Reefton tracks - Kirwans Track and Waitahu Valley

Alert/Important notice

Updated 21 November 2014: Road closures

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.

The track connecting Gannons Road end to Capleston is still closed due to PF Olsen logging operations.  If you are planning on doing a loop then you will need to walk out to Reefton using Murray Creek Track.

The Kirwans Loop track was completely clear of windfallen trees as of 13 November 2014.

Track category

Tramping track


2-3 days


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.
Dinner time at Kirwans Hut

Capleston - Kirwans Hut

Time: 6 hours

This track can be accessed from the Capleston car park 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 Track
Kirwans track

Kirwans Hut - Waitahu Valley

Time: 4hrs 

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

Time: 3-4hrs

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

Time: 1.5-2hrs

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. 

Getting there

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 car park at the old town of Capleston.

back to top


Fishing Fishing
Four wheel driving Four wheel driving
Historic sites Historic sites
Horse riding Horse riding
Mountain biking and cycling Mountain biking and cycling
Swimming Swimming


The Waitahu and Montgomerie Rivers are superb trout fishing spots.

Historic sites

The Kirwans Reward mine and associated aerial ropeway.  The Lord Brassey stamper battery is a 'must see'.

Horse riding

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.

Mountain biking

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

Kirwans Hut

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.

Related links

back to top


Find out more


DOC maps: Discover the outdoors - DOC's key places, campsites, tracks and huts, and visitor centres on a map


Follow the Outdoor Safety Code:
1. Plan your trip
2. Tell someone
3. Be aware of the weather
4. Know your limits
5. Take sufficient supplies

Alerts for West Coast places


Reefton Visitor Centre i-SITE Information Centre
Phone:      +64 3 732 8391
Full office details
Māwhera / Greymouth Office
Phone:      +64 3 768 0427
Full office details

Give feedback on a recent visit to a DOC place