Wilkin Valley Track
This stunning track is commonly tramped in conjunction with the Gillespie Pass Circuit or with the Rabbit Pass/East Matukituki traverse, but makes a great long weekend trip all by itself. The Wilkin has plenty of options for those wishing a longer trip with several un-tracked side valleys to explore. Highlight of the track are the four lakes: Disappearing Tarn, Diana, Lucidus and Castalia, located up the north branch past Top Forks hut.
The Wilkin track starts at the Makarora/Wilkin river confluence with a fording of the un-bridged Makarora required. This crossing is generally OK due to the Makarora being braided but quickly becomes un-crossable after rain. Check with DoCs Makarora office before attempting. Jet-boats operate on the river and can drop parties off halfway up at Kerin Forks for $110pp (2014 price, $125 buys you a helicopter flight) saving about 6-8 hours of walking. Above Kerin Forks the track is on the true right of the Wilkin and is impossible to reach after rain.
The jet-boats from Makarora to Kerin Forks are the easiest way to get across the Makarora and save hours of uninteresting walking up the lower Wilkin through farmland, river flats and forest, plus remove the potentially difficult fording of the Wilkin itself. The price has gone up horrendously since 2010 however and its now only fractionally more expensive to charter a helicopter flight to Kerin Forks instead. A good ford over the Wilkin does exist at Dans Flat for those walking up. Makarora to Kerin Forks hut takes about 6-8 hours on foot or about 20 minutes in the jet-boat.
Parties arriving in the Wilkin from the Gillespie Pass Circuit need to ford the Wilkin at Kerin Forks and may need to flag the jet-boat down for a ride across (for about $20pp). If you choose to go up the true left of the Wilkin bare in mind that you will have to cross the Siberia, Newland and Wonderland streams. Kerin Forks to Jumboland Flats via the true left takes about 8 hours.
From Kerin Forks the marked track goes up the true right of the Wilkin through beech forest and is in good condition allowing swift travel. After about 30 minutes the Newland stream will be visible on the opposite side of the river and parties wishing to visit the Newland Valley will need to ford the Wilkin here. Continuing up the Wilkin the large grassy flats at Jumboland are reached after about 2-3 hours with plenty of great camping spots on both sides of the river. Its possible to climb Mt Jumbo here or to ford the Wilkin and follow the Wonderland stream to the Wonderland valley.
The track reenters the bush at the west end of the flats and climbs up a bit of a gorge before descending to the extensive Top Flats. The track markers essentially end here except for the occasional sporadic one, but it is a simple task to follow the true right river bank the whole way up the flats to Top Forks hut. There is one large bush covered hill which extends right down to the river at F38 834 507 (BZ11 734 891) and a marked track climbs and descends steeply over it, but if the river is low it is far easier to ford the Wilkin to the true left and then cross back when past the hill. If doing this either stick to the river bank or cross right over to the bush edge and follow that until level with the hill in order to avoid unpleasant bouldery terrain. Once you've regained the track past the hill Top Forks hut is located up on a rise a short distance further on. Kerin Forks hut to Top Forks hut is about 4-5 hours. Jumboland Flats to Top Forks hut is about 3 hours.
From Top Forks the south branch of the Wilkin takes you to Rabbit Pass and the East Matukituki valley via the infamous Waterfall face. The track to the north branch lakes fords the south branch and then heads north on the Wilkin true right. Another large side stream has to be crossed (impassible in flood) and then the track climbs steeply up a gorge before leveling off. After a short while a small lake called The Disappearing Tarn is reached with gorgeous reflections of the surrounding mountains on a still day.
Shortly after this the bush line is cleared and Lake Dianna is visible a short scramble off the track to the left through grass. Continuing up valley will reveal to you a massive moraine wall which forms Lake Lucidus. A junction in the track is reached and heading north takes you up to the outlet of Lucidus. For a simply stunning view, ford the outlet stream and climb the tall south moraine hill. Its a bit of a slog to get up there but the view up Lucidus or south down the valley is amazing. Don't bother trying to climb the east moraine as the rocks are slippery, the scrub dense and boulder holes numerous. Once back down at the track junction, the track fords the Wilkin and continues up valley to the east of Lucidus. It undulates a bit and near the north end of the moraine wall the Wilkin is crossed and re-crossed. A short worthwhile diversion involves leaving the track and sidling across to the northern head of the moraine for a view down the lake.
The last stretch of the track to Lake Castalia is done on the true left and is a scramble up loose rock through a gorge. You emerge at the outlet for Castalia. For the adventurous its possible to carry on round the Eastern side of the lake to explore the glacial tailings at the head of the lake, and Moirs Guide North refers to a route up the steep Eastern rock walls to head north along the tops to the Te Naihi river (rope required). Top Forks hut to Lake Diana takes about an hour, Dianna to Lucidus about 30 minutes, Lucidus to Castalia about 1-1.5 hours. Castalia back to Top Forks takes about 3 hours.
This is not a dry boots track. Grades explained
Return by the same track
|Time||2 – 5 days|
Altitude change 820m
|From||About 3km South of Makarora township, or at Kerin Forks if coming from the Gillespie Pass Circuit.|