You’d think that as NZ’s second-largest national park, Kahurangi National Park would have something for everyone. But four increasingly difficult hut hikes, all going up the same mountain? Yep! Head to Mt Arthur and choose your ascent!
- Exploring one of New Zealand’s greatest national parks
- Spending the night in front of the fire in a classic backcountry hut
- Pick and choose the perfect adventure for you and your mates
- Summiting Mt Arthur at 1795 metres and enjoying the epic, rewarding view
Climbing Mt Arthur On New Zealand’s South Island
As New Zealand’s second-largest national park, Kahurangi National Park has a huge diversity on landscapes on offer. Bush, mountains, caves, alpine plateaus and empty valleys cut by ice-age glaciers are just a few of the things to expect when you’re off exploring in this area.
A good place to get familiar with Kahurangi is the Mount Arthur area, offering a mix of beech forests, limestone rock formations, alpine tree groves and expansive views across Tasman Bay.
The best thing is that Mt Arthur allows you to enjoy the area, whatever your skill level. I’ve broken up the activities based on skill level below, so you’ve got no excuse!
‘I’m Not Really A Hiker’
Perhaps you’re recovering from an injury, or you’re only just getting back into hiking. Or maybe you want to train the kids up for multi-day hikes without having to drag them up a mountain.
Don’t worry, Flora Hut is just the thing for you! With the climbing pretty much done in your car on your way up, all that’s left is a 2km stroll through the forest with minimal elevation gain.
The hut itself is situated in a grassy field and has two rooms with six bunks and an open fireplace each. You’ll also find an outside tap, a longdrop toilet and a resident weka (or more accurately, he’ll find you and your unsupervised stuff). There’s space for camping too.
What more do you need? Let the kids run loose, get that fire cranking and reward yourself with all the luxury food and drinks you managed to bring on that effortless walk in!
‘Let’s Keep Things Nice & Easy’
If you’re still building up your fitness then the Mt Arthur Hut hike is for you. From Flora Carpark there’s a cruisy, well-maintained track that leads through the beech forest up to the hut, which sits at 1300 metres.
Climbing up the track can feel a bit like a slog but the grade is good, so it won’t feel too steep. Just before the hut, the forest opens up and if you’re lucky with the weather, you’ll have amazing views down to Nelson and beyond.
Mt Arthur Hut makes for a great destination to have lunch or to spend the night. The hut sleeps eight, so it might fill up quick during sunny weekends. Since there’s no booking system, it might pay to leave early or pack a tent just in case.
With this track being accessible in most types of weather and with the luxury of a fireplace, Mt Arthur Hut makes for a perfect winter overnighter, as it’ll be much more likely that you’ll have the hut all to yourself.
Winter tip: You’ll need a 4WD and possibly snow chains to get to Flora Carpark in the winter.
‘Nah, I’m Up For A Challenge’
If the track up to Mt Arthur Hut felt like the perfect warm-up for you, have a snack and a cuppa before continuing along the track towards the summit of Mt Arthur. Don’t be fooled, within minutes of leaving the hut, the well-maintained path will be a distant memory as you find yourself on a proper tramping track.
What follows is a 5km mission along the ridge, followed by a sidle and a rock scramble, all through exposed and rocky terrain. Pretty straightforward on a nice, sunny day but not a place you want to be in high winds or a whiteout, so make sure to pick the right weather window.
The summit itself is pretty flat, making it perfect to wander around and soak in the view in every direction, or to have an outdoor nap. If it’s not too windy, you can have an extended lunch break on the summit, otherwise it’s nicer to drop down again and use Winter Peak for shelter.
To make your way down, just retrace your steps past Mt Arthur Hut back to Flora Carpark, or turn left just above the hut and head past Flora Hut before returning to the carpark (this track has a steep and gnarly descent with lots of tree roots, but from Flora Hut it’s an easy walk out).
‘Give Me Some Type II Fun!’
Keen to take it even further than ‘just’ climbing Mt Arthur? With the right level of fitness, gear and navigation skills, you might have what it takes to do a mission out to Ellis Hut. Head to the summit of Mt Arthur as above, but on your way down, turn right at the first junction, heading towards Ellis Basin.
Don’t let the sign stating it’s a mere hour fool you, you’ll probably need a bit more time as this might well be the steepest descent you have ever done. This route is classified as an ‘Expert Route’ by DOC, which can be translated as ‘non-existent track: good luck’.
The start is easy enough as you pick your way up and over Winter Peak (1750m). The first bit of the descent can be tackled with a scree run, or you can head down in a more considerate way by using the tussock next to the scree field. At the bottom of the scree, head right to the point where the ground seems to drop away into nowhere. Make your way down into nowhere.
Seriously, from here you just bushbash to the bottom of the basin where you will find the hut. Choose whatever method you prefer. I tried the hanging-onto-the-tussock-for-dear-life and the (in)voluntary-sliding-down-on-your-bum, both of which are not recommended due to the spiky spaniard grass.
Once you’re down, follow the stream until you reach the hut. Have a swim and celebrate making it down in one piece by having your favourite freeze-dried meal. The hut sleeps six but is hardly visited, so no need to rush to secure your bunk. There are some nice camping spots next to the stream as well.
Check the weather! Make sure the weather is cooperating when you decide to do this trip. Bad weather, including high winds or low clouds, will make it impossible to make your way up and over the ridge so you might get stuck in the hut for a day. Check the weather, bring an extra day of food and take a PLB (for hire in Nelson).
- Hiking boots with good grip on a rocky ground
- Plenty of food and water
- Toilet paper (there is a longdrop toilet at both of the huts)
- Topographic map and/or GPS
- First aid kit
- Personal Locator Beacon (essential for option 3 & 4)
- Warm and windproof jacket and wet weather gear
- Sunscreen and hat
- Torch or headlamp
- Optional but highly recommended: walking poles
If Staying Overnight:
- Sleeping bag
- Cooking stove and food for several days
- Lighter and firestarters
- Backcountry hut tickets
- Scrambling/climbing (option 3 & 4)
- Sleeping in a hut
Option 1: Beginner
Option 2: Intermediate
Option 3: Advanced
Option 4: Expert
Distance Covered / Elevation Gain / Duration
Option 1: 2km / 83m / 30 minutes (one-way)
Option 2: 4.5km / 370m / 1.5 hour (one-way)
Option 3: 9.5km / 865m / 3-4 hours (one-way)
Option 4: 13km / 980m / 6-7 hours (one-way)
How To Get There
Even the drive up to the carpark is an adventure in itself! Graham Valley Road is partially unsealed and particularly steep and narrow in places. New Zealand’s Department of Conservation recommends a 4WD, which is an excellent idea in my opinion.
From the highway linking Nelson and Motueka, turn off at Ngatimoti and cross the river. Turn left onto Motueka River West Bank Road, then right into Graham Valley Road. At the end of the road you’ll find Flora Carpark, which is about 75km from Nelson and 36km from Motueka.