Last Updated: 26th Feb 2024


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I've done it Done

The Paparoa

Punakaiki, West Coast

Submitted by Katie Smith

Last Updated: 26th Feb 2024


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I've done it Done


Grunt Factor: 67 ?

Gnarl Factor: 30 ?








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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

Average Uphill Gradient: +7.1%

Average Downhill Gradient: -7.7%


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Estimated Times to Run

Not suitable






As a point-to-point this would be an equally good run in either direction. Starting from Blackball means you cut out around 300m of elevation, but don't be put off starting from Punakaiki either.

From the SmokeHo carpark the track descends briefly to cross three bridged creeks before the uphill starts in earnest. From here the old packtrack climbs steadily through lush beech and podocarp forest, passing old hotel sites and relics from the mining heyday. This part of the track has not been upgraded and is rocky and sometimes slippery underfoot, but is a very runnable gradual gradient.

Just as you reach the alpine scrub zone you come across Ces Clark huts (old and new) - a great place to fill up on water and look at the view over the Grey/Mawhera valley. From Ces Clark the track continues to climb onto the open tops before turning north. The section between Ces Clark and Moonlight huts is about 10km, and undulates along the ridgeline past Mt Ryall. The track switches between both sides of the ridge, giving uninterrupted views alternately out to the Tasman and inland back over the Grey Valley.

Moonlight Hut sits on a spur just west of point 1104, around 19km from the start. From here 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 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.

Views across to the Pike River mine (with track to be opened next year), lots of old mining relics too

Plenty of parking. Local operators can help with car relocation or shuttles.

5 km

10 minutes




Route is very well signposted but does intersect with several other tracks.

Very patchy.

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

Water is available at the three huts, and through the bush at multiple small creeks along the way, but is scarce on the open tops section.

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

Trail Legend

Stewie Stuart

Stewie Stuart

has completed The Paparoa twice in the last year.

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Trail Reviews

The ultimate run! Since the trail is graded for biking, the incline is gradual and virtually the whole trail is runnable. An extra ego boost at the beginning passing bikers. Every 10 km (except the last 16 on Punakaiki side) there is a hut/shelter where you can fill up water and go to the toilet. New since my last visit to Paparoa was a shelter between Moonlight & Porarari huts, which was a very plasant surprise!

Ran Blackball to Punakaiki, October 2023.

Sierra Alef-Defoe

October 24

Great run with clear weather. The route is on the most westward mountain range north of Greymouth, and according to others I know who have walked/run it, the fog from the prevailing wind can fairly well prevent views in inclement conditions - but either way, with its good all-weather surface, the track is easy to follow.

Our day out on 26 Feb 2022 was great. We got a shuttle up from Blackball to the start of the south end of the track to lighten the load. Lots of track users walking, biking and running the track, and in both directions. We had no issues as the track is nice and wide.

Punakaiki pub is ~100m from the track end, a very rewarding stop after the run.

Sean Crawford

April 22, 2022

Ran south to north. Lovely track. Side trip up Croesus Knob takes about 20min.
After the ascent it seems like a never ending 40km downhill.
I found the first part of descent really hard under foot with big ish rocks/stone. Soles of feet felt most of them. I had inov8 trailtalon 290 on, would of liked something with a thicker sole. About half way down from Pororari the bed rock changes to granite? and it gets nicer under foot.
For the first third all the MTBers get quite frustrated that they can't keep up, then they leave you for dust!

Neil Trimboy

February 26, 2022

Awesome Track!
January 13 2022 I ran the track from Punakaiki to the Blackball south end trail head and then MTB back the same day. Huge day on a remarkable and stunning track with ridge line views to die for.
Easy run/hike time 7:20 and easy effort ride time 5:55 on some pretty tired legs.
Think this might be a FKT first known Time for doing the double in one day.

Arron Perriam

January 29, 2022

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