A hut with a lake view

The easy hike to Bushline Hut in Nelson Lakes National Park makes it a perfect overnight adventure for families and novice trampers.

Words and photography Petrina Darrah

The Mount Robert Circuit Track ties together alpine ridges, views of Lake Rotoiti and the chance to have an overnight hut experience, in one neat nine-kilometre hike.

The walk starts from the end of Mount Robert Road in Nelson Lakes National Park, about an hour and a half from both Nelson and Blenheim.

You can complete the entire loop in roughly five hours, or break up the walk over two days and spend a night in Bushline Hut.

The circuit is divided into two halves, called Paddy’s Track and the Pinchgut. Although you can walk the track in either direction, it’s easier to start on Paddy’s Track, which climbs through regenerating kanuka forest and scree filled gullies before emerging into alpine terrain.

The climb is steady and steep in some places, but each time you stop to catch your breath you’ll be rewarded with views across the cobalt lake and line of mountains marching uniformly along the other side.

After walking for around an hour through golden tussock, you’ll glimpse Bushline Hut tucked up against a stand of weathered beech trees.

This small DOC hut lives up to its name. Perched on the edge of the tree line at 1280 metres, it has brilliant views across the lake and improbably scenic long-drop toilets. From this high, north-facing roost, you can see both sunsets and sunrises unfold in front of you.

It’s cosy inside, with a woodburning stove to keep you toasty. The intentions book provides a good fireside read, with jotted notes from other hikers detailing their epic adventures through Nelson Lakes National Park.

You’ll need to carry all of your own food and cooking equipment but the relatively short climb means you can be a little lavish with supplies; you might spot other hikers with bottles of wine, loaves of fresh bread and cheese.

On the second day, you’ll climb a further 30 minutes beyond the hut before reaching the peak of Mount Robert, the highest point on the track at 1430 metres.

The second leg of the loop, the Pinchgut Track, zigzags steeply down through alpine shrubs and herbs, before descending into dappled beech forest. After a series of switchbacks, you’ll reach the carpark and close the loop.

Walk time: 5 hours return. Bushline Hut is 2.5 hours from the carpark.

Track notes: Above the tree line, the track is very exposed, so check the weather conditions in advance and go prepared with adequate outdoor clothing.

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