The Hacket Track Whispering Falls
Winter served up a rather damp weekend, so we made the most of it by taking a local walk in the Mount Richmond Forest Park along the Hacket Track to Whispering Falls and Hacket hut. We returned via the disused Chromite Mine Track. All up, with an hour-long lunch we took 5.5 hours but no doubt in summer you would want to spend longer as there are plenty of opportunities for river swims and exploring.
Getting there Hacket Track
The start of the Hacket Track is about 40 minutes drive from Nelson. Head South on the SH6 past Richmond and turn left into Aniseed Valley Road. Drive up and over Aniseed Hill and continue on the sealed road for around 8Kms. There is a large car park area off to the right as you swing around a tight left-hand bend, next to the Roding river. (If you continue on to the unsealed road, you know you’ve gone too far). The car park looked like it had just finished being re-landscaped, and there was a great information board, a beautifully clean drop toilet and at the far end by the bridge, a great looking swimming hole.
The Hacket Track
We got going around 10.35am. After crossing the bridge the first part of the trail starts on a wide forestry road After about 5 minutes or so continue straight and follow the Hacket Creek rather than heading uphill and left into the forest.
The Hacket Track is also a mountain bike track, and is wide and generally in very good shape. It is mostly a flat gradient with only a couple of gentle ups and downs. After about 12 minutes we had arrived at a rather impressive bridge crossing the creek.
With some hilarily we noted the new large yellow signage indicating the ‘5 people only on the bridge’ (in addition to the old signage reading just that). If I was being thoroughly pedantic though, I would have liked to have seen 5 stick men on the bridge with the 6th falling through 🙂
Hacket Track to Whispering Falls
After about 20 minutes on the trail we arrived at an intersection indicating a washout on the track. We took the bottom (left hand) track to see how bad the washout was. Seems like most people take this option too, but you probably wouldn’t want to with your kids or if you’re on a bike. The middle (straight ahead and up) option presumbaly avoided the washout. The third option – and slightly confusingly the only ‘marked’ option (up and to the right) leads you up the very steep track to the Chromite mine (and we returned his way).
The washout was a little sketchy, so care should be taken, but many people have walked it and we did too.
The track stayed close to the Hacket Creek with some nice views across the mineral belt and scrub. After another 10 minutes or so at 11.10am (35 mins and around 3Kms from the car park) we came to the turnoff to Whispering Falls.
Shortly afterwards we came to a point where we had to cross Hacket Creek. As there hadn’t been any rain recently it was nothing difficult, and by the looks of it, a lot of fun for families. We took our shoes and socks off to cross, with the river level being just up to my knees. No doubt this would be uncrossable after heavy rain – the bridge was washed away some years ago, so use your common sense.
Once across, we followed Miner River for 10 minutes or so until we entered the forest.
The trail through the lush forest was beautiful,wet and tree-rooty, which kept things interesting. This is a popular trail, and we met families and dog walkers en-route.
I can imagine that in summer, the Whispering Falls aren’t much to look at, unless it has rained, but on this Winter day it was a real treat. There are two waterfalls, which aren’t really “falls” as such but a milion gentle trickles from the mossy rocky outcrops. The colours were wonderful.
We marvelled at the falls and made our way across to the far end where a track led us uphill to a grassy picnic area. There were some nice views and a picnic table, where we enjoyed a micro break.
Whispering Falls to Hacket hut
We retraced our steps back down the hill to the falls, and back to the river crossing. We got back to the Hacket Track at midday, about 50 minutes after we headed off for Whispering Falls.
At the Hacket Track we turned left to continue to Hacket hut, still following Hacket Creek on our right. Latterly, beside the track to our left was mostly forestry but it was a pleasant and easy walk with a couple of small hills. After 30 minutes we reached the turn-off for Browning hut, and reached Hacket hut at 12.45pm.
I was last at Hacket hut when I walked the Richmond Ranges Alpine Crossing on Te Araroa Trail from Browning hut to Slaty hut. I remember the day well, as it involved some nice river crossings followed by a massive (!) climb to Starveall hut. On that morning, at Hacket hut I also bumped into a friend who I had walked most of the North island of Te Araroa Trail with, a year earlier!
Amazingly, in the middle of winter, there were enough sandflies at the picnic table to send us into the hut for lunch! We enjoyed a wonderful, leisurely hour-long lunch and left at 1.30pm.
The Chromite Mine Track
We retraced our steps back along the Hacket Track for 30 minutes until we got to the right-hand turning to the Chromite Mine Track. According to the marvellous Nelson Trails website, the Chromite Track is 3.7Km loop from/to the Hacket Track and goes up to 400m elevation. The end nearest the Hacket hut is considerably less steep than the car park end, so we were glad we took the trail this way.
The track led us up through bush/scrub for 20 minutes or so before we came to the mine sites. They were mostly just collapsed holes in the ground, with the exception of one which was an actual tunnel. We went in for a look, and it was only when we were inside the dark, damp tunnel, that we thought this could be the perfect place to find cave weta. These huge flightless crickets can be some of the biggest insects you can find, but thankfully the few we found were only the size of huge crickets and not huge mice, They tend to keep themselves to themselves, but it’s still a little unnerving to know that in the cracks all around you where your head torch doesn’t shine, there will be a few lurking…
A little further up we can to a great information board telling us the history of the area, and that mining took place here in the 1860’s when seams of Chromite were found in the serpentine rock. The Old Chromite Road was built from the Serpentine valley up to Serpentine Saddle and along the ridge to the mines here.
Chromite was originaly used to dye cotton for the clothing industry and also used in the process of tanning leather. However the shortage of cotton during the American Civil War led to the collapse of the cotton industry and also of the Chromite mining here.
Old Chromite Road
We continued up to the Old Chrome Road on the Serpentine ridge above the mines. It was in pretty good shape given that it had been built in the 1860’s. When we went through, a lot of effort had obviously just gone into the track maintenance. The gorse and shrubs had been cut back and it was a great section of trail.
At 2.45pm, around 40 minutes after turning off the Hacket Track, we arrived at a picnic area with a bench and some nice views. We paused momentarily before continuing on to the Serpentine Saddle. From here the trail to the left went down to Serpentine Road and to the right down to the Hacket Track. We started our descent at 3pm.
Down to the Hacket Track
The track down to the Hacket track isn’t marked on the Topo maps yet, but was easy to find, well marked and again had just been maintained when we went through. It passed through some forest, then kanuka before coming to a steep, rocky, slippery drop down to the Hacket Track.
We were back at the Hacket Track after a rather slithery downhill, and were glad to be on the flat again. As I mentioned earlier the track brought us out just by the ‘washout’ area of the Hacket Track. It was only around 20 minutes back to the car from here. The fog was closing in around us and it was getting pretty chilly.
We were back at the Hacket car park by 4pm. It was a lovely 5.5 hours of easy trail with lots to see. You can even bring your dog on these trails, so it is no wonder this area is so popular. The light was interesting, so we played around opn the bridge making some cool photos, before heading home.