7 Amazing Oparara Basin Walks

(c) Fraser Clements – Tourism NZ

Walking Trails in the Oparara Basin.

Discover some of the most breathtaking limestone formations along a compact network of hiking trails at the Oparara Basin. Located in the Kahurangi National Park, just north of Karamea on the West Coast, the Oparara Basin contains 35-million-year-old arches, caves and channels nestled in an untouched rainforest. Check out some of the walks to stretch your legs on with this list of Oparara Basin walks!

Note that the 12km gravel road to the Oparara car park is narrow and steep in places, so it’s not recommended for large campervans (over 2.8m high) to travel down this road.

While you’re here, you might also be interested in the 10 Things to Do in Karamea and 10 West Coast Must-Dos.

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1. Oparara arch (25 minutes one way)

The main event of the Oparara Basin is the Oparara Arch. See this magnificent 200m-long, 49m-wide and 37m-high archway on the Oparara Arch Walk. Follow a well-formed track along the Oparara River rich in mossy vegetation and quaint cascading streams. The Oparara Arch marks the end of the trail. Return the way you came.

Location: Track signposted on the left-hand side just before the Oparara Bridge.
nzpocketguide.com(c) nzpocketguide.com

2. Crazy Paving & Box Canyon Caves (5-minutes one way)

This short walk in the Oparara Basin leads to two fun natural attractions, the Crazy Paving Cave and the Box Canyon Cave. After a quick walk through the rainforest, you’ll first come to the Crazy Paving Cave where you can follow a marked trail through the cave. Look out for cave weta and spiders! A little further on the main trail is the Box Canyon Cave with a staircase leading into a large open cave with some small limestone passages. Remember to take a torch with you on this walk. Return the same way.

Location: 2.5km past the Oparara carpark in a smaller car park.
nzpocketguide.com(c) nzpocketguide.com

3. Moria Gate Arch (30 minutes one way)

Another picturesque arch worth walking to is the Moria Gate Arch. While much smaller than the Oparara Arch, the Moria Gate Arch is usually a better photo opportunity (since you can fit it all in one photo). Walk through lush rainforest and moss-covered trees until you reach the arch. Return the same way or continue on the Moria Gate-Mirror Tarn Loop (see below).

Location: Signposted from the Oparara carpark.
Fraser Clements - Tourism NZ(c) Fraser Clements - Tourism NZ

4. Mirror Tarn (10 minutes one way)

This short walk leads to an attractive lake surrounded by lush forest. The track goes upriver until you reach the lake. Return the same way or continue on the Moria Gate-Mirror Tarn Loop (see below).

Location: Signposted on the right-hand sign just after the Oparara Bridge.
Pseudopanax in der Wikipedia auf Englisch(c) Pseudopanax in der Wikipedia auf Englisch

5. Moria Gate-Mirror Tarn Loop (1h30min loop)

Combine both the Moria Gate and the Mirror Tarn lake attractions together on this loop walk. Walk to the Moria Gate Arch (see above) then over the top of the arch and follow a trail around the terrace to Mirror Tarn. From Mirror Tarn, follow the Mirror Tarn Track (see above) back to the car park.

Location: Start from the Moria Gate Arch Track signposted from the Oparara carpark.
Fraser Clements - Tourism NZ(c) Fraser Clements - Tourism NZ

6. Oparara Valley Track (5 hours one way)

For a true wilderness escape in the Oparara Basin, do the Oparara Valley Track. This day hike takes hikers through ancient rimu and kahikatea forest and down the Oparara river. The track links up to the historic Fenian Track to the Fenian car park, just north of Karamea. You will need to organise transport from Fenian on this one-way walk. Learn more about the Fenian walks in our 10 Best Walks in Karamea.

Location: Signposted from the Oparara car park.
nzpocketguide.com(c) nzpocketguide.com

7. Oparara Valley Track to Sunshine flat Shelter (1h30min one way)

A shorter alternative to the full Oparara Valley Track (see above), take the Oparara Valley Track for around 1 hour and 30 minutes until you reach the Sunshine Shelter. Interpretation panels at the shelter tell how the track was constructed. Return the same way.

Location: Take the Oparara Valley Track signposted from the Oparara car park.
Fraser Clements - Tourism NZ(c) Fraser Clements - Tourism NZ

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