Hiking Guide: The secret side of New Zealand's Mt Aspiring National Park

Looking for the real New Zealand? Discover the hidden half of New Zealand’s Mt Aspiring Park.

Mt Aspiring National Park is famous for its hiking tracks such as the Routeburn and Caples, as well as many other tracks that are accessed from Queenstown.  But few people realise that this is only a small part of this amazing park.  For those wanting to get away from it all, the north end of the park is a hidden jewel.  

The small town of Makarora is the base for hundreds of kilometres of tracks, many of which you will rarely see another person on.  Of course the lack of tracks groomed for the masses means that the hiking here is a little tougher than you find on the more tourist-oriented trails to the south.

Gillespie Pass is a good introduction to the area.  Like any good adventure it lures you in with easy walking along the Young River before revealing its true character.  Just when you think the track is getting steep, it gets steeper.  Roots and rocks abound and reaching the hut each night you will happy to just be on flat ground.

The Wilkin Valley is perhaps the least visited, tracked valley in the park.  Many people take advantage of the Jet Boat and airplane access.  But however you get there Top Forks Hut at the head of the valley is crown jewel of New Zealand wilderness huts.  Sitting at the confluence of three valleys it looks out on 360º of tumbling glaciers and waterfalls.

Rabbit Pass is one of those routes with a reputation that turns away as many people as it attracts, and justifiably so.  Compared to other passes that have prepared tracks, Rabbit Pass has not real track and rock slab, small ledges and steep down climbs mark the way.  With no huts it requires heavy packs and the exposed route has been the stuff of may dramas.

Aspiring Guides in Wanaka guides Rabbit Pass regularly and through its concession with the National Park Aspiring Guides is allowed to have camps along the way meaning that only light packs need to be carried.  With only a day pack and a guide to handle the micro route finding, Rabbit Pass is achievable to fit hikers who are not afraid of heights.