The Wangapeka Track and Route is a tramping track that crosses Kahurangi National Park in the north-west of the South Island of New Zealand, between the Nelson Bays region and the northern part of the West Coast region. It contains rain forest, river walks, steep climbs and creek and river crossings. It is one of the Department of Conservation (DOC) more difficult walks.
A large part of the track is classified as a Route. The route is challenging multi-day tramping for people who can be completely self-sufficient and with a high level of back country skills and experience. Both navigation and survival skills may be required, the tracks are mostly unformed and natural, and may be rough, muddy, steep with unbridged streams and river crossings. Track markers may be triangular markers, poles and rock cairns. Due to remoteness and lower levels of track maintenance, track markings may not always be clear. See DOC track categories.
The 59 km (36.6 mi) Wangapeka tramping track and route travels through the spectacular scenery of the Kahurangi National Park area. It is a 4 to 6 day tramp.
One end of the tramp is near the Rolling River Junction in the Waimea Basin in the east and the other end is close to the West Coast near Little Wanganui or the larger town of Karamea. The track passes through many diverse landscapes, passing through tall verdant temperate rain forests, crosses two saddles over 1,000 metre, has many pristine creek and river crossing (some bridged and some not).
Trampers typically take 4 to 6 days to complete the track.
The first part from Rolling River Junction to past King Hut to Stone Hut is an easy track. The remainder of the tramp is classified as a route and required experience and skills.
The Cecil King hut of the 1930s is still on the track and available for use. It is a small hut with 4 bunks. Cecil was a sailor who became a gold prospector in this valley during the depression.
Also, there is a monument to Jonathan Brough, the surveyor of the track and the leader of the construction gang for the benched sections of the track. He built a frame slab hut that became known as Brough's Tabernacle in 1898.
Just like any multi-night tramping excursion, be sure to lay out your plans in advance. Make a packing list and check it before leaving. Preparedness is key to surviving an emergency in the wilderness.
- Wet-weather clothing. Expect rain in this area at all times of the year. The Kahurangi National Park receives around 4 metres of rainfall per annum. The least wet months are around February.
- Warm-weather clothing. It can snow in alpine areas at any time of year and snow can be a significant impediment at the Little Wanganui Saddle in winter.
- Extra clothing. Expect the clothing you tramp in to get wet and as such, you will need extra clothing to change into when not on the track. Do not use cotton cloths but wool or synthetics that are designed for these conditions.
- Cooking equipment. You must pack in your own cooking gear such as pot(s) and plate(s), as none are provided.
- Stove. As the Wangapeka is a route with standard back country huts you need your own cooker and fuel. Also bring a lighter, matches and or flint to light the stove.
- Food. You must pack in all your own food as there is no opportunity to purchase food. Be sure to prepare a menu consisting of high energy, low weight foods to carry in with you allowing three good meals and some snack each day. Always carry at least one extra day's worth of food in case of emergency. Emergency rations can be an easy and compact way to bring in extra calories.
- Utensils. Your best bet is to carry a single utensil, such as a spork, that will aid in cooking as well as eating.
- Calls of nature. When not at a hut, be prepared to bury any waste well away from the track and from streams. Toilets are at each hut along the track although these are separated by a half day to a day's tramp. It is preferred that you use toilets wherever possible.
- Showering. There are no showers available, but water is plentiful at the huts, in the streams and at times from the sky. You can expect to get wet either deliberately of inadvertently. It's suggested to carry a small lightweight highly absorbent towel may be useful. Some people take a couple of kitchen Chux or similar cloths for washing and drying.
- Insect repellent. Sandflies and midges are present along the track and a DEET or one of the newer insect repellents may save you irritation and itching. Sandflies are small black biting insects small than mosquitoes or biting midges that can cause itchy welts.
- Sleep gear. There are mattresses provided in the bunkrooms of the huts year-round, but there are no linens. You will need to carry to sleeping bag to keep you warm as there is no heating offered in the bunkrooms. Earplugs are also suggested if you are a light sleeper as the bunkrooms are shared with a large number of other trampers.
- Water. The water that is available at the huts is collected in the area surrounding the hut, either from a nearby river or from rainfall. This water is not tested for Giardia, so treatment may be recommended. However many walkers do drink the water in the huts.
- Bottle. Carry a bottle or other water carrier such as a CamelPak that can be accessed easily. Drinking regularly to maintain hydration is extremely important during such continuous activity.
- Treatment. Carry your preferred method of treating water. A pump, gravity filter, Steripen, sterilising tablets, or boiling the water are all options clear the bacteria.
- Something to do in the evening. As you may arrive at a hut in mid-afternoon, and weather or sandflies may keep you indoors, you might want to bring a book to read, or a game to play.
- Heating. While wood heaters are provided as is a wood store with an axe, there may not be any wood in store. All the wood in the forest is softwood that burns quickly at a lower heat than hardwood. If you need to collect wood, note that only dead wood should be used in the wood heater, as green wood is unlikely to sustain a fire and removing live trees damages the forest. Clean out the fire grate before lighting a fire and place the ash in one of the ash drums near the hut.
- First Aid. As a minimum, cuts, abrasions, sprains and blisters are likely along this challenging track. be prepared with a first aid kit to deal with these issue and anything more serious that may occur.
The track can be walked in either direction from East to West or West to East.
The nearest town to the Eastern of end of the track is Tapawera and is easily accessible from Nelson via car or bus by such carriers as Tracknet.
The Western end of the walk is a parking area at the 1 car park on Wangapeka Road near Little Wanaganui about 20 km (12.4 mi) from Karamea and is accessible by car and bus via Westport. The 1 Siberia Flat Campsite is next the western end of the walk. There is also a local airport at Karamea.
Firms like Tracknet or Trek Express can provide transport to the beginning of the track but must be booked in advance. As the Wangapeka is a route and therefore a difficult tramp, there are not many people on the track at any time nor people needing transport to the beginning or from the end of the walk. Making an early booking and walking as a group will improve your chances of being able to arrange transport when you need it.
An alternative is to use a car at one ends of the track and have it relocated by Heaphy Track Help.
Wangapeka Track & Route
The track is classed as a route with standard huts that require a back country pass for each night you stay at them. The huts cannot be booked and are available on a first come first served basis. If the hut is crowded, people may need to sleep on the floor or pitch a tent. Tickets can be purchased all year round. A few of the small shelters do not need a back country pass.
The Wangapeka Track has 6 huts that require tickets and 3 small huts that do not.
Traveling East to West the huts are:
- 2 Kings Creek Hut, 11.4km from Rolling River Carpark ~4hr 30min easy walking, 20 bunks standard, heating, water, toilet. Camp sites are available by the river.
- 3 Cecil Kings Hut ( historic), 5 minutes from Kings Creek Hut, 4 bunk basic, heating, water, toilet.
- 4 Stone Hut, 8.3km from Kings Creek Hut 3hr 30min easy walking climbing steadily along the river, 10 bunks standard, heating, water, toilet. Camp sites are available by the river. This is where the Track ends and the Route begins and should only be undertaken by people with back country skills and experience.
- 5 Helicopter Flat Hut, 10.4km ~5hr from Stone hut walking becomes a little more challenging climbing over 1 Wangapeka Saddle (1,009 m) a side track to Big Top heads north at the saddle, 10 bunks standard, heating, water, toilet. Camp sites are available by the river.
- 6 Taipo Hut, 8.6km from Helicopter Flat Hut 4hr 30min, while the track is well benched it has minor challenges and creek and river crossing that may be impassable after heavy rain, 16 bunks standard, heating, water, toilet. Camp sites are available near the hut.
- 7 Belltown Manunui Hut, 10.2km from Taipo Hut 7hr 30min, this is the most challenging section of the track with a steep climb up and down from Little Wanganui Saddle (1,087 m), old and new land slips diverting the track and tree falls over the track impede progress (this is the nature of a route), 10 bunks standard, heating, water, toilet.
- 8 Stag Hut Shelter, 2 bunks emergency shelter, water, toilet is just before Little Wanganui Saddle.
- Wanganui Bivvy, 150 m off the track is on the other side of the saddle, 2 bunks emergency shelter, water, toilet.
The end of the walk is the 2 Wangapeka Road car park 10km from Belltown Manunui Hut, 4hr, while much of the track is easy walking, there are some steep sections to scramble across and the moving river can disrupt the track by eroding it.
NOTE: times have been extended by 1 hour from the DOC's track notes due to the deterioration of the track since it was down graded from a track. This is consistent with verbal advice from DOC's and dependent on the experience and fitness of trampers may still be insufficient time to cover the distance. Particularly the Taipo to Belltown Manunui hut is expected take longer than the extended time provided due to its difficulty.
Hut and camping fees are to be paid to DOC before travel. Space is limited and bunks are on a first come first served basis.
There are several side trips available that you may take above the tree line. These present wonderful views of the remote rugged and pristine wilderness.
Mountain bikes may NOT be used at any time. They are not permitted and the track is too rough and steep for mountain bikes.
While this is addressed in planning it is reiterated as you will be doing strenuous exercise, don't under-cater, it can be quite miserable to be hungry in the middle of this wilderness.
Allow for 3 good meals each day and nutritional high energy snacks and spare food just in case you are delayed.
The water is excellent, however if unsure, you may wish to sterilise it.
Water is available at each hut and from the creeks and rivers. Nonetheless, it is appropriate to carry a filled water bottle as water is not always readily at hand and there is some steep climbing involved in this tramp.
Remember to consume sufficient each day so that you do not become dehydrated from the walk.
The bunks are comfortable but snoring of other walkers in the dormitory can be a problem for some. There can at time be issues with noisy people late at night or people leaving early in the morning. Some people take ear plugs for a better night's sleep.
A good sleeping bag is necessary as the weather can be cold even in summer. Note also that this is an area of high rainfall and a spare set of dry cloths being available at the end of the day may aid a good night's sleep.
The weather in the Kahurangi National Park can change very quickly and the exposed areas can experience high winds and dense cloud. Don't take any weather warnings lightly.
River and Creeks can rise quickly after rain and if unbridged, become impassable. Be patient as they fall as quickly as they rise. It may take a day and less frequently even two days but it is worth the wait to be safe. If crossing a deeper creek or river shuffle your feet along slowly to get though the water. If you can hear stones rolling along the bottom with the flow of the water, don't cross, its too dangerous.
Other safety equipment to take are:
- a good first aid kit;
- a personal locator beacon;
- temperate remote country clothing, wool or specifically designed synthetics;
- good sturdy boots;
- wet weather gear.
Note: this is an area that experiences high rainfall at all times of the year.
The NZ Met Service publishes regular weather updates for Kahurangi National Park on their website.
The national park is the second largest in New Zealand and is largely pristine temperate rain forest. There are birds, unspoilt rivers and verdant forest. However there are some introduced pests and things that trampers should be aware of.
The rivers along this route are a sanctuary area for the rare Whio or Blue Duck. They are a swift water bird that has been heavily predated by imported stoats and weasels. There is a large trapping program with traps along the rivers. Do not open them as they contain both poison and a dangerous trap. Since the trapping program began, the number of Whio have increased.
Introduced snapdragons are beautiful but a nuisance in more open areas. You are encouraged to pull them out and leave them on a rock to die.
European wasps are a nuisance and there are bright orange traps with poison for the wasps. Please leave the traps alone.
For the safety of other environmentally sensitive areas take action to protect other areas of Didymo. You can do this by:
- Checking equipment and removing clumps of Didymo;
- Clean contaminated boots, packs cloths and fishing gear by soaking and scrubbing for at least one minute with one or more of:
- Water over 60oC
- 2% solution of household bleach;
- 5% solution of salt;
- 5% solution of nappy cleaner;
- 5% solution of hand cleaner;
- 5% solution of dishwashing liquid
- + a 2% solutions 200ml added to water to make a 10 litres solution.
- + a 5% solutions 500ml added to water to make a 10 litres solution.
- If cleaning is not practical, completely dry and then leave dry for 24 hours.
Didymo is an imported aquatic pest that is also known as snotty bottom due its ugly clogging slime that forms in lakes and streams. Didymo is present in the Wangapeka catchments.
- Heaphy Track
- Kepler Track
- Milford Track
- Routeburn Track
- For other tracks, see Tramping in New Zealand.