Last Updated: 9th Apr 2024


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Paparoa Moonlight Marathon

Paparoa Great Walk

Moonlight Track

Atarau, West Coast

Submitted by Stewie Stuart

Last Updated: 9th Apr 2024


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Grunt Factor: 58 ?

Gnarl Factor: 28 ?







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Trail Map

Type of Run

Front country - easily accessible

Point to Point (one way)

Very hilly

Native bush


Open tussock/grasslands

Open ridges/tops

Run Makeup


Easy Single Track

Moderate Single Track

Technical Single Track

Average Uphill Gradient: +6.8%

Average Downhill Gradient: -7.5%


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Estimated Times to Run







A shorter option for those wanting to experience a more secluded, historical and technical start to running the Paparoa Great Walk. As a point to point, it can be run in either direction. However add on an extra 150m of vert if starting from Punakaiki and note that the Moonlight Track is more technical and can be very steep in some areas.

From Andersons Flat Carpark follow the Moonlight Track up the valley through regenerating forest at a moderate gradient. Before the sign for Meechams Historic Hut you will see walls of stacked stone tailings from gold claims. After crossing the another swing bridge, the river forks out as you approach Passenis Historic Hut Site and the forest transitions between beech and hardwood forests. The track then gradually climbs towards Meikles Historic Hut. Keep an eye out for Whio in the river.

The track then zigzags upwards with the bench formation ending 20 minutes later where the forest starts to take on a sub-alpine appearance. A rough, steep track continues for 15 minutes to emerge in the open 'tops' about 10 minutes below the crest of the range. Follow the track to where it merges with the Paparoa Great Walk. Once on the Great Walk backtrack a short distance to the Moonlight Tops Hut to bag the hut, fill up water and use the facilities. On a good day the view is dominated by the unnamed escarpment to the north, which is where the track heads next.

Soon after leaving Moonlight Hut and passing the turnoff to the Moonlight valley, the track moves into stunted goblin forest. A steady descent is followed by another climb to the edge of the escarpment. The track runs right along the edge of this near-vertical cliff face, providing amazing views over the Pororari headwaters and out to the Tasman.

After leaving the edge the track ducks in and out of bush, with views over an argillite basin and into the head of Pike River, before diving off into lush podocarp forest. From here the track switchbacks fairly steeply, descending beneath an impressive waterfall and winding between some big boulders. The gradient then mellows out as it follows the ridgeline south of Tindale Creek, though there are still plenty of undulations, before a brief climb up to Pororari Hut. This is a short detour off the main track, but again a good place to get water and use the facilities, and has lovely views out towards Punakaiki.

From Pororari Hut is a steady 5km or so downhill to the first swing bridge over the Pororari River, followed by a brief gently climb to gain the side of a gorge. Look out for rata flowering on the opposite side of the valley here. A flowing descent takes you down to the junction with the Inland Pack Track (right across the swing bridge) - head straight on towards Punakaiki.

Soon the track splits again, with the foot traffic route heading up steps to the right and the mountain bikes keeping left. The foot route takes you out along the Pororari River, through a small cave and out to the car park at the end of the track.

Lots of opportunity for good views with a view down into Pike River Mine (Track to be opened soon). Lots of old mining relics and historic huts.

If you know of any public toilets near the trail start or on the route, please login and then let us know so we can update this section.

Lots of parking available at Andersons Flat on the grass if leaving a vehicle. The Pororari River Carpark at the end can be quite busy so it is recommended that you leave a vehicle there first in the morning to secure a spot. Local operators can help with car relocation or shuttles.

7 km

13 minutes




Route is very well signposted on the Great Walk but does intersect with several other tracks. Some of the signposting on the Moonlight Track can be sporadic, so ensure you have the route added to your watch or phone.

Very patchy.

Waterproof leggings, Thermal leggings, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Survival bag, Cellphone, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries

Water is available at the 2 huts and Emergency Shelter. Lots of water also present in side streams on the Moonlight track and through the bush along the Great Walk at multiple small creeks along the way. Water on the tops is scarce so ensure you fill up adequately before leaving Moonlight Tops Hut.

The tops are very exposed and subject to rapidly-changing conditions - best avoided in bad weather.

Watch out for mountain bikers as they can approach you very suddenly when on the great walk. Leave the noise cancelling headphones at home.

Punakaiki Rocks Hotel & Garden
Corner Of State Highway 6 & Owen Street, Punakaiki, RD 1 , Punakaiki, New Zealand
Beverages & Food Available (Although a bit expensive)

Pororari River
300m backtracked on the track
Excellent Cold Swimming Spot for the end of the adventure

Trail Legend

Stewie Stuart

Stewie Stuart

has completed Paparoa Moonlight Marathon once in the last year.

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These overlap with this trail to some degree. You may wish to combine them but please note that to qualify for FKTs on these runs you should record a separate activity for each.



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