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Return of the Gault, West Coast

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Return of the GaultIntermediate

Submitted by Stephanie Berry

Info Info

Trail Information





West Coast

Fox Glacier

Urban fringe

Out and Back

Very hilly

Native bush


3:00 (Slow)
2:15 (Moderate)
1:00 (Fast)



After or during rain this track will be extremely muddy.

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Starting at the same point as the Lake Matheson track you head out on a beautifully graded single track. After about 700m you come to a junction where you take the right track as if you were heading anti-clockwise around Lake Matheson. A further 500m along this track you come to the Lake Gault turnoff. This is where the fun begins. DOC grade this track as an Intermediate trampers track and for good reason. If you love technical, rocky, rooty, muddy and slippery trails like those of old then this is one for you. It's narrow & delightfully covered in moss with lichen hanging from the trees, little streams to hop across and rocks to scramble over. If you're lucky you'll be serenaded by Tui, chased by Piwakawaka and shaken out of your blissful reverie by the flap of Kereru wings as they pass above you.

It's not a steep climb but the technical aspect of this will certainly get your heartrate up there. There's only one way up so enjoy the magic as you climb and test your agility abilities. About 5 minutes from the lake edge the track flattens out a bit and you may get odd glimpses of the lake. Once at the top you'll find a small clearing with a seat where you can soak in the views, especially if it's a clear day. You'll get magnificent views of the Southern Alps with Aoraki/Mt Cook & Horu-koau/Mt Tasman reflected in the lake. It's not a big beach area so not one for a large group. If you sit for a bit you might be lucky enough to spot some wild deer frolicking in the lake edge as I was.

Once you've had your fill you return the way you've come … a glorious down hill run testing your agility over roots and rocks. Once you get back to the track junction you hook a left and return back to the carpark to complete the 9k out and back trip. If you fancy a bit more distance you can hook a right and do a loop around the lake before returning to the car. This will add another 3k's to your run. Be sure to stop at the Lake Matheson café after you've cooled off and grab a hot or cold drink and a bite to eat. If you want the best views then be sure to head out early morning before the cloud covers the mountains. Be sure to take warm gear and water proof jacket as the weather can change really quickly.

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Features of interest

Lake Gault was used to service the hydroelectric scheme in the 1930's & 40's. It is now home to New Zealand's rarest kiwi, the rowi after some were relocated from Okarito. The track had been closed for over 20 years but thanks to a Fox Glacier community initiative the track has been recut and reopened thanks to the many, many hours put in by community volunteers in collaboration with DOC.

Make Up of Run

Technical Single Track: 80%

Easy Single Track: 20%

Route Data


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Wild Explorers

I did it!
  • Access

    Lake Matheson Carpark - travel down Cook Flat Road from Fox Glacier Township for approx. 5kms and turn right into Lake Matheson Road then follow this road until you reach the carpark.

    Plenty of safe parking

    5 km

    5 minutes



  • Staying Safe



    Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Personal Locator Beacon (PLB), Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map.


    Extremely muddy after rain
    Weather very changeable

  • Post run indulgence

    Lake Matheson Cafe
    Lake Matheson
    Great food

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