Hiking New Zealand’s New Great Walk: The Paparoa Track

New Zealand’s Great Walks are legendary in the backcountry world. Since launching in 1993 to protect some of the country’s most beloved trails, the three-to-five-day treks have attracted millions of hikers, all eager to traverse the island nation’s iconic landscapes, from the Milford Track’s alpine passes on the South Island to the Tongariro Northern Circuit’s active volcanic fields on the North Island. Many lie in remote, untouched corners.

While the nine original Great Walks were based on existing trails, the 35-mile Paparoa is purpose-built, cutting southeast to northwest through difficult, previously inaccessible terrain in Paparoa National Park, from the inland town of Blackball to the coastal village Punakaiki on the South Island.

It’s also the first Great Walk designated for dual use by hikers and mountain bikers. Designed to be walked over three days (or ridden over two days), the track gently meanders upward through rainforest to exposed ridges and past waterfalls, limestone caves, and relics of the area’s gold-mining past. On clear days, views stretch across alpine tussocks to the Tasman Sea.

The Paparoa Track features three huts: the previously existing Ces Clarke Hut and the brand-new Moonlight Tops and Pororari Huts. Some tracks allow trailside camping in designated sites; on others, like the Paparoa, huts are mandatory and must be reserved in advance.

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