Kahurangi National Park
Mt Arthur (1795 m) is one of the highest points on the Arthur Range and forms part of the iconic outline on Nelson’s western horizon. Located within Kahurangi National Park, Mt Arthur and the neighboring Twins (1796 m and 1809 m) comprise fascinating karst landscapes, with glacially-molded cirques, spectacular outcrops of ancient marble, and rolling tussock ridges. The area is riddled with caves and sinkholes, and is the location of New Zealand’s deepest cave systems (Nettlebed and Ellis Basin), the exploration of which are ongoing. Mt Arthur is named after Captain Arthur Wakefield, who played a significant role in the European settlement of the Nelson Region.
Day walks from Flora car park
Flora car park is located at the end of Grahams Valley Road, southwest of Motueka. Grahams Valley Road begins off Motueka River West Bank Road near Ngatimoti, and is approximately 65 km from Nelson and 21 km from Motueka. Flora car park is located 10 km up Graham Valley Road, at the road end. Be aware that Grahams Valley Road is steep and unsealed, and can be icy and snowy in winter. A 4WD vehicle is recommended. All tracks on Mt Arthur are located entirely within Kahurangi National Park. Several companies offer drop-off, pick-up and car relocation services to and from Flora car park.
Flora car park to Mt Arthur Hut
Begin by following the 4WD Road from Flora car park. This will take you to Flora Saddle (975 m), where Mt Arthur Track splits off to the left. The well-graded track has a gentle gradient as climbs onto a ridge in a south-west direction, initially passing through black beech, and then mountain beech and dracophyllum along the top of the ridge. The track steepens and winds its way up to Mt Arthur Hut (8 bunks, Serviced Hut; no booking required but you must buy one Serviced Hut ticket to deposit in the honesty box in the hut), which sits just below the treeline at 1300 m. There are great views of Tasman Bay and the Arthur Range just uphill of the hut.
The poled Mt Arthur summit route continues above the hut.
Mt Arthur Hut to Mt Arthur Summit
The treeline is reached immediately uphill of Mt Arthur hut, where beech forest makes way for rolling tussock, alpine shrubs and marble outcrops. It is another 5 km to Mt Arthur summit, and the route is physically demanding, especially in snowy conditions. The track along the ridge is well-worn and marked with poles, though it is classed as a ‘route’. In winter deep snow will cover the track, meaning close attention needs to be paid to the pole markers. The track follows the ridge southward, heading along the eastern side of Horseshoe Basin. 1.8 km after Mt Arthur Hut a route to Gordon’s Pyramid and The Tablelands drops away to the west into Horseshoe Basin. If you are lucky you may see (or hear) Kea.
Just before Winter Peak, the track climbs around amazing outcrops of glaciated marble and crosses sections of bare rock, and Ellis Basin Route branches off to the left, eventually reaching Ellis Basin Hut (1.5 hrs away). Soon after the saddle between Winter Peak and Mt Arthur is reached. The last few hundred metres to the summit crest are a steep rocky scramble. Note that the area below the summit may be susceptible to avalanches in winter, so the risk will need to be assessed before traversing.
The summit is gently sloping and covered in loose stones, and is a good picnic spot on a fine day. A circular cairn offers protection from the southerly wind. From the summit there are spectacular views south towards The Twins, and west to the interior of Kahurangi National Park and east across Tasman Bay. Descend from the summit by returning the way you came.
Flora Hut-Mt Arthur Hut Circuit
Begin along the 4WD road from Flora car park. At Flora Saddle, continue along the 4WD road as it descends through beech forest with Flora Stream flowing on the right, eventually reaching Flora Hut (12 bunks, Basic Hut; no bookings required and no fees for staying) at 920 m after 2 km (30 min). Behind the hut the track to Mt Arthur Hut climbs the beech-forested ridge. Mt Arthur Hut is 2.5 km from Flora Hut and will take around 1 hr 15 min to reach (45 min if you’re heading in the opposite direction). It is uphill most of the way to Mt Arthur Hut, until the ridge flattens at about 1300 m elevation, and the track passes through a few clearings of sub-alpine scrub. The track connects to Mt Arthur summit Route just above Mt Arthur Hut. Enjoy the gentle descent back to Flora car park. Keep an eye out for endemic Powelliphanta snails which may occasionally be seen beside the track.
Be sure to indicate your intended route in the visitor book at Flora Kiosk. The track above Mt Arthur Hut 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 alpine weather forecast before you go. Do not rely on weather forecasts for the nearest town, Motueka, as the alpine weather may be drastically different.
When the mountain is free of snow, climbing the summit does not require expert climbing or mountaineering skills, though for winter trips snowcraft skills and equipment is recommended, particularly as there is risk of small avalanches below the summit crest. Deep snow may lie above the treeline throughout winter and spring, so consider the extra time this will add to your trip.
The karst landscape is riddled with caves and sinkholes. Do not deviate off the track, especially in winter, when snow will disguise the true ground surface.
Mobile phone coverage is possible at Flora car park and above the treeline on Mt Arthur, though it is intermittent at best throughout the remainder of the area. Flora car park has been the target for thieves so do not leave valuables in your car.
Mount Arthur and the Tableland – The Prow article
Day Walks Activity Guide – NZ Mountain Safety Council