Mount Aspiring National Park



Mount Aspiring National Park is a national park that lies in the Southern Alps of New Zealand's South Island, in the headwaters of Lake Wanaka. It is part of the UNESCO World Heritage Site of South West New Zealand, or Te Wahipounamu, which includes Fiordland National Park (to the south), Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park and Westland Tai Poutini National Park (both to the north).

Understand

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Matukituki Valley

Mount Aspiring National Park was established in 1964. It is named after the highest mountain in the park, Mount Aspiring/Tititea, which at 3,033 m (9,951 ft) is also the highest mountain in New Zealand outside Aoraki / Mount Cook National Park.

The park spans three of the South Island's regions: West Coast, Otago and Southland. The DoC categorises it as part of Otago but Wikivoyage chooses to categorise it under West Coast.

History

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Mount Aspiring National Park was founded in 1964 and now makes up oart of the Te Wahipounamu World Heritage Area. It is New Zealand's 10th national park and has evolved into making itself as New Zealand's most iconic "remote destination", which is true – you can't get any further than Mount Aspiring National Park without going off-road.

It contains the location of the Haast Pass, which was used as a crossing by Maori and then by European settlers to get between what is now the Otago and West Coast (Westland) regions. Today, it is the only road that connects the two regions together.

The park was later expanded in 2005 when the Nature Heritage Fund had purchased some land in the Landsborough River area, which serves as the latest and only expansion to the park. As of 2023, the park sits at 3,562 km2 (1,375 sq mi).

In 2006, there was a proposal to bore an underground bus tunnel between Glenorchy and Hollyford Valley in Fiordland National Park to reduce travel times between Queenstown and Milford Sound from 10 hours return to a fraction of the previous time. This proposal, however, was shot down by the New Zealand Conservation Authority due to its significant environmental impacts it would bring (which is why if you've been on a bus trip between Queenstown and Milford Sound, the trip takes an eternity), especially considering it's a UNESCO World Heritage Site.

In 2009, there were proposals to start mining in the area but this too was shot for similar reasons.

Today, the park remains one of the country's most remote tourism drawcards with the main icons of the park being the Blue Pools, Thunder Creek Falls, and unsurprisingly, Mount Aspiring / Tititea.

Landscape

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Much of the park's landscape is characterised by tall mountains and large river valleys. The park is in the same mountain range as Mount Cook and is part of the Southern Alps.

Flora and fauna

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In November 2013, contributors to the respected journal Science chose Te Wahipounamu as one of only 78 protected areas around the globe as the most critical for preventing the extinction of mammals, birds and amphibians.

Mount Aspiring National Park was home to the takahe and kakapo, now sadly both extinct in this area, but the rowi, the rarest species of kiwi, lingers on.

Climate

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The park's climate is consistently cool during the summer and regularly drops below freezing in the winter, even in the valleys. Bring some cold clothes with you and refer to Wikivoyage's advice on cold weather.

If the cold wasn't enough, the park is also very rainy – the West Coast being one of the rainiest locations on Earth, with areas having around 7 metres of rainfall a year. Make sure to also prepare for the rain by bringing a good quality rainjacket.

Visitor information

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Visitor centres

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There are two visitor centres that serve the park, one in Wanaka and the other in Haast.

Websites

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Get in

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How to get in the park depends on the section of the park you want to visit. For the points of interest on the Haast Highway, simply follow State Highway 6 east from Haast, or north from Wanaka. The road is a little windy but is entirely sealed, has minimal potholes and with the standard speed limit of 100 km/h.

To get to the Mount Aspiring / Tititea area of the park, which primarily has Mount Aspiring and Rob Roy Glacier, the carpark to this section is a 2-hour drive (but only 54 km) from Wānaka via the Wānaka-Mount Aspiring Road. However, this road is unsealed for a large portion of the section and is only advisable in a 4WD or a car that can withstand gravel roads for long distances (at least 50+ km).

Getting to the southernmost road-accessible area is also tricky but is much shorter. From Glenorchy, use Glenorchy-Paradise Rd northeast then follow Glenorchy-Routeburn Rd then Routeburn Rd across the Dart River. It only takes about 30 minutes, but the route is only 22 km. Again, driving on this road is only advisable in a 4WD or a car that can withstand gravel roads.

Fees and permits

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Like all New Zealand national parks, Mount Aspiring National Park is free to enter. There are also no additional parking fees.

Get around

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Your two options are to either drive or walk. Drive where there's a road, and walk where there's a trail, but don't venture from a marked path. The distances are few and far between so it is more convenient to drive if an attraction is road-accessible. Occasionally, you might encounter some people cycling but finding bicycle parking is akin to February 30 occurring.

Map
Map of Mount Aspiring National Park

See and do

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Along the Haast Highway

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Blue Pools

One gem of Mount Aspiring National Park is that everything about it feels remote with few tourists, vehicles and trails of human destruction. Yet, most of the park's attractions are along the Haast Hwy or State Highway 6, a single-digit state highway (which are of national significance) with few if any deviations. The road is almost always in good condition, with a speed limit of 100 km/h with the bends tolerable.

The Department of Conservation has an offline brochure which can be found here. Save it or print it as there is next-to-no mobile coverage along the highway.

The following have been ordered from south to north (i.e. from Wanaka to Haast).

  • 1 Kidds Bush and Sawyer Burn Track, Meads Rd, Hunter Valley. Kidds Bush is a short 30-minute walk around a campsite. The Sawyer Burn Track spurs from Kidds Bush Track and is a 2-hour return encompassing 3.5 km with the views of Lake Hawea and the nearby mountains being more than stunning.
  • 1 Cameron Lookout. A 1-km 20-minute return walk to a small lookout with views of Cameron Creek. The walk is somewhat steep, though – it climbs up 50 metres in elevation as per the DoC.
  • 2 Blue Pools, Blue Pools Track (coloured ) (track along Haast Pass–Makaroa Rd / SH 6). One of South Island's most serene natural pools is perhaps the park's main draw – apart from being a good photo spot for the 'gram, it's also surprisingly accessible and is 3 km return (takes approximately 1 hour). Note: until summer 2023/24, the bridge will be replaced and the pools will not be accessible. The rest of the track is still however open (but you can't view the pools).
  • 3 Haast Pass Lookout, Haast Highway, lookout accessible via Haast Pass Lookout Track (coloured ). Officially marking the border between Otago and the West Coast, the views from the top of the pass are well worth the 100-metre climb over 800 metres (one way) with more than impressive forests along the way. Be warned the track is very steep and isn't for the faint-hearted. Haast Pass / Tioripatea (Q498788) on Wikidata Haast Pass on Wikipedia
  • 4 Fantail Falls. Small but impressive waterfall that's a 200-metre walk from the carpark via a good boardwalk. If you want to get even closer to the waterfall, you can also cross the stream (it's very shallow, no deeper than knee-length at worst) to get better views of the waterfall. Fantail Falls (Q32196369) on Wikidata Fantail Falls on Wikipedia
  • 5 Gates of Haast, Haast Pass Hwy (OpenStreetMap directions). Although the Gates of Haast specifically refers to a gorge at the southern crossing where SH6 crosses the Haast River, it's known for its bridge put together with its idyllic background (no parking available). Gates of Haast (Q105973592) on Wikidata Gates of Haast on Wikipedia
  • 6 Thunder Creek Falls. A 28-metre-high waterfall over beech forest – while on paper that might not sound like much, it is a spectacular sight while you're actually there. It's accessible via a 200-metre return track. ; no toilets for 5 km. Thunder Creek Falls (Q104804011) on Wikidata Thunder Creek Falls on Wikipedia
  • 2 Roaring Billy Falls Walk. A 1-kilometre trail that takes about 25 minutes taking you to views of Roaring Billy Falls but from the other side of the Haast River. It's not as impressive as the other waterfalls in the park but still worth a visit regardless. Roaring Billy Falls (Q105973591) on Wikidata Roaring Billy Falls on Wikipedia

Elsehwere

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  • Climb Mount Aspiring or the other peaks in the area.

Tramping

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Buy, eat and drink

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There are no shops in the park. You will need to bring all adequate supplies with you.

Sleep

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Lodging

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Lodging is available in the nearest settlements to the park: Haast, Makarora, Glenorchy and, with the most variety and abundance, Wanaka. However, there is no lodging within the park.

Camping

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Mount Aspiring National Park contains four non-backcountry campsites, with the fifth campsite being a backcountry campsite. Out of the four campsites, three of them are accessible by car/campervan.

Road-accessible campsites

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  • 1 Cameron Flat Campsite, Haast Pass-Makarora Road, Haast. A decently sized campsite with maintained non-flush toilets and 30 unpowered tent sites. It is next to several rivers and lakes, including Blue Pools (within walking distance from the campsite). ToiletsHandicapped accessible
  • 2 Pleasant Flat Campsite, Haast Pass-Makarora Road. A standard campsite with 22 unpowered tent sites and flushable toilets. The campsite however is further south so there are no tramping trails nearby within easy walking distance. Handicapped accessibleToilets.
  • 3 Sylvan Campsite, 314 Routeburn Road, Kinloch. A campsite that sits at the start of the Lake Sylvan Track, containing 36 unpowered tent sites and non-flush toilets, serving as a very handy base for exploring the Lake Sylvan Track, a 100-minute easy walking track. ToiletsHandicapped accessible

    Disclaimer: as of December 2023, access to the campsite from Lake Sylvan is closed. This is due to a result of heavy rain washing away the only bridge connecting the campsite to everything else. The campsite is still accessible from Routeburn Rd, though.

Great Walk campsite

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  • 4 Routeburn Flats Campsite, Routeburn Track (accessible by foot only). The only campsite on the Routeburn Track that is in Mt Aspiring National Park which has 15 unpowered tent sites and no toilets – refer to the article in question for detailed information about the campsite.

Backcountry

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Stay safe

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This is about as remote as you can get in New Zealand, without getting off-road. Make sure your fuel tank is full and your vehicle in good working order.

Temperatures regularly drop below freezing – make sure to bring protective clothing.

Go next

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The nearest settlements to the park are:

This park travel guide to Mount Aspiring National Park is a usable article. It has information about the park, for getting in, about a few attractions, and about accommodations in the park. An adventurous person could use this article, but please feel free to improve it by editing the page.