One of New Zealand's most popular one day walks. A relentless uphill to the Selfie capital of NZ. Then a bit further to the antenna at the top. And all those feelings of why you decided to visit New Zealand in the first place come flooding in. Some days it feels good to be alive. Up here will make it one of those days.
This is a working station. The track is closed from 1st October to 10th November.
Get yourself to the top for sunrise. Cool in every sense of the word.
From Wanaka head towards Glendhu Bay for 5 km and the parking area at the start of the track is signposted on the left.
This has recently undergone a makeover and is huge. On a busy day, not huge enough.
There are toilets near the start of the track.
This is a steady grunt through the grass and tussocks to the summit ridge. DoC recently sent a bulldozer up, so for the first 80% of the climbs it’s a highway. A few muddy patches and sheep to negotiate, but no drama.
There is no shade on the climb and in mid-summer you must be covered and take plenty of water.
From the selfie spot (where toilets have just been installed), the track weaves behind the face and opens up views through the Motutapu. Mount Aspiring is clear on a good day.
At the summit, you realise why over 60,000 walkers per year think it is worthwhile to get themselves here.
Like most of the area, the Haast Schist is a metamorphosed sedimentary rock, laid down as thick layers of mud and marine sand on the Pacific Ocean bed around 250 million years ago. As the weight of overlying layers accumulated the rocks were depressed into areas of great depth, where increased pressure and heat metamorphosed the layers to the mica-schists of today. These blocks of rock were later upthrust and levelled by erosional processes during Mesozoic times. As the rock reformed it was inter-bedded with layers of quartz. These veins not only provide the mesmerising linear patterns, but contained the gold on which later exploration of the land was grounded.
The mountain ranges we tramp through today had their genesis around 5 million years ago. River systems developed along lines of weakness in the rock and have since been exaggerated by a series of glacial advances.
The first Maori tribes said to have visited the region were Waitaha. They were later usurped by Ngati Mamoe and later Ngai Tahu.
Waitaha stories are contentious and there are many differing accounts of their origin. Te Rakaihautu was said to have landed the Uruao canoe in Tasman Bay around 850 AD and been responsible for the formation of many land features on Te Wai Pounamu (the South Island). He was like a demi-god.
Over 20 generations later, the descendant O Roko te Whatu lived near Wanaka, at the Neck between Lakes Hawea and Wanaka.
Around 1700, the Waitaha chief Potiki-Tautahi was murdered at Lake Wanaka by his nephew Te Weka.
Later, Katimamoe (K often replaces Ng in the southern dialect) migrated south from homelands in the Hawkes Bay. Some settlements are recorded around Lakes Hawea and Wanaka in early accounts. These were probably seasonal. By 1780 all Waitaha and Katimamoe pure breds had disappeared.
Maori likely used the lakes as mahinga kai - places to gather food like eels and fish, weka and ducks, ti kouka and aruhe (fern root). The area was strategic too, with crossing points nearby like the Motutapu Valley, Matukituki, Cardrona Valley and Tiori-patea (Haast Pass), which accessed valuable deposits of pounamu (greenstone). These greenstone trails were well documented in story and song. Sacred knowledge of techniques to keep travellers alive in these harsh parts were transmitted orally and with reverence.
In 1836, raids by Ngati Tama chief, Te Puoho, scattered many Ngai Tahu groupings. Affiliated to the notorious chief Te Rauparaha, his war parties migrated south, crossing Haast Pass and killing two young girls at Makarora. They feasted on their flesh and took Pukuharuru, son of Te Puoho, as captive. Battles ensured, freeing the kidnapped son, and the family fled to the west. Or maybe the east. Details are unverifiable.
By the time Europeans arrived, there were no Maori left in the region.
In 1853, Nathaniel Chalmers, guided by Reko ventured inland from Dunedin to explore the Otago interior. They crossed the Kawerau at the fabled natural rock arch, met with a second guide they nicknamed ‘Kaikoura’ and travelled up the Clutha. With tattered clothes from scrapes with the matagouri and clad in flax sandals to replace his shredded boots, Chalmers was the first European to spy Lakes Wanaka and Hawea.
Surveyor John Turnbull Thomson arrived in 1857 as Chief Surveyor of the Otago Province. His exacting methods, accomplished skills on the back of a horse and attention to detail recorded may Otago features. He went on a naming frenzy (including Aspiring and Pisa) and many places now echo his Northumberland and Scottish homelands. With Alexander Garvie and James McKerrow, they were the first to find gold in the Otago rivers. Gold rushes ensued. After promotion to Surveyor General, he quickly sent assistants to map the areas to avoid squatters claiming grazing rights without a formal base map to refer to.
Later pastoralists formed stations, or large farms, where land was acquired from the Crown. These could be over 100,000 hectares in extent. The work of deforesting, planting European grasses and mustering sheep is the stuff of Deep South legend. The stories are echoed today. Although many stations have been parcelled up through the generations, the spirit of those pioneers is still close at heart.
South Island ▷ Wanaka Region ▷ Wanaka Township
Showing 13 reviews of 109.
Beautiful view from summit. Must go to the towers at the top as view is 100% more spectacular than toilet/ridge point. Took us 7 hrs return w/ ½ hr spent at top and multiple stops taken. Would recommend :)
What an awesome walk - one of our highlights - make sure you go early - we hit the track at 7am (mid April) so saw the sun rising as we walked - it had snowed the night before so the last third of the walk was on snow - took 2 hours to walk up - absolutely stunning from the top !! A real WOW moment ! - just make sure you are prepared for weather conditions - thermals gloves jacket and beanie and good running shoes food and water a must as the weather can change.
Save up to 70% on campsite fees! Support conservation and experience the natural beauty of NZ. 74 Department of Conservation campsites, one convenient pass.
Good calf burner from the get go but worth it for the views from the top. Took us 2hr up at a steady pace - but don’t go in the midday heat. Car park gets busy and you have to park on the roadside from midday. Take plenty of water - saw far too many fools suffering after having finished their 500ml bottle half way up!
Jessica and Henry
A fairly tough climb (particularly for non-frequent hikers like ourselves), but absolutely stunning views during the ascent and at the top! Totally worth the blisters, sweat and achey legs!
Access savings worth hundreds of $$ on Top Ranked NZ Accommodation and Activities for just $1 per day.
Amazing track with a beautiful landscape.
Great strenuous hike with amazing views not only from the top. Picturesque surroundings, car park can get quite busy later on so early start is advisable.
Wonderful place, we really enjoyed the walk, easy to find.
Thank You - to the thousands of travellers that have contributed to our Top Voted NZ Activities Map - it's free from Rankers.
Walter van der Eng
Prepare for the cold! We did it in the summer and it was still literally freezing. Great experience, only point of improvement would be signs of how much further to go to the top.
Good walk, pretty steep but well worth the walk. The views are amazing up there.
Great walk. Pretty long and heavy but definitely worth it!! Great view from the top.
Very gruelling walk - but achievable even if of low to moderate fitness. Track was in great condition, amazing views all the way. Remember a jacket as the summit is cold!
Very steep descent and ascent. Not suitable for those that are not very fit. Will take at least 3-4 hours top to bottom. Spectacular view at the top. Take lots of water!! Toilet at the start of the trail.
Thanks to all the good people working for the NZ Department of Conservation - for all your hard work - making NZ more beautiful, accessable and healthy! Cheers 😍