• Activities:

    Camping, Photography, Backpacking, Hiking, Fitness

  • Skill Level:

    Intermediate

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Out-and-Back

  • RT Distance:

    22.4 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3937 Feet

Forest
Lake
Scenic
Waterfall
Wildflowers
Wildlife

This overnight backpacking trip in the New Zealand Wilderness offers hut accommodations and scenic lake, sunset, and jagged peak views.

The common route to Boulder Lake - via Brown Cow Ridge - begins at a small and slightly obscure trailhead near the town of Bainham which is approximately a 20 minute drive from the coastal town of Collingwood in the Tasman region. The trailhead only accommodates parking for perhaps two vehicles - but this shouldn't be a problem due to its limited visitation. The first 5 km (3 miles) of the trail is a wide track that leads into native forest. The trail then becomes more narrow and remains in the trees as it climbs in elevation. Most of this trail provides little views and can get tiresome after awhile. But, once you reach bushline the views are truly phenomenal. Hang in there!

From Brown Cow Saddle, the trail sidles along steep scree and becomes a route marked only by orange poles. These are easy enough to follow and soon lead back to a trail that descends to Boulder Lake. The view from this section of the trail above the lake is the best on the trip so be sure to take the time to soak it in. The peaks in the distance are the famed Dragons Teeth and provide a wonderful background for the lake cirque.

The trail descends to the lake and then travels directly on the lake shore around to the hut on the far side. Look for the orange triangles that mark the route and when in doubt stick to the shoreline. On my visit I enjoyed complete solitude at the hut but be aware that there may be others whom you share the quarters with. Camping is allowed anywhere around the hut where you can find a flat place among the tussock. The hut (8 bunks) is considered standard and only requires one backcountry hut ticket worth $5 NZD. There is a lovely waterfall near the hut that serves as a drinking water source.

Pack List

  • Sleeping bag
  • Backpack
  • Warm layers
  • Camera
  • NZ Topo map (Gouland Downs)
  • Hut ticket – purchased at any DOC visitor center
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Please respect the places you find on The Outbound.

Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures. Be aware of local regulations and don't damage these amazing places for the sake of a photograph. Learn More

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Crystal Brindle Explorer

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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