• Hopkins Overnighter

    Trip Report

Braided river crossings, boulder gardens, fat tyres, cake and a moonrise!

An approaching weather-bomb diverted our sights from a three day Godley Valley shop social bikepack, to a quick overnighter up the Hopkins Valley from Ohau, sneaking in and out before the isobars became too numerous. We love this valley, and sometimes forget how easy access it is from Wanaka.

After passing the Ohau Lodge and the turn off for the South Temple valley, we drive the first bit of 4WD track, then hop out for the ride in. Easy double track leads to Monument Hut, which sees a fair bit of 4WD traffic. Beyond the hut, the first crossing of the Hopkins River can be a make-or-break part of any escape up this long valley system, but this time the braid is low and we simply pedal and splash our way across. Picking our way further onward to Red Hut is a blast – rough but rideable boulder gardens and plenty of water crossings. We weave our way back and forth looking for the best route.

It’s possible to get a bike up as far as Dodger Hut, with a bit of creative riding and boulder bouncing. Today though, we decide to elect for an early camp on an island of beech trees in the middle of the dry, jumbled chaos of the Elcho Stream bed. Perfection! A wonderful evening of chat, utter nonsense, cake and over enthusiastically whipped cream was to follow.

The next day we cruise out on the crest of a building nor’wester and the happy buzz of some good bikepacking times in a beautiful corner of NZ.

Thanks to all the riders, and especially Joe for the great bit of movie making!

Highlights
  • Fording wide but shallow (when the conditions are good) river braids that are very rideable and fun on a fatbike.
  • Great huts with fireplaces so you can stoke up some heat to thaw the feet after all the river crossings!
Sleeping
  • There are 6 DOC huts in the valley plus a rock biv at the very top of the valley.
  • Monument Hut can be easily reached for the first night if you are starting late on a Friday night for instance – easy riding on good 4WD track and no rivers to cross in the dark. It sleeps 6 and has a fireplace.
  • Red Hut is a historic tourist hut from 1916, and sleeps 12 and has a fireplace.
  • Dodger Hut is a standard 4 bunk forest service hut and has a fireplace.
  • Erceg Hut is a basic 4 bunk hut.

You will need hut tickets or a backcountry hut pass (purchase from DOC) to stay in the huts.

Extra info
  • The river crossings are numerous, and usually fairly frigid, especially in spring with the melt. Wearing thick wool socks inside plastic bags, or Sealskinz waterproof socks deals with the misery of frozen feet.