Mount Richmond Forest Park
Rocks Hut is the closest hut to central Nelson (11 km as the crow flies) and is a good destination for overnight tramps or multi-day tramps to Hacket Valley or Pelorus Valley. The easiest way to access the hut is via Dun Mountain Trail, which climbs through the captivating landscape of the Dun Mountain mineral belt. Rocks Hut is also the third hut on the Mount Richmond section of the Te Araroa Trail.
The easiest way to access Rocks Hut from Maitai Dam, via Dun Mountain Trail. Begin at the car park at the Maitai Valley Road end (12 km from central Nelson) and head up Dun Mountain Trail. You can head up Dun Mountain Trail from Brook Valley, though this will add an extra 8 km to your trip.
As outlined in the trail description below, you can reach Rocks Hut via Middy Hut or Browning Hut, both of the latter being on Te Araroa Trail. You can begin multi-day tramps from Pelorus Valley or Hacket Track.
Rocks Hut from Maitai Valley (12.5 km one way, 3-5 hrs)
Maitai Road end to Dun Saddle takes 2-3 hrs (9.6 km), with 715 m elevation gain. Begin at the car park at Maitai Road end and follow Dun Mountain Trail. The first 3.3 km of the trail climbs gently alongside Maitai River South Branch, before bridging it and entering the mineral belt. The trail zig-zags steadily upwards through coarse scrub and mineral-rich rocks.
After 8.7 km the track forks; take the left fork to get to Dun Saddle. Dun Saddle (955 m) marks the boundary between the Maitai Water Reserve and Mt Richmond Forest Park. The saddle is quite bare, with only a few tufts of tussock on the ground. The bulk of Dun Mountain rises steeply immediately north.
From Dun Saddle the track descends gently southwest along a broad ridge, stepping down though tussock and rocky outcrops. Though the ridge lies east of the mineral belt, the influence of the underlying ultramafic geology on vegetation characteristics is obvious, with kānuka and lancewood common amid the silver beech. The ridge is quite boggy in sections, so blocks of wood have been laid down on parts of the track to allow easy crossing. Rocks Hut is reached 45 min-1 hr (2.7 km) from Dun Saddle.
On the return leg you can retrace your steps back to Dun Saddle and down Dun Mountain Trail to the dam. Alternatively you can continue north from Dun Saddle, head up over Dun Mountain Summit and descend Dew Lakes Track. You can also follow Dun Mountain Trail westward from Dun Saddle to Junction Saddle (where you can access Sunrise Ridge), or even continue all the way to Brook Valley.
Rocks Hut via Middy Hut (Te Araroa Trail, 4.8 km one way, 2-3 hrs)
Middy Hut is in Pelorus Valley directly southeast of Rocks Hut. The hut is located on the true right bank of the Pelorus River. The hut is on a section of the Pelorus Track which doubles as the Te Araroa Trail. A swingbridge crosses the river just upstream of the hut and the Te Araroa Trail forks from Pelorus Track and climbs steadily to Rocks Hut on the top of the ridge. The valley side is forested in beech, with other species like rata present.
For trampers beginning at Pelorus Valley, Rocks Hut is 18.9 km from the road end. It is typically used as first or second night stay for the Mount Richmond section of Te Araroa Trail, with the first night at Captain Creek Hut. Given their close proximity to each other, few people stay consecutive nights at Middy Hut and Rocks Hut.
Rocks Hut via Browning Hut (Te Araroa Trail, 10.7 km one way, 4-5 hrs)
From Browning Hut the track climbs to Totara Saddle (680 m) and then climbs steeply above the saddle, following a broad ridge on the northern side of Pelorus Valley. 30 min after Totara Saddle the track emerges from the beech forest and goes through large area of open scrub, after which you which you drop down into a low saddle and then climb again through beech, rounding a series of small knobs on the ridge. The tracks continues at a gentle gradient for the remainder of the distance along the ridge to Rocks Hut.
Rocks Hut, named after nearby outcrops on the ridge called The Rocks, sits in a small clearing amid kānuka trees. The standard hut has capacity for 16, and staying the night will cost you one standard hut ticket, to be deposited in the honesty box in the hut. A deck extends around the western and southern sides of the hut, and there is a rainwater tank and basin on the exterior. The hut also has the luxury of a flushing toilet.
A short track to a lookout starts close the hut. The lookout provides good views west across the mineral belt.
Rocks Hut via Dun Saddle