Cascade Saddle Route

The Cascade Saddle Route is a popular alpine pass trip during the summer months for suitably experienced trampers.

Time: 1-2 days

Distance: 17 km

Type: Track Route 

More information on the Department of Conservation site.

Day 1 Raspberry Creek to Aspiring Hut (2 1/2 hours)

The track starts at Raspberry Creek, 54 km from Wanaka and it's an easy two and a half hour walk along the west branch of the Matukituk River to Aspiring Hut.

The alpine style stone and wood hut has superb views of Mt Aspiring (3037 metres) from the floor to ceiling windows. This comfortable hut has plenty of magazines and books to read after watching the light fade over Mt. Aspiring.

Day 2 Aspiring Hut to Dart Hut (9 to 11 hours)

The track begins immediately behind Aspiring hut and climbs steeply through beech forest. After two hours the dense, beech forest gives way to views of Mt. Aspiring.

Above the bush line a further two-hour climb up a steep snow grass and tussock ridge brings you to the highest point, the Pylon (1835m) about four hours after leaving Aspiring hut.

The next two hours to Cascade Saddle are easy going compared to the previous four hours of steep climbing.

From the Saddle there are some amazing views. Below is `Heads Leap', a 1000m sheer rock face leading down to a valley. Dart Glacier is also in view and above - Mt. Aspiring dominates like a lord. At this altitude the Kea, the world's only alpine parrot, is commonly sighted. They are mischievous thieves who will take anything they can lay their beaks on, but for all that, they are real charmers.

From Cascade Saddle the route follows Dart Glacier giving close up views before it runs out into black ice.

The glacier is retreating and today is a shadow of its former self 18,000 years ago in the last ice age when it extended a further 135km to the southern end of Lake Wakatipu.

The barren alpine landscape is replaced with grassy banks and the roar of the Dart River. A mixture of rock cairns and orange standards mark the riverside route to the superbly situated Dart hut.

Many hikers come up the Dart River and use Dart hut as a base for a day trip to Cascade Saddle, return to Dart hut and continue down the Rees River. Not a bad idea as it avoids a 9 – 11 hour day carrying a heavy pack.

Day 3 Dart Hut to Shelter Rock Hut (4 - 6 hours)

From Dart hut the route to Rees Saddle crosses steep alpine terrain dominated by tussock grasslands and alpine herb fields of mountain buttercups and daisies.

Leaving Rees Saddle (1447m) the trail leads steeply down to the river. After an easy stroll, following the river, Shelter Rock hut comes into view.
Day 4 Shelter Rock Hut to Muddy Creek (6 - 8 hours)

The final day is walking the wide Rees valley carved out by ancient glaciers. The crystal clear Rees River flows over smooth river stones fringed by grassy flats parched golden yellow by the sun. Framed by beech forest the whole scene is dramatically back-dropped by mountains.

The walk along the riverbank comes out at Muddy Creek car park, 15km from Glenorchy

*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