Visit sunny Nelson and you will be at the gateway to walking country with easy access to the Abel Tasman and Queen Charlotte walkways, and Nelson Lakes tramping tracks.
But what about Mt Richmond? This is a gem of a park, with myriad tracks, superb huts and diverse landscapes. It’s on Nelson’s back doorstep, still waiting to be discovered by visitors.
Mt Richmond Forest Park stretches 100 km along the rugged backbone of the Mt Richmond Range from St Arnaud all the way to the coast. It forms the backdrop to Nelson city and dominates the skyline from Blenheim and the Wairau Valley. Over 80% of the vast area is covered in dense forest with manuka, kanuka, bracken and gorse common around the margins of the park. The high peaks like Mt Richmond (1,700 metres) and the ‘Alpine Route’ further south have small alpine grasslands.
Geological interest in the park is high as the main South Island alpine fault runs along the southern boundary. This is the largest active fault line in New Zealand and extends down to South Westland. The Red Hills and Dun Mountain have high levels of magnesium and iron, which gives them a distinctive rust colour. Over millions of years they have been moved 600 km north from the identical rocks in the Red Hills of South Westland.
Easy access roads and 250 km of cut and marked tracks linking 30 huts, make this an ideal tramper’s park. The bush includes all 5 species of beech in New Zealand as well as the common podocarps; rimu, totara, matai, miro and kahikatea. Uncommon birds present are blue duck, yellow-crowned parakeet, kaka and kiwis. The park provides ample opportunities for bushwalking, tramping, fishing, hunting, climbing, rock hounding, horse riding, trail biking, mountain biking as well as studying botany and wildlife.
The easiest tramps are in the Pelorus and Goulter valleys. The Wakamarina Track is an easy weekend trip, staying at Devil’s Creek Hut and crossing from the Wairau Valley over to Havelock. The Mt Richmond summit is a popular climb, as is Mt Patriarch.
Discover this beautiful park for yourself – it’s too good to bypass.