Bealey Spur Track
The Bealey Spur Track to Bealey Spur Hut is a stunning and not-too-difficult tramping track 14 km south of Arthur’s Pass. It is a great tramping track for beginners. At 12 km return it is long enough and uphill enough to give the legs and lungs a good workout, but unlike many hill walks in Arthur’s Pass, isn’t too steep. The track has plenty of variety including beech forest, tarns, boardwalks, tussock and a gorgeous historic hut on the edge of the bush.
DOC classifies the Bealey Spur Track as an easy walking track and on a good day, it has spectacular views. I walked it on a cold, clear, breezy winter’s day when rain was falling at the pass and on the coast.
It took about 1.5 hours to drive from Hokitika along the SH73 to Bealey Spur. Google Maps tells me it would be about twenty minutes longer from Christchurch along the SH73. I popped into the loos at Arthur’s Pass as a lady was taking photos of a couple of kea (alpine parrots) on the roof of her car outside. When I returned a couple of minutes later she was attempting to shoo them off. As I drove off one had flown off, cackling with laughter and the other was busy ripping into a rubber strip around her passenger window. As she drove off, he was still at it.
I walked on from Bealey Spur Hut to Pt 1545 on Hut Spur above the bush line, which should only be attempted by experienced, fit and well-equipped trampers. There isn’t a marked track, it was really boggy, blowing a gale and absolutely freezing on the spur. I was well equipped with layers, hat/gloves, waterproofs, map/GPS and PLB. You wouldn’t want to get lost in poor visibility up there.
I was on a fairly sporty mission up the hill. If your fitness isn’t great, assume it will take the DOC time or longer to walk to the hut.
- DOC time to Bealey Spur hut: 2.5 hr (one way)
- My time to Bealey Spur hut: 1 hr 40 mins (in) 1 hr 20 mins (out)
- My time from the hut to Pt 1545: 50 mins (in) 30 mins (out)
- My time return trip to Pt 1545: 5 hr (including a 20-minute stop at the hut)
Bealey Spur Track Parking
The Bealey Spur Track starts at the top of Cloudesley Road, a short steep road off the SH73. If you can get a lift up, there is a turning circle at the top of the road which knocks ten minutes off the walk, but there is no parking there. The large parking area is well signposted to the right, just as you turn off the state highway. I didn’t look for one, but I am reliably informed that there is a toilet in the car park.
Bealey Spur Track
I was the first car in the car park and started walking up the road at 9.10 am. Six minutes later I arrived at the track start/signpost where the track continued up into the forest, less steeply than the road. After another couple of minutes, I stopped to take my layers off.
The track was wide and in generally good condition, with small rocks and tree roots. It rained last night, so it was pretty muddy in places. I was glad I’d worn my leather boots.
Twenty minutes into the walk was the first of the boardwalks. The first was a traditional boardwalk, leading into a more rustic half-cut-log boardwalk, both slippery after the night’s rain.
After half an hour the beech forest changed in and out of manuka and gaps opened up occasionally with views across to Mt Bruce to the south. At one of the viewpoints there was a steep drop-off, so if you’re walking with the kids, keep an eye on them. Infuriatingly, more than one person had left wet wipes lying around in the bushes there on their toilet stop.
At 10 am the manuka gave way to tussock. A huge pig, the same colour as the tussock, shot across the track immediately in front of me. This was only the second wild pig I’d seen, so it was a bit of a shock to see one so close. There were great views across to Mt Bruce from here.
Ten minutes later and a little higher up, magnificent views opened up of the Waimakariri River the Bealey River, Klondyke Corner and the road winding its way north to Arthur’s Pass. Clouds clung to the Southern Alps / Kā Tiritiri o te Moana to the north and west. It was windy out in the open and I walked at a decent pace to keep warm.
Just over an hour into the walk at around 10.20 am, I arrived at a boardwalk which led across a boggy area. The bog was frozen solid. To the right, a large tarn glistened in the distance. The views from the boardwalk were lovely but it was only from higher up looking back down that the full beauty of the tarns can be appreciated. Heading uphill from the tarns the track was a bit gouged out and a little boggy in places.
Bealey Spur Hut
From the tarns, lichen swung quietly from almost every branch of the forest. I reached the bright green, six-bed Bealey Spur Hut at 10.50 am. The former musterer’s hut built in 1925 carries plenty of history as described on the DOC website and on the great little information panel inside the hut. Apparently over 6000 sheep used to be grazed up here until it was retired in 1978.
I pushed open the door and the first thing that struck me was the beech pole hut frames and the sling bunks. I was thinking you’d probably want to bring your sleeping mat if you intend to stay, but I have it on good authority that the beds are actually surprisingly comfortable (thanks Fiona!). It looked like this one was a graffiti hut – decades of names line the walls.
Unfortunately, Bealey Spur Hut hadn’t been tidied for a while, so I got to work and swept it clean and stuffed what rubbish I could carry into my daypack. I noticed that fresh tree branches had been cut for firewood, and left a reminder in the hut book to only use fallen branches.
If you’re new to tramping and/or aren’t sure what you should/shouldn’t do in and around huts, check the DOC website before you go, or the front of the DOC hut books for guidelines on hut etiquette.
Towards Hut Spur
I left Bealey Hut at 11.10 am to walk up to the tops. If you’re not an experienced tramper I wouldn’t recommend it, especially if you have no means of navigation or suitable warm/waterproof clothes etc. I crossed the boggy area beyond the hut, skirted the trees and crossed another bog. The second bog was completely frozen which was great for dry feet but incredibly slippery. I popped out of the trees and continued up and onto the tussock.
As soon as I got out into the open it was blowing a gale and freezing! Time to get all the layers on. I made my way up the centre of the hut spur, enjoying the fairly steep climb and stopping for micro pauses to admire the views and the alpine plants (i.e to catch my breath).
Heading left towards the top I climbed up to the edge of the drop-off over Power Stream. I emerged at a cairn, walked along the edge, crossed a couple of small sections of snow and found a bigger one at Pt 1545. It was midday when I reached the point. The views were spectacular!
It was so cold, I couldn’t spend any longer than ten minutes at the top. I hopped back over the large rocks and returned a different way down, staying close to the edge.
As I came off the top I could see people arriving at the hut. It was 12.40 pm when I reached it. A couple of groups were just settling in for lunch. I made fast work of the return and was back at the tarns by 1 pm, passing numerous groups of walkers coming up. Some no doubt regretting their decision to wear street sneakers, with all the mud. I picked up numerous dropped muesli/chocolate bar wrappers from the groups going up, to add to my rubbish collection. I was glad I’d had the track to myself this morning.
By 2 pm I was back at the road end and arrived at a packed car park five minutes later. I really enjoyed the walk and will definitely stop off to do it again.
Hawdon Shetler and Campsite
I headed off to the beautiful Hawdon DOC Shelter and campsite to spend the night car camping ($10). I’d forgotten how bad the sandflies were here! I let about 200 into the car and regretted my decision not to bring the mossie spray. I hadn’t eaten lunch yet so had a mid-afternoon dinner, spent the afternoon reading and planned a short walk for tomorrow – the Woolshed Hill Track (post and links to follow).
Click the links below for more walks around Arthurs Pass, Canterbury and West Coast:
- Avalanche Peak, Arthur’s Pass – day walk (detour from Te Araroa Trail)
- Woolshed Hill, Hawdon – day walk – link to come
- Casey, Poulter, Binser Loop (incl Lake Minchin & Ranger Biv) – 3 nights, 4 days
- Mt Somers, Canterbury – overnight
- Camp Creek, Mt Alexander, West Coast – overnight
- Inland Pack Track, West Coast – overnight
- Roberts Point Track, Franz Josef – day walk