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6 epic backcountry adventures for first-time solo tramplers

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Being a solo traveler includes heaps of milestones to cross along the way. First international solo flight? Check. First time driving on the left side of the road? Check. But perhaps one of my favorite milestones as a female solo traveler to date is diving into the world of solo tramping.

I have to admit that solo tramping did not come ~ naturally ~ to me. I had no idea what to pack, what to eat, or even how I could find good beta on a track, but with enough research, I finally felt ready to tackle my first solo tramp, and no surprises here, it was amazing! Of course it was hard and I took lots of homework to learn from, but I will never forget the feeling of leaving my car and exploring the bush on my own without cell phone service for a full two days.

There are plenty of fantastic walks to choose from here in New Zealand, and luckily for you, New Zealand is finally getting to the top when it comes to sharing trail info. Plan my walk from the NZ Mountain Safety Council has all the resources you need to plan your first solo tramp.

Ready to dive in? Here are my top 6 overnight adventures for solo tramplers.

1. Matukituki Valley / Aspiring Cottage

If you are ready to embark on your first overnight adventure, but are still a little worried, you can not go wrong with a gentle walk up Matuktuki Valley to Aspiring Hut. It is an excellent introduction for tramplers who want to dip their toes in several days of trampling, and the 9 km long hike up the valley is a low gradient, which means you can spend less time worrying about your footing and more time to enjoy the beautiful view of the west. Matukituki.

The course starts at Raspberry Creek Car Park in Mt. Aspiring National Park and covers 9 km of land over 2.5 – 3 hours. If you would instead tackle it on two wheels, you are more than welcome to cycle as long as you do not bother a gentle uphill all the way and (usually) a little headwind. (Don’t worry, it makes the return even so much sweeter!)

Aspiring Hut is a historic stone structure with all the benefits: comfortable foam mattresses, DOC guards with lots of teasing, flush toilets (!!) and even gas hobs, so you do not have to lug around in your gas container.

If you have a little extra energy, you can continue a little further up the Matukituki Valley. The trail is hilly and will eventually lead you to the head of the valley, though the path becomes more and more overgrown the further you get! Aspiring Hut is also the gateway to Liverpool and French Ridge: two very iconic red cabins sat uncertainly on mountain ledges overlooking steep slopes to the valley below.

first time solo trampling

2. Copeland Track to Welcome Flat Hut

Ready to step up from Aspiring Hut? Look no further than the popular Copeland Track. This was a historic course used by the first climbers who wanted to go from Aoraki to the west coast (before mass glacial melting took place, this was quite common!). Now, hardcore still uses the track to access the wild west coast tracks, but the track to Welcome Hut is also one of my favorite hikes for beginners, solo tramplers.

Let’s start by saying that the walk is * long *. It’s an impressive 18km one way, but panic yet. The walk into the Welcome Flat Hut is perhaps also the flattest course I have ever walked in New Zealand, and that says a lot. There are almost no waves, only flat glorious western bush. The course runs along a river, so if the water is high or if you are trying to walk this in the winter, pay extra attention to the warnings. You can easily connect your trip to Plan my walk to see all updated notifications and warnings that may affect your trip.

first time solo trampling

Don’t forget your swimsuit for this tramp! Once you have covered the 18 km to the cottage, the best surprise awaits you after a long day: natural hot pools! Welcome Hut is conveniently located within a few hundred yards of some very inviting natural warm pools with some of the best views you can ask for.

The cottage itself is quite luxurious for a cottage abroad with several separate rooms, a stove for heating and plenty of space to relax. If you feel extra fancy, you can book the Sierra Room, which provides you with a higher level of amenities, including a gas stove, kitchen / cooking utensils, kettle, wet back shower and lighting.

3 Fern Burn Hut

If flat walking is not your jam, there are plenty of incredible night hikes to choose from for your first solo adventure. One of my favorite walks in our backyard is Motatapu Trail to Fern Burn Cottage.

This hike gives you some of the only native bush you will find on an overnight hike near Wanaka. The trip starts at Glendhu Bay and the first few kilometers lead you on a winding path through farmland before settling into some of the most beautiful stretches of forest you could ask for.

The path through the forest follows the river, waving a bit before climbing steeply out of the forest and into the tufted hills. The track from here is right up and down. The entire Motatapu trail is 35 km long, which usually takes 3-4 days to complete, indicating that the entire trail climbs and falls a lot.

But if you’re looking for a taste of the trail without the long commitment, Fern Burn is a great start. Plan a good 3-4 hours walk to cover 7 km distance. When you leave the forest, you also leave the river, so bring enough water to the other part of the trail, as it can get quite dry and hot in the afternoon.

The Fern Burn hut is a relatively new structure that is used a lot by hikers tackling the Te Araroa Trail (a trail that covers the entire length of New Zealand), so if you encounter any other tramplers, you will definitely hear something good stories.

first time solo trampling

4. Mueller Hut

If you feel good about the apartments and across the valley, you might be ready to tackle something with an amazing view for your first solo hike. If you’re in the mood for views, head to Aoraki, New Zealand’s highest mountain and one of our most dramatic national parks.

Mueller Hut is becoming popular among hikers looking for an achievable overnight hike that offers alpine views without requiring technical equipment and knowledge. The Hut can be booked online and often book out in the summer.

The cottage is located 1800 meters above sea level and gives you 360 views of glaciers, ice cliffs, vertical cliffs and of course New Zealand’s highest peak. Mueller Hut is a serviced cabin with a dedicated cabin attendant so you have plenty of amenities like plenty of lounging space and gas stops for cooking.

The walk to Mueller Hut is well marked, but can be challenging at times, primarily due to Mt. Cook’s famous whimsical weather. Things are going fast in this national park and the weather can quickly change from sunny and hot to cold and dangerous, so you need to do your homework on this using Schedule my app. Log your trip, check in with DOC, and keep an eye on the warnings and weather conditions on the app so you don’t get caught.

If you choose it on a good day, Mueller Hut will be an unforgettable experience that you will dream about for many years to come.

first time solo trampling

5. Brewster Hut

If you feel more like a Harry Hardcore, you might be ready for something like that Brewster Hut. This cottage is known for its incredibly dramatic views and relatively short walking time. The trip itself is only 5 km long, but believe me on this one: it should not be underestimated.

The course starts with a river crossing just outside the bat. This is always a good time to check in with the flow of water to ensure it is safe to cross. Once you are across the river, it is just about to start a well-marked but steep climb up.

The course is lively and may require both hands to help you climb up through the woods, but once you get over the bush line, you will be rewarded with some seriously amazing views. The walk from the bush line to the cottage is not long, but the steep slope is maintained all the way to the cottage.

Finally, you will break through to the cute red cottage views and you will forget all about the burning thighs. The cottage requires a reservation and has only 12 berths, so be sure to check the booking system before going up. Due to the fragile alpine terrain, no camping is allowed near the cottage.

Brewster Hut generally does not have a cabin attendant, so you want to make sure you leave your travel intentions with a faithful friend. You can do all your travel planning, including sending your itinerary and expected due date to your peers so if something goes wrong, they can notify the police.

first time solo trampling

6. Rockburn shelter

Living in cabins is a classic kiwi experience, but for some there is nothing like real solitude and a private bungalow (ok, tent) to crawl into late at night. If you think solo hiking to a cabin is rewarding, wait until you try solo camping! There is nothing like having everything you need to not only survive but also enjoy a night in the bush.

With camping, make sure you have everything for your trip, including PLB, plenty of food, kitchen utensils, tent, sleeping bag and mat. There is a good chance that you will be completely alone, so be sure to spend time planning your trip and entering your packing list before you head out. Plan My Walk makes it super easy to research your trip, read other course reviews and create one tailor-made package list for you.

If you have made your planning and you are ready to go, I can highly recommend Rockburn Shelter near Glenorchy. I embarked on this trip earlier in the year to test my new tent and it was a pure pleasure.

The trail starts at Lake Sylvan near Glenorchy and meanders up the river bed for about 2-3 hours. There has previously been a hut here, which has been removed, but instead stands a large wee shelter and camp toilet for public use.

This walk was a great introduction to solo camping. It’s easy enough, it’s a shorter walk, and it’s great. If you’re keen, you can turn this walk into a loop by connecting it to Sugarloaf Pass before hanging back on the Routeburn Track, but honestly, if not, don’t stress. There is no shame in a good old fashioned way back and forth and this year I am rediscovering my love of appreciating my abilities and being honest about how I feel. Any trampling overnight is a worthy and remarkable effort, and the most important thing is just to get out there and soak up all that the wild nature of New Zealand has to offer.

first time solo trampling

Many thanks to the NZ Mountain Safety Council for supporting me this summer on the rails. As always, I keep it real; all opinions are my own, just as you could expect less from me.

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