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The park includes many peaks over 2000 metres - the highest is Mount Murchison at 2,400 metres. All the main valleys of the park are deep and steep sided, with the U-shaped profile typical of glacial action. Above the sub-alpine shrublands, there are enchanting alpine fields with wild flowers.
Most people arrive in Arthur's Pass National Park by road - a spectacular piece of extreme civil engineering involving viaducts, bridges, rock shelters and waterfalls redirected into chutes. When Arthur Dobson first encountered the precipitous Otira Gorge, the pass was almost impassable - he had to leave his horse at the top and lower his dog on a rope.
The village at Arthur's Pass is the starting point for many short walks. The entrance to the historic Otira rail tunnel can be seen here - an epic engineering feat through 8.5 kilometres of rock.
The Department of Conservation provides 30 hikers' huts and 'Basic' shelters (bivouacs) within the park, linked by an excellent track system. Arthur's Park village offers a good choice of accommodation styles - from backpacker lodges to hotel rooms.
The city of Christchurch is just under two hours drive from Arthur's Pass village, on the eastern side of the Southern Alps. On the western side of the mountains, the town of Greymouth is an hour's drive away.
Short and long walks
Walks invariably begin at the edge of the highway and take you to amazing natural attractions. The Devil's Punchbowl Falls, Bridal Veil Track, Historic Village Walk, Temple Basin and the Dobson Nature Walk are some of the recommended short walks. Full day walks include Cons Track, Avalanche Peak, Mount Aicken and Mount Bealey. You'll probably meet the park's most famous inhabitant - the kea, a comical alpine parrot famous for its inquisitive nature.
The Temple Basin Ski Area is located on the slopes of Mount Temple above Arthur's Pass. The skifield is open each winter from late June to early October and caters for all levels of skiing. In recent years, it has become very popular with snowboarders.
Arthur's Pass National Park is a mountaineering mecca, offering a huge choice of classic climbing routes, including specialised challenges for ice climbers and rock climbers.
- Before you embark on a walk, let some one responsible know where you are going, and when you intend to return. Make sure you let them know when you return! Intention forms are no longer available at the Visitor Centre
- When walking, take warm clothing and rainwear; sunhat and sunscreen; food and drink. Mountain weather can change quickly
Walking on tracks and routes above the forest line is recommended only in good weather conditions. Please don't feed the kea - they can become dependent on begging and lose their ability to find food for themselves.