Paparoa Track – Moonlight Tops Hut to Pororari River car park

The second and third days walking the 55km Paparoa Track, the most recently built Great Walk, and one of my favourites. The weather didn’t match the brilliant first day but was much better than forecast, with torrential rain holding off until literally 15 minutes after I finished walking, and the track was varied and super scenic.

I woke in Moonlight Tops Hut to some sunrise colour in the sky, though I was conscious of the adage “red sky in the morning, shepherds warning” given the weather forecast.

There was plenty of colour in the landscape heading out from the hut.

Before heading into atmospheric lichen and moss covered bush.

I emerged into the open as the sun broke through to highlight parts of the huge landscape.

Ahead could be seen the western escarpment visible from Moonlight Tops Hut, which the track follows.

Through a break in the mountains I could see the Southern Alps in the distance.

There were more great views along the track. The low cloud wasn’t ideal but there was little wind and it was much better than the forecast.

The Pike Escarpment Emergency Shelter was a good spot for a quick rest. It was occupied by people working on the track ahead.

This was one of the rare sections with railings to protect from the drop off, more for cyclists than hikers.

Track work was obvious, with a digger and compactor used to regrade the track for the first time since it was built five years ago, as water had created channels and ruts. Fresh track is quite brutal and confronting, a clear gash in the landscape.

Waterfall Creek Bridge was understandably one of the more challenging to construct, built over winter in 2019 in three weeks.

This rock tunnel was pretty cool.

There was less to see but it was relatively fast travel along this section.

Before arriving at Pororari Hut, which is identical (other than missing a few coat hooks) to Moonlight Tops Hut. You can see the huts from each other which is pretty unusual.

The sun made a brief appearance.

As did a little rain, creating a rainbow.

A pair of fantails / pīwakawaka were hanging around by the toilets.

After dark a kea appeared on the hut balcony.

It was a wet and windy night, which didn’t bode well for the day ahead.

But it stayed dry and was super atmospheric heading out of the hut for the last, and shortest, day on the track.

I’ve rarely seen such variety and quantity of ferns, it was a beautiful walk.

There were a number of bridged creek crossings.

The landscape started to open up as the track descended into the upper Pororari River valley.

The final stretch of the track is through the stunning Pororari River Gorge.

To add a postscript comparing the Paparoa Track with the Old Ghost Road, as they are both dual purpose three day tracks very close to each other. The Old Ghost Road is privately run (rather than by DOC) so is a bit more expensive, but the huts have showers, cutlery and crockery, and other cool features. The track surface is less interesting than the Paparoa Track, feeling more like small road. I felt like two thirds of the Old Ghost Road would be better on a bike, and the middle section better on foot (to enjoy the views and due to the highly technical nature), but the Paparoa Track was enjoyable throughout on foot. Both tracks have history, but the Old Ghost Road has much more. The views are comparable but the Paparoa Track seems more time above the bush line so you have longer to enjoy the views. They’re both wonderful walks, but perhaps don’t do them too close together as it could seem a little samey.

Author: jontycrane

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