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The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Mt Robert Circuit

The Mt Robert Circuit track is an advanced tramping track in the Nelson Lakes region of Tasman in the South Island.

This 9km route provides glorious views over Lake Rotoiti (which is also known as Lake Arthur) and can be walked as part of the Angelus Hut tracks.

This is a great (and relatively easy) Nelson Lakes day walk, but the terrain is exposed, so it’s a hike that should only be taken in good weather.

The Mount Robert Circuit is mentioned in the Lonely Planet so we figured we’d go for a walk, sharing with you in the process, everything you need to know to do the same.

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The Ultimate Guide to Hiking the Mt Robert Circuit

One of the great parts about the walk is evident from its name. 

Mount Robert Circuit

Yep.  Here we’ve got a walk that (almost) takes you back to where you started from. 

Call it the Mount Robert Loop or the Mount Robert New Zealand Circuit, but we ended up back at the car without having to double back.

Plan Your Walk

What’s in a Name?

This trail goes by a number of names – they all refer to the same track through.

Whether you see it referred to as the Mt Robert Circuit, Mt Robert Trail, Mt Robert Loop or the Mt Robert Track, they’re all the same.

Where to Stay While Tramping the Mount Robert Circuit

St Arnaud is the closest town to this walking track, so we’ve included our top recommendation there for you. 

However, Murchison is only a touch further away. This larger town has more facilities and a greater choice of accommodation, so it may well be your preference.

Avarest Bed & Breakfast

Just a 2 minute walk from Lake Rotoiti, this is a stunning location that enjoys garden and mountain views. 

This bed and breakfast has a number of fantastic inclusions. There’s free breakfast, newspapers and use of their kayaks too. In addition, bicycle hire is also available as is access to a library, comfortable lounge facilities and BBQs.

33 Kerr Bay Road, 7053 Saint Arnaud

Book: Amazing views and great comfort at the Avarest Bed & Breakfast.

Lazy Cow Accommodation

Located right in Murchison, The Lazy Cow is a quirky backpackers.

They have a variety of affordable rooms, including some with kitchenettes, fridges, microwaves and stovetops, allowing you to cook in the comfort of your own space. This hostel also has a shared kitchen and BBQ area available for use.

There’s also free wifi, as you’d expect in practically all New Zealand accommodation these days.

37 Waller Street, 7007 Murchison

Book: Your stay at the Lazy Cow.

Murchison Lodge

If you’re looking for a comfortable stay in a lodge set amongst 4 acres of gardens, the Murchison Lodge is for you. They also have a cosy guest lounge and a shared terrace which is so peaceful.

The wifi there is strong and a free breakfast is included each morning. All bathrooms have private bathrooms and some even have their own private patios.

Enjoy free tea and coffee all day, along with use of their bicycles and golf equipment.

15 Grey Street, 7007 Murchison

Book: Your escape to Murchison now!

Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels

Centrally located, the Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels has accommodation to suit most needs.

With an outdoor pool, BBQ area and children’s playground, there is plenty to do onsite. Plus you’ll enjoy stunning alpine views from right around the park.

Incredibly, they even have an animal park on site where you can watch sheep shearing demonstrations and feed their pet lambs!

170 Fairfax Street, 7007 Murchison

Book: A stay at Kiwi Holiday Park and Motels.


Walking the Mt Robert Circuit

How to Get to the Mount Robert Circuit in the Nelson Lakes Region

Travelling north-east from Murchison, follow State Highway 6. Approximately 20 minutes into your trip, you’ll come across a 3-way intersection. Take the right-hand turn onto State Highway 63 towards St Arnaud.

Keep your eyes peeled for Mt Robert Road on the right hand side – you’ll find it 3.5km after St Arnaud. Drive down the end of that road (approx. 5km on gravel), until you get to the carpark at the end.

Mount Robert Road is narrow so we suggest you travel slowly and take your time.

Where to Park Your Car to Undertake this Hike

The starting point for this trail is the Mount Robert car park, which is 5 kilometres along a ‘not the worst we’ve seen but not the best’ unsealed gravel road.  The turn-off is 3.5 kilometres west of St Arnaud in the Nelson Lakes National Park.   

There are a host of other Nelson Lakes tramps and national park hikes, but this is a great circular route to do in a day.

We travelled from Murchison and arrived at this car park by 10.30 am.

We parked at the top of the hill, past the first car park at the beginning of Paddy’s Track.

Mount Robert Trail Map

We didn’t need a map on the Mt Roberts trail.  All the tracks are clearly signposted and on a clear day, it’s incredibly easy to navigate.

Should you need one though, there is a map signposted there and we have also included one below for you.

If you’d like to use Google Maps, direct yourself towards Kea Hut (following signposts near that point).

Total distance: 9km

Total time: The Department of Conservation (DOC) information suggests allowing 5 hours for this walk – the actual time will depend on your fitness and pace.

Related: The best walks in the Nelson region.

Clockwise is Best on the Mt Robert Circuit Track

We walked the Mount Robert hike clockwise – 50% of the folks we met (about 40 in total) were walking in the same direction.   

Walking the Mount Robert Circuit in a clockwise direction provides trampers with shade towards the end of the hike, when the sun is at its strongest.

Going anti-clockwise means the majority of your morning will be spent in the shade (when the sun isn’t as strong, anyway), whilst the afternoon will leave you at the mercy of the sun and the weather.

Trust us, in the case of Mt Robert, clockwise is best.

Start at Paddy’s Track

We chose to set off down the hill first, walking down the road, to the start of Paddy’s Track. This track then starts moving up steeply, going through the brush with a little sun cover for the first 20 minutes or so.

There are gaps in the brush so you can enjoy the gorgeous views of rolling countryside and Lake Rotoiti.

It’s a pretty steady climb all the way, although it’s much tougher once you leave the tree line as there’s zero sun cover. 

We should have visited a little earlier in the day and recommend you do exactly that – the sooner you’re on the trail, the better.

There is, however, a wonderfully welcome breeze as you round the hill. 

You’ll find one small spot of shade as you cross a small stream but that’s it until you reach the halfway point, which is the Bushline Hut.

Half Way There – The Bushline Hut

The Bushline Hut is typical of the huts that you’ll find on New Zealand tramps. 

If you choose to stay over, you’ll need to take your own stove with you to cook over.

At night you’ll doze fitfully right next to 6-8 of your closest new best friends, with a further 6-8 sleeping on the top bunk above you.

Though it may not sound like everyone’s idea of a good time, it’s something you need to try at least once!

As this is a fairly short hike, there’s no need to stay overnight here if you don’t wish to.

Be Prepared on the Mt Robert Trail

Although there is a tap and a sink, there was no running water at the Bushline Hut – we had enough for our walk, but others were thirsty at this point and out of water. 

Be sure to pack plenty of water for your tramp. You can’t assume it will be available at the hut (and even if it is, you’ll probably want to treat it).

In addition to the facilities we’ve mentioned, you’ll also find a couple of long drop toilets, with a fabulous mountain view behind them, at the hut. 

As we made a move, continuing on the loop track, we enjoyed some wonderful sun cover in the forest. This part of the track has a steady but gentle gradient.

Photograph The Historic Kea Hut at Mt Robert

Before too long, you’ll pass the historic Kea Hut. This was built by skiers in 1931 but is no longer in use.

Even today though, it is pretty as a picture, so be sure to relax for a while and snap some photos.

Then you’ll continue on up to the top of this trail.

Explore the Robert Ridge Track and the Angelus Hut, Should You Wish

If you want to extend your hike further (a great option if you’ve elected to spend the night in the Bushline Hut), you can head up the Robert Ridge Track towards the Angelus Hut. From there, you can also add a tramp on the Angelus Circuit should you wish.

We made the decision to turn off and start our descent back to the car park though. The trail down has a lot of loose gravel so take your time and check your footing as you walk.

Did you know? You’ll find a shelter as you descend from the Mount Robert Ridge Track – it’s the perfect place to stop for a rest if you need it.

Descending Mount Robert – The Pinchgut Track

DOC suggests the walk along the Pinchgut Track to the Mt Robert car park will take about an hour. We walked it in 45 minutes though so found their timing to be on the generous side.

At first, it’s an easy descent with a gradual slope.  It gets a little steeper, but not too tough as you enter the treeline, which you’ll dip in and out of and skirt around most of the way down.  But the gravel becomes looser and it’s hard to walk at a decent pace when you’re sliding about. 

Still, the views definitely make up for it.

Finally, we headed back into the trees for the last time before finding the track much easier.  It was softer underfoot, with lots of fallen leaves to cushion the ankles and knees. As an added bonus, the trees also give some much-needed shade.

And before we knew it, we were back at the Mount Robert car park.

Mount Robert Circuit:  Useful Hiking Information

As we mentioned, there are gorgeous views of the lake and surrounding mountains on this tramp. There’s also a welcome breeze at the top, but lots and lots of sun on this trail – particularly on the way up. 

Keep in mind that if you’re without sun cover, you’ll also be without protection from bad weather. For the most part, this track is extremely exposed. 

This would be hellish in bad weather, but that’s what everyone says.  If the Mt Robert weather is bad, there’s no point, because it’s a hard slog and you’ll see nothing due to cloud cover and rain.

We recommend you save this walk for a clear day.

Time to Hike the Mt Robert Nelson Lakes Circuit

The DOC estimates 5 hours in their printed materials, but signage at the site indicates 2.5 hours up and 2 hours down (so 4.5 hours in total). 

We’ve heard others recommend 3-4 hours, whilst we completed the Mount Robert Nelson Lakes Circuit in 2 hours 45 minutes, allowing 15 minutes for stops.

As always though, we suggest you allow yourself plenty of additional time just in case.

Related: How to hire a Personal Locator Beacon (PLB).

What to Carry on the Mt Robert Circuit Tramp

First of all, be sure to take enough water.  We took 750ml each and it was just enough.    I was thirsty when we returned to our van, where we had additional water. 

There was no water supply enroute, bar a few streams.  We carry a filter water bottle which means it’s possible to drink stream water safely.  You may like to consider buying one for similar tramps in New Zealand.

The tap at the Bushline Hut was dry (though this might not always be the case). 

We took lunch with us and you’ll also want to ensure you have plenty of snacks.

Be sure to take a hat and wear sunscreen.  There’s little to zero sun cover on the track and the sun in New Zealand is notoriously harsh – particularly in the summertime.

Sandflies will likely bother you if you stop for long on this track also so we recommend you pack insect repellent.

Finally, you’ll want to have a jumper and/or jacket with you if you’re planning to walk the circuit in the cooler months.

Related: What to expect from the different seasons in New Zealand.

Mount Robert Weather

The weather often changes quickly in New Zealand.  Because of this, you will want to look for a stable weather pattern as the exposed nature of Paddy’s Track is unpleasant in bad conditions. 

The best place to check for weather forecasts for Nelson Lakes is with the MetService.  


We really enjoyed this day walk and are sure you will too.

Enjoy!

Post by Sarah Carter.

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