Let’s go tramping Christchurch

Let's go tramping - C Walks for families in Arthur’s Pass National Park

Arthur’s Pass National Park straddles the Southern Alps, about two hours drive west from Christchurch on State Highway 73. It’s a wonderful, mountain-filled wild land and a great place to encounter kea – cheeky mountain parrot.

While many of the mountain hikes and tracks in the park are too rugged for most families, there are plenty of short walks around the village that are perfect, and one great hike nearby with a tiny historic hut to stay in.

Families can also take part in the summer holiday programme run from the park visitor centre, or pick up an Arthur’s Pass Kiwi Ranger booklet; it’s a fun way to explore the park and do the activities to earn your badge.

Four seasons in one day

Arthur’s Pass National Park is rugged and mountainous, with weather that can change rapidly with little warning. Be prepared for all conditions – extreme heat and wet and cold. Take hats and sunscreen, raincoats and warm layers.

Check at the Arthur’s Pass National Park Visitor Centre for up-to-date information on weather and track conditions.

Small biting things

Wasps –beech forests with honeydew can be particularly popular for wasps in summer, so take antihistamine creams and tablets and be aware of any allergies in your group.

Sand flies/namu namu – an annoying presence in Arthur’s Pass – are easily managed with insect repellent or by covering up with light long-sleeved shirts and pants in the evenings. St John’s Wort cooling gel is very soothing on bites.

Tell someone before you go

Before you go on an overnight trip, let someone know what your plans are before you go. You can do this online or by downloading a form at www.adventuresmart.org.nz.

Arthur’s Pass walking track

This walk from the village to the top of Arthur’s Pass offers diverse alpine plants, waterfalls, wetlands and rich history, with stunning views of the mountains. The track gradient is generally gentle, with some steep steps either side of Bridal Veil Creek.

There are car parks at each end and one at the half way point so you can pick and choose which section to do.

From Punchbowl car park it’s a 20 minute walk through subalpine mountain beech forest to a small clearing with a picnic table and good views of Bridal Veil Falls, surrounding peaks and Arthur’s Pass village. Dr Seuss-like Dracophyllum trees have intense red leaves in spring/summer.

After crossing Bridal Veil Creek, the track travels through alpine shrublands and wetlands – look out for the insect-eating sundew. 

At Jacks Hut – an historic roadman’s cottage – cross SH73 and follow the track through old-growth mountain beech to connect with the Dobson Nature Walk on the summit of the pass, with subalpine flower meadows. 

Time:  one hour 20 minutes
Distance:  3.4km
Grade: Walking track

Getting there: Start at the Punchbowl, Bealey Chasm (Jack’s Hut) or Temple Basin car parks to walk all or part of the track. Return the same way.

Bealey Spur Hut

When north-westerly winds bring rain to Arthur’s Pass, this track is far enough east to often still be dry.  It’s a great overnight option for families as it’s a gradual climb rather than a steep mountain route, and there are no rivers to cross. The hut is small and quaint, once used by musterers in the days when the area was farmed for sheep.

The track climbs gently up the spur, starting first through mountain beech/tawhai forest: look out for red flowering mistletoe/pikirangi in summer. Higher up, the track passes through tussock grasslands and subalpine scrub, with boardwalks through tarns and amazing views of the Waimakariri River and mountains.

Time: three hours one way
Grade: easy tramping track

Getting there:
The track starts from the end of Cloudesley Road, off the main highway near the Bealey Hotel, 14km south of Arthur’s Pass Village. Park at the bottom of Cloudesley Road.