Mt Aspiring National Park

Image: Jamie Muchall | Creative Commons

Introduction

Mount Aspiring National Park is a wonderful mixture of remote wilderness, high mountains and beautiful river valleys. It is a walker's paradise and a must for mountaineers.

Place overview

Facilities

  • Visitor centre

Activities

  • Camping
  • Climbing
  • Fishing
  • Hunting
  • Skiing and ski touring
  • Walking and tramping

In this section

Find things to do and places to stay Mount Aspiring National Park

About this place

Places to go

Visit the Matukituki Valley area or the Makarora area - both offer with walking and tramping. 

Nature and conservation

Geology

The park spans a large area, from the Haast River in the north to the Humbolt Mountains in the south. Large valleys, carved out by ancient glaciers, dissect high mountain ranges.

Mt Aspiring itself is the only peak over 3000 metres outside Mount Cook National Park. One of the most unusual areas in the park is the Red Hills 'mineral belt' in the southwest. Here the concentration of magnesium in the soil is so high that only a few hardy plants survive.

Most of the Southern Alps/Ka Tiritiri o te Moana started over 220 million years ago as sediment and rock on top of volcanic rocks on the seafloor. Under intense heat and pressure the rock was consolidated, then uplifted to form the Main Divide. The present landscape was shaped by glacial processes during the Ice Ages, when huge glaciers filled and scoured out the valleys.

Plants

Beech forests dominate below the bush line. Each beech species favours slightly different growing conditions so while you might find red beech in sunny, frost-free situations, you will find silver or mountain beech at higher altitudes, happily surviving winter snow falls.

Ribbonwoods are among the first to colonise open areas (caused by slips and avalanches); these are among New Zealand's few deciduous trees. Above the bushline are snow tussock grasslands and herbfields with mountain buttercups, and daisies. 

Birdlife

Rifleman, bellbird, South Island robin, yellow crowned parakeet, mohua (yellowhead), tomtit, South Island fantail and New Zealand pigeon are common bush birds. Towards evening, native bats and moreporks (small owls) may be seen and heard. Blue ducks and paradise shelducks live in the valley. 

The park's alpine areas are home to the threatened rock wren and the high-profile kea. These mischievous mountain parrots have been known to take an unhealthy interest in visitors' packs and tents.

Other animals

New Zealand has no animals which are harmful to humans. Introduced animals include whitetail deer in the lower Routeburn valley, red deer throughout the forested areas and chamois about the mountaintops. Possums, rats and stoats are widespread. Introduced brown and rainbow trout are found in the lower Route Burn and brown trout are present in Lake Howden. 

Rare, threatened native long-tailed bats/pekapeka roost in mature red beech forests mainly in Makarora, East Matukituki Valley, and the Routeburn. Bats are New Zealand’s only native land mammal; their bodies are a similar size to mice.

Videos

Watch videos conservation efforts in Mount Aspiring National Park.

History and culture

Māori were here first, searching for food and pounamu (greenstone). “Greenstone trails” along mountain passes are still in use today such as Haast Pass on State Highway 6 (the major road between Wanaka and Haast).  

Māori called Mount Aspiring, Tititea, meaning steep peak of glistening white. Throughout the year they came from Foveaux Strait and Coastal Otago to the inland lakes to collect kakapo, kaka, kereru (wood pigeon) and tui from the forest. For the first 200 years of Māori settlement there would also have been moa along the forest edges.

Kati Mamoe and Kai Tahu both had named settlements around the shores of Lakes Wānaka and Hawea, including Nehenehe (literally meaning forest), on the north side of the mouth of the Matukituki River. There are several sites on the lake shore with ovens for cooking ti rakau (cabbage tree) roots.

The first European to see Mount Aspiring/Tititea was government surveyor John Turnbull Thompson in 1857. After European settlement many of the valleys were farmed and exploited for minerals such as scheelite. Remnants of these activities can still be found in and around the park. Tourism development began in the late 1880s. Even then it was possible to take a guided trip into the Routeburn Valley. Mount Aspiring is possibly the least developed of New Zealand’s 14 national parks.

World Heritage Area

Mt Aspiring National Park is included in the Te Wähipounamu South West New Zealand World Heritage Area - a global concept that identifies natural and cultural sites of world significance … places so special that protecting them concerns all people.

Getting there

Mt Aspiring National Park straddles the southern end of the Southern Alps. The closest towns are Wanaka, Queenstown, Glenorchy and Te Anau. It is one of New Zealand's larger parks at 355,543 ha and it lies alongside the largest, Fiordland National Park.

In the northwest the park is traversed by SH6. Good tramping tracks and short walks can be accessed from the small settlement of Makarora between Haast and Wanaka.

Roads also lead to main access points from Wanaka, Queenstown/Glenorchy and Te Anau. Local transport services run to most of these access points, including a boat service from Glenorchy to the Greenstone Valley, and the following services from Wanaka:

Bus services to Queenstown, Wanaka and Te Anau are frequent. Queenstown has an airport with regular services and Wanaka airport services domestic flights.

Know before you go

If you use the track system in the park for overnight trips, make sure you are properly equipped and well prepared.

Make sure your group has a capable leader and that everyone is carrying a sleeping bag, cooking utensils, sufficient high energy food (with some extra for emergencies), a waterproof raincoat and overtrousers, gloves, a hat, and several layers of warm (wool or fleece) clothing.

There is avalanche danger during winter and spring (June-November) on the Rob Roy Track, Cascade Saddle Route and Pearl Flat to the head of the valley.

Check in at any of the local DOC offices for the latest information on weather and track conditions. 

Follow the outdoor safety code

Before you go into the outdoors, tell someone your plans and leave a date to raise the alarm if you haven't returned. To do this, use the New Zealand Outdoors Intentions process on the AdventureSmart website. It is endorsed by New Zealand's search and rescue agencies and provides three simple options to tell someone you trust the details about your trip.


All drone use must be authorised by DOC

A concession is required to fly a drone on any public conservation land.


Contacts

Tititea / Mount Aspiring National Park Visitor Centre
Phone:   0272696871
Fax:   03 4437660
Email:   mtaspiringvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   1 Ballantyne Road
Wanaka 9305
Postal Address:   PO Box 93
Wanaka 9343
Whakatipu-wai-Māori / Queenstown Visitor Centre
Phone:   +64 3 442 7935
Fax:   +64 4 471 1117
Email:   queenstownvc@doc.govt.nz
Address:   50 Stanley Street
Queenstown
9300
Postal Address:   PO Box 811
Queenstown 9348
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