East West Route

Molesworth Recreation Reserve, Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia Conservation Park

  • 5 – 6 days one way
  • Medium

A long trail through remote, desolate high country between the Clarence River and Molesworth Recreation Reserve.

East West Route: Key information
Walking time
5 – 6 days
41 hr – 47 hr
One way
One way
Unmarked route requiring careful navigation. Significant river crossing hazards, including the Clarence River. Grades explained
No bookings — open access
No — open access
East West Route: Find it
Kahutara car park, south of Kahutara River bridge, Inland Kaikoura Road.
Sedgemere Sleepout, Wairau - Hanmer Springs Road.
500m – 1,764m
Altitude change 1,264m

The new East West Route takes a long journey through Ka Whata Tu o Rakihouia Conservation Park, over the Clarence River and into the Molesworth Recreation Reserve, to finish on the Wairau Hanmer Springs Hydro Road north of Hanmer Springs. While there are some seasonal restrictions on access to the Molesworth, none apply to this route. 

This route is well supplied with new huts, but is otherwise unconstructed. Some sections are unmarked. Distance between track ends is an issue with this route, and a more straightforward option in the area would be the Leatham Molesworth Route, which is a circuit.

Kahutara car park to Seymour Hut

The car park is located just west of the one-lane Kahutara Bridge, 25km from Kaikoura on the Inland Kaikoura Road. From here, it is a long day's slog into the Clarence Valley (the road is open to mountain bikes, so if you are coming back the same way then you could save some time). Follow the signposted 4WD track over the Kahutara River and up a gentle Spur. Pass Bushy Saddle (550m) then zig zag up to Driving Spur, passing Blind Saddle at 1070m. The track continues to climb, topping out at 1200m before dropping gradually toward Seymour Stream and the new Warden Hut.

Warden Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 12.

The long journey is broken by a series of historic huts along the way. Tent Poles Hut is an historic hut located under willow trees, on the way down to Seymour Stream, and Bluff Dump Hut is located right next to Warden Hut.  Black Spur Slab Hut is just past Warden Hut. This is a poplar slab hut in a grove of poplars 200m off the track, up Black Rock Stream. All three likely date from about 1928 and are available for a night's rustic lodging, although Warden Hut is the more comfortable option. 

A long slog down the streambed leads down to the Clarence River. A vehicle track turns off early, going to Quail Flat Homestead, but the second track leads to Seymour Hut.

Seymour / Forbes Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 10.

Seymour Hut to Lake McRae Hut

From Seymour Hut, head off up the Clarence, crossing as necessary to the unnamed stream located at point 1631460E, 5325794N. This is the second stream on the true left, and climbs more gently than the first stream. Follow a blazed trail through the scrub at the stream edge over an easy saddle. Follow the new stream downhill until you meet Elliott Stream, which cuts a straight line northeast to southwest. Head upstream along stock trails to the small Elliott Bivvy beneath poplars and elms at a stream junction. 

Elliott Bivvy • Basic Hut/Bivvy (DOC). Capacity: 2.

From Elliott Bivvy, continue upstream as it bends around the base of Little Benledi (in case you wonder, Beinn Leitir is an 879m "mountain" in Scotland). As the stream turns south, a bulldozer track pushes westward over a saddle to Lake McRae, a pond between Turks Head and Big Benledi. Edge around the north shore of the lake. The hut is located 100m below and west of the lake beneath a natural dam.

Lake McRae Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 6.

Lake McRae Hut to Molesworth Cob Cottage Campground

The bulldozer track continues along the true right bank of the river draining the lake, soon turning up a side stream on the northern bank to follow the spur leading over a saddle south of point 1502 and onto Robinson Saddle (1430m). From the saddle,  Robinson Creek leads northward for 9km, before joining up with the Awatere River. A 4WD track leads down the river and connects with the Awatere Valley Road. Follow the road to the right, and you come to the Molesworth Cob Cottage Campsite, next to the original homestead (1885).

Molesworth Cob Cottage campsite • Basic Campsite (DOC). 20 spaces.

Molesworth Cob Cottage Campground to Saxton Hut

From the campsite, the route loops around the northern flank of Mount Chisholm, while the Awatere Valley Road takes the southern flank. Follow the road north. Where the road bends eastward, leave it behind and follow a 4WD track along Molesworth Stream. The track crosses the low Saxton Pass to drop down Guide Gully to the Acheron River. Head downstream to the bridge below Wards Pass. Follow the Awatere Valley Road westward, toward the Saxton River. A 4WD track leads up the eastern bank of the river. Follow it to Saxton Hut. 

Saxton Hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 6.

Saxton Hut to Severn Hut

Take the unnamed stream (known as "Boundary Stream") next to the hut westward up and over point 1764 -- don't take the saddle. The peak to the southeast of here is Severn,  while the Raglan Range is to the northwest, across the Severn River. From point 1764 drop down a spur to the hut.  Severn Hut is next to a side stream above the river.

Severn hut • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 6.

Severn Hut to Sedgemere Sleepout

Follow the valley south untill the terrace of Waimea Stream opens out on the true right. Climb onto the terrace and drop over to Waimea Stream. Sidle along the low ridge on the true right of the stream, over a saddle and down to Bowscale Tarn, occupying a portion of a broad basin. A 4WD track leads from Bowscale Tarn across the basin to the Sedgemere information kiosk and hut, on the Wairau Hanmer Springs Hydro Road. Now: where's the car?

Sedgemere Sleepout • Standard Hut (DOC). Capacity: 6.

Walking times

  • Kahutara car park to Seymour Hut: 27km, 9-10 hours. Warden Hut is 18km / 7 hours from the car park
  • Seymour Hut to Lake McRae Hut: 15.5km, 7-8 hours. Elliott Bivvy is 3 hours from Seymour Hut
  • Lake McRae Hut to Molesworth Cob Cottage Campground: 22km, 6-7 hours
  • Molesworth Cob Cottage Campground to Saxton Hut: 19km, 5-6 hours
  • Saxton Hut to Severn Hut: 11km, 8-9 hours
  • Severn Hut to Sedgemere Sleepout: 20km, 6-7 hours
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ID 9099

About this track

Added 5 April 2014 by matthewmatthew. 4 revisions, most recently 15 April 2014 by matthewmatthew.
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