Mount Aspiring National Park - Queenstown
If you're after a short walk, the Haast Pass is ideally placed to just park up and explore, as long as you stay close to the road.
Wild, yet surprisingly accessible, national park on the West Coast, connected to the north end of Fiordland, in the Southern Alps. Popular with mountaineers, trampers, and scenic walkers.
Mount Aspiring National Park is New Zealand's third-largest national park and covers an area of over 3,500 square kilometres. It neighbours the even more remote Fiordland National Park, to the north, but has the advantage of containing the Haast Pass, one of the three main roads to traverse the Southern Alps. Also, the popular tourist spot of Lake Wanaka lies directly southeast of Mount Aspiring National Park, and acts as a feeder centre for visitors to the area.
Within the park are spectacular waterfalls, 400 species of butterflies and moths, over 100 glaciers, and of course Mount Aspiring itself, the most impressive of the many mountains in the area. The region used to be rich in "greenstone", a once-valuable commodity that was regularly mined by the Maori, and visitors can stop off on their journey across the Haast Pass and search for this "pounamu" along the many river walks scattered throughout the north end of the park. The forests below the bushline are mainly beech, whilst above the bushline there are countless herb fields and snowy grasslands. Birds you're sure to spot on your travels here include tomtits, South Island fantails, blue ducks and parakeets. Down in the Routeburn Valley, you'll come across deer, possums, and chamois further up the mountainside.
If you're after a short walk, the Haast Pass is ideally placed to just park up and explore, as long as you stay close to the road. The Routeburn Track, shared with Fiordland National Park, is a rich seam of short and long tramps, with walks to suit all ages and abilities. More serious trampers should head for the Rees-Dart Track, 5 days of river and mountain walking at the southern end of the park, which even takes in a glacier or two.
Mount Aspiring National Park is a popular destination for mountaineers, heliskiers, ice climbers and abseilers. Rivers like the Dart and Wilkin offer jet skiing and jet boating, as well as canoeing and rafting. Scenic flights are common, and will take you places your legs can't. There is a visitor centre at Haast, at the northern end of the park, on SH-6, which can provide you with maps, excursion information, handy tips and hints, and accommodation details. At the southern end, there is a small information centre in Makarora, also off SH-6, north of Lake Wanaka.