Mt Aspiring Park
With a total area of 714,000 acres (289,000 hectares), New Zealand’s third largest national park covers a large chunk of the Southern Alps – from the Haast River in the north, to where it joins Fiordland National Park in the south. At the heart of this park is Mount Aspiring (9,928ft/3,027m), a pyramid-like peak which has often been compared to the Matterhorn in the Swiss Alps. The Maori name for the region, Titiraurangi (‘the land of many peaks piercing the clouds’), captures the essentially alpine character of a place that is as exhilarating for the tramper as it is for the mountaineer. Like Westland, Mount Cook and Fiordland National Parks, it belongs to the South-West New Zealand World Heritage Area.
From Wanaka it is a 33 miles (54km) drive along the Mount Aspiring Road to the park’s boundaries. The road heads west along the lake to pretty Glendhu Bay from where it soon enters the Matukituki Valley, which is then followed to the road end at Raspberry Hut. On the way to Glendhu Bay, those with surplus energy could scale Roy’s Peak (5,198ft/1,585m) for splendid views of Mount Aspiring (5 hours return, signposted from road).
Walking in Mt Aspiring Park
The track to Aspiring Hut (2-3 hours one way) starts from the car park at Raspberry Hut and follows the west branch of the Matukituki River. It would make a good day’s walk for those who do not have the time to explore this valley more thoroughly. There are however, a number of side trips from this hut that would make a tour of two to four days very rewarding.
One such trip is the track to Lucas Trotter Hut which leads to the glaciers around Mount Aspiring and some stunning alpine scenery. The track between Aspiring Hut and Dart Hut via Cascade Saddle also guarantees magnificent alpine views but should only be attempted by the experienced.
Apart from the Matukituki Valley, other access points to the park are from the Haast Road, Makarora and Glenorchy near Queenstown. Glenorchy is in fact the starting point for some of the best-known walks in the park such as the Routeburn and the Rees-Dart. However walks in the central and northern regions of the park tend to be much less crowded and no less spectacular. A number of organised treks also start from Wanaka which enable trampers to reach areas of the park that are normally only accessible for the very experienced. Park headquarters in Wanaka can give advice on all the options available.