Day 1, Smoke-ho car park to Ces Clark Hut, 10.3km
4-5 hr hiking, 2-3hr biking
The track begins at Smoke-ho car park and follows the historic Croesus Track. The track retains some of the original stonework and is steep and rough in places. This part of the track is much rougher than the rest of the Paparoa Track because of its heritage nature. It winds through mixed podocarp and beech forest, with occasional views of Blackball Creek. Keep an eye out for the rare blue whio (duck).
The track then zigzags up the ridge between the Blackball Creek and Roaring Meg Creek catchments, then climbs more steeply into subalpine forest. If you're biking, you may need to get off and push.
Ces Clark Hut is on the edge of the bush line, set among low alpine scrub with spectacular views.
Ces Clark Hut to Moonlight Tops Hut, 9.7km
3 hr hiking, 1 hr 30 min-2 hr 30 min biking
Beyond Ces Clark Hut you pass through alpine scrub and tussock with expansive views. The track follows the ridge of the main Paparoa Range through open alpine vegetation, with views of Aoraki/Mt Cook on a clear day. Moonlight Tops Hut will be your abode for the night, enjoy the panoramic views.
Day 2, Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari Hut, 19.1km
Open tops give way to alpine forest stunted by the harsh environment. The Paparoa Track winds along the top of the escarpment – dramatic landscape with sheer drops and stunning views.
About halfway to Pororari Hut, you descend and walk through ancient podocarp forest under towering cliffs. The track then follows the spine of the ridge to Pororari Hut.
As you traverse the ridge, look north to see Lone Hand, a gnarled outcrop of bedrock on the north side of the Pororari River.
Day 3, Pororari Hut to Pororari River car park, 16km, or Waikori Road car park, 17.1km
4-5 hr hiking, 2 hr 30 min-3 hr 30 min biking
The track descends into the upper Pororari River valley and follows the river. In some places, it follows an old track which was built c.1912–1914 to establish a settlement in the valley. The track sidles along a spectacular gorge and descends through beech forest laden with northern rātā.
At the junction of the Inland Pack Track and the Paparoa Track, hikers and mountain bikers diverge. Walkers take the Pororari River Track through the Pororari River Gorge; mountain bikers follow the Inland Pack Track over a low saddle into the Punakaiki River valley to Waikori Road car park. Both tracks pass through lush rainforest with glades of nīkau palms.