NELSON TRAILS

Maitai Cave

Maitai Water Reserve

Maitai Cave is a small cave in the upper Maitai Valley, southeast of central Nelson. The track to the cave branches off Dun Mountain Trail and passes through stunning mixed beech and podocarp forest, with the pristine Sclanders Creek flowing alongside. The cave offers a good introduction to cave exploration for young children, and the track makes for a good bushwalk regardless of the cave. For geological context, the cave is part of the Wooded Peak limestone formation, a belt of limestone that runs northeast to southwest through Mt Richmond Forest Park, parallel to the mineral belt. The area is protected in Nelson City Council’s Maitai Water Reserve.

Details
Length 10.4 km return from Maitai Dam; 3.3 km return from Dun Mountain Trail turnoff
Time Required 3 hr return
Trail Type Walking track
Physical Difficulty Moderate   
Uses Walking
Direction Return (out and back)
Start Elevation 120 m
Finish Elevation 340 m
Dog Access Dogs are prohibited in Maitai Water Reserve

Connections

Dun Mountain

Walking, trail running and MTB

Access

  20 min from Nelson

 

The walk to Maitai Cave begins at Maitai Dam, which is 11 km up Maitai Valley from central Nelson. You can use the first car park just after the Maungatapu Track turnoff, or the second car park a few hundred metres further, on the other side of the dam spillway (note that the gate is closed to the latter car park at 5 pm). Maitai Cave Track forks off Dun Mountain Trail, which is accessed via the pedestrian bridge between the two car parks.

Description

Cross the pedestrian bridge and follow Dun Mountain Trail. The first 2 km passes through kānuka alongside Maitai River South Branch, then enters beech-podocarp forest with magnificent ferns. The turnoff to the cave is 3.6 km from the car park, just before the bridge across Maitai River South Branch.

 

After leaving Dun Mountain Trail, Maitai Cave Track crosses Sclanders Creek (named after David Sclander, an early Nelson settler involved in the mining of Dun Mountain) and heads along a natural embankment between the latter and Maitai River South Branch. The track skirts the western fringe of the mineral belt before entering stunning podocarp forest that features rimu, matai, miro, red beech, rata and a rich undergrowth of ferns, with Sclanders Creek flowing on the right. The track grade is a step down from the well-maintained Dun Mountain Trail, and you will have to negotiate a few roots, logs and muddy patches. Nonetheless it is not difficult, and the gradient is gentle until the last few hundred metres before the cave.

 

You will notice the sign on a tree indicating the old turnoff to Sunrise Ridge and Third House; this track was closed following a damaging wind event in 2008, which brought down many trees.

 

The cave entrance is a narrow opening on the hillside, guarded by limestone outcrops. If you want to explore the cave, make sure you have a headlight torch and some clothes that you don’t mind getting muddy. Allow 20 minutes for exploration. Remember that the inside of the cave is a delicate environment that has taken thousands of years to form. Do not remove anything from the cave and be sure not to leave any waste behind.

 

Return the way you came.

Safety

Do not attempt to enter the cave without a torch. The entrance is steep and slippery, so take care.

Maitai Cave
Maitai Water Reserve

Maitai Cave is a small cave in the upper Maitai Valley, southeast of central Nelson. The track to the cave branches off Dun Mountain Trail and passes through stunning mixed beech and podocarp forest, with the pristine Sclanders Creek flowing alongside. The cave offers a good introduction to cave exploration for young children, and the track makes for a good bushwalk regardless of the cave. For geological context, the cave is part of the Wooded Peak limestone formation, a belt of limestone that runs northeast to southwest through Mt Richmond Forest Park, parallel to the mineral belt. The area is protected in Nelson City Council’s Maitai Water Reserve.

Details
Length 10.4 km return from Maitai Dam; 3.3 km return from Dun Mountain Trail turnoff
Time Required 3 hr return
Trail Type Walking track
Physical Difficulty Moderate   
Uses Walking
Direction Return (out and back)
Start Elevation 120 m
Finish Elevation 340 m
Dog Access Dogs are prohibited in Maitai Water Reserve
Access

  20 min from Nelson

 

The walk to Maitai Cave begins at Maitai Dam, which is 11 km up Maitai Valley from central Nelson. You can use the first car park just after the Maungatapu Track turnoff, or the second car park a few hundred metres further, on the other side of the dam spillway (note that the gate is closed to the latter car park at 5 pm). Maitai Cave Track forks off Dun Mountain Trail, which is accessed via the pedestrian bridge between the two car parks.

Description

Cross the pedestrian bridge and follow Dun Mountain Trail. The first 2 km passes through kānuka alongside Maitai River South Branch, then enters beech-podocarp forest with magnificent ferns. The turnoff to the cave is 3.6 km from the car park, just before the bridge across Maitai River South Branch.

 

After leaving Dun Mountain Trail, Maitai Cave Track crosses Sclanders Creek (named after David Sclander, an early Nelson settler involved in the mining of Dun Mountain) and heads along a natural embankment between the latter and Maitai River South Branch. The track skirts the western fringe of the mineral belt before entering stunning podocarp forest that features rimu, matai, miro, red beech, rata and a rich undergrowth of ferns, with Sclanders Creek flowing on the right. The track grade is a step down from the well-maintained Dun Mountain Trail, and you will have to negotiate a few roots, logs and muddy patches. Nonetheless it is not difficult, and the gradient is gentle until the last few hundred metres before the cave.

 

You will notice the sign on a tree indicating the old turnoff to Sunrise Ridge and Third House; this track was closed following a damaging wind event in 2008, which brought down many trees.

 

The cave entrance is a narrow opening on the hillside, guarded by limestone outcrops. If you want to explore the cave, make sure you have a headlight torch and some clothes that you don’t mind getting muddy. Allow 20 minutes for exploration. Remember that the inside of the cave is a delicate environment that has taken thousands of years to form. Do not remove anything from the cave and be sure not to leave any waste behind.

 

Return the way you came.

Safety

Do not attempt to enter the cave without a torch. The entrance is steep and slippery, so take care.

Connections

Dun Mountain

Walking, trail running and MTB

Updated 20 February 2019