Here’s why hut-hiking is the best way to see New Zealand – National Geographic

“It’s an old, moldy, grotty dog box. Absolutely disgusting. I would think about 10 people get there a year.”

That’s how Carol Exton describes Jacs Flat Bivvy, a wood-and-tin hut that sits in a dense forest at the base of a dark valley in New Zealand. It’s so small that you have to bend over to crawl inside. Yet among the country’s 1,000 government-run hiking shelters, it’s Exton’s favorite. It’s the kind of place that inspires her trekking adventures and exemplifies the lore embedded in New Zealand’s beloved hiking culture.

Indeed, in a country famous for soaring mountains and rugged coastlines, hiking is a way of life. Huts line more than 9,000 miles of public trails in New Zealand, providing an ideal framework for exploring.

Not all are two-bunk basics like Jacs Flat. Some are architectural stunners, perched on alpine ridges overlooking glaciers. Many have been around for more than a hundred years, standing as sentinels of old-growth rainforests and golden beaches. Through the decades, they’ve borne witness to history in the names and messages from past hikers etched on the walls.

It’s no wonder that these camps—many free or costing a nominal fee—inspire the kind of devotion that can motivate people like Exton to visit every hut in the country.

Icons of national heritage

Huts first appeared in New Zealand’s remote backcountry in the late 1880s. Using local stone, sheep herders built them into the tussocked foothills of the Southern Alps. Gold miners scraped tin huts together on the banks of rivers. Some outliers were erected on desolate coastlines, as refuges for castaways from sunken ships.

Brewster Hut is perched on a hill above Brewster Glacier in New Zealand’s Otago region. Many Department of Conservation huts are located in stunning natural areas.Photograph by Timon Peskin, iStockphoto / Getty Images

Please be respectful of copyright. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Please be respectful of copyright. Unauthorized use is prohibited.

Please be respectful of copyright. Unauthorized use is prohibited.



leave a comment

Create Account

Log In Your Account