Reefton tracks - Kirwans Track and Waitahu Valley
Updated 3 April 2013 - The 4WD access road to the Waitahu Valley is closed to vehicles due to a wash-out before the Clematis Gorge Swingbridge. You can still walk the road.
40km (full loop)
The walk up to Kirwans Hut is one of New Zealand's classic overnight tramps. A three day loop can also be made by going down the Waitahu Valley. There are some incredible historic relics to be seen in this area including the Kirwans Reward mine, an aerial ropeway and the Lord Brassey stamper battery. The well formed track up to the hut was originally hand crafted by miners.
Dinner time at Kirwans Hut
Capleston - Kirwans Hut
Time: 6 hours
This track can be accessed from the Capleston carpark at the end of Boatmans Road which turns off the Reefton Highway 12km north of Reefton.
There is a steady 6 hour climb up a well-formed pack track to the modern Kirwans Hut near the bushline. A 50 minute side trip to 1297 metre Kirwans Hill provides views of a ruggedly beautiful part of the Victoria Range.
Kirwans Hut - Waitahu Valley
From open-cast quartz mine workings near the hut, a steep descent partly follows the line of an old cableway to the Lord Brassey stamper battery. The Lord Brassey is a very impressive structure holding fifteen 500kg+ stamper rods, that were originally lifted by a water powered pelton wheel, then dropped down to crush gold bearing quartz. DOC workers restored this structure in 2009. From here a track descends to Montgomerie Hut.
Montgomerie Hut - Gannons Road bridge
A rough 4 wheel-drive road leads down the Waitahu Valley to Gannons Road bridge. From here, Gannons Road leads back to the main highway 5km north of Reefton.
Gannons Road bridge - Boatmans Road
If you have left your car at Boatmans Road end, there is a short track leading you back over from Gannons Road bridge. It involves a steep climb and follows old forestry roads in some places.
From Reefton, drive 10km north toward Westport. Look for the Kirwans Track sign pointing right off the main road down Boatmans Road. The road turns to gravel before reaching the carpark at the old town of Capleston.
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Four wheel driving
Mountain biking and cycling
The Waitahu and Montgomerie Rivers are superb trout fishing spots.
The Kirwans Reward mine and associated aerial ropeway. The Lord Brassey stamper battery is a 'must see'.
There is an easy ride up the Waitahu Valley four wheel drive road. After the Clematis Swingbridge the track rapidly becomes rougher.
The Brunner Range, which stretches north from Kirwans Hut is best known for red deer and wild pigs. However, there are also a few chamois.
The ride up to Kirwans Hut and back is a stunning, wilderness mountain bike ride. Mountain biking can also be done up the Waitahu Valley.
There is great swimming to be had in the Waitahu River. A favourite spot is beneath the Clematis Swingbridge. Watch out for sandflies.
Places to stay
This really is one of the cutest huts around - built on a stunning site in an alpine clearing just above the bushline. On a clear day you can see all the way down to Mount Cook.
There is fabulous camping next to the Kirwans Creek/Montgomerie River confluence, just down the track from the Lord Brassey stamper battery. Take your tent and a trout fishing rod.
Plan and prepare
The track up to Kirwans Hut from Boatmans Road end has bridges over all stream crossings so this track can be safely accessed in all but the most extreme weather condtions. However, the track down the Waitahu Valley from Montgomerie Hut crosses several fords, so take care if it has been raining heavily.
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