Featured Activities

Imagine a week that transports you from the commotion of everyday life and immerses you in the pristine wilderness of New Zealand’s Mount Aspiring National Park. Remote high alpine lakes, vast braided river valleys, unspoilt beech forests, and rushing waterfalls… to name a few of the draws of this secluded location.

If you’re a keen hiker with a thirst for adventure and the trails seldom traveled, the Upper Wilkin Experience with Aspiring Guides is worth an add to your tick list.

Below is a comprehensive guide delivered to you straight from the hands of the experts at Aspiring Guides!

A Grand Beginning

Your adventure starts with a departure from Wanaka to the quaint township of Makarora. Here you’ll load your helicopter with Backcountry Helicopters for a scenic flight into the heart of the wilderness. Bask in the breathtaking views from above as you wind above the Wilkin River, across the jagged peaks and the historic Jumboland until reaching the remote starting point of your journey.

Braided rivers in the Wilkin Valley

Once you land in the upper section of the Wilkin Valley, you will begin the hike with a leisurely walk along the river flats to reach Top Forks Hut. This backcountry hut becomes your base camp for the first leg of your journey. The valley’s tranquility and natural beauty will leave you awe-struck and set the tone for the adventures that await.

Backcountry huts and mountains

For the days to follow, the options are truly endless. Depending on experience level and how venturesome you are feeling, your guide will tailor an itinerary to suit. The adventure is yours to choose!

Alpine Lake Exploration

Explore the three high alpine lakes of Diana, Lucidus, and Castilia. The journey unfolds as you navigate through native beech forests, ascending gradually. Once you emerge above the treeline, the magnificence of the landscape truly sinks in. With the towering giants of Mt.Castor, Pollux, Mercury, Vesta, Juno, and Apollo surrounding you, to say you feel small would be an understatement.

Man standing at a blue lake

Enjoy lunch, soak in the sun or brave a refreshing swim in the turquoise blue waters of Lake Lucidus. For those keen to carry on, hike to the final jewel, Lake Castalia. The length of your journey on this day is entirely up to you, ranging from a leisurely one-hour exploration to a full-day, six-hour adventure.

Ascend to Waterfall Flat

The test is in the climb and bush navigation, but the payoff is the unmatched beauty of Waterfall Flat. This journey takes you from the dense forest where you will ascend the trail through Snow-Bridge Gorge, a deep canyon enveloped by glaciers and waterfalls.

People hiking to waterfall

This rarely visited paradise is surrounded by mighty peaks and flowing rivers. It’s a unique slice of New Zealand that few have the privilege to explore.

Alpine Pass Variations

For more extreme venture seekers looking for spectacular vantage points, you can extend your trip with the addition of the acclaimed Rabbit Pass or Gillespie Pass.

The summit of Gillespie Pass located at 1,600m, is a stunningly beautiful location for experienced hikers. This trek offers the perfect balance of challenge and reward for discerning clients. While you won’t be walking along cliff edges there are some sections (normally a few meters along) that will require your full concentration and good footing.

People walking in a valley

Rabbit Pass offers a technical option for expert trampers. If you are not afraid of exposure and have experience hiking steep and difficult trails, the Rabbit Pass Alpine Traverse is without a doubt New Zealand’s most challenging guided tramping tours with big rewards!

A Thrilling Return

For those that aren’t tackling an alpine pass, on your final day you will head along the south bank of the Wilkin River. For 6-8 hours you will encounter invigorating river crossings and undulating beech forests enroute to Kerin Forks Hut. Once you’ve arrived, the friendly team from Wilkin River Jets will be waiting to take you on an exciting jet boat ride back to Makarora.

People boarding a jet boat

As you reflect on your journey, we are confident you will feel accomplished and enriched by the memories and experiences you had in the incredible landscapes explored.

The Upper Wilkin Experience offers the raw beauty of New Zealand’s hidden corners. If you’re a tramper looking for adventures away from the hustle and bustle of busier trails, this journey is a must-do.