New Zealand Major Hiking Tracks

NZ Major Hiking Tracks

What are the Great Walks really all about?

Traditionally in New Zealand, it was well recognised that if you went into the back country you would be self sufficient. It was not until the steady increase in visitor numbers (and wilderness rescues) made it clear that New Zealand track standards were quite different than what many visitors were expecting. Visiting hikers were shocked to find that some of the tracks which were recommended to them had a high degree of hazard associated with them. The Department of Conservation (DOC) learned that if it was to be responsible for a track, they had to also maintain it to an international standard. This can be a difficult and expensive.

Huts also needed to be upgraded. The old style dirt floor and a couple sacks to sleep on was no longer acceptable. Instead of volunteers or land owners doing the work, expensive helicopters were needed. Now there are building regulations and compliance regulations to follow.

While New Zealand has thousands of walking tracks, there are very few that meet this criteria. Wilderness bridges are expensive to build and maintain. Trails must be benched and drained. Land slips and erosion mean constant rerouting and cutting. The vegetation needs to cleared and yearly dead fall removed. Large digging machinery is flown in to work on troublesome places.

Tracks in New Zealand are under increasing pressure to upgrade. To accommodate the growing amount of visitors who are unfamiliar with New Zealand conditions, the Department of Conservation has taken the reasonable strategy of trying to concentrate large numbers of tourists on a few very well maintained tracks. This is the strategy behind the "Great Walks". These are nine specific tracks the Government promotes. By picking a few tracks which are relatively easy to maintain and keeping the track in a condition that anyone will be safe, DOC is able to recommend these tracks to the public. This policy has been remarkably successful. Tourist publicity has its own momentum and the more popular tracks are full to overflowing. Huts accommodating 60 or more people; wardens; one way restrictions; commercial groups of 40 people: the more people that do a particular track, the more people want to do it. Tracks are maintained to a standard that all possible hazard and discomfort is minimized. Over twelve thousand people walk the Milford track every season.

New Zealand Wilderness

The popularity of the Great Walks should not lead one to believe that all walking tracks are busy. On the contrary, the success for the Great Walks means that there are hundreds of tracks and routes left out of the tourist loop.

There are walks where you will only hear the sound of Tuis and Bellbirds. There are huts to visit that seem to come out of a wilderness fairy tale. There are tracks where every turn of a corner brings the unexpected.

For those with local knowledge and skills, New Zealand back country is an alpine paradise. The mountains here are living, they creek and groan with the movement of glaciers and the grinding of tectonic plates. The hills move and the rivers rise up. But like a wild animal, the Southern Alps have an unruly temperament. Picking appropriate routes is crucial to an enjoyable experience. Weather, river crossings, route finding - even experienced hikers can be tested by the changing conditions of remote routes.

Our Wild Walks trekking program uses professional hiking guides to help visitors access these remote areas.

Escape the crowds

There as many Wild Walks as there are different people. But all Wild Walks have one thing in common. We go where human impact is kept to a minimum.

With over 25 years in the mountains of the South Island, we have trips to match everyone. Everyone is different and there are many options. We go to valleys by boat plane and helicopter, there are mountaineering trips which require ice ax and crampons or gentle valleys where you can bring the kids.

You don't find where we go in brochures at the visitor information center. You will not find a bus to take you there. If you ask around, not many people will probably have ever heard of where we take people in the NZ wilderness.    With professional trekking guides, we provide the safety and experience to let you enjoy hiking a unique area of New Zealand.

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