Mount Aspiring National Park is one of New Zealand’s largest national parks. It is at the southern end of the Southern Alps and offers some of the country’s leading hiking tracks including the Routeburn, and Rees-Dart Tracks.
Backpacker Express (tel (03) 441 0303) runs shuttle buses from Glenorchy to the main hiking tracks.
The Siberia Experience (tel (03) 443 8666 or 0800 345 666) trip allows you to get a good feel for the park in just four hours. It starts off with a 25-minute scenic flight that lands in the Siberia Valley and is followed by a three-hour hike to the Wilkin River and ends with a 30-minute jet boat ride to Makaroa. This trip costs $270.
The Rees and Dart Tracks (72km, 4-5 days) combine to form a semi-loop along the Rees and Dart River Valleys.
It is a moderately difficult track and most days average six to eight hours of walking.
Backpacker Express (tel (03) 441 0303) runs shuttle buses to the track from Glenorchy and there is also the option of a jet boat transfer as far as Sandy Bluff on the Dart River.
The first section involves walking along the often muddy Rees River Valley.
This challenging route connects the Rees and Dart Tracks. It is not very well marked and involves climbing the Rees Saddle. It is possible to make a day trip to Dart Glacier from Dart Hut.
The track goes through beech forest and across the grassy 4km-wide Cattle Flat as it follows the Dart River.
The track follows the Dart River to the road end at Chinamans Bluff. It is possible to save three to four hours walking and be picked up by jet boat at Sandy Bluff.
Only a tiny part of the Greenstone and Caples Tracks lie within Mount Aspiring National Park, but they are still regarded as some of New Zealand’s major walks. The tracks follow the Caples and Greenstone River valleys and there is an option of combining one of the two tracks with the Routeburn Track.
Although the Greenstone and Caples Tracks are two separate walks, they are often combined to make a loop (50km, 4-5 days).
Backpacker Express (tel (03) 441 0303) run shuttle buses to the track from Glenorchy.
The track follows the Caples River to Upper Caples Hut, passing Mid Caples Hut after 2½ hours.
The track becomes rougher as it climbs through beech forest and crosses the McKellar Saddle before a steep descent to Lake McKellar and McKellar Hut.
This section is a relatively easy walk along the Greenstone River valley.
The final stretch of the Greenstone Track follows the Greenstone River past Sly Burn Hut and through a long narrow gorge. After the junction with the Caples River, it’s just a short walk to the road end.
The Routeburn Track (33km, 3 days) is the shortest of DOC’s Great Walks and is among the most popular with around 13,000 people hiking it each year. That makes it almost as popular as the Milford Track. It traverses both the Fiordland and Mount Aspiring National Parks.
You can walk the track in either direction and some people combine this track with the Caples or Greenstone Tracks. The following route describes the track, starting from the eastern trailhead near Glenorchy.
Backpacker Express (tel (03) 441 0303) operates transport from Queenstown and Glenorchy to the eastern trailhead and TrackNet (tel (03) 249 7777) run buses between the Divide and Te Anau and will also take you back to Queenstown. The Routeburn is a one-way track with around 350km of road between the two trailheads and transport can cost around $100 if you want to return to your starting point after hiking the track.
Bookings for hut accommodation on the Routeburn Track are required during peak season (Nov-Apr) when the huts cost $45 per night. Huts cost just $15 per night off-season.
The first part of the track is mostly easy walking. After two to three hours it passes the Routeburn Flats Hut and starts a steady climb for an hour or so before reaching the Routeburn Falls Hut.
This exposed alpine section starts off with a climb past Routeburn Falls to Lake Harris and then follows the mountainside to Lake Mackenzie. This is the highest section of the track and during this section it crosses between Mount Aspiring and Fiordland National Parks.
The track gradually descends to Howden Hut at the junction where the Routeburn and Greenston/Caples Tracks cross. It then climbs for around 20 minutes before the descent to the end of the track at the Divide.