Tucked away in the Ahuriri Conservation Park on South Island, New Zealand, this off-track overnight hike to Hideaway Hut and onwards to Stony Peak tests your navigational skills in beautiful surrounds.
- Practise your off-track navigation skills
- Take a refreshing swim in a tarn
- Amazing mountain views
- Spend the night in a hut
Day 1 – Birch Creek to Hideaway Hut
Having done most of the marked tracks in our area, we were looking for a suitable introduction into off-track hiking, picking our own route based on reading the map. When we spotted Hideaway Hut tucked behind a big hill halfway down the Ahuriri Valley, we quickly decided that this would be the perfect location to hone our navigational skills. I mean, who can resist the challenge of locating a bivvy called Hideaway Hut?
We started our trip from the car park near the mouth of Birch Creek, firstly making our way upstream to find a suitable place to cross the Ahuriri River. We ended up knee-deep in the water, but it was obvious the river would rise quickly after any period of rain. Once across, we picked our way through the marshy terrain, aiming for a derelict musterer’s hut we could see in the distance.
From this place, we had two options according to the map: make our way clockwise round the big hill, passing a tarn on our way, or head anti-clockwise upstream until we would find the hut. We opted for the tarn, which turned out to be the perfect spot for a snack and a swim.
From the tarn, it was only a short stretch of picking our way down the valley before we spotted the hut’s toilet on our far left and made our way over to our destination for the night.
Read more: Taking on New Zealand’s Te Whara Track
Hideaway Hut is thought to have been built in the 1890s, and the corrugated iron walls still contain etchings of the names and dates of sheep musterers that visited the hut in its early days. The hut is a historic gem and fascinating to see, but after reading reports of mice running across the bunks at night, we decided to pitch our tent instead.
The surrounding area offers lots of great tent sites, some of which are perfectly sheltered by the rock wall behind the hut. We ate our dinner while watching a pretty epic sunset, before disappearing into our tent for the night.
Read more: The Pinnacles Hut // NZ
Day 2 – Hideaway Hut to Birch Creek via Stony Peak
Happy with our off-trail navigation on the way to the hut, we decided to take it up a notch the next day and climb Stony Peak, a 1845m high, scree-covered peak on the ridge towards the east.
We started climbing the hill directly behind the hut, ascending steeply to Pt 1356. The steep climb rewarded us with great views down into the valley, as well as across to the mountains on the other side of the Ahuriri River. Following the ridge towards the north-east, we made our way to the spur we’d chosen to follow up to the saddle next to Stony Peak.
We were happy to see that the route which seemed to make the most sense on the map looked doable in real life as well, and swapped tussock for scree as we started to make our way up. Even though it didn’t take us long, this part of the route definitely felt like a slog, especially as the scree turned into bigger boulders as we neared the top.
The top of Stony Peak featured a few rocky outcrops which offered some shelter from the wind as we crouched down to have lunch. It was great to see the views on the other side of the ridge, catching a glimpse of Lake Ohau in the distance and scoping out some enticing tarns for future camping trips.
Stoked with the results of our off-trail navigation so far, we once again pulled out the map and picked a route along the ridge to make our way back to the hut. From Stony Peak, the ridge would make for an easy amble if it wasn’t for the strong winds we encountered. Dropping slightly and sidling just below the ridge, we were on the wide saddle below Pt 1539 in no time.
From here, the descent down to the river was quick and easy, with just a bit of bushbashing involved at the very bottom.
Once back on the valley floor, it was only 2km back to the hut, but due to the numerous stream crossings and prickly bushes dotted around, it felt much longer before we caught sight of the hut. With lots of daylight left, we decided to follow our footsteps from the previous day and make our way back to the car.
How To Get There
Take Birchwood Road from SH8, halfway between Omarama and Lindis Pass. After crossing Birch Stream, turn right towards the river to find the car park.
Distance Covered / Duration / Elevation Gain
Day 1: 7km / 2-3 hr / 223m
Day 2: 16km / 5-6.5 hr / 1,075m