Time: 3 - 4 days
The track starts at Andrews Shelter, on Mount White Road, which turns off SH 73, 24 km east of Arthur’s Pass.
The western end is at the Taramakau River valley, which meets Otira River at Aickens, beside SH 73, 25 km west of Arthur’s Pass.
Andrews Shelter to Casey Hut
Time: 7 - 8 hr
The flats on either side of Casey Saddle are linked to Andrews Shelter and Casey Hut by good, well-marked tramping tracks.
Alternatively, the gorges of Andrews Stream and Surprise Stream-Casey Stream can be travelled if the streams are low. Both stream routes may contain extensive flood debris. Parties travelling out down the Andrews may find the streambed a better descent than the undulations and meanderings of the bush track. This route guide describes the tracks only.
From just upstream of Andrews Shelter on the true left, a marked track climbs steeply through open scrub to the bush then gradually ascends. There is a lot of up and down to negotiate side creeks, while the track generally follows the contour. Descend to rejoin Andrews Stream and finally emerge onto Hallelujah Flat. Time: 2 hours 30 minutes.
Note: Parties travelling in the opposite direction should keep watch for the track sign a little above the stream on the true left.
From the bush, continue directly up the grassy flats to Casey Saddle. Continue over the tussock saddle (there is no real ‘summit’) keeping on the elevated grassy terrace on the true right of Surprise Stream until beyond the swampy patch in the stream. Drop into the stream and travel for about 15 minutes to the start of the track on the true right, just below Pampas Stream. The track is indicated by a large orange triangle on a narrow grassy flat, midway between the stream and the bush edge. The track climbs a little, sidles and descends down a ridge to emerge from the bush near Casey Stream on a large grass flat.
Casey Hut (16 bunks) stands at the bush edge, midway down the flat. The hut has a radio which is monitored by the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre during office hours.
Times: About 1 hour 30 minutes to cross the upper grass flats and 1 hour 30 minutes for the bush track descent to Casey Hut.
Casey Hut - Lake Minchin
Time: 3 hr 30 min
From the hut follow the old vehicle track west to the ford in Casey Stream, close to where the track to Casey Saddle enters the bush. Casey Stream is dangerous to ford when running high. The old vehicle track continues north over a low forested spur, emerging onto a scrub terrace then dropping six metres to the main flats of Poulter River, just up-river from a long, curving shingle cliff. From here continue over gentle grass flats to Trust/Poulter Hut (6 bunks)—at the edge of the bush on the true right, a few hundred metres before the Poulter bends westward.
Time from Casey Hut 1 hour 30 minutes.
Beyond here the vehicle track turns the corner and peters out. Continue on the true right of the Poulter for a few minutes, then head diagonally across the riverbed aiming for a point about half a kilometre below the outlet of Minchin Stream, the major tributary on the true left. Follow the marker poles through high matagouri to the start of Lake Minchin track and Poulter Hut (10 bunks). The hut is on the bush edge on the true left bank of the Poulter River—about an hour’s travel from Trust/Poulter Hut.
A further hour of well-marked track leads to the old hut site at Lake Minchin —pleasant walking on easy gradients through beech forest. This is about 3 hours 30 minutes from Casey Hut. With light packs it makes a pleasant day excursion.
Note: there is no Minchin Hut and the nearest good shelter is Worsley Biv (4 bunks) half an hour up Poulter River from Minchin Stream.
Lake Minchin - Minchin Pass
Time: 3 hr
Follow the well-formed track around the eastern side of the lake and travel up the river flats for about half an hour. A few minutes before the river narrows to an impassable gorge, a track begins on the true right—just beyond the broad shingle fan of a side creek opposite. This track bypasses the gorge, climbing high to rocky outcrops above precipitous bluffs, then drops steeply through bush to rejoin Minchin Stream at its junction with Linwood Creek. This track is generally well-defined but is not marked and may be difficult for parties travelling downstream to follow in the early stages.
Above the gorge the route follows Minchin Stream, constantly crossing and re-crossing, to the next significant junction, about a kilometre upstream. Minchin Biv (2 bunks) stands a little above the river in the ‘V’ of this junction. Above the biv, travel on the true right through scrub and across a flat tussock terrace before climbing to the left to the obvious, low tussock saddle which is Minchin Pass.
Note: This area is subject to avalanche activity during the winter. During heavy snow conditions, we advise visitors not to travel this route unless sufficiently equipped and experienced to assess the conditions and choose a safe path through avalanche terrain.
Minchin Pass - Taramakau River
Time: 3 hr
Descend into Townsend Creek down the low ridge at the western side of the pass to avoid thick scrub. Travel along the stream bed through tussock and scrub until it drops more steeply near the bush line. From here on it is possible to continue in the stream bed, but large boulders and low waterfalls make the steep descent difficult and it is necessary to take to the bush to bypass these obstacles. An easier route is through the broadleaf terraces on the true left—pick a route about 10 metres above the stream, and drop down into Townsend Creek where it joins the open bed of the stream draining Koeti Pass and Mt Wilkinson. This is about 1 hour from the pass.
Reach the streambed down a small side creek coming in from the left. Parties travelling up Townsend Creek from Taramakau River should be careful not to miss the route at this junction. Here Townsend Creek becomes a secondary side creek and seems to disappear under low bush cover while the main stream continues up a more open course towards Koeti Pass. This can cause parties to make a serious route-finding error. The point is easy to recognise by a third small creek dropping in from the west —making Townsend Creek the middle one of the three. Below this junction travel down a steep, open creek bed which narrows to a tight gorge where bluffs and bush hang close overhead. The creek continues its steep descent but the gorge is fairly easy to travel when the stream is low. When the stream is high it becomes impassable. Below the gorge the stream swings west, then north to join the Taramakau, descending more gently from the mouth of the gorge to an open ‘L-shaped’ stretch of streambed. (Parties travelling up Townsend Creek can verify that they are on the right route—the first fifteen minutes to the gorge is in a broad open bed, turning east at right angles a few minutes up from the Taramakau).
Travel in Townsend Creek can be difficult, particularly for less experienced trampers. Travel could take longer than 3 hours, and the trip should not be attempted after heavy rain.
Townsend Creek to Otira River
Time: 4 - 5 hr route only
From where Townsend Creek enters the Taramakau River, it is about 1 hour either upstream to Locke Stream Hut or downstream to Kiwi Hut.
To reach Locke Stream Hut, travel on river flats on the true right of the Taramakau River to Locke Stream. Fifty metres up Locke Stream on the true right, a short bush track leads to the hut (18 bunks). Refer to Arthur's Pass National Park Route Guide No.11 for the trip over Harper Pass from here.
To go to Kiwi Hut, travel down the Taramakau, picking the best route to take advantage of stable, grassy flats by crossing and recrossing the river where necessary. Kiwi Hut (6 bunks) is located on the true right of the Taramakau, about 1 hour below Townsend Creek. A signposted track leads from the riverbed into the bush for 100 metres and across a large clearing. The hut stands in bush on the terrace at the far side of the clearing.
From Kiwi Hut, continue following the Taramakau River downstream, picking the best places to cross. (Note: If in flood or running high the Otehake River can be difficult or dangerous to cross.) Below Pfeifer Creek on the true left of the Taramakau, markers led the way across the grassy flats to pick up a track through gorse and shrubland. The track ends at a shelter beside the Otira River. Select the best place to cross the Otira River aiming for the big orange triangle that indicates the track across farmland to SH 73.
If the Otira is too high to cross, there is an alternative route, but be warned it can also be difficult to negotiate in flood conditions. A marked track travels up the true right of the Otira River to the Morrison footbridge, about two hours from the confluence. This route is slow going and is prone to slips and washouts.
Plan and prepare
- Experience: Suitable for fit, well-equipped people with back-country tramping experience.
- Best season: Summer, autumn.
NZTopomap50: Moana BU20, Haupiri BU21, Cass BV21.
Safety tips for this trip
This route travels the eastern and northern flanks of the park. The sections through the upper Minchin Stream and Townsend Creek are more adventurous. Travel to Casey Hut is possible without having to ford a major stream but after that there are a good number of crossings which may be difficult or impossible if rivers are up: Casey Stream, the Poulter River, Minchin Stream, Townsend Creek, the Taramakau, Otehake and Otira Rivers. In particular, the gorge of Townsend Creek is quite impassable when the creek is running high, and descent through the bush or either side would be very difficult.
Safety on Arthur's Pass routes
- Allow adequate time. Note the times given for each section are guides only.
- Check snow and weather conditions. Mountain weather forecasts are available from the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
- Know your ability. Arthur's Pass National Park is mountain country. Navigational skills and ability to judge weather and river conditions are essential. Be prepared to turn back if conditions are not safe.
- Never travel alone. This route is difficult.
- Tell someone where you are going. You can fill in a Search and Rescue action card at the Visitor Centre. This must be cancelled on your return.
- Take a map and compass. Topomaps for the area are available to buy or hire from the Arthur's Pass Visitor Centre.
- Cross rivers safely. Take care with river crossings especially after heavy rain. If in doubt, wait it out.
Note: True right and true left refers to the sides of the valley when looking downstream.
What to expect on a route:
- Challenging day or multi-day tramping/hiking
- Track unformed and natural, rough, muddy or very steep
- Suitable for people with above average fitness. High level backcountry skills and experience, including navigation and survival skills required
- Complete self sufficiency required
- Track has markers, poles or rock cairns. Expect unbridged stream and river crossings
Sturdy tramping/hiking boots required