I really wanted to do a long day hike in the Mt. Aspiring National Park area. After spending a few weeks in the Wanaka area over Christmas/New Years I had done most of the local hikes I could find but was hoping to find a track with a grander view. Something exhausting and challenging that would deliver awe-inspiring views. So Cascade Saddle track it was! Dunedin is only a lovely 3 hour drive away but Steve was in the middle of major work craziness so he couldn’t take the weekend away. Which meant solo weekend trip to Wanaka and the first time I’d have our van Fritz all to myself!
The Cascade Saddle track links the West Matukituki Valley and the Dart Valley in the Te-Wahipounamu – Southwest New Zealand World Heritage Area. The entire track is 17 km one-way. From the Mt. Aspiring Hut to the Dart Hut it takes approximately 8-10hrs. Now obviously I didn’t have the transportation needed to complete the entire track so I planned to go halfway (to the top) and double back to the Raspberry Car Park.
Note: For those considering doing the entire Cascade Saddle Track it is advised to start from the West Matukituki Valley/Mt. Aspiring Hut. There is a toilet and camping area on the true right side of the Cascade Creek for anyone who wants to split the crossing into two days. DO NOT attempt this hike in anything but ideal weather conditions! Check in with the DOC before heading out on this hike!
Starting Point: Raspberry Car Park – Mt. Aspiring National Park
From the Raspberry Car Park head towards Aspiring Hut which is marked as 2-2.5 hours. In reality it didn’t take me nearly this long.. it’s a beautiful flat walk through the valley. The Cascade Saddle Track begins to the left of Aspiring Hut at the bush line. When I was there a very friendly hut warden came out to say hi as I approached the trailhead, it’s always nice to get some first hand information on track conditions.
The forest is extremely dense with roots protruding in every direction. It is easy to see how difficult this trail would become if attempted in the rain! Once above the tree line, expect to do some scrambling on rocky outcrops. The route reaches the pylon at the top of the ridge at 1835m. After the pylon, follow the orange poles down to Cascade Creek. When coming back down the Matutituki Valley side make sure to locate the orange poles before descending. Definitely not an area you want to lose your trail.