Overnight at the Barker Hut

O'Malley's Track, Arthur's Pass, New Zealand

  • Activities:

    Photography, Backpacking, Hiking

  • Skill Level:


  • Season:

    Summer, Autumn

  • Trail Type:


  • RT Distance:

    29.8 Miles

  • Elevation Gain:

    3018.4 Feet


The Barker Hut, in the White River Valley of Arthur’s Pass National Park is known among backcountry trampers as one of the best in a country of over 1,000 huts of varying shapes and sizes.

Begin at Klondyke Corner if the Waimakariri is low or at the O'Malley's Track if the river is too high to ford safely. After walking through the Waimakariri River to the Carrington Hut and on up the White River Valley you’ll reach this tiny red hut that stands out in its precarious position as a sentinel above the White River. The route is marked and poled until you reach Carrington Hut (approximately 5 hours in). From here, cross the White River to the true left (either using the cable car or walking across) and follow intermittent cairns and a light track up the true left of the river. As you climb up the valley along the river bank you'll be treated to views of massive peaks and glaciers plus the rocky outcrop the holds the Barker Hut at the very head of the valley.

Continue up the valley on the true left and follow the route when it is visible. At times a path takes you through tussock slopes to avoid bluffed sections of the river bank. At the head of the valley the rock becomes steeper and waterfalls appear. The faint track leads up onto the hillside to the right to avoid these waterfalls and gorges. There is one creek crossing after this section that can be difficult in flood. ONLY attempt this route in low water conditions. There is no longer a bridge present although some old cairns may still lead the way to its old site. Therefore, cross where it appears easiest to do so - after descending a short chimney scree slope. From here, a cairned path leads up the rocky knoll that holds the hut.

Spend the night in this 10 bunk hut that is the highest in the park for the ultimate alpine experience complete with sheer peaks, incredible views over the river valley, and the company of the world’s only alpine parrot – the kea. Scramble to the summit of the unnamed peak directly behind the hut for one of the best sunset viewing spots in the Southern Alps.

Pack List

  • Backpacking gear
  • Camera
  • Tripod
  • Rain gear
  • Spare shoes to ford rivers
  • Map and navigation experience
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This hut really is spectacular; it easily lives up to its name as one of the best in New Zealand. However, the hike to get there is quite a slog. It's about 22km up from Klondyke Corner if you beeline straight across the Waimakariri River which is much much quicker and easier than taking the high, bumpy, and dry(ish) O'Malley's Track up the valley if the Waimakariri is high. However, if you do want to beeline up the Waimakariri River valley give up on the idea of dry shoes. It is also probably not worth your time to change shoes every river crossing since, if you take the most direct line, there are about 15-20 of them (however the water can feel quite nice on a hot day and it gets quite enjoyable after the first dip!) It takes about 3-4 hours from Klondyke corner to the Carrington Hut this way. From Carrington you can then slog another 3-4 hours across rock and through shoulder high scrub to reach Barker Hut but I don't recommend it - spend the extra day, stay at Carrington Hut the first night, and then make the trip to Barker on the morning of the second day and spend the afternoon exploring the beautiful ridges and glaciers around Barker - trust me, you don't want to arrive exhausted and have to leave the next day. Use your third day to hike out from Barker back to Klondyke Corner. Finally, some last thoughts: this hut rocks, but the effort required to get there should give you pause if you're on a tight time schedule (consider the Brewester Hut in Haast for a easier option), you need to have advanced route finding experience, you need to have a clear weather window, and for bonus points try starting the hike by with a summit of Avalanche Peak and then drop down its west scree face into the Crow Valley below (details on the DOC website). Here's some more information on the route to Barker Hut (although unless you have superhuman strength don't pay attention to the times... http://tramper.nz/1561/)

almost 2 years ago
almost 2 years ago

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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