Hike the Rees Track to the Cascade Saddle

Muddy Creek Car Park, Mount Earnslaw, New Zealand

  • Activities:

    Backpacking

  • Skill Level:

    Advanced

  • Season:

    Spring, Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:

    Point-to-Point

  • RT Distance:

    33.6 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    4921.3 Feet

Lake
River
Scenic
Wildlife

This 4 day/3 night backpacking trip treks over 2 saddles and by a glacier with unparalleled views from the Cascade Saddle. Plan to spend a few nights in the huts along the route.

The Rees Track and Cascade Saddle Route is located in the heart of Mt. Aspiring National Park. This backpacking trip brings together 2 different routes to make a unique and awesome trip through stunning mountain scenery, alpine vegetation, past the Dart Glacier, and over the unforgettable Cascade Saddle.

Day 1: Muddy Creek to Shelter Rock Hut: 19km, 6-8 hours

From the Muddy Creek Car Park there is a vehicle track from Muddy Creek that follows marker polls through a boggy section with river crossings. The first part of this hike is relatively flat and is through privately owned land so it's important to keep in mind and be respectful of the land. Keep following the marked polls up a grassy flat to the park boundary. From the park boundary you continue following the trail where you will come to a swing bridge to cross the Rees River. After the river crossing the path will take you on an incline through Beech forest and across several gullies. Once you get about 30 minutes outside of the forested area you will cross another bridge to get to the east side of the river and to the Shelter Rock Hut. This hut has 22 bunks to stay the night in or you can set up your tent just outside of it.

Day 2: Shelter Rock Hut to Dart Hut: 10km, 4-6 hours

The route between the two huts is rather narrow with several steep drop-offs. Follow Rees River as the track goes through brush then rises about 100 meters above the river. The track continues to follow the river bed until you reach the steep ascent to the Rees Saddle. To get to the saddle is an exhausting 1471km climb over rough, rocky terrain. The track is only lightly marked, but it follows along the bluff on the left. From the Saddle follow the orange markers along the descent to Snowy creek. The route crosses steep slopes than can be dangerous depending on rain and snow. You'll finally reach another bridge to cross Snowy Creek and go on a final sharp descent to the Dart Hut (32 bunks).

Day 3: Dart Hut to Cascade Saddle: 10km, 4-5 hours

From this point you break off from the Rees-Dart Track and head onto the Cascade Saddle Route. I really want to emphasize that this portion of the hike should only be for people with advanced navigation skills and backcountry experience. From the Dart Hut follow the trail that leads along the Dart river until you reach the Dart Glacier. Just below the Cascade Saddle and near the Dart Glacier is where we set up camp for the night. There are no designated spots here, so which ever piece of flat land you can find should work best. Beware of the Kea birds when you're camping here. These birds are mountain parrots and are considered incredibly mischievous. I left a pair of sandals outside of my tent and a Kea snatched one right up!

Day 4: Cascade Saddle to Raspberry Creek Car Park: 15km, 6-8 hours

This is by far the most challenging day of the backpack, not only because it is the last day but because you have the descent from the Cascade Saddle. From the saddle is the most rewarding view point of the whole trip and can see across the expansive Matukituki Valley. Make sure you take in the sights because you're in for one hell of a descent. This part of the route is layered with sheer cliffs, large path drop offs, and paired with a 1500 meter descent to the valley floor. Take extreme caution when heading down this path, always check for sure footing, and take your time. Once you reach the valley floor you'll continue to follow the Matukituki River until you reach the Raspberry Creek Car Park where hopefully you have transportation from there to Wanaka, the nearest town.

Pack List

  • Food for 4 days
  • Water bottle
  • Water treatment
  • Tent
  • Sleeping bag
  • Sleeping pad
  • Warm clothes
  • Tough hiking shoes
  • Lots of socks!
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Did this trail last year and I can truly say it was one of (if not the best) views of my life. From atop the cascade saddle on a blue sky day. It doesn't get better than that. Kea's playing around and panoramic vistas for days. Truly incredible.

about 1 year ago
about 1 year ago

This is an awesome adventure with its only downside being the transport logistics since the start and finish are quite far apart. I packed light and did it over a single night, staying at Dart hut, but both days were long.

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

Korey Taylor Explorer

The very basic core of a man's living spirit is his passion for adventure. The joy of life comes from our encounters with new experiences, and hence there is no greater joy than to have an endlessly changing horizon, for each day to have a new and different sun.

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