Cedar Flat and Adventure Biv

Approaching Adventure Biv from the Adventure Ridge Route

Cedar Flat and Adventure Biv

The tracks to Cedar Flat and Adventure Biv are along the Toaroha River, just south of Lake Kaniere on the west coast. There are plenty of options here, including several stunning-looking multi-day loops into the Hokitika and Whitcombe, the Kokatahi and the Styx. Alternatively, you can base yourself at Cedar Flat for a couple of nights and enjoy some adventures to the closest huts, or walk an in-and-out overnight like I did. Cedar Flat is well known for the natural hot pools at Wren Creek close by and draws enough people to warrant a twelve-bed hut alongside a beautiful, small historic hut.

On day one I walked to Cedar Flat hut, up to Adventure Biv and back to Cedar Flat for the night and walked out the following morning. Check out the DOC brochure for more details on the track in the  Toaroha, Hokitika, and Lower Whitcombe tramp.

The track to Cedar Flat hut
A beautiful section of track to Cedar Flat Hut

West Coast Tramping

I researched a variety of sites and blogs on the track into Cedar Flat before heading out on this trip. It is billed as ‘easy/moderate’ to ‘challenging’ depending on what you read. From what I can gather it’s one of the easier backcountry tracks on the coast but nevertheless, I found it fairly challenging at times.

I’ve only walked a few tracks on the coast so far (Aug ’23) and I’m not well acquainted with this kind of tramping. I usually like to cover distance fairly quickly, which isn’t really possible (for me yet) here. In my limited experience, it’s wet and dirty, there’s vegetation everywhere that’s either frozen or wet, it’s boggy, nowhere is flat, there’s lots of climbing and scrambling, tree roots aren’t just on the ground – they’re everywhere, there are lots of wash-outs, plenty of the track is a river bed, rocky means huge slippery climb-over rocks, boulders are the size of cars, and the rivers are huge. It’s also incredibly beautiful. 

The climb up to Adventure Biv from Cedar Flat
The climb up to Adventure Biv from Cedar Flat

I found I had to put a lot more thought into it and sometimes several attempts to get up, over, around or down some of the more gnarly obstacles. But once I got used to the fact I wasn’t going anywhere fast and that I was capable of working it out, I settled into it and found a nice flow. It will be interesting to see how my evolution in west coast tramping goes. 

Cairn along the Toaroha River towards Cedar Flat
A cairn along the Toaroha River towards Cedar Flat

Getting There Cedar Flat Adventure Biv

It took about half an hour to drive from Hokitika inland down Lake Kaniere Road, through Kokatahi and about as far as you can drive on a sealed road. I turned right off the main road down Middle Branch Road, passing a small muddy car park for the Whakarira Gorge walk (and Boo Boo and Pinnacle huts – on the radar for future tramps). There were a couple of farm gates to negotiate before arriving at the signposts and car park.

Some posts I read mentioned you could drive the farm track down to the river, but given the car park signage is obvious at the top, and it’s orange markers down from here, I think it’s fairly clear you’re expected to park at the top.

Cedar Flat Adventure Biv Map
Click the image to open the topo map

Timings Cedar Flat Adventure Biv

  • DOC time – car park to Cedar Flat Hut: 4-5 hr
  • My time: 4.5 hr (including 30 mins trip to the hot pools). 3 hr 45 mins return.
  • DOC time – Median Creek to Adventure Biv: 2 hr
  • My time: 2 hr up, 1.5 hr down

Farm Track

It was minus two degrees Celsius at 7.50 am when I pulled up at the car park alongside one other vehicle. In the spirit of ‘dressing for one kilometre’s time’ I stripped off a couple of layers and embraced the cold. A hat and gloves were a necessity though, my fingers were freezing after only a few minutes of exposure getting my boots on.

The first kilometre or so was an easy walk on the farm track through the paddocks down to the river. This made a nice warm-up and  I said good morning to the inquisitive cows who batted their eyelashes and mooed at me. Orange markers were obvious and after about ten minutes led up to the left away from the river. There was an electric fence to cross before heading up and into the bush. My fingers were only now defrosting.

Car park for the Toaroha River and Cedar Flat
A chilly morning at the car park heading into the Toaroha River and Cedar Flat

The Tramway Cedar Flat Adventure Biv

I pushed through a small wooden gate and continued into the bush. The start of the bush track was up an old logging tramway track. It was an easy, cobbled track with an easy gradient occasionally crossing a  river bed, along a couple of boardwalks, and through a steep-sided rock wall with trees overhanging – all very pleasant, if a bit boggy in between the boardwalks. This was the Great Walk section of the track, lulling you into a false sense of ‘this is nice and easy’.

Starting the tramway track to the Toaroha River and Cedar Flat
Starting the tramway track to the Toaroha River and Cedar Flat

At 8.40 am I came to a signpost. On and up for the Flood Route – a high route over the cliffs that you’d take if the river was too high below. To be honest you’d want to turn back if the river was too high, as the exit from the flood route further along was down a river you probably wouldn’t want to tackle if there had been a lot of rain. 

Down to the Toaroha River Flats towards Cedar Flat Adventure Biv
A rocky scramble down to the Toaroha River Flats

Toaroha River Walk

I took the river track. The niceties of the introductory experience ended in a steep rocky scramble, down to the Toaroha River flats. From here it was a west coast tramping experience. Markers and a cairn at the bottom indicated the route up the river flats to the left (up the true right of the river).

Along the Toaroha River towards Cedar Flat
Along the Toaroha River Flats

Keeping on the true right of the river I headed upstream and a marker pole indicated I was in the right place. From here there were some excellent views up the valley. A weka honked its presence somewhere in the frozen grasses and as I glanced up to the river I saw a whio (blue duck) diving in the rapids. The air was still and it was frosty and slippery underfoot, which made walking over the rocks interesting.

A frosty morning on the Toaroha River
A frosty morning on the Toaroha River

After about twenty minutes the precarious-looking gravel cliffs edged closer to the river and soon I was walking beneath them at the river edge, which made me feel a bit edgy. Thank goodness the river was low.

After the gravel cliffs, a few markers indicated the route. I spotted a few cairns but preferred to find my own way out toward the river a little where the rocks weren’t quite so icy. The river was wonderful, with some large sparkling pools which would be great for a swim in summer.

Approaching the cliffs along the Toaroha River to Cedar Flat
Approaching the cliffs along the Toaroha River to Cedar Flat
Marker up the Toaroha River to Cedar Flat
Marker up the Toaroha River towards Cedar Flat
Along the Toaroa River towards Cedar Flat
Keeping left along the Toaroa River

At the Boulders

At around 9.20 am and after about forty minutes of river walking the rocks became giant boulders. The photos don’t really give a sense of scale, unfortunately. Looking at it from a distance I was a little anxious about my ability to get over the maze, but after a bit of trial and error, some climbing and bum sliding and a bit of a slip into a cold pool (it was a wet boot trip now), I arrived at a significant side stream and the other end of the Flood Route.

I dithered, hoping there would be a better way across than through the side stream. I’d do anything to avoid a rocky river wade, but unfortunately, it was the only option.

Boulders along the Toaroha River to Cedar Flat hut
Boulders along the Toaroha River to Cedar Flat hut
Crossing the side stream above the boulders along the Toaroha River
Crossing the side stream above the boulders along the Toaroha River

From the River

By 9.35 am I was out of the river, following the large marker and climbing up to the left back into the bush. The track was tree rooty and rocky and I felt frustrated at what I felt was the slow pace of things. I stopped to empty my boots, wring my socks out, have a bite of OSM and remind myself that it wasn’t a race.

A beautiful section of track towards Cedar Flat
A beautiful section of track towards Cedar Flat

About fifteen minutes later was another side stream. Just one wet boot this time, but if you have decent balance you could probably rock-hop it. I stuffed up my exit and not wanting to backtrack, took my pack off to climb a dirt cliff. Next, there was a good, steep tree-rooty climb up and around a slip.

Back on the flat (a term I use loosely) I noticed my pack knocking on a vertebrae between my lower shoulder blades. If I don’t get someone to tape my back for me beforehand, during the course of a 28,000-step day, it gently knocks the same spot 28,000 times until it’s raw. I had the feeling it was going to be a long weekend.

Climb around a slip on the Toaroha River to Cedar Flat
Climbing (left) up and around a slip

Above Toaroha Canyon

The track above Toarha Canyon was mossy, rocky and lovely, and as the light caught the blue rocks on the track they glowed with a silver sheen. There were some great views to be had over a couple of open sections across some old slips and plenty of just-off freezing grasses which whipped my bare legs.

I didn’t hear many birds, but the occasional soft whoop of wings told me they weren’t far away. At 10.50 am the track started heading back down toward the river. There were some quite boggy sections and plenty of ups and downs, in and out of little gullies. After crossing one side stream there was a decent vertical climb up the bank and tree roots.

A beautiful section of track towards Cedar Flat
A beautiful section of track towards Cedar Flat

With about a kilometre to go, I got a distinct whiff of gas in the air which I couldn’t place at all. By 11.20 am I was back down at the river again. It was absolutely freezing! I put all my warm clothes on again and walked the beautiful but treacherously slippery river stones along a short stretch.

Toaroha River near Cedar Flat
Toaroha River near Cedar Flat

I ignored the huge marker in the tree to my left and continued along the river before I ran out of bank and had to backtrack. In summer it would be lovely to walk the river if it was low, but it was way too cold this morning.

Frozen river flats Toaroha Rver
Ignoring the marker to walk the river
Toaroha River close to Cedar Flat Hut
The Toaroha River close to Cedar Flat Hut. I ran out of river bank just around the corner.

Hot Pools Cedar Flat

I arrived at the sign for the hot pools near Cedar Flat at 11.50 am, four hours after setting off. The signage indicated it was a ten-minute walk to the hot pools (which I assumed would be about four mins) and set off at a good pace. Don’t think you can mosey up there in your robe and jandals in a couple of minutes. It’s still a proper tramping track with a bit of a climb, rocks, mud etc. I arrived at Wren Creek fifteen minutes later. 

I didn’t see the hot pools when I got to the river, but to be fair I didn’t search for them because I was conscious of time. This afternoon’s mission was to get up to Yeats or Adventure Biv and given the time it took to get to the hot pools, I wished I’d left this little detour for tomorrow. Later I was told the hot pools are pretty much opposite where the track comes out of the bush.

Almost at Cedar Flat hut
Almost at Cedar Flat hut

Towards Cedar Flat Huts

Just as I got back to the main track I heard the unmistakable whirr of a helicopter about to take off from the hut, which I solved the ‘I can smell gas’ mystery from earlier. I got to the Toaroha River bridge just as it rose into the sky.

The long bridge over the river required some careful negotiation to get up onto. I’d never seen one quite so tall before and I couldn’t reach the supporting cables at the sides until I got about halfway up the ladder. Once on the bridge, the views were great. I looked up to Adventure Ridge (steep) and Yeats Ridge (less steep) and decided I’d get up to Yeats Ridge after lunch.

A climb up to the bridge across the Toaroha River
A climb up to the bridge across the Toaroha River
Crossing the bridge at Cedar Flat
Crossing the bridge at Cedar Flat

Cedar Flat Huts

I arrived at the Cedar Flat huts at about 12.25 pm. The huts were set in a small clearing amongst some lovely cedar trees – hence the name. There is a beautiful, bright orange 2-bed historic hut next to the modern 12-bed Cedar Flat hut. I poked my nose around the door of the historic hut, which was dim inside with tons of character and an open fire. 

Historic Cedar Flat Hut
Historic Cedar Flat Hut

The new hut was fairly soulless in comparison and felt cold and damp. A couple and their dog (you’re allowed to take dogs with a permit) were soaking up the sun on the deck. We made our introductions and they told me the group in the helicopter were monitoring kea in the area. The hut hadn’t warmed up at all from the sun, so I ate my lunch quickly and headed back outside. I went to find the loo. It had warmed up nicely and was full of blowflies.

Cedar Flat hut
Cedar Flat hut (taken the following morning)

Towards Esma Creek

I left Cedar Flat Hut at 1.05 pm and continued along the track towards Top Toaroha Hut, which was signposted just before the huts. The initial section towards the bridge was very boggy, even in the dry spell we’d had. Fifteen minutes later I arrived at the very new-looking, Toaroha Gorge Swingbridge over an incredible gorge which, being rather scared of heights I couldn’t bring myself to look down into. Water had collected in the middle of the wooden bridge, had iced over the night before and was now a very slippery slush with a solid block of ice in the middle.

The track wound downhill to meet the river again at Median Creek. It was a stunning spot, especially with the sun shining through the smooth rock of the gorge.

Toaroha Gorge from Median Creek
Toaroha Gorge from Median Creek – a lovely spot!

I crossed Median Creek easily (but beware, I read it can quickly become uncrossable in rain) and shortly afterwards passed the Adventure Ridge Track to Adventure Biv. Soon I arrived at Esma Creek (which comes with the same warning if it’s raining). It was a bit deeper than Median Creek, slow-moving and doable, but I decided I’d rather climb a steeper mountain than wade a deeper stream. I headed back to the Adventure Ridge Route and started climbing at 1.35 pm. The sign read two hours to Adventure Biv.

Adventure Ridge Route to Adventure Biv

I had initially thought about avoiding the Adventure Ridge Route due to the fairly tight contour lines on the topo map. It was pretty steep, but not quite as bad as I expected. The bottom part was the most demanding including a bit of a boggy part and a couple of steep climbs up tree rooty sections where you need to watch the holes between the roots and rocks. The track got better as I climbed. It wasn’t all steep climbing, there were a couple of flat-ish parts and even a wee dip here and there to break it up.

Steep means you’re gaining height quickly, which I enjoyed. The track was fairly open and there were occasional glimpses across to the other side of Median Creek and at one point, a waterfall. Occasionally the ridge narrowed. At 800m I was joined by a fantail who chattered away beside me for some time. It was nice to have someone to talk to. 

The track to Adventure Biv
Bit of a climb up the track to Adventure Biv

By 900m the vegetation changed to subalpine. In the open sections, there were pockets of snow. I did my best to sweep it off the track as I knew it would be icy in the morning. There was one section involving a steep climb which got me thinking about the return trip.

Views across Median Creek from the Adventure Biv Route
Views across Median Creek from the Adventure Biv Route
Snow on the track to Adventure Biv
Snow on the climb up to Adventure Biv

Adventure Biv

I reached Adventure Biv at 3.25 pm, just under two hours from the Adventure Ridge Track turnoff. A very cute bright orange biv nestled in the tussock and snow patches. It is classified as a two-bed, but there were actually two mattresses and only one bed. The water was running, and the tarn just above the biv was frozen solid. Check out more details on the Remote Huts and DOC websites.

Approaching Adventure Biv from the Adventure Ridge Route
Approaching Adventure Biv from the Adventure Ridge Route

From Adventure Biv there were amazing views to the west. Yeats Ridge and across to Squall Peak, Jumble Tops and the Diedrichs Range. Future adventures opened up in front of me. The tops of the Toaroha Rage to the east behind me were all obscured in the mist.

Adventure Biv
Adventure Biv looking across to Yeats Ridge and Jumble Tops

As I signed the hut book I thought about how icy it would be up here tomorrow morning at 7.30 am. It would be absolutely gorgeous, but I’m not used to walking on snow or ice and it would be frozen solid. I didn’t want to risk the climb down from the tops on my own in those conditions. I still had time to get back to Cedar Flat before dark, so got under way after a quick drink. I found a couple of the climb-downs at the top quite slippery and difficult. and took it extremely carefully.

Cedar Flat Hut

I enjoyed the walk down and by 4.55 pm (1.5 hours) I was back at the signpost and across Median Creek. The short climb up to the Toaroha Gorge swingbridge challenged my legs. At the bridge, I met a local hunter who’d been on a tops mission and had come from Crystal Biv (on the list for a future trip). He’d come over Yeats Ridge and said the track was in good condition.

Descending Adventure Ridge from Adventure Biv
Descending Adventure Ridge from Adventure Biv

We were back at Cedar Flat at around 5.15 pm. I was initially going to take the historic shelter but swapped when I met the lovely girl who was alone in the new/big hut. She had managed to get a small fire going with damp wood, which we took turns in tending.

We chatted for an hour or so and ate dinner. Some time after dark an energetic young couple arrived with gigantic packs, pulled out their real food and a full-size frying pan and made an absolutely epic dinner.

Leaving Cedar Flat

I didn’t get much sleep. I think all of us snored at some point during the night. It was 2.30 am the last time I looked at my watch when for the fifteenth time I considered putting my tent up outside. Then all of a sudden it was 7 am – thank goodness.

My hut buddy set off first after breakfast, followed by the hunter. I left shortly afterwards at 8.50 am after wrapping frozen gaiters around my calves. Thankfully we’d brought our wet boots indoors.

Crossing the tall bridge was an experience. It was covered with ice, so going down the wire ladder was particularly hairy. Our hunter friend was waiting at the bottom rolling a cigarette and waiting for me to go first ‘because I’d be faster than him’. Just quietly, I think he was being a gentleman and waiting to check I was alright, coming down off the bridge in the slippery conditions. A nice little bit of backcountry chivalry, which made me smile.

A cold morning on the Toaroha River
A cold morning on the Toaroha River

The walk back out was lovely and uneventful apart from a couple of sketchy climb-downs that I’d climbed up yesterday. At 9.50 am, an hour after setting off, I was on top of the rise over Toaroha Canyon. The walk back felt easier after finding my feet yesterday. Warblers warbled and the sun shone through the trees. I wondered why I’d felt so frustrated at times yesterday – I guess it was the unknown. My confidence had doubled overnight.

Heading back from Cedar Flat Hut
Heading back from Cedar Flat Hut

Toaroha River

By 10.50 two hours into the walk, I was back down at the river. The slow-moving ice-blue river pools looked wonderful. The ice had melted off the river rocks, but they were still ice cold. I crossed the river and slid myself over and down the boulders I’d climbed up yesterday. Once I was over the boulders I found a sunny spot and wrang out my socks.

Walking the Toaroha River from Cedar Flat
Walking the Toaroha River from Cedar Flat
A great section of track along the Toaroha River from Cedar Flat
A great section of track from Cedar Flat

As I scrambled up the rocky exit from the river I met a party of three going in. From here it was back onto the lovely easy part of the track in the dappled sunlight. It was then I remembered I had a few 6-month-old jelly beans in my hip belt pocket – which was exactly what I needed.

As I arrived at the fence by the edge of the bush at 12.15 pm I was hit with a blast of warm air. I was glad to be back in the sun and enjoyed the final kilometre or so up the farm track back to the car. A lone jittery cow walked along the wrong side of the fence ahead of me. I did my best not to spook her or walk her all the way up the track. Thankfully she had the sense to let me pass where the track widened a little.

I arrived back at the car at 12.35 pm, three hours and forty-five minutes from Cedar Flat hut.

Back to the farmland before the car park
Back to the farmland before the car park

Click the links below for more of my walks on the west coast:



  1. Honora says:

    Great descriptive writing. Is your vertebra sticking out too much or is the pack poking your back too much? I put a foam pad in the gap of my back pad. I’ve got an Osprey and was wondering if that’s what you’ve got too, seeing as you mentioned the hip belt pocket.

    1. tinytramper says:

      Hi Honora, it’s a Lowe Alpine (nearing the end of its life) with a hard panel at the back. Great idea re. the foam pad thanks, then I can safely forget to tape my back 😉

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