Quick guide to New Zealand's Paparoa Track

New Zealand’s Great Walks are about to hit double digits. Located on the west coast of the South Island, the Paparoa Track crosses the stunning Paparoa Ranges between Blackball and Punakaiki. You can expect ancient rainforests, spectacular gorges and jaw-dropping views.

And while it may be the tenth Great Walk to make the list, it's the first Great Walk to feature a custom-built, shared trail for both hikers and mountain bike riders. Scheduled to open in December 2019, you could be one of the first to hit the trail. Here’s what you’ll need to know.

Paparoa Track Fast Facts

  • The track distance is 55.7 km. The Paparoa Track should take three days, two nights for your average hiker. Mountain bikers can expect to finish up in two days, one night.

  • Paparoa is classified as a Grade 4 (advanced) Track. You’ll take on steep climbs, rocky terrain and the occasional scrambling. There are some separate sections for bikers to tackle this..

  • There'll also be a side trail - the Pike 29 Memorial Track which will cover a 10.8 km section to honour those who lost their lives in the 2010 Pike River explosions. Pike 29 is still under construction and will include a memorial centre at its conclusion.

  • The Paparoa Track will be open year-round, but check the New Zealand Department of Conservation website for any emergency closures.

  • To stay overnight, accommodation on the trail must be booked in advance. 

  • It’s New Zealand's first new Great Walk in 25 years, so it’s kind of a big deal.

Paparoa Track Highlights

  • Admire the Pororari River Tracks, a spectacular river gorge surrounded by dramatic limestone cliffs and lush forests.

  • Relax after your first day with breathtaking views at Mountain Tops Hut. Watching the sun go down over the Tasman Sea is a special treat.

  • Get a history lesson on the Croseus Track. You’ll find a 1930’s miners hut and a 100-year-old quartz crushing battery.

  • Spot some of New Zealand’s wild animals, including the world’s only alpine parrot, the kea, and the endangered roroa, the great spotted kiwi.

Image of the west coast where the track endsImage of the west coast where the track ends
A reward for all your efforts - reaching the coast

Paparoa Track Overview

For hikers (two night, three day route)

Day 1: Smoke-ho car park to Moonlight Tops Hut (19.9 km, 6-8 hours)

Day 2: Moonlight Tops Hut to the Pororari Hut (18.7 km, 5-7 hours)

Day 3: Pororari Hut to the Pororari River Car Park (16.4 km, 4-5 hours)

For bikers (one night, two day route)

Day 1: Smoke-ho Car Park to Moonlight Tops Hut (20 km, 3-6 hours)

Day 2: Moonlight Tops Hut to Waikori Road Car Park (36.2 km, 6-9 hours)

Accommodation on the Paparoa Track

You’ll find three Great Walk huts on the Paparoa Track. Most walkers will stay at Moonlight Tops Hut (20 bunks) and Pororari Hut (20 bunks), for the standard two night, three day journey.

For an alternative three night, four day journey, walkers can stay at Ces Clark Hut (16 bunks).

The huts have basic facilities to make your stay more comfortable including bunk beds, heating, gas cooktops, toilets and a water supply. You might also come across a park ranger.

Note that there are no showers, cooking utensils or food available so plan accordingly. There are no campsites on the Paparoa Track.

Typical foliage on the trailTypical foliage on the trail
Ferns are abundant throughout the forests of Paparoa

How much is the Paparoa Track?

If you want to pop in for a day trip, it's free to access the Paparoa National Park.

For multi-day hikers and bikers, you will need to book and pay for accommodation in advance. Adults can book a bunk in the Great Walk huts for $45 a night, and kids (17 years and under) can access the huts for free.

To ensure beds are available, you’ll need to book all three huts for both adults and kids. Summer is the most popular time, so get in early!

One night, two day journey: $45 per adult

Two nights, three day journey: $90 per adult

Four night, three day journey: $135 per adult

What to pack for the Paparoa Track

You’ll need to be prepared for a multi-day hike in New Zealand’s backcountry. The weather is wildly unpredictable, so whether you hike it or bike it, come prepared for rain, wind, and cold temperatures - especially on the exposed sections of the track.

Find the right gear for the trail...