Ben Nevis (1619 m) is a peak in Mount Richmond Forest Park, southwest of Nelson. Ben Nevis Track begins near the head of Wairoa Gorge and climbs along Gibbs Spur to the trig at the summit. Ben Nevis is a half-day return walk (involving 800 m of vertical gain) and can be combined with Te Araroa Trail for multi-day tramps.
The term ‘Ben’ means mountain in Scottish Gaelic. ‘Ben Nevis’ is an Anglicisation of ‘Beinn Nibheis’, which is commonly translated to ‘mountain of the heaven’. This particular Ben Nevis is second highest of the three peaks in New Zealand that share the name.
|Length: 10.4 km return||Time Required: 4-6 hr return|
|Trail Type: Walking track||Physical Difficulty: Moderate-Hard|
|Uses: Walking only||Primary Direction: Either (Return)|
|Start Elevation: 820 m||Max Elevation: 1619 m|
|Dog Access: Permit required for Mt Richmond Forest Park; see local DOC office||Links to: Te Araroa Trail (via unnmarked route along top of range; for experienced trampers only)|
From Nelson, head south along State Highway 6 to Wakefield and turn left into Church Valley Road, which becomes Pig Valley Road and is unsealed from here on. Continue straight at the intersection with Wairoa Gorge Road, and follow the latter for 5 km until Old Mill Road forks on the left, bridging Wairoa River Right Branch. Note that Wairoa Gorge Road is narrow and windy, so drive with caution. Head up Old Mill Road for 2.7 km and then turn right onto Boundary Road as it begins up the hillside into pine forest (look for the small DOC sign on the left).
Boundary road is steep, rough and windy, so it is suitable for 4WD vehicles only and is currently open only on weekends. There are a few forestry roads that branch off from Boundary Road, so pay attention to the orange markers that indicate the correct route. The last few hundred metres of the road before the beginning of Ben Nevis Track is particularly steep and deeply rutted; you may find that the best option is park in the small siding on the right, opposite the DOC ‘Track’ sign.
The first few hundred metres of the track crosses private land (you will see the start of a Wairoa Gorge MTB Park track), then the rest of the track is in Mt Richmond Forest Park.
With vehicle access to the track start at 820 m elevation, a big chunk of the climb is taken care of. The track climbs Gibbs Spur heading in a southwest direction the whole way. The track emerges from the forestry block and begins steeply through open scrub and douglas fir trees before entering beech forest. After 1.6 km a meadow is reached, where the track climbs up around rocky crags, which drop steeply to the east into Wairoa River valley. The track re-enters beech forest and is undulating for another kilometre until around 1350 m elevation, when the treeline is reached. The track continues steeply, winding up through tussock and rocky outcrops to the top of the ridge, where the trig is reached after nearly 5 km, at 1619 m elevation. Here you will enjoy expansive views north and west over the Tasman Bay hinterland, and south toward the distinctive hue of Red Hill.
From the trig at the summit an unmarked route continues southwest along the range to connect with Te Araroa Trail near Mt Ellis (approx. 6 km away), creating connections to Hunters Hut and Top Wairoa Hut. Travel along the range is straight-forward for experienced trampers in clear, snow-free conditions. Expect the range traverse to take 2 hours.
The track to the summit of Ben Nevis is an alpine route, so proper preparation and care should be made to ensure a safe trip. This track reaches a high elevation and is exposed above the treeline, so proper outdoor clothing is essential. Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go. The Richmond Ranges do not typically receive as much snowfall as the western ranges, though in winter you must always be prepared for freezing conditions and take extreme care if snow and ice and are present.