Fern Burn Track

Motatapu Track

Trek Summer
mountain background mountain background
3 days
Trekking experience
Backcountry Experience

Our 3 day Motatapu guided hiking trip offers people who are reasonably new to hiking three days under the watchful eye of one of our guides.

The Motatapu Valley links lakes Wanaka and Wakatipu. Long before a road was carved through Cardrona Valley and over the Crown Range, the route via the Motatapu was the way Māori traveled from one basin to the other. Full of history, a variety of terrain including green valley, forest, river, and highland, and offering a wilderness experience tucked between two of the South Island's most popular destinations, the Motatapu Track is a natural option for those wanting an accessible but still challenging Kiwi trek.

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Day One

The track starts in the Fern Burn carpark, heading along the river and passing shrubland, grassy flats, and through shady beech forest. Then the climbing starts, getting above the bushline and into tussock country. You'll make your way past Fern Burn Hut at 720m, a great spot for lunch. From the hut there is more climbing up to Jack Halls Saddle at 1275m, the high point for day one. Then it's time to head down to Highland Creek and then Highland Creek Hut (asl 850 m).

13km - 6-8 hours

Day Two

To start the day you'll cross Highland Creek, sidling along and negotiating more creeks, climbs and tussock along the way. But don't forget to look up and catch the views across Motatapu valley. To finish off the day you'll head steeply down into the gully where there is another creek to cross. From here it's up again to the South West ridge of Knuckle Peak. More sidling here before heading down and along a ridge to the Motatapu River. An easy finish to the day with a hike along some open flats to Roses Hut which is at 681m.

11km - 6-8 hours

Day Three

After an early start it's time to head up to the main ridge above Roses Saddle. You'll head along the ridge here before going down to the Arrow River. We like to embrace the true kiwi tramping way here and wade in and out of the river down to Macetown. If the river is high there is also a high track option that sidles above the river. At Macetown we meet our 4WD. Take your pack off and finish the trip with a four wheel drive along the Arrow River.

5-6hrs 10km

The Motatapu Track is a route steeped in history.

From the days of seasonal Māori settlements through the gold mining days, the valley of the Motatapu has quietly watched passersby through the centuries. Now keen trekkers have the option to traverse this route connecting Wanaka to the charming old mining towns of Macetown and Arrowtown on the other side of the mountain range.

Beginning from Wanaka, the route travels from green valley pastures through the beech forest along the Fern Burn (i.e. stream/river) before climbing up to the highland terrain. The track includes open flats as well challenging ups and downs over saddles and along ridge lines. The first night is spent at the Highland Creek Hut (850m), and the second at Roses Hut (681m), before finishing the last day via river crossings and past relics of the old mining days.

The Motatapu Wild Walk is suitable for people with a moderate level of fitness.

While the track is rough by usual standards, with 5-8 hours hiking it is not a long day. The track has some steep sections, so hikers should have enough endurance to maintain a slow but steady pace for at least an hour. This walk is suitable for most children over the age of 10, however some younger kids who have experience have found it to be an excellent outing.

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Trip Date Available
Get in touch for Spring/Summer 2022 dates


Client Ratio Price
1:1 - 1:4

What's included

  • all meals and snacks
  • Four wheel drive egress from Macetown
  • tents and hut accommodation (if weather is not good for camping)
  • national park, guide fees and 15% goods and service tax (GST)

Frequently asked questions

For most of our treks you will only need to carry your own personal clothing and gear: no tents, food or cooking supplies. Check the equipment and clothing required on the specific trip page as this varies for each trip. There will also be an indication of your pack weight. For our advanced trips, Adelaide Cirque and Lake Nerine, you will be required to a full pack.

Good travel insurance is essential. In addition to medical/accident cover, we highly recommend purchasing travel cancellation insurance. In some instances, our clients have injured themselves in totally unrelated accidents or had a family emergency which has meant that they have had to cancel their trips at short notice. Unfortunately, we were unable to resell their places and had to insist on our cancellation policy. A bad situation for everyone! But it’s also one that can be avoided with relatively cheap travel insurance. You may have your own preferred travel insurer. If not, here are some suggestions.
We do not recommend any company over any other.

New Zealand Alpine Club Cover – available to Australian members while hiking in NZ

New Zealand Alpine Club Loss of Deposits Cover – available to NZ members while hiking in NZ

Insure4Less - Australians only: for more challenging trekking where ropes or technical equipment are required; for easier trekking trips

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