Backpack to Adelaide Tarn

Rate this Adventure New Zealand Boulder Lake Carpark

Added by Crystal Brindle

This remote and idyllic alpine tarn in the depths of New Zealand’s second largest national park is known only to locals and committed visitors who do their homework.

See "Backpack to Boulder Lake for the first half of this trip. From Boulder Lake Hut cross the stream in the direction indicated by the sign at the most advantageous point. There is no evident trail through the tussock so make your way to the spur at the head of the valley that leads to Green Saddle in the best way you can. There is a marsh not far from the hut that can be skirted by sticking to the forest edge on the east side of the valley. We found it easiest to walk through the forest (which is very open) until the undergrowth became thick near the valley head. At this point we exited and only bashed through tussock for a few minutes before finding a clear trail leading up the spur. Once at the base of the spur the path is cairned and easy to follow. Follow this small path as it climbs out of the valley. Stick to the largest and most obvious path as it crests the saddle. From here you begin your first sidle along the ridge east toward the tarn. There are decent cairns the entire way but the path becomes faint when it dips into the scrub.

There are plenty of great views to be had along this ridge as it is mostly an open traverse. Keep an eye out for the rugged Dragons Teeth that are much sharper and more obvious than the surrounding mountains. This is considered the first of two sidles to reach the Needles Eye. Following this faint path and intermittent cairns you will drop into the forest and then climb up through open tussock – effectively beginning the second sidle. The path takes you beneath the obvious rock ribs that you can see from afar. The faint path ends at the base of a vegetated flax-filled gulley that you ascend to reach the Needles Eye saddle. From here descend directly to the basin that contains Adelaide Tarn. You will see the tarn and the Dragon’s Teeth beyond as you descend. This route takes approximately 5-6 hours from Boulder Lake Hut. Other options exist for access from Anatoki Forks Hut over Yuletide Peak.

Pack List

  • Map and navigation aid
  • Tent as backup
  • camera
  • sleeping bag
  • rain gear
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Backpacking, Hiking, Photography

Skill Level:



Summer, Autumn

Trail Type:



5 Miles

Elev. Gain:

1213.9 Feet



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Added by Crystal Brindle

I'm Crystal, a park ranger for the National Park Service in the United States and the Department of Conservation in New Zealand - you'll find me floating between hemispheres as the seasons change. I am an avid landscape photographer and wilderness explorer committed to capturing the scenes and moments that inspire me and require dedication to experience. Living in national parks throughout my life, I've developed a deep appreciation for the natural world. This appreciation drives my passion for protecting wild places today. My first job as a ranger in Rocky Mountain National Park inspired me to spend my time exploring the depths of the park’s wilderness and instilled a sense of adventure that extends into all areas of my life. I now actively seek backcountry recreation that takes me into remote corners of mountainous regions all over the world. I have had the opportunity to live and work in some of the most intriguing places our world has to offer - from the high places of Colorado, to the South Island of New Zealand, to the rugged Alaska Peninsula, and many locations in between. I feel that the only way to truly get to know a place is to meet it on its own terms and to embrace its challenges through which its beauty is revealed. To me this is the definition of wilderness and the foundation of my photography.
 Since I began this journey of photography three years ago, I have honed my interests to focus on high-alpine mountain landscapes inaccessible to all except those who travel on foot. These are the landscapes that captivate me. I feel drawn to share their remarkable qualities through the visual narrative of photography and short stories of personal experience. This is a craft that I am refining daily and my photography is only a work-in-progress but I feel that this effort is worthwhile as I strive to let the landscape tell its own story and act as a vector for its message. 
 What's next? After a summer of living with brown bears and climbing mountains under the midnight sun in Katmai National Park and Preserve on the Alaska Peninsula, I'm heading back to New Zealand to further explore the wonders of the South Island and work as a Hut Warden on the Heaphy Track in Kahurangi National Park.

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