If the Otira River is able to be forded, start from the Aickens car park, cross the stile and follow the fence line to the river. After fording the Otira, make for the gap at the end of the band of tall trees immediately opposite (marked by orange triangle).
There is a shelter here and a track leads through high bracken and scrub to grassy flats. Continue walking along these grassy flats to the sign-posted turn-off at Pfeifer Creek. Follow the streambed of Pfeifer Creek for about 100 metres to the start of the track on the true right. The track passes through attractive red-beech forest to the confluence of Pfeifer Creek and the stream draining the lake. It crosses the stream and continues up the true left to the lake.
Although the route is able to be walked in 1 day, it is worth taking 2 days, and camping the night at the lake. There are several good campsites along the lake edge. Cairns mark where to leave the track to find the campsites.
The track to the Otehake River continues around to the head of the lake, up a short climb to the saddle between the lake and the river. From there the track drops steeply into the Otehake and another good campsite. The route down the Otehake is mostly on the true right, boulder hopping beside the river, crossing where necessary. This is not possible in rain or if rivers are high. Ford the Otehake again just above where it joins the Taramakau and the walk down the river flats back to Otira River.
This trip starts at Aickens car park beside SH73, 5km west of Otira township. You need to ford Otira River to access the Taramakau Valley.
If the Otira River is not easy to ford, postpone your tramp until another day.
Know before you go
Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.
Topo Map: NZ Topo 50 Otira K33.
Experience: Suitable for well-equipped people with backcountry tramping experience. Rivercrossing and route finding skills are required.
Safety: Fine weather is required when crossing the Otira. Allow adequate time. Check snow and weather conditions. Navigational skills and ability to judge weather and river conditions are essential. Be prepared to turn back if conditions are not safe.
Note: True right and true left refers to the sides of the valley when looking downstream.