Arthur’s Pass National park straddles the Southern Alps and because of this, offers a landscape of contrast. The Western regions of the park benefit from the high rainfall that drops from the prevailing winds as it ascends the main divide, creating lush rainforests. The east is much drier and dominated by beech forest. Between the two lies the mountainous areas of the Southern Alps with home to kea and snow tussock.
As well as the natural wonders of the park there is a long history of human presence, beginning with early Maori who used the passes to travel between the east and west coasts to trade pounamu. In 1864 Arthur Dobson surveyed the area with a view to creating a reliable route and despite his advice that it was 'almost impossible' a large number of men carved a rudimentary road through the Southern Alps - completing it in 1866. The recent Otira Viaduct was a major engineering achievement and greatly minimizes the hazards of travelling this way. The West Coast gold fields were the driver for the creation of the road and also led to Arthur’s Pass village being developed.
The village still exists and provides amenities including a store, cafes, restaurants and the Department of Conservation visitor center. There are a number of ways to explore the National Park, including hiking, caving and bird-watching. Visit the DOC visitor center, to be advised on the most suitable walks for your ability and the weather conditions. Alternatively if you are staying at Grasmere Lodge or Wilderness Lodge Arthur’s Pass you are right on the park’s doorstep.
From Christchurch or Greymouth catch the TranzAlpine scenic train for stunning Arthur’s Pass vistas.
Within the Arthur's Pass there are many short walks to suit all ages and abilities. Located in the Arthur's Pass Village is a Department of Conservation information centre where you can get updates on track conditions and track suitability as well as learning about the natural history of the area and its people.
Listed below are a selection of short walks.
1. Millennium Walk - Time: 10 minutes return
2. Devils Punchbowl Waterfall Walk - Time: One hour return
3. Arthur's Pass Walking Track - Time: One hour 20 minutes (one way)
4. Dobson Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
5. Old Coach Road Walk - Time: 30 minutes return
6. Cockayne Nature Walk - Time: 30 minutes return