On the way up, we took the Moss Creek trail. It starts out as a wide, relatively flat trail through lush, green bush (Kiwi for "forest"). There are a few stream crossings, complete with suspension bridges:
The trail then becomes steeper, with lots and lots of rock steps. This goes on for a few kilometers as you traversely climb a ridge. At one point, an enormous tree trunk (kauri?) sits alongside the trail. I think every tramper uses it as a photo op!
It took us a little over two hours to reach the hut via the Moss Creek trail, and another 45 minutes to the top of the Pinnacles. The reward at the top was sweet:
Unfortunately, the weather worsened, as some clouds rolled in and the wind picked up. We decided to take the Moss Creek trail straight back to the carpark. Alternately, you could take the Billy Goat trail, which is a little longer, but has different types of scenery. We made it back to the carpark in great time, and I regret a bit not taking the extra time to descend via the other trail.
Because of the DOC hut, the well-maintained trail, and the stairs on the moderate grades, this would be a very accessible first backpacking trip or a great trip with children. I can see why this tramp is so popular and so highly recommended in the guidebooks... and why the carpark was so full. (Seriously, there was a group of ~40 Asian adult tourists all tramping together.)
- Definitely make the "optional" trip up the Pinnacles
- Decide whether it makes sense for you and your group to stay in the hut--this can be a day trip, but if you've got the time, the hut is very nice
- If you use them regularly, bring hiking poles
- As always, bring a fleece and/or rain shell and sun protection
- Start early; avoid the crowds (you'll see them heading in the other direction, leaving the hut)
Photo album here: