Native flora and fauna, glaciers and mountain tops abound in Mount Aspiring Park and the Matukituki Valley.
A few walking tracks of varying fitness levels are accessed from Raspberry Creek car park, an hour’s drive from Wanaka (4WD recommended). There’s a popular day tramp to Rob Roy valley with views of the glacier, but to truly get away from it all, head deeper into the park and stay overnight in a hut. The Aspiring Hut is two hours’ walk from the car park; the track winds alongside a bluer-than-blue river through farmland and grassy flats. At the halfway point, there’s an excellent (though very cold) swimming hole. If it’s a warm day, there’s nothing better than stopping for a snack and a dip here.
When you spot the historic Cascade Hut, keep going, you’re almost there. There are a few river crossings and the Aspiring Hut is hidden from view by grand old trees. This 38-bunk stone hut is maintained from late October to mid-April by DOC. There’s a wood burner, gas stoves and flushing toilets – luxurious by backcountry standards and great for families. If you’re staying here, bring bug spray as it’s popular with hungry sandflies.
From the kitchen window, you might be able to glimpse a red dot on the mountainside. This is the Liverpool Hut, a 10-bunk DOC hut a further 3.5 hours’ walk. It’s certainly more challenging, but worth it. The valley walls spew waterfalls and that bluer-than-blue river reappears. Keep an eye out for paradise shelducks in the valleys and rifleman and South Island robins in the bush.
At Pearl Flat, trudge through the river towards French Ridge or over the bridge to head to Liverpool Hut. It’s all uphill from this point and you’ll need to clamber over tree roots. As the bush line clears you’ll spot the hut, it’s tantalisingly close but alas, it’s on another knoll. The track swings away from the hut over rocky terrain which in spring and summer is littered with Mt Cook buttercups (the world’s largest) and mountain daisies. It’ll take another half-hour to reach the hut, which looks down on the valley, across to French Ridge and up to Mt Liverpool. Keep your eyes and ears open, you’re likely to meet cheeky kea. And the last time I visited, a tiny and very rare rock wren serenaded my final steps.
Distance & walk time
9km (about 2 hours) from Raspberry Creek car park to Mount Aspiring Hut, a further 6km (3-4 hours total) to Liverpool Hut.
DOC fees are $30 for Aspiring Hut, $15 for Liverpool Hut. It’s best to visit a DOC centre to pay fees and check conditions before you head off, winter and early spring weather can be treacherous in this alpine environment.