The Welcome Rock Trail is a 27km mountain bike / walking track an hour south of Queenstown, cut by hand over two, no doubt long, years. Starting at the historic Southland Ski Club Hut, it loops around the hillside, taking in a number of historic areas and sights. Of which I saw little as it was covered in knee to thigh deep snow!
Was very glad I hired a 4WD to get up Nevis Road…
But I was rewarded with stunning views over the Mataura Valley, with the Eyre Mountains in the distance, a background that would stay with me for the entire walk.
Loved the ski hut, dating from 1934, when intrepid skiers would walk an hour and half up the hill. It became obsolete when Coronet Peak opened, but remains a place full of history and character.
It also marks the start of the trail, over DOC land for a kilometre, before entering private land. You’ll need a pass from the super friendly Tom, who helped me with directions during the day, benefits of mobile coverage on the Mataura Valley side of the track.
Original plan was to walk the 27km track in day, ideally in less than six hours to allow me to get back to Queentown to return the car. Was ambitious, ridiculously so in retrospect…
Made good progress along the first section, snow mainly ankle deep, fresh and untouched. I was the only person on the track all day, and clearly since the last snowfall, though there were some animal tracks.
Past a cattle gate the track disappeared though, too much snow and drifts to find it. After yesterday’s experience of getting lost (though easy to retrace steps in fresh snow) I decided to play it safe and headed up along the fence line, knowing that that Welcome Rock is at the highest point of the track. As was the thickest snow, much of it thigh deep and hard work!
Had a much needed lunch spot sat on a rock wondering where Slate Hut was, should have been close by according to the map. Which it was when I went back round the other side of the rocks and rediscovered the track.
Super cute two person hut, complete with a bath with a view!
Was only 2.5km into the track by this point but including lunch had taken two hours to reach. The next notable spot on the track, Mud Hut, was over 6km away so decided to cut my losses and head back, saving the rest of the track for another (less snow covered) day.
Following the track now only took an hour to return to the ski hut, allowing plenty of time for an exploratory drive back to Queenstown, around the gorgeous Lake Wakatipu.