Added by Alex Tande
The highest point in the Marlborough Sounds offers an incredible view of the sounds, the Cook Straight, and even can see views of the North Island. The track itself is an awesome track that picks its way through native bush and near the top ends in gorgeous forest before you summit and see the views.
The real adventure is driving to the start of this track. While driving along the Queen Charlotte Drive, the little town called Linkwater has the access road the Mahau and Keneperu Sounds via the Keneperu Road. Warning: There is no petrol along the Keneperu Road, so if you are running low, I would suggest filling up in Linkwater before driving out. Heading out the Keneperu road, you will follow the twisty winding road for quite some ways. It is slow going, the road is very narrow at points, please be cautious of other vehicles, especially with trailers. You will follow the road until you come to a "Y" intersection with a whole bunch of yellow signs pointing in different directions. Turn RIGHT (Towards Punga Cove) at this intersection. It will turn into a gravel road as you roll past pastures filled with lots of sheep. Follow this road up a big hill towards Punga Cove. Once you have reached Punga, keep going past it for a bit more. You will come to a "T" intersection, this is the parking lot! When you reach the "T" intersection, look behind you, there will be the green and yellow DOC sign marking the start of the track.
Starting along the track, the first 30 minutes or so is pretty sketchy footing. Lots of rocks, roots, and odd foot placements. Do take your time and be cautious with foot placements. After this initial section the trail widens and flattens for a short bit before starting the steady climb to the top.
The climb starts through native New Zealand bush with plenty of tree ferns, ferns, and mosses to keep you company as you amble under the canopy. Mostly a dirt track, so there were some patches of muddy, wet spots. Because there is so much shade, I imagine it takes a long time for these spots to dry out, so be prepared for some mud. As the climb works upwards, the dirt is replaced with rocks and roots. Some sections are totally choked with roots twisting and winding their way across the trail. This is an obvious sign that you are leaving the ferns behind and reaching more of a forest.
As you are reaching the forest, keep a sharp eye for the trail and for the orange DOC triangles leading the way. The trail does become less obvious and there were multiple times where the track appeared to gone way when in fact it went the other. Generally all the side tracks lead back to the main track, but do your best to stay on the main track to protect the environment and prevent more and more erosion form occurring. As you climb closer to the top, the beech trees become more and more gnarled looking. The last little bit before the summit is an awesome grove of trees!
Strolling out of the trees brings you to the summit of Mt. Stokes. The views are truly incredible. The summit offers views of the sounds, the North Island, Picton perfectly nestled in the harbor, and on clear days you can even see all the way to Nelson Bay. Enjoy the summit, please don't have a rush to depart and head home. If you are properly equipped with lighting, watching the sun hit the sounds in the late evening is absolutely incredible. For the very confident in route finding and footing, Mt. Stokes offers the most incredible views for stars. With almost nothing to block the sky, the stars are truly magnificent.
A few things to consider for this track. My first attempt left me very disappointed as the weather changed drastically from when I started on the track to when I reached the summit. Clouds and fog blew in and obscured all views. When I started it was bright and sunny and in the matter of an hour and a half, I couldn't see more than 5 meters in front of me. Be very aware of weather predictions and conditions as you do this hike. The second is that there are parts of the track that is not very well marked by DOC, if ever you are unsure, scan for the orange triangles, there are enough that you will be able to find the track, but they are not the most obvious. This is especially important if you are going to stay at the summit for sunset or for stars. The darkness adds an entirely new element that must be considered carefully.
A great track with spectacular views. A trip highly recommend if you are in the area!!
- Water, and lots of it
- Sturdy footwear, water proof and sturdy are suggested
- Spare clothing for changing weather conditions
- Plenty of petrol for the car
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