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New Zealand hikesNew Zealand Nelson Lakes Travers- Sabine Circuit / Track

New Zealanders and overseas visitors have turned to unspoiled hills, forests and coasts of our magnificent New Zealand landscape in search of physical recreation and spiritual solace. Nelson Lakes Travers Sabine track is one of the safest tracks to be found in New Zealand's remote back country, free from river crossings, well marked and well provided with huts. It may be sensibly tackled by the inexperienced provided that their party includes one or two seasoned trampers or hikers. So go to it, embark on the discovery of our unequalled New Zealand natural landscape.

Discover Nelson Lakes National park , Travers Sabine Track , a top destinations for tramping and hiking track adventures - the Nelson Lakes National Park Travers Sabine Track, New Zealand.

General Information

Nelson Lakes National park, Travers Sabine Track is located in the north of the South Island and is 1 to 2 hours from Nelson.  St Arnaud the nearest township, has a full range of accommodation. Nelson Lakes National Park (established in 1956) is situated in the north of New Zealand's South Island.  This park protects 102,000 hectares of the northern most Southern Alps. The park offers tranquil beech forest, craggy mountains, clear streams and lakes both big and small.

Nelson Lake Trampers can expect:

  • parts of the track to have a rough or uneven walking surface
  • to walk through flood water up to a metre deep after or during heavy rain
  • to cross unbridged streams
  • to get wet and muddy boots – it’s part of the Nelson Lakes Track experience

All natives birds and flora are protected; plants must not be removed and domestic animals, such as dogs, are prohibited. All mammals (except bats) are introduced, noxious and fair game but hunting of these (e.g. red deer) is not allowed except by permit (consult park rangers). It is the responsibility of every traveller to see that the environment remains undamaged and unpolluted and is preserved as nearly as possible in its natural state. Information about Nelson Lakes National Park may be obtained from the official park handbooks, available at Government bookshops and all major booksellers.

Nearest Nelson Lakes National park station to the all Tracks is the Nelson Lakes visitor centre at St Arnaud. Visitor Centre can provide information and advice about travelling in the parks are freely available.

During the Summer season ( late October to mid April ) national park wardens are in attendance at all huts to give advice and provide park interpretation. Huts are linked by radio so that wardens may monitor the movement of track walkers. Even so, for safety's sake, you must ensure that you register your group's names and intentions in national park hut books along the track.

Nelson Lakes Tramping & Hiking Options
  • Deep cut glacial valleys and impressive mountain views
  • Alpine pass and tarns
  • Dense beech forest.
  • Water taxi on Lake Rotiti and Lake Rotoroa
  • Well-graded track
  • Many Backcountry Huts
  • Excellent transport to and from both track ends

Nelson Lakes National park tracks I believe are some of the most popular tramps or hikes in New Zealand. Many of the tracks are a true alpine walk - deep valleys bracketed by bluffs, waterfalls opening on to steep tussock tops giving dramatic views of the Mountains. A remarkable feat of track engineering, it penetrates the sheer walls of the Nelson lakes Mountains and opens up vistas of alpine tops, waterfalls, lakes, and bush-carpeted valleys. However, there is a down side. The track is highly regulated ( see notes below), the sandflies can be murder, you must learn to enjoy huts crowded with people, and the weather can be atrocious. .

Most of Nelson Lakes national park tracks are well graded, of course, but rougher underfoot than you would expect. Slips and washouts can create awkward muddy or rocky sections and the Department of Conservation has a constant struggle to maintain the track. Nelson Lakes national park tracks really is wilderness country, with wilderness weather, impressive, bloody-minded and raw. Take a good raincoat and don't expect an easy country ramble and you will have a satisfying and memorable tramp. Huts are large and comfortable with wardens on duty through the peak summer months.


Walking the Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks requires either Nelson Lakes Shuttles Transport or private transport to ends of track options. , Nelson Lakes National Park tracks can only be walked from either Lake Rotoroa , or Lake Rotoiti or via St James Walkway over Waiau pass. Nelson Lakes Shuttles provides track transport and can transfer your vehicle from Lake Rotoiti to Lake Rotoroa. For current information on access and bookings contact Nelson Lakes Shuttles on 021 490095 or email or web

Track Transport ( includes Water Taxis)

Walking the Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks requires either Nelson Lakes Shuttles Transport or private transport to ends of track options. , Nelson Lakes National Park tracks can only be walked from either Lake Rotoroa Water Taxi , or Lake Rotoiti Water Taxi or via St James Walkway over Waiau pass. Nelson Lakes Shuttles provides track transport and can transfer your vehicle from Lake Rotoiti to Lake Rotoroa. For current information on access and bookings contact Nelson Lakes Shuttles on 021 490095 or email or web

Local Services
St Arnaud, Lake Rotoiti and Lake Rotoroa has everything - a range of accommodation from hotels, homestay, backpackers to motor camps. Nelson Lakes Accommodation Gowan Backpackers & Homestay Lake Rotoroa , and Nelson Lakes Homestay Accommodation I highly recommend.
Huts and Camping

Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks has many huts within the parks boundaries with no gas cooking, wood stove, toilets. Backcountry Hut Tickets apply and camping is allowed on the Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks .


DOC Track Publications


Weather and Season

Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks lies within a mountain environment. It is possible to experience sunshine, torrential rain, high winds and snow all in one day, even in summer. Be prepared for sudden weather changes, swollen rivers, usually for the worse, and take a waterproof raincoat, woollen hat and gloves, and a complete change of clothes. It may be under snow from late May until the end of September, with corresponding avalanche risk. Listen to weather reports, take advice from DOC Visitor Centre and if in doubt - wait it out. Only highly experienced trampers, hikers and climbers should undertake the track .


Clothing and Equipment

Nelson Lakes National Park Track Walkers must take adequately warm clothing. In fine weather, shorts and a light shirt may be worn but long trousers, a warm shirt and woollen sweater essential for cold conditions. A waterproof parka is also essential. Boots must be worn and these must be properly broken in. A comfortable pack and warm sleeping bag are essential: there is no bedding in the huts.

All food and all utensils must be carried. Gas rings and fuel are provided in some huts during the season. Check with your local DOC office. Each hut also has a stove for heating and drying. No fires are allowed outside approved fireplaces. Remember to remove all rubbish which you are unable to burn - pack out what you pack in - in the rubbish bags provided.

You will need at least one set of clothes to walk in, and another dry set to change into at night. It is not possible to dry clothes in the huts. It is essential that this clothing is carried as your safety and the safety of others could well depend on it. Please Note: cotton clothing such as jeans, T-shirts and sweatshirts is not suitable. Polypropylene, which is quick drying, is recommended.

Warning: synthetic clothing is flammable.

  • Boots: need to be comfortable and well broken in
  • Socks: (wool/polypropylene) 2 pairs
  • Shorts: (cotton/ nylon)
  • Shirt: (wool/polypropylene)
  • Longjohns/trousers: (wool/polypropylene)
  • Jersey/Jacket: (wool/polar fleece)
  • Undershirts/T shirt: (wool/polypropylene)
  • Mittens/Gloves: (wool/polypropylene)
  • Raincoat: (waterproof, windproof with hood)
  • Woollen hat/balaclava and sunhat. Extra socks, underwear, shirt or lightweight jersey (warning, synthetic clothing is flammable).

Personal Equipment

  • Pack: with large waterproof/plastic liner 
  • Sleeping bag: good quality down or hollofil
  • Matches/ lighter: in waterproof container
  • Torch: spare batteries
  • Eating utensils: knife, fork, spoon, plate, cup
  • Cooking utensils: pot/pan/billy, pot scrubber
  • Toilet gear: soap, toothpaste, toilet paper, small towel (do not wash or use soap in lakes or streams)
  • First Aid Kit: insect repellent, sunscreen, blister kits, pain relief, assorted bandages
  • Survival Kit: survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil, spare days food
  • Drink bottle: (you need to drink regularly during the day) 
  • Optional extras: sunglasses, camera, lightweight shoes for in hut, ear plugs for communal bunkrooms (you will be sharing huts with up to forty other trampers)


Fitness and Preparation

It is important to ensure that you are physically fit. If you are not preoccupied with blistered feet or sore muscles then not only will you cover the ground more quickly and safely, but you will have more time and opportunity to appreciate the scenery and natural features that you have made so much effort to reach! So - break in those boots, make sure your clothing and gear are comfortable and adequate, plan your food requirements, and undertake several training tramps or hikes of increasing length and difficulty. There's only one way to get fit for tramping - and that's tramping.

Before you leave home, inform relatives or friends of your indentations and dates of travel and put your names and plans in the log books along the way. This will make your location easier should you suffer any mishap. On the track, keep your party together at all times; reduces the chance of a member getting lost or having an accident. Remember - the pace of your party is that of its slowest member.

Approach to Walking

Don't rush and don't loiter. Keep up a good, steady pace and don't indulge in too many rest stops - it's surprising how the time gets away from you. And rests should not be too long, otherwise you may stiffen up and lose your rhythm. Don't hang around if its wet and cold - keep body heat up. Start out early each day, so that you're always time in hand.

Keep your party together at all times; this reduces the chance of a member getting lost or having an accident. Remember the golden rule - the pace of the party is that of its slowest member.

Although the Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks are a well-graded, well marked, well hutted and well used track, it must not be undertaken lightly. People on the Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks do underestimate the weather conditions. Your group must be fit and well prepared. Make a conservative estimate of your capabilities and needs, plan well, and by the time you reach the Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks you'll have no worries. Bad weather will easily delay you and it is sensible to have a day in hand - especially if you want to enjoy the view. Nelson Lakes National Park Tracks varies between an easy country walk and a standard tramping or hiking trail. Although always well graded, it can be stony and rough underfoot.


More>> Nelson Lakes National Park Photos





Further Information

Department of Conservation

Nelson Lakes National Park Visitor Centre, St Arnaud
Phone: (03) 521 1806


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