Oparara Valley DreamtimeBeginner - Intermediate
Submitted by Vicki Woolley
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Front country - easily accessible
Point to Point (one way)
Undulating, small hills only
Beginner - Intermediate
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Opened by Sir David Bellamy himself, the Oparara Valley Track is one of the most beautiful - and sadly less-frequented - trails in New Zealand.
It is worth a bit of zig-zagging to make the most of this stunning area, so first drive to the Box Canyon/Crazy Paving Caves to look for the rare Spelungulae cavernicola (Nelson cave spider).
Return to the Oparara carpark and warm up with a quick out-and-back to the largest limestone arch in the Southern hemisphere - the Oparara Arch Track leads directly west out of the carpark.
Returning to the carpark, jog back up the road (north) and take the Moria Gate/Mirror Tarn Loop Track (approximately 600m up the road on the right). Follow this beautiful loop track around Mirror Tarn: at the junction with Oparara Valley Track you will discover picturesque Moria Arch. Cross over the top of the arch (follow the Moa prints) and climb down under it for beautiful imagery.
Return to the junction with Oparara Valley Track, head south and float along mossy trails and through ancient lush forest all the way down through the Oparara Basin, Look for whio (blue duck) in the whiskey-coloured streams and try to separate kea, kaka and kakariki from the cacophony of birdsong. Approximately halfway down the valley the Sunshine Flat offers a toilet, shelter and interpretation panels - an ideal place to stop for a snack. Continuing down the trail, there are several side trips on offer: take Adams Flat Track and Fenian Track to see discarded mine workings; a short way past the Fenian Track junction is the loop trail through Fenian Caves. This is a short but very exciting technical jaunt through three caves - a head torch is essential, and take care after heavy rain.
You will need to arrange to be picked up at the Fenian carpark, or resign yourself to a road run (approximately 7km) back into Karamea.
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Features of interest
Oparara Arch: the biggest limestone arch in the Southern hemisphere.
Moria Arch: arguably the most beautiful arch in the Southern hemisphere.
Mirror Tarn: picturesque spot: ancient native trees.
Oparara Valley Track: unusual whiskey-coloured streams: powelliphanta, whio; kaka, kea, kakariki
Box Canyon and Crazy Paving Caves: housing rare spelungulae.
Fenian Track and Adams Flat: mine workings.
Make Up of Run
Technical Single Track: 5%
Easy Single Track: 90%
Gravel Road: 5%
From Karamea, head north on Kohaihai Road for 11km: turn right onto the graveled McCallums Mill Road and travel 15km.
There is adequate parking, a toilet block, shelter and large interpretation panels in the Oparara carpark. Further parking is available a few hundred metres up the road at the entrance to Mirror Tarn Loop Track and approximately 1km further on at Box Canyon.
Make navigation of this route super-easy by using the Capra app on your phone. View on Capra .
The short Fenian Caves loop is not well marked: some caves are out-and-back while some are go-through. Take your time and look for markers. If the caves are flooded, return to the main track.
Lightweight fleece top, Long-sleeved thermal top, Seam-sealed waterproof jacket, Gloves, Beanie/thermal headwear, Whistle, First aid kit, Extra food for emergencies, Cellphone, Map, Headtorch and spare batteries.
Carry own water.
Do not attempt to enter Fenian Caves during or after periods of heavy rainfall.
Post run indulgence
The Last Resort
71 Waverley Street, Karamea
Casual visitors (i.e. those not staying at the Last Resort) are very welcome and can make use of the hot showers as well as the bar, restaurant and cafe.
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