Everything You Need to Know About the Paparoa Track!
New Zealand’s newest Great Walk, the Paparoa Track lets hikers and mountain bikers discover impressive rock formations, ancient rainforest and the breathtaking scenery of the Paparoa National Park. The Paparoa Track is a 2-3 day hiking/1-2 day mountain biking track that follows the Paparoa Ranges on the wild West Coast of the South Island. The track is open all year round. We’ll go through the nitty-gritty in this complete guide to the Paparoa Track.
A journey on the Paparoa Track encapsulates limestone karst landscapes, rainforest leading to weathered alpine forests, and there is even the opportunity to take the Pike29 Memorial Track to learn about the history of mining in the area. The Pike29 Memorial Track is still under planning and will open at a later date.
What to Take on the Paparoa Track
Equipment to Take on the Paparoa Track
- 40-60L backpack (see How to Choose a Good Backpack)
- Sleeping bag (3-4 season)
- First aid kit (see Health Tips For Travelling in New Zealand for what to include)
- Survival kit (survival blanket, whistle, paper, pencil and high-energy snack food)
- 1-2L drink bottle
- Eating and cooking utensils (there are none provided in the huts)
- Matches or lighter in a waterproof container
- Toiletries (don’t use soap in lakes and streams)
- Rubbish bag (you must take all rubbish out with you)
- Tickets and ID (for use of the huts and transportation)
- Earplugs (for hut bunk rooms)
Clothing to Take on the Paparoa Track
- Hiking boots (check out How to Choose a Good Pair of Hiking Boots)
- Wool or polypropylene socks
- Hiking pants/shorts (quick-dry material)
- Wool or polypropylene under-layers for top and bottom
- Mid-layers (wool or polar-fleece)
- Waterproof and windproof raincoat
- Waterproof and windproof overtrousers
- Hat and gloves (in colder months)
- Sunhat and sunglasses
Food to Take on the Paparoa Track
- High-energy snacks (muesli bars, biscuits, nuts, etc.)
- Breakfast meals (firm bread, honey, etc.)
- Lunch meals (fruit, sandwiches prepared before the trip)
- Dinner meals (pasta, rice, dried vegetables, fruit, cheese, freeze-dried meals) and utensils to eat it with like a knife, fork, container, cleaning kit, (and your own gas burner in winter when fuel is not provided).
For a more in-depth guide, take a look at How to Prepare for a Great Walk in New Zealand.
A Quick Track Description of the Paparoa Track
Discover the sensational views and wild West Coast environment of the Paparoa Ranges on the Paraproa Track. The track is a well-formed shared hiking and mountain biking trail with plenty of signage so it’s impossible to get lost. The first day of the track is uphill at a steady gradient then the profile evens out when on the mountain tops then heading on a steady downhill for the remaining two days of the hike.
The Paparoa Track starts at Smoke-ho car park (on the existing Croesus Track) near Blackball and ends at the Pororari River car park or the Waikori Road car park (for mountain bikers) near Punakaiki. For an in-depth day-to-day description of the Paparoa Track, visit the Department of Conservation website.
Day 1: Smoke-ho car park to Moonlight Tops Hut (19.9km/12.4 miles, 6-8 hours)
Day 2: Moonlight Tops Hut to the Pororari Hut (18.7km/11.6 miles, 5-7 Hours)
Day 3: Pororari Hut to the Pororari River car park (16.4km/10.2 miles, 4-5 hours)
Alternative Option: The Pike29 Memorial Track
Note: This section of the track is under planning and is not currently open to the public. Get the latest updates on the Department of Conservation website.
To turn your Paparoa Great Walk into a two-day hike, there is the option to take the Pike29 Memorial Track on day two of the Paparoa Track. The track captures a mix of lookouts over the Pike Valley, weathered alpine forest and the historic Pike River Mine site where a memorial interpretation centre tells the story of the 29 men that died in the Pike River Mine disaster.
The Pike29 Memorial Track (10.8km/6.7 miles) goes between the Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre (and car park) and the Pike Ridge turn-off.
Day 1: Smoke-ho car park to Moonlight Tops Hut (19.9km/12.3 miles, 6-8 hours)
Day 2: Moonlight Tops Hut to Pike River Interpretation Centre (13.8km/8.6 miles, 5-6 hours)
Mountain Biking on the Paparoa Track
The Paparoa Track and the Pike29 Memorial Track are both shared-use tracks for mountain bikers and hikers. The tracks can be biked year-round.
Both tracks are Grade 4: Advanced tracks which means you will need a great deal of fitness and have good quality mountain biking gear. However, electric mountain bikes are not allowed on the track. In New Zealand, Grade 4 means there is a mixture of long steep climbs and narrow sections. There may be obstacles along the way that are difficult to avoid or jump over, as well as there being some exposed sections on the outside edge of the track. Most bikers will have to walk in some sections.
Options for Mountain Biking on the Paparoa Track
Option 1: Smoke-ho car park to Waikori Road car park
Day 1: Smoke-ho car park to the Moonlight Tops Hut (19.9km/12.4 miles, 3h30min-5h30min)
Day 2: Moonlight Tops Hut to the Waikori Road car park (35.8km/22.2 miles, 6h30min-8h30min)
Option 2: Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre to Waikori Road car park
Day 1: Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre to the Pororari Hut (24.1km/15 miles, 5h30min-6h30min)
Day 2: Pororari Hut to the Waikori Road car park (17.1km/10.6 miles, 2h30min-3h30min)
Option 3: Smoke-ho car park to Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre
Day 1: Smoke-ho car park to the Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre (36.1km/22.4 miles, 6-8 hours)
Transportation to the Paparoa Track
The nearest towns to the Paparoa Track are Blackball, Punakaiki and Greymouth. Transport and shuttle services run from all these towns. As the Paparoa Track is a one-way track, you will need to organise transport either to and from the track or organise a car relocation service that can transfer your car to the end of the track while you are hiking.
Getting to the Start of the Track
The Paparoa Track starts at the Smoke-ho car park at the end of Blackball Road, which is about 8km (5 miles) north of Blackball.
Getting to the End of the Track
There are two car parks at the end of the Paparoa Track. The Pororari River Track car park is on State Highway 6, about 1.2km (0.7 miles) north of the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks. This is the most common car park used to pick up hikers. Mountain bikers are likely to finish the track at the Waikori Road car park on State Highway 6, 2.4km (1.5 miles) south of the Punakaiki Pancake Rocks.
Getting to the Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre
The Pike car park at the Pike River Mine Interpretation Centre can be accessed along the Pike River Mine access road. From Blackball follow Atarau Road for about 16km (10 miles), then turn into Logburn Road. Follow this for about 6km (3.7 miles) then turn onto the Pike River Mine access road.
Where to Stay on the Paparoa Track
There is no camping allowed on the Paparoa Track so you will need to use the Great Walk Huts along the Paparoa Track.
Paparoa Great Walk Huts
There are two Great Walk Huts on the Paparoa Track, the Moonlight Tops Hut and the Pororari Hut which must be booked in advance no matter what time of year you do the track. Huts can be booked on the Department of Conservation website or at a DOC visitor centre from March 2019.
Facilities in the huts include:
- 20 bunks
- gas cooktops
- water supply
- DOC ranger (may only be available in the popular seasons)
The Ces Clark Hut is along the Paparoa Track but is not a Great Walk hut. This hut must be booked using the Great Walk booking system and has 16 bunks. As for most Great Walks booking is essential as capacity is limited. The cost for one night is currently around NZ$45 per person.
Campsites on the Paparoa Great Walk
The Paparoa Great Walk does not feature designated campsites and therefore camping is not permitted along the track. With any hiking track in New Zealand, you cannot camp anywhere along the track (more information in Multi-Day Backpacking Trips in New Zealand: A Complete Guide).