New Zealand’s third largest national park – Mount Aspiring National Park, named after one of the country’s highest mountains, will delight outdoor enthusiasts whether first time visitors or old timers. Its 355,543 hectares combine tranquil river valleys, craggy peaks and wild countryside sculpted by ancient glaciers. Here’s what you shouldn’t miss.
Mount Aspiring National Park Highlights
Rob Roy Glacier
The views of the hanging glaciers beneath Mount Rob Roy are spectacular. Leave your vehicle at the Raspberry Creek car park and admire the glacier on foot. It’s a three to four hour hike and worth every minute. The Rob Roy Glacier Track follows its namesake stream through lush beech forest thick with verdant ferns and a carpet of moss. Climbing steadily, as you cross the tree line the scenery changes to alpine vegetation. The steep cliffs on which the ice balances run with waterfalls. Watch out for keas, as they’re cheeky enough to steal your picnic up here.
Along with those mischievous keas, there are another 36 native species of bird found in Mount Aspiring National Park. You shouldn’t have any trouble spotting bellbirds, tüï, kererü and South Island käkä. Harder to spot are the endangered yellow head and yellow-crowned parakeet. Along the rivers you might see blue duck, while the hopping dance of the rock wren will be a treat up on the mountain slopes.
Even if time’s short there are hiking trails aplenty
If walking’s your thing, there are plenty more trails to explore on foot. Begin with some of the Park’s short trails. Roaring Billy will take up less than half an hour of your time as you stroll through silver beech forest. Blue Pools is a similar length walk over a swing bridge and down to the clear waters at the mouth of the Blue River where it’s common to see trout beneath the water. For a short walk to a great view, try the 3.5km Haast Pass walk; at the viewpoint there’s a fabulous panorama featuring Mount Brewster.
Something more challenging
Serious trampers should head to Mount Aspiring in summer and tackle the iconic Routeburn Track. This three day hike will take you past some of the area’s most beautiful scenery. Highlights include Bridal Veil Waterfall, the highest point on the trail at Harris Saddle and the alpine vegetation of the Hollyford Face. Other excellent long distance walks include Rees-Dart track, the Gillespie Pass circuit and Cascade Saddle. Mountaineers are also spoilt for choice with peaks like Mount Awful and Mount Aspiring waiting to be conquered. Add heliskiing and jet boating to the mix and you’re looking at one of New Zealand’s finest outdoor adventure playgrounds.