Kahurangi National Park – Guide for Backpackers
The wilderness of the West Coast.
You can’t stay in the Kahurangi National Park, in the north of the West Coast, for just one day. No seriously, there are so many multi-day walks, mountain biking trips and heli-rafting trips that you would be missing out if you settled for less. Not only that, but it could be said that Kahurangi National Park is the most challenging national park. It has the longest New Zealand Great Walk, some crazy white water rapids with limited access, and the brutal Devil Kill Track for mountain biking.
Aside from exerting yourself, you get to soak up the views of dense forests, mountain ridges, limestone karst, small waterfalls cascading down streams, tussock lands, caves, and finally the rugged West Coast. The closest towns to the Kahurangi National Park are Motueka, Karamea and Takaka each located at different sides of the national park.
Things you can’t miss in Kahurangi National Park
- Do the longest Great Walk: the Heaphy Track!
- Do some other long walks. They didn’t make it to “great” status, but at least they are pretty good!
- Take a day hike to the summit of Mt Arthur or Lodestone.
- Challenge yourself with the Kill Devil mountain bike track.
Feeling fit? Take the longest New Zealand Great Walk! The Heaphy Track is 78.4km long, taking 4-6 days to complete. Many backpackers believe it’s worth the hike to pass through such diverse landscapes. One hour you’ll be in the forest, next hour you could be walking over red tussock lands. As you reach the “wild West Coast”, you’ll be hiking amongst palm trees. At night, you’ll no doubt hear the calling (or if it’s a female, it’s more like spitting) of wild kiwi birds.
And remember, they don’t call this the “wild West Coast” for nothing! The weather can change unexpectedly, so make sure you prepare. It’s always worth checking the Department of Conservation (DoC) website before taking a walk to make sure there are no damage to the tracks.
See how to book your Great Walk here: Guide to the 9 Great Walks of New Zealand.
More multi-day walks in the Kahurangi National Park
Walks are certainly not done half-heartedly in the Kahurangi National Park! Here are some more multi-day hiking trips you can take to explore the area.
Delve into the Wangapeka Valley where you can walk in the valley forest, beside rivers, and traverse over to 2 saddles. The walk is between the Waimea Basin, on the east side of the national park, to the West Coast. It takes 4-6 days to complete. To get to the track from the east, find the Wangapeka Valley and start the walk from the Rolling River car park. From the west, go to Little Wanganui and take the Wangapeka Road to the car park.
This 3-4 day hike is through the earthquake-torn Karamea Valley, where you have to walk over earthquake-triggered slips. Pretty cool! The hike consists of forests, open areas, rivers and walking over the odd swingbridge. You can start the hike at the Flora car park, which is along Graham valley Road, west of Motueka. The track ends where the Wangapeka Track begins. So you can make this an extra extended walk by taking the Wangapeka Track too.
Yay! A circuit! Things are always made easier if you return to the same place you start a walk from. That’s why the Anatoki/Waingaro Circuit is a popular option if you want to leave your car in the car park. To make things better, it’s an enjoyable walk too! Forest, spectacular gorge scenery, and Lake Stanley are the highlights of this trip. As you walk along this historic track, you’ll notice the old gold workings. This 3-5 day walk starts from the Anatoki Track signed car park, about 1km south of Takaka and along Kotinga Road.
Short walks in Kahurangi National Park
The multi-day walks steel all the limelight in the Kahurangi National Park, but hardcore tramping isn’t for everyone. You can opt to do parts of the multi-day walks listed in this article. Otherwise, take a look at these options for short walks.
Hike over the Flora Saddle and along a ridge to the Mt Arthur Hut. Then take the signed route to Mt Arthur, taking in the scenic mountain range with all it’s glorious rock formations. Start at the Flora car park (see above). The trip takes 2-3 hours one way.
From the Flora car park, take the steep track up to Lodestone summit for excellent views of the Flora Valley. Then take the track down to the Flora Hut. End the journey back where you started. This is a 4hour circuit.
This 20-minute walk outside of Motueka takes you along the Riwaka River to the sacred Maori site of the Riwaka Resurgence. See when the river appears from below a mountain.
For some of the best examples of caves and impressive rock formations in New Zealand, visit the Oparara Basin. There are a number of short walks to choose from to make your way to the “Crazy Paving Cave” or the “Box Cave”. You’ll also be greeted by the local weka (a flightless bird in New Zealand).
Once of the most popular walks in the Oparara Basin is to the Oparara Arches, a huge archway measuring 200m long, 49m wide and 37m high. You won’t believe it until you see it.
How to Get to the Oparara Basin
From Karamea on the West Coast, take the Karamea-Kohaihai Road north for about 8km. Turn off onto the road signposted for the Oparara Basin. From here, it’s a narrow gravel road for about 16km.
Mountain Biking in the Kahurangi National Park
The great thing about a few of the longer walking tracks in the Kahurangi National Park is that you can also bike them! This means you can cycle on the Heaphy Track (see above). And learn more about biking the Heaphy Track at Mountain Biking in Nelson Tasman.
Kill Devil Track
To really exert yourself, mountain biking can be done on the Anatoki/Waingaro Circuit on the Kill Devil Track. As the name suggests, the grade is advanced to expert. The one day or overnight trip is between Uruwhenua Road to Waingaro Hut.
Flora Saddle to Barron Flat Track
A popular mountain biking day trip is the Flora Saddle to Barron Flat Track. It’s best to start at the Flora Saddle end of the track to experience mostly downhill. The middle of the journey is where you’ll find some rough grade 3-4 terrain to power through, otherwise, you have gentle 4-wheel-drive (4WD) tracks. This mountain biking track, which can also be walked, starts from the Flora car park (see above). The track ends on Cobb Valley Road.
If you have more time in the Kahurangi National Park…
- Fish for brown trout in the Wangapeka River (make sure you have a fishing license).
- Speaking of rivers, go for a swim. Safe swimming spots are near the Lewis Hut or the Heaphy Hut on the Heaphy Track.
- There’s are vast areas for hunting in the Kahurangi National Park. See the full list on the DoC website.
- Take a 1-3 day white water rafting trip down a continuous grade 4-5 river on the Karamea River or Mokihinui River.
Where to stay near Kahurangi National Park?
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