Welcome to Paria's “Hike of the Week” series. Each week, we bring you one of the best hikes from around the world. We hope to inspire you to get out there and explore these places yourself. Sometimes a photo and good trip description are all it takes to motivate us to plan our next backpacking adventure.
This week we're highlighting a short, but sometimes challenging, overnight at the Barker Hut in New Zealand's Arthur's Pass National Park.
Featured Photo: Barker Hut (photo by Sukhwan Lee)
Why this Hike?
Located in Arthur's Pass National Park, Barker Hut is raved as one of the best huts to stay at on the South Island of NZ. That is saying a lot as overnighting in mountain huts is very popular in the area and the entirety of the country boasts 950 backcountry huts! The park itself is full of diversity, ranging from podocarp rainforest to rocky mountain passes. Arthur's Pass NP is also home to a number of bird species, so keep your eyes open for kea, bellbirds, and more along your route.
- 27-mile out and back trail (43.6 km)
- 3,000 feet of elevation gain
- Moderate with difficult with scree and scramble sections
- The best time to go is late spring through fall (Don't forget their seasons are opposite of ours here in the Northern Hemisphere.)
- Arthur's Pass National Park is known as the “Heart of the Southern Alps”
- The trail mostly tracks next to riverbeds
- Tons of mountainous views and glaciers
- Nice hut with a kitchen area and capacity for 10 people
- Fun fact: Arthur's Pass National Park became the South Island's first National Park in 1929.
Before you pack your bags, here are a few things to keep in mind:
- The trail is too dangerous in winter and early spring due to avalanche activity (May through November)
- Rocky and lots of boulders along riverbeds
- There is a cableway to help cross over to the left bank of the White River during times of high water, but it is difficult and river crossing is recommended instead, if possible.
- The trail can be tricky to follow and good route-finding skills are a must.
- Some creek/river crossings can become impossible during times of heavy rain and flooding.
How do I get there?
Christchurch International Airport is the closest major airfield to Arthur's Pass National Park. From here, take Durey Road to SH 1. Follow this road for about 7 minutes (7.3 km) before turning right onto Old West Coast Road. Continue for 26 minutes (39.3 km).
Turn left onto Inland Scenic Route for a short jog of 68m before turning right onto SH 73. Continue for 83.3 km. You will make a left onto a smaller road just before the bridge and park in the dirt lot.
The following map outlines our recommended route to get to Barker Hut. For more detailed mapping, including being able to print a copy for yourself, we recommend opening the map in CalTopo.
- Day 1: Barker Hut (13.5 miles)
- Day 2: O'Malley's Track Trailhead (13.5 miles)
You'll find the O'Malley's Track trailhead at the west end of the parking area. This trail is more of a “high water” option and ascends and descends some small hills along the grass-lined path on the edge of the forest. If you don't mind some extra river crossings and have good navigational abilities, you can also just choose to follow the Waimakariri River valley up to Carrington Hut to shave some time off of your trip.
The path between the trailhead and Carrington Hut is relatively well-marked with occasional orange markers on the left side. Stop off for a snack or lunch at Anti-Crow Hut, about halfway to Carrington Hut. After a couple more hours, you will find some cairns that mark where to head off into the trees up to the Carrington Hut.
Most people reach this hut within 5 hours or so. From here, you will cross over the White River, either by crossing it during low times or using the cableway during high water. From here the trail gets harder to follow, hence needing good navigational skills. Look for cairns along the way. You may be able to notice a light path as well. Ascend along the river bank to eventually be awarded views of the many nearby mountain peaks and glaciers. You'll also find some waterfalls at the head of the valley and you'll head right to go around them. A creek crossing that follows no longer has a bridge, so do not attempt to cross it during high water. You will likely need to do some scrambling down a scree slope. Follow the cairns on the opposite side of the creek up to the Barker Hut.
Head back the way you came the next morning, spend some more time exploring the area or spend an extra night on your return trip at the Carrington or Anti-Crow Hut. (Both of these are run by the park service and different fees will apply.)
What will I need?
Average temperatures from September to June for nearby Arthur Pass range from around 40°F to 55°. The area also receives quite a bit of precipitation. Fortunately, you will save a ton of room and weight in your pack by not having to carry a tent. Since the hut is insulated, a down quilt plus a well-insulated sleeping pad should be sufficient. Since you're saving on weight by not carrying a tent, indulge in a down pillow (they're super lightweight anyway) and you'll really feel like you're having a luxurious backcountry stay!
Some folding trekking poles may come in handy for traversing all of the rocky terrains. Since they fold, they're easy to store away when you don't need them!
Make mealtime a lot easier with some long-handled eating utensils and lightweight titanium cooking pot. No one likes getting their hands messy with undersized forks and spoons after a long day of getting dirty on the trail. Titanium pots are incredibly lightweight and will save room in your pack as well.
A lightweight titanium cooking pot is perfect for backpacking. It's extremely durable, but also ultralight.
With the unpredictable weather in Arthur's Pass National Park, you may want to invest in a lightweight, breathable rain suit as well. It weighs next to nothing and it's always best to be prepared for anything.
For a comprehensive list of what to pack for your trip, be sure to check out our Ultimate Backpacker's Packing List. It even includes a convenient printable checklist!
Do I need a permit?
No permits are required, but you will need to pay a fee of $10 per night to stay at the Barker Hut, which is owned by the Canterbury Mountaineering Club. You can find more payment information on their website.
If you're looking for your own “Lord of the Rings” style adventure that affords all of the great views but is less taxing, you can't beat the O'Malley's Track up to Barker Hut in New Zealand. Have you visited any of the backcountry huts in NZ? Tell us about your experience in the comments below!