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Nelson Lakes National Park, New Zealand

Hike the Mount Robert Circuit

5.6 Miles Total - 1902.9 ft gain - Loop Trail

Originally added by Tiffany Young

This circuit makes you feel like you are so far away from civilization, but when you look south towards Lake Rotoiti and realized the small town of St. Arnaud is right there, you'll be so grateful for this kind of access to pure nature!

Nelson Lakes National Park is famous for the overnight trip to Lake Angelus Hut, but without the right experience it is a dangerous track. So a simpler alternative is the Mount Robert Circuit which can be done as a day tramp or turn it into an awesome backpacking trip by staying at Bushline Hut. And honestly, if you have an extra day to spare I would highly recommend because ya know... when is a hut trip ever a bad idea?

The Mount Robert Circuit (as known as Pourangahau) is a very well maintained track with poled orange markers and some tree markers. Be aware, a lot of this circuit is scree so be careful on the exposed areas if conditions aren't ideal. The Department of Conservation (DOC) estimates this circuit takes about 5 hours to complete.

Getting there

Coming from the town of St. Arnaud, stick on SH 63 going west for about 2 miles then you will see Mt Robert Rd to the left. Follow the road for about 4.9 km and get to the Mt Robert Carpark.

If you are coming during colder conditions, be sure to check before hand because sometime the gate at the bottom of Mt Robert Rd may be closed due to icy roads.

There are two ways to take on this loop:

1. Paddy's Track to Pinchgut Track.
2. Vis versa.

My recommendation: Walk 500m back down from the carpark and start at the Paddy's Track. Not only because you can avoid going up the gnarly switchback on your first half, but because you'll start your day with such an epic and scenic route. You'll be so entertained as you trek across the mountain face before even thinking about cruising down the zigzags of Pinchgut at the end of your trek. Take care of your knees though!

The Paddy's Track

Starting on Paddy's Track is quite pleasant. Instead of those switchbacks, you'll have a steady climb to the hut with so many different views. You'll start in the bushes for a short distance and get little peeps of Lake Rotoiti along the way. Once the trees open up, be aware with the exposed terrain that sun will burn. Toss on another layer of sunscreen when necessary.

The track with bring you to the Lakeside Track so be sure to stay on the Paddy's Track which is about 4km to Bushline Hut.

Staying or Visiting the Bushline Hut

Bushline Hut rest at a beautiful 1,280m with perfect views of Lake Rotoiti and the St. Arnaud Range. The hut will have:

  • Heating provided by a wood burner. Wood can be found outside the hut, though supplies may be limited during certain times of the year.
  • 14 mattresses in a bunk setting and outside camping space available.
  • Water from rain tank. Water is untreated, so be sure to boil first.
  • Two long drop toilets outside to the right of the hut with a sweet mountain backdrop.
  • There is a sink, but make sure to bring your own cooking setup if you're staying the night.
  • Booking is not required but it is first come, first served so if you are planning to stay during peak season be sure to get there early. Before your trek, go to your nearest Department of Conversation office (there is one in the town of St. Arnaud) and buy a ticket, which you put into the Honesty Box inside the hut.
    • Paying for huts are essential if you use and appreciate the backcountry access. New Zealand huts provide a beautiful experience in places that normally wouldn't have firewood ready, clean long drops, and more. Please do your part.

Adult (18+ years): $15 per night | Youth (11 - 17 years): $7.50 per night | Child/Infant (0 - 10 years): free

After Bushline hut, it is about another 5km to finish the circuit. The track continues on between the hut and toilets and it will move into the trees for a short distance before the track opens up again to exposed terrain. The Paddy's Track will meet a "T" junction with the Pinchgut Track and you will continue right.

Fun fact: Mt Robert use to have a ski area! As you continue behind the hut, you'll notice a small historical hut to the left. The curious little building which remains locked is called the Kea Hut and it accommodated the people who first skied the area in 1931. Unfortunately, due to the lack of snow, the ski area had to close in 2003. Pretty cool, huh?! You should totally read more about it here.

Optional Track: Mt Robert Ridge Route

At the "T" junction of the Paddy's Track and Pinchgut Track, the rest of your trek is only down from here. So if you want to add to the adventure (and another 100m elevation or so), take a left at the junction for a small experience of Mt Robert's epic ridge. You won't regret it!

When you get to the top you'll reach what is called the 2nd Basin and some old buildings in it. Remember that ski field I was talking about? Those buildings are from the old Mt Robert Ski Field! The track continues on as the ridge will eventually bring you to the famous Lake Angelus Hut which needs to be reserved ahead of time.

Return back to the circuit the way you came and keep going straight at the junction.

The Pinchgut Track

From here on, it's pretty straight forward. Walk south and it will take you back down to the carpark. Along the way you will pass the Relax Shelter sitting at 1425m and it'll be a gradual descend until you get to the treeline where the switchbacks are sharp and steep. If you have knee problems, make sure you have a brace because my knees sure weren't too happy after this!

DOC can read minds because there are a lot of good lookout points on this part of the Pinchgut for you to enjoy the view/take a break.

On a sunny day with little breeze, once you are out of the zigzagging track and back in the trees, the shade will be a sweet ending to a great tramp.

Lastly, before you hit up this new adventure:

  • Check the weather forecast. Especially since most of this walk is extremely exposed, you should always know what kind conditions you may face.
  • Pack all the essentials you need whether you're staying overnight or just doing a day trip. Enough water is essential and so is a rubbish bag.
  • Whether you are staying the night or just visiting the hut, be sure to write in the logbook. You never know what can happen so any note helps.
  • Dog friends are not welcomed in the National Parks, please keep them at home for the sake of conversation and preservation!
  • It has been common for Te Araroa walkers to get off track a little bit and take this circuit to Lake Angelus Hut onto the Cascade Track instead of following the lake edge. So don't be surprised if a large party shows up at some point!

Stoked to share this adventure as it was one of my favorite. Hope you'll love it just as much.

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Tags

Fitness
Chillin
Camping
Photography
Backpacking
Hiking
Bathrooms
Easy Parking
Family Friendly
Scenic

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Always practice Leave No Trace ethics on your adventures and follow local regulations. Please explore responsibly!

We want to acknowledge and thank the past, present, and future generations of all Native Nations and Indigenous Peoples whose ancestral lands we travel, explore, and play on.

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