Welcome to Mount Aspiring National Park and its wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. It is a walker’s paradise and a must for mountaineers. The views are endless and unforgettable. The park is part of Te Wahipounamu – Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area.
Natural, cultural and historic features
Ancient Maori trails led through parts of what is now park. Travellers passed through in search of pounamu (greenstone), much valued as a material for tools, weapons and ornaments. After European settlement many of the valleys were farmed and exploited for minerals such as scheelite. Remnants of these activities can still be found in and around the park. Tourism development began in the late 1880s. Even then it was possible to take a guided trip into the Routeburn Valley.
The park spans a large area, from the Haast River in the north to the Humbolt Mountains in the south. Large valleys, carved out by ancient glaciers, dissect high mountain ranges. Mt Aspiring itself is the only peak over 3000 metres outside Mount Cook National Park. One of the most unusual areas in the park is the Red Hills ‚mineral belt‘ in the southwest. Here the concentration of magnesium in the soil is so high that only a few hardy plants survive.
Beech forests dominate below the bush line. Each beech species favours slightly different growing conditions so while you might find red beech in sunny, frost-free situations, you will find silver or mountain beech at higher altitudes, happily surviving winter snow falls. Ribbonwoods are among the first to colonise open areas (caused by slips and avalanches); these are among New Zealand’s few deciduous trees. Above the bushline are snow tussock grasslands and herbfields with mountain buttercups, daisies, and ourisias.
Rifleman, bellbird, South Island robin, yellow crowned parakeet, mohua (yellowhead), tomtit, South Island fantail and New Zealand pigeon are common bush birds. Towards evening, native bats and moreporks (small owls) may be seen and heard. Blue ducks and paradise shelducks live in the valley. Introduced animals include whitetail deer in the lower Routeburn valley, red deer throughout the forested areas and chamois about the mountaintops. Possums, rats and stoats are widespread. Introduced brown and rainbow trout are found in the lower Route Burn and brown trout are present in Lake Howden.
The park’s alpine areas are home to the threatened rock wren and the high-profile kea. These mischievous mountain parrots have been known to take an unhealthy interest in visitors‘ packs and tents.
Mt Aspiring National Park straddles the southern end of the Southern Alps. The closest towns are Wanaka, Queenstown, Glenorchy and Te Anau. It is one of New Zealand’s larger parks at 355,543 hectares and it lies alongside the largest, Fiordland National Park.
In the northwest the park is traversed by State Highway 6. Good tramping tracks and short walks can be accessed from the small settlement of Makarora between Haast and Wanaka.
Roads also lead to main access points from Wanaka, Queenstown/Glenorchy and Te Anau.
Bus services to Queenstown, Wanaka and Te Anau are frequent. Shuttle services also run to most access points in the park including a boat service from Glenorchy to the Greenstone Valley.
Queenstown has an airport with regular services.
Where to stay
In the towns around the park a full range of accommodation options are available, from serviced campgrounds to luxury lodges.
Within the park there are numerous backcountry huts, but be aware that on the Routeburn Track (one of New Zealand’s ‚ Great Walks‘) you will have to book in advance to use the facilities.
There are established camping areas on many tracks
The top few things to do
|–||Walking: Short walks abound and are usually concentrated at the access roadends, around the local towns and from the Haast Pass Highway.
The Routeburn is not the only good tramping track in the park. The Dart /Rees River circuit, Greenstone/Caples circuit and the Wilkin Valley are wonderful valley walks, with options to go on over higher passes and into alpine areas. In summer these tracks are suitable for people of average fitness and experience. In winter many are impassable or require greater skill levels to explore safely. It is possible to take a guided walk on the Routeburn and Greenstone Tracks.
|–||Mountaineering: The park’s alpine areas are popular with mountaineers but are suitable only for experienced trampers/mountaineers.|
|–||Jet boating: Jetboat trips can be enjoyed on a number of the park’s larger rivers such as the Dart and the Wilkin.|
Remember this important information
If use the track system in the park for overnight trips make sure you are properly equipped and well prepared.
Make sure your group has a capable leader and that everyone is carrying a sleeping bag, cooking utensils, sufficient high energy food (with some extra for emergencies), a waterproof raincoat and overtrousers, gloves, a hat, and several layers of warm (wool or fleece) clothing.
Please check in at any of the local Department of Conservation offices for up-to-date information on weather and track conditions. Fill in an intention form at the office and remember to let them know when you have completed your trip.