The Paparoa Track: New Zealand’s Newest Great Walk
The Paparoa Track will be New Zealand’s newest Great Walk and the 10th to be added to the portfolio. It is the first track to be designed for both mountain bikers and walkers. Set to open on December 1st 2019, the Department of Consveration have been working very hard over the last few years building the track. We are so excited to get on the track and experience the spectacular natural wilderness of the Paparoa National Park.
The Trail Story
Out of the tragedy of the Pike Mine explosion, the Paparoa Track was proposed. A request came from the families of those who died, to establish a multi-day tramping and cycle track linking Blackball to Punakaiki. This track would be a memorial to the 29 miners and would drive an economic benefit to the west coast communities. The Department of Conservation accepted the challenge to create a new Great Walk and committed to making this a dual cycle/tramping function. To link with the Pike River mine head, an 11km side trail was built off the tops that provides access down into the headwaters of the Pike river portal. The trail will meet the Inland Pack track at the Pororari River and the users here are separated with riders exiting via a new trail over into the neighbouring Punakaiki River.
The Track Profile
The Paparoa Track will be a 55.7km dual use trail connecting Blackball with Punakaiki. The trail will be well-formed, maintained to DOC Great Walk and Advanced: Grade 4 mountain biking standards, with numerous swing and suspension bridges. While track users will access from either end and chose their own speed, the track most logically rides from the Blackball end through to Punakaiki. This would involve a climb of some 800m onto the tops and a gradual undulating descent to Punakaiki.
For some riders, this track will be a swift one-day experience, for others a more modest two day/one night stay. Walkers are more likely to take two nights en route.
The Pike 29 Memorial track drops 10.8kms off the ridge tops down into the Pike River headwaters and the sad memorial to the 29 miners who died in the mine explosion of 2010. This walk can be either an in and out return to the tops, an alternate start to the Paparoa track itself, or a round trip with a shuttle / ride back to Blackball.
The Paparoa Track has been designed and built to encourage users to experience a range of accommodation. On the trail tops, two new 20 bunk huts have been built – Moonlight and Pororari – which will provide the core of the accommodation. Lower down, the existing Ces Clark hut is a more traditional backcountry hut closer to the start of the trail above Smoko Carpark.
The Moonlight and Pororari are built around a large common/cooking area with two bunkrooms and external deckings from which to enjoy the stunning vista. Both huts offer bunks, mattresses, heating and cooking as well as water supply and toilets. During the season there is likely to be a ranger on site. Riders and walkers will need to bring a sleeping bag ( and liner ) as well as their hut booking ticket. The overnight experience on the track is one of the special unique elements of trail ride and shouldn’t be missed.