure. 

Now for the scrambling! Forget flat, clear track, think chaotic tree roots, high pelvis steps, rock balancing, mud scraping, and a circus of solutions to pull your weighted body up the mountain. I couldn’t stop expressing how much fun I was having. Was climbing for 2-3 hours challenging? Yes. Would I do it again in a heartbeat? 100%. Is it everybody’s cup of tea? Nuh ah.



Once we poked out of the forest there was lots of jaw dropping going on. Check out those views! 

Read more: Exploring The Pinnacles Hut in New Zealand


Reaching French Ridge Hut

We walked another half hour or so up the tussocky steep hill, playing a game of categories to distract the legs, before arriving at our destination. French Ridge Hut. The little red hut with the cutest red loo on planet Earth.



I’m lost for words trying to describe the icy views of the surrounding mountain faces and the river in the stretched out valley below. They were pretty alright indeed.



That night we gathered in the cozy hut with 20 other local hikers, heating up food, eating chocolate, playing cards and staring at the incredible stars outside. When you think it can’t get any better, wait until you wake up for sunrise. 

Home Time

The next day we followed the same route back to the Raspberry Flat car park, scrambled down the hill, waded across the freezing river and hiked back through the beautiful valley. Bliss balls and choccy were a sweet way to wrap up the trip and share over car park conversations with our new hut buddies. French Ridge has definitely topped out as number one on my hiking list. Ambassador for life!


Essential Gear

  • Water – you can also fill your bottles on the way or boil hut water
  • Snacks, dinner and breaky
  • Torch
  • Warm clothes and extra socks for wet feet
  • Sleeping bag and mat
  • Back up tent
  • Bag for your rubbish – leave no trace
  • Toilet paper and hand sanitizer
  • Toothbrush
  • Sneakers or hiking boots
  • Lightweight portable gas cooker for heating meals or cups of tea
  • PLB
  • First aid kit

How To Get There

Follow the Wanaka, Mount Aspiring Road for two hours until you reach the Raspberry Flat car park. Park your car and locate the DOC sign at the beginning of the track. Most of the track is well marked with DOC signs and orange poles. 

Know Before You Go

French Ridge Hut is 20 bunk first come, first served, however you’ll need to pay an online fee for staying in the NZ Alpine Club hut. It’s a good idea to pack a tent if you’re heading out on a popular weekend.

Skill Level


French Ridge is considered a challenging route and requires a high level of fitness and experience.

Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration

Average 34km return / 1,688m Elevation Gain / 12-14 hours return