The Cobb Valley is one of the few places in New Zealand where the visitor can drive into and along, much of a high mountain valley carved by glaciers. There are attractions for everyone, from the most active tramper to the motorist wanting nothing more than a stimulating drive.
The 27km drive from Upper Takaka winds through the impressive Takaka River gorge, through a red and silver beech forest. On arriving at the small Cobb River Power station, nestled in the valley, the tar seal road ends and the rest of the journey is on an unsealed road. The road is quite passable by ordinary vehicles for most of the year, however watch out for rocks and trees on the road after heavy rain, and ice in winter!
Half way up to the Cobb Ridge, the Mount Arthur Lookout commands a panoramic view of the Upper Takaka watershed, the low shrublands of the asbestos rich mineral belt, and the impressive marble bulk of Mount Arthur.
Emerging onto the Cobb Ridge at 1040m, the view of the Cobb Reservoir and the surrounding mountains is breathtaking, there is a small information kiosk with interpretive information, and a shelter if windy! Many people end their journey here, but the road itself continues down to the dam below, for lots more exploring, and some lovely picnic spots.
The area is renowned for its beautiful and interesting plant life, a feature of the valley is the dense patches of Maori onion (Bulbinella) which provide a mass of yellow flowers in spring. The area is also popular for its displays of alpine flowers in the summer time. Guided walks are available in the Cobb and the surrounding areas.
Hiking and Walking in the Cobb
At Upper Takaka (at the base of Takaka Hill on the Golden Bay side), a narrow, 28 kilometre road, leads to Cobb Reservoir – care is required.
There is a lookout and information kiosk on Cobb Ridge, above the reservoir, and a telephone near the dam. The road follows the lakeside to Trilobite Hut (12 bunks). Nearby is a camping and picnic area. On-demand taxi services are available to or from the Cobb.
From the access road
Asbestos Cottage. 1 hr 30 min, 6 km.
This track leaves the access road two kilometres past the powerhouse and follows the old (now disused) asbestos mine access road. Initially it is a path, becoming a tramping track at the first slip.
At the old mine, rusting relics remind us of another era. Beyond the mine the track steepens and climbs for 30 minutes to rustic Asbestos Cottage (4 bunks), home of Annie Chaffey and her intrepid, Asbestos miner-husband, Henry, for 40 years.
Bullock Track (Asbestos Cottage to Cobb Reservoir). 2-3 hr, 4km.
The track goes downhill for 30 minutes from Asbestos Cottage to join the Bullock Track, then winds up to the Cobb Ridge where the gradient eases and it joins the Cobb Ridge Track at Peat Flat. It then crosses part of the flat before descending steeply to the road beside Cobb Reservoir.
Ridge Top Routes
Myttons Hut). 3 hr, 8 km.
This route leaves the Cobb Road near the information kiosk and runs along the Cobb Ridge above the reservoir to meet the Bullock Track near Peat Flat. From here the route climbs onto Peel Ridge before decending on the Lake Peel Track to the head of Cobb Reservoir.
Short walks in the Cobb
Cobb Dam to Lake Sylvester. 2 hr, 5 km.
The walking track zig-zags up through beech forest and levels as it approaches the open tops. There are a number of lakes, all glacial in origin, within easy and not-so-easy reach of Sylvester Hut (12 bunks). There are no markers beyond Lake Sylvester.
Lake Peel Track. 2 hr 30 min, 4 1/2 km.
A short walk (10 minutes) leads up to Myttons Hut (4 bunks). Beyond the hut, the tramping track winds steadily up to Peel Ridge (11 2— 2hrs). It crosses the ridge and then drops down, before sidling around to the beautiful ice-sculptured basin that holds Lake Peel.
Cobb Valley Track
A well defined walking track leads from the roadend at Trilobite Hut (12 bunks) up the valley, alongside the Cobb River. Walk as far as you like – opportunities for picnicking, swimming and fishing abound.
The upper Cobb valley
Trilobite Hut to Fenella Hut 4hr 30min, 12km.
Follow the walking track from Trilobite Hut to the Cobb valley for 112 hours to reach Chaffeys Hut (derelict).
From there a tramping track continues up the valley floor. It takes about 2 1/2 hours to get to Cobb Hut (4 bunks) where a shortwalk will take you to Cobb Lake and Round Lake above it. These lakes provided water to the earlier hydro-electric development.
Beyond Cobb Hut the track climbs for about half an hour up a series of glacier-worn rocky steps to Fenella Hut (12 bunks). It was built as a memorial to Fenella Druce, who was killed in 1977 when the Three Johns Hut was blown over a bluff in Mount Cook National Park.
Marked and unmarked routes branch off in all directions from here. To the north lies the Douglas Range and a day trip to Kakapo Peak (1783m) or a 4-day journey to Boulder Lake; to the west is the Tasman Wilderness Area and eastward the Lockett Range, an adventurous return route to the Cobb dam via Lake Sylvester.
Connecting Flora Carpark and the Cobb valley
For those seeking a longer (3-5 days) round-trip than the Tablelands Circuit, there are connections between Flora Carpark and the Cobb valley:
Over the Tablelands (Lake Peel-Salisbury Lodge). 3hrs, 7km.
From Lake Peel a tramping track sidles up on to a ridge and then descends slowly to Balloon Hut (112 hours). Salisbury Lodge is 11 2 hours further on.
Via the Takaka valley (Upper Junction-Cobb Road.
From Upper Junction walk down to Lower Junction. Take the left branch of the track, cross Broken Bridge (Takaka River) and exit to the Cobb Road via the old asbestos works or Bullock Track and Cobb Ridge.