The Croesus Track crosses the Paparoa Range between Blackball in the Grey Valley and Barrytown on the Tasman Sea Coast. It's an ideal tramp for people new to tramping.
It's is a beautiful walk into the landscape of the Paparoa Ranges. There is plenty of evidence of the local gold mining heritage, and a variety of vegetation and wildlife. Croesus Track is one of the few pack tracks on the West Coast that ascends over 1000 m above sea level, and its high points provide excellent views of the Southern Alps and the sea.
It's recommended to walk from Smoke-ho carpark in the east to Barrytown in the west. In this direction, the track ascends to 1200 metres via a well-formed and fairly easy track. The upper half of the western section is quite steep and rough before it descends onto a good benched track. Snow poles mark the route across the open tops and route finding navigational skills are required.
Smoke-ho car park to Ces Clark Hut
Time: 4 - 5 hr
For the first hour of the track, trampers will pass through mixed podocarp and beech forest and cross a wire suspension bridge over the Smoke-ho Creek. The track then zig-zags up the dividing ridge between Blackball Creek and Roaring Meg catchments for the next hour until you reach the turn-off to the Battery Track. The track climbs more steeply into subalpine forest leading towards Ces Clark Hut. On a fine day you will be rewarded with views of Lake Brunner, the main divide and down to Aoraki Mount Cook.
Ces Clark Hut
Facilities: 16 bunk beds, heating, mattresses
Bookings not required - first come, first served
Historic battery at Garden Gully site
Side trip: Garden Gully Track
Time: 45 min return
This track comes off the Croesus Track at Garden Gully junction. Five minutes down the track trampers can view an old miner’s hut dating from the 1930s depression. At the other end of the suspension bridge the track forks out, on the left is a marked route that continues up the creek for 5 minutes to a century old quartz crushing battery. To the right the track climbs for about 15 minutes to the collapsed mine mouth.
Side trip: Croesus Knob Route
Time: 1 hr 10 min return
The turn-off to Croesus Knob is a 30 minute walk up from the hut. From the main track a rough route takes you up to the top where you are rewarded with spectacular views down to Mount Cook, and out to the Tasman Sea.
Ces Clark Hut - Barrytown
Time: 5 - 6 hr
This stretch is advised for more experienced trampers - on the tops the track is not easily visibly marked, and can be extremely difficult to see during certain times of the year. For the first 1 hour and 30 minutes follow the snow poles across the tops around the head of the Ten Mile Waianiwaniwa Creek.
Halfway across the tops the Moonlight Track branches off to the right, while the route to Barrytown sidles leftwards and climbs to the flanks of Mount Ryall (1220 m high). Along this stretch you will also see views down the valley towards Aoraki Mount Cook and the Tasman coastline.
View looking towards Grey Valley and Southern Alps from Mt Ryall
For the last 2 hours 30 minutes the track is marked down the ridge. As you gradually descend, the vegetation changes from forest to nikau palms.
View along the Paparoa Tops
The area around the Croesus Track is an important habitat for whio/blue duck
Nature and conservation
The Paparoa Wildlife Trust is heavily involved in this area, monitoring recovery programmes for the great spotted kiwi/ roroa and blue duck/whio.
The great spotted kiwi can often be heard around dawn and dusk at Ces Clark Hut. Blue duck can also be spotted in fast flowing rivers along the track.
Head north of Greymouth towards the Blackball township. About 1 km past Blackball on a sealed road to Roa mine is a signpost pointing right, indicating the gravel road to the Smoke-ho car park and to the start of Croesus Track.
Originally constructed in 1881, it is an old mining trail through the forest with many historic sites along the walk. The Croesus Track is one of the best surviving examples of a pack track in New Zealand.
In the early days of European settlement tracks known as ‘pack tracks’, ‘bridle paths’ or ‘bullock roads’ were built to open up the back blocks for mining, farming, tourism and other commerce.
View of Paparoa Range from Croesus Knob
Horses and bullocks were commonly used to access timber and mining sites, as well as transporting goods and equipment throughout the country. Many of the roads we use today started life as one of these early tracks.
Gold mining in the Grey Valley
Much of the stonework has remained intact thanks to the fine craftmanship
When gold was found at Blackball Creek in 1864, miners formed a rough track up the creek, through what was known as ‘some of the roughest country ever travelled by man’ in the hopes of striking it rich.
Over 18 years from 1881 to 1899, this early track was slowly replaced by a pack track, now known as the Croesus track. Access was firstly improved to take miners to the Clarke Creek gold diggings, then through to the Blackball Creek forks, finally taking the track right through to miners’ gold claims in the Paparoa ranges.
Garden Gully Battery
The track was skilfully built, using various traditional building techniques such as stonework and cuttings. It required ingenious engineering solutions to tackle problems created by the steep slopes and rugged country.
Today the track survives in much of its original condition thanks to the skilled craftsmanship of early pioneers and the stable nature of the terrain.
Today the 2 day trail is enjoyed by trampers and mountain bikers who traverse the rugged bush clad terrain to open tops, and pass relics such as the 19th century alluvial workings and the impressive quartz mining remains at the Garden Gully Battery site. They can admire the fine workmanship used to build the cuttings, embankments and stonework which are displayed along the track.
Visitors can also experience what life was like for miners by staying in historic Croesus Top Hut, or by visiting the historic Garden Gully Hut.
Historic Garden Gully Hut
Garden Gully Hut was built during the 1930s slump by men prospecting for the Government or employed on a subsidised gold scheme. It is a significant historic site - the sole survivor of five huts which stood in the Garden Gully during the 1930s.
The hut sits amid beech/podocarp forest in a grassy clearing with a stream nearby. You are not permitted to stay in the hut but you can camp on the adjacent grassy flats.
Garden Gully Hut
It contains bunks and has a large open fireplace with a corrugated iron chimney. It was fully restored in 2006, when the side walls were replaced by original treated calico.
The hut will be maintained to protect its historic fabric and minimise deterioration. A conservation plan has been prepared (Les Wright, June 1998) to guide its management. A hardcopy of this plan is available at the Greymouth-Manwheranui DOC Area Office.
The surrounding area
About 10-15 minutes walk from Garden Gully Hut is the impressive Garden Gully Battery Site.
An additional 10 minutes walk from the Garden Gully Battery turn-off is the Garden Gully Mine. This mine was owned by Gerald Perotti, the only one who had the legal right to move supplies from the Smoko-ho car park to the Garden Gully Mine. The mine was closed by 1906 because of lack of gold return. At the mine site you will see old railway lines collapsed from the tramway and other historic remains.