Kahurangi National Park
The Tableland is a fascinating alpine plateau of rolling tussock, misty mountain beech and limestone depressions, located west of Mt Arthur. Beginning at Flora car park, Flora-Salisbury Track gives access to the Tableland and Salisbury Lodge, passing through beautiful beech forest and intriguing rock shelters along the way. Salisbury Lodge is a popular destination for overnight trips and is a good introductory tramp for kids given its easy difficulty level.
Flora-Salisbury Track can be combined with Mt Arthur Track and Gordon’s Pyramid Route to create a 2-3 day circuit. It also connects to Upper Takaka, Cobb Valley and Leslie-Karamea Track.
Flora car park is located at the end of Grahams Valley Road, southwest of Motueka. Grahams Valley Road begins at 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.
Beginning at Flora car park, follow the 4WD road to Flora Saddle. Flora Track continues as a 4WD road through silver beech forest for 2 km to Flora Hut. Thanks to the long-running trapping programme by Friends of the Flora you are likely to see and hear plenty of tomtits, fantails, bush robin and rifleman. Flora Hut (12 bunks) is a basic hut and is free to stay at. Beyond Flora Hut the track is undulating though overall descending as it continues through beech forest with Flora Stream flowing in the gully on the right. 3.9 km beyond Flora Hut Clouston’s Mine Track begins on the left (which connects to Gordon’s Pyramid Route).
The track passes beneath an archway titled ‘Gridiron Gulch’ and Upper Gridiron Hut (basic hut, 3 bunks) is reached immediately after. The hut is a steep zig-zag up from the left side of the track. The hut utilises a large sloping rock as half of its roof. Lower Gridiron Shelter is reached 100 m further. The rock shelter is composed of open fire, table and sleeping platform beneath a massive rounded rock jutting out of the hill. A swingbridge crosses Gridiron Creek and the 4WD road narrows to a walking track.
Beyond Gridiron you will pass some beautiful pools that are great for cooling off in in summer (if you can stand the sandflies). You will reach Upper Junction 1.5 km after Gridiron Shelter; here you can take the right fork onto Upper Takaka Track, which follows the beginnings of Takaka River and leads to Cobb Valley Road via Asbestos Cottage (5.3 km away), and to Upper Takaka Valley via Barron Flat. Take the left fork to continue toward Salisbury Lodge (the track from here is called Salisbury Track) as it turns southwest, now climbing a little and travelling high above the true right side of Balloon Creek. Growler Rock Shelter is reached 15 min after Upper Junction.
Salisbury Track continues to climb gradually as it sidles the hillside for 2.2 km before the trees open up to tussock as you reach the northern end of the Tableland. You will notice a sign on a tree next to the track referring to the tussockland as Salisbury Open.
A short deviation to the left will take you to Dry Rock Shelter (basic shelter, sleeping platform with four mattresses). 600 m after the turnoff to Dry Rock Shelter you will reach a fork in the track; if you are continuing through to Balloon Hut or Cobb Reservoir you can bypass Salisbury Lodge by taking the right fork along Starvation Ridge Track, which leaves the tussock and heads through beech forest before reconnecting with Salisbury Track 700 m beyond Salisbury Lodge. Otherwise take the left fork and continue along the poled Salisbury Track as it crosses the gently undulating Tableland to Salisbury Lodge. The track through the tussock is deeply rutted and can be very muddy.
Salisbury Lodge is situated on a slightly elevated position in the western edge of the tussockland. Large windows give expansive views eastward to Gordon’s Pyramid and Mt Arthur. The serviced hut has 22 bunks, an indoor basin and gas burners. There are even solar-powered lights in the toilets behind the hut. Bookings are not required, though you will require one serviced hut ticket to stay here (to be deposited in the honesty box in the hut).
The hut is named after Thomas Salisbury, who in 1863 was the first European settler to graze stock on the Tableland. His brother John Park Salisbury also grazed sheep on the Tableland in 1875.
On the return leg, you can retrace your path back along Salisbury Track, though for the fitter and more experienced, Gordon’s Pyramid is a great option on a fine day. Head back along Salisbury Track for 400 m to reach the signposted turnoff to Gordon’s Pyramid. This will take you over Gordon’s Pyramid (1489 m) and through Horseshoe Basin, linking up with Mt Arthur Track 1.9 km above Mt Arthur Hut. From there it is a gentle descent back to Flora car park. Be aware that this option is much more physically demanding than Salisbury Track. Salisbury Lodge to Flora car park via Gordon’s Pyramid will take 5-7 hrs.
Potholes Walk is a 2.5 km (1 hr) loop track beginning at Salisbury Lodge, that takes in Sphinx Valley Cave and karst depressions east of the hut. The ‘sphinx’ was a limestone outcrop upstream of the cave entrance, so named due to the mythical creature it was thought to resemble. Unfortunately the sphinx collapsed in the 1929 Murchison Earthquake. The track skirts around steep-sided depressions and connects with Gordon’s Pyramid Route, not far from the junction with Salisbury Track.
Beyond Salisbury Lodge
Beyond Salisbury Lodge, Salisbury Track continues westward, climbing gently through stunted mountain beech that soon opens up into tussock. 1.8 km past Salisbury Lodge is the signposted track junction with Leslie-Karamea Track, at 1250 m elevation. Leslie-Karamea Track heads west into the Leslie River valley, eventually linking with Wangapeka Track (two days tramping away).
After the junction the track continues through tussock and passes through a few swathes of beech forest. Balloon Hut is the next hut to be reached after Salisbury Lodge, 4.1 km (1 hr 30 min). Cobb Valley Road is 11.8 km beyond Salisbury Lodge (3 hr 30 min, via Lake Peel).
Be sure to record your intentions in the visitor book at Flora car park and at huts you pass along the way. Flora-Salisbury Track is an alpine track. The lowest elevation the track reaches is 800 m at Upper Junction. Make sure you prepare accordingly, even in summer, as freezing alpine conditions can occur at any time of year. Deep snow may lay for weeks through the cold months and spring snow is not uncommon. Do not rely on the weather forecast for the nearest town Motueka, as the alpine weather is likely to be drastically different. Sturdy outdoor footwear is recommended, particularly for the Tableland and Gordon’s Pyramid. The Tableland is a karst landscape with many unknown caves and sinkholes. Do not deviate from the track, particularly on the Potholes Track.