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Hiking in Nelson Lakes National Park

Without a doubt, this is New Zealand's best kept hiking secret. Could this be the next addition to New Zealand's Great Walk network? The Nelson Lakes National Park protects 102,000 hectares of the northern most Southern Alps. The Park offers a quiet, yet dramatic experience of craggy mountains, tranquil beech forests, fields of tussock, and clear streams and lakes, both big and small. With its long forested valleys, high passes, large areas above the bush line, lakes and tarns, the landscape is both varied and well adapted to tramping. This is area is filled with long mountain ranges separated by forested valleys, which were gouged out by glaciers in the last ice age.

And here's a quick fact for you: Located deep within the Nelson Lakes National Park you'll find Blue Lake, which in 2011 was proven by NIWA to be the clearest natural body of water on earth! The underwater visibility of Blue Lake is up to 80 metres, meaning it's considered to be almost as optically clear as distilled water.


Video: What does a hiking trip into the Nelson Lakes National Park Look Like?



Hiking Itinerary for the most popular hiking route - the Angelus Circuit

Day 1: Saint Arnaud to Lakehead Hut

Our hike begins in the charming village of Saint Arnaud, on the edge of Nelson Lakes National Park. This is serious wilderness country, with incredible views and marvellous solitude. The park straddles the upper Southern Alps, an area composed of beech forests, big lakes and even bigger mountains.We’ll hike the relatively gentle trail through the forest alongside Lake Rotoiti to Lakehead Hut, a small mountain cabin at the head of the lake and our home for the night. Our guides are pretty tough and they’ll carry the lion’s share of the load. All you’ll be carrying is a backpack with your sleeping bag, a few spare clothes, and a share of our food. To protect this beautiful and fragile environment, we always keep our group sizes small and our exact route flexible.

Lake Heak Hut NLNP

Photo: Happy hikers at Lakehead Hut, in Nelson Lakes National Park

Day 2: Lakehead Hut to Angelus Hut

Today is an unforgettable day – the scenery gets better with each step! We follow the Travers River through beech forest, before heading up the Hukere Stream towards the ridgeline.This is a steep hike, with an elevation gain of 1,000 m (3,000 ft), but it’s absolutely worth it. The Angelus Circuit has exceptional scenic diversity, so it provides a great reward for the efforts you put in. We will encourage you all the way up to Angelus Hut, nestled beside a gorgeous alpine lake, whatever your hiking speed. Many people tell us this hidden gem was the highlight of their New Zealand adventure, and a lot of Kiwis prefer the Angelus Circuit to better-known tracks.

Angelus Hut NLNP

Photo: Angelus Hut, nestled on the shores of Lake Angelus in the Nelson Lakes National Park

Day 3: Angelus Hut to Lake Rotoiti

This morning you’ll wake up on top of the world. After breakfast, we’ll hike out along the barren Robert Ridge with dramatic views of Tasman Bay and the mountainous Kahurangi National Park in the distance. We’ll descend below the treeline again into native beech forest completing our hike on the shores of Lake Rotoiti. Here, we’ll meet up with the kayakers and cyclists and share stories of our adventures, before carrying on to the West Coast.

 End of hike angelus circuit

Photo: Take one last look at the view before descending through the native bush, at the end of day 3 of the Angelus Circuit


Flora, fauna and weather in the park

The climate is moderate by comparison with other areas in the Southern Alps. Many other features left from this same period remain, such as the two lakes of Rotoroa and Rotoiti after which the park is named, and where fly-fishing for brown and rainbow trout is popular.

The forests are full of birds like tomtits, robins and the tiny rifleman, New Zealand's smallest bird. South Island kaka are also present. The vegetation is predominantly beech, with the red and silver species growing in lower, warmer sites and mountain beech at higher altitudes. The bush line, where forest gives way to alpine plants is a remarkable feature of the park; the change is abrupt and uniform as if drawn with a ruler.

In summer the alpine fell fields teem with flowers, though typically they tend to be pale colours, white, light blue and sometimes yellow. This heavily protected native bush lets you see New Zealand as it would have been 500 years ago. Tramping tracks in the Nelson Lakes are characterized by challenging terrain and spectacular views. Nelson Lakes National Park is especially well suited for tramping as the public-use Department of Conservation Huts provide rustic, yet comfortable basic accommodation for multi-day treks. The park is also well equipped with tracks and bridges, yet offers untracked and more remote valleys for those seeking greater challenge, remoteness and wilderness.


  • Ultimate South Island Adventure - Rimu

    14 Days  | 

    South Island  | 

    US$5499 + tax

    ACTIVE 3 - 4
    • ACTIVE 1

      What's The Rush?

      I’m not a triathlete, but I’m in decent shape and I’m not looking to experience a place just through a bus window. I’m happy to slow down on the trail, soak it in and breathe in the fresh air.


    • ACTIVE 2

      Leg Stretcher

      Sure, I own some hiking boots, they’re even worn in, but they don’t go on long trips. I like my creature comforts and I like to give a range of activities a go.


    • ACTIVE 3

      Earn Your Lunch

      I stay active on vacation so that I can eat and drink what I like without feeling guilty. I season my trips with a little fresh exercise.


    • ACTIVE 4

      Challenge Accepted

      I’ll let my trusty guides sweat the small things, so I can focus on my goal. Getting to the top, reaching the end, achieving my dreams! Sure, it’ll be tough, but the views will be worth it.


    • ACTIVE 5

      The Ultimate

      I’ve put in the hard yards and now I get to reap the rewards. I’m a seasoned adventurer, not afraid to get my boots wet.


    • Read more about the Active Range

    4.53 out of 5 (from 5044 reviews)

    We'll take you on an unforgettable journey exploring our mountains, coastlines and countryside, on foot, by bike and with a paddle in your hands. Experience our unique culture and wildlife along the way.


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Trip Reviews

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    Beautiful, perfect trip!

    The Tui trip was a perfect way to see parts of New Zealand on a short time frame. I was concerned traveling by myself, and this trip was the perfect way to do it. Between the the most spectacular scenery, the knowledge of the guides, and the varied and incredible itinerary, this really was the trip of a lifetime for me.
    Rosie Stein Review Image
    – New York, United States
    Tui, March 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Wonderful Choice!

    A trip to New Zealand was on my "bucket list" and my husband chose this trip for the south island. I think this is a wonderful way to see the outstanding scenery of the south island. We will be back!
    Lissa Jackson Review Image
    – Tennessee, United States
    Tui, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Terrific Tui

    What a great route and selection of activities! Informative and fun guides, well-managed accommodations, and good eats! A wonderful tour and experience.
    Matthew Gonser Review Image
    – Hawaii, United States
    Tui, January 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Wonderful Manuka Trip With Active Adventures, New Zealand

    Hi, I'm back home in the USA after my Manuka adventure with Active Adventures, New Zealand. I would like to compliment everyone in your company that I came in contact with....from my initial contact with Fiona to my pre-trip emails with Lynette everything was handled with complete professionalism. This was my first adventure with your company but I'm pretty sure that it will not be my last.
    Everything during the trip went forward in a very efficient manner. I was amazed at the energy level and efficiency of our guides Amanda and Holly. The amount of work that they were able to accomplish during the course of a day, their energy levels and very positive attitudes made the trip enjoyable for all of us clients. Also, their knowledge of their country and their willingness to share made the trip even more enjoyable for me.
    Again, thank you to all and especially to Amanda and Holly....I really enjoyed my first visit to New Zealand.
    Jerry Jobski Review Image
    – Arizona, United States
    Manuka, April 2017
  •   4.53 out of 5 (from 16212 reviews)

    Rimu Trip - Should be #1 on Your Bucket List

    First of all, the guides were "hands-down" the "BEST EVER"!!! They made this trip extra special. Katie C and Lauren were always looking out for our best interest. They were great at engaging each of us in the group, they took the time to get to know each one of us, they made sure they included groceries that you liked and more. They were fun, energetic and full of happiness! They worked very hard and feed us very well. The food was amazing!!! A big THANK YOU to both of you beautiful young women! Thank you active adventures for hiring fun and inspiring women!
    Vicki Igou Review Image
    – California, United States
    Rimu, December 2017

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Why travel with Active Adventures?

Above all, we aim to be amazing hosts. We're proud of our kiwi roots, and our professional, warm and relaxed style of running trips around the world is unforgettable.

We're VERY picky about who we select to work in our team, and we have people from all over the world lining up to guide our trips. So we get to hire the absolute BEST in the business.

As soon as you get off the plane, we've got all the details of your vacation covered – top notch meals, comfortable transport & accommodation, amazing guides and INCREDIBLE service.

Whether you’re new to adventure travel, or you’ve never travelled in a group before, you’ll find yourself arriving home positively different from when you left.

With our small groups (no more than 14), you'll get to know our team, your fellow travellers, and have the flexibility and freedom to do as much (or as little!) as you like.

It's all about getting there under your own steam – on foot, in a sea kayak, or by bike. What better way is there to experience mind blowing scenery? If it's your first time, no worries – our expert guides have got you covered.

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