• Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    13 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    2000 Feet

Swimming Hole

This one or two night tramping trip at the foot of the Southern Alps provides fantastic high mountain views and wild river valley splendor while overnight huts provide character and history.

Begin this two night (one night option) tramping trip from the Bealey Bridge over the Waimakariri River – approximately 8 kilometers south of Arthur’s Pass. If river levels are low and you prefer cutting through the river valley itself – crossing the Waimak at need – begin at Klondyke Corner. A sign indicates the short road to the car park opposite the Klondyke Corner camping area. Otherwise, if you prefer to follow a track or if the river is high, continue driving across the bridge and look carefully for a right-hand turn seemingly into the forest as you exit the one-way bridge. The sign reads, “O’Malley’s Track” and the small car park follows tucked into the bush at the edge of the river.

The track is straightforward – at worst digressing into intermittent poles with orange tops that are visible from a distance when the track skirts the river bed through grass. It is a lovely 4-6 hour walk to Carrington Hut along this track with periods of beech forest track broken by open swaths of country providing big views across the Waimak Valley to glacier-hung peaks beyond. You really feel the sense of walking into the mountains as you round bends and find yourself ever so slightly more encircled by scree-top slopes and eventually jagged rises capped in snow. At 2 1/2 hours in you’ll reach the tiny Anti Crow Hut – the more or less halfway point to Carrington. As the name suggests, this hut is at the toe of a valley directly opposite the Crow Valley that now steals attention across the Waimak with the glistening Crow Glacier on Mount Rolleston. Either follow the small track through the forest to continue on or skirt around through the dry river bed to pick up the poled route shortly.

A brief marshy section and a small river crossing are the only challenges along the second half of the journey to Carrington. In and out of the forest and around a few more bends in the main channel of the Waimak leads to Carrington Hut tucked into the forest edge just at the meeting of the White River with the Waimak. An incredibly spacious hut of 36 bunks awaits and makes for a fine place to spend a first night. Hut tickets or an annual hut pass purchased in advance from the Department of Conservation (DOC) visitor center are required for an overnight stay. The Carrington Hut is a place of history and many famous tramping routes take off from its doorstep. Take note of the ample route descriptions and historical anecdotes. *One night option* - push on to the Waimak Falls Hut following the description below:

The Waimak Falls Hut lies a further three or so hours up the Waimak Valley. Follow the track from the front door of the Carrington Hut past the sign to leave the forest and reach the rocky bank of the White River. Large rock cairns indicate the way to what is probably the easiest crossing point. However, keep in mind that river channels change and that your own best judgement is required when choosing where to cross. This trip is only possible when river levels are normal and if the White River is in flood do not cross – even by the Clough Cableway further upstream – as this means the rest of your travel will be difficult. If river levels are low or normal, cross the White River and continue up the true right of the Waimak where you’ll soon find orange triangles marking a path through the forest. The river valley of the Waimak is much narrower here and its glacial blue waters are often visible through the trees. After an hour or less you’ll break out from the trees and begin to climb up-valley beyond the bushline itself. Impressive views of Carrington Peak dominate straight ahead while waterfalls grab your peripheral vision from left to right. The track continues to a small cascade and blue pool of the river PERFECT for icy swimming. Cross here if you’d like to cut a corner in the river following the poles or otherwise stick to the true right and follow cairns until the two ways meet shortly.

At 2-2 ½ hours in you’ll begin to climb and leave the river below. The river now creates an impressive gorge with waterfalls spilling in from above and the namesake Waimak Falls at the head. The rugged grandeur of the scenery may give you cause for a break as the track continues to climb through beautiful alpine herb fields to a lofty single-person suspension bridge above what is now a tiny Waimak River. Use the bridge or walk through the water to reach the track on the other side and climb the last short distance to the expansive alpine basin that holds the Waimak Falls Hut. The little red hut is instantly visible set in front of a backdrop of the Southern Alps – Waimak Col directly beyond and towering Mount Rolleston to the right. Enjoy the mischievous kea who reside in this valley and settle in for sunset views right from the front window of the hut. Waimak Falls Hut is an absolutely magic place to spend the night.

Retrace your steps and return down-valley to reach the O’Malley’s carpark or Klondyke Corner (allow 8-9 hours). 

Pack List

  • Hut pass or tickets from DOC for Carrington Hut
  • Sturdy tramping boots
  • Sleeping bag
  • Rain gear
  • Cooking supplies
  • Warm layers
  • Camera
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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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