The Old Ghost Road is an 85km trail that winds its way through remote valleys, across mountain tops and down river gorges. It is suitable for trampers with a reasonable level of backcountry skills and experience. Because the trail surface is generally firm underfoot (i.e. a mixture of compacted crushed rock and other natural material) trampers should consider their footwear choice carefully. 

There are twenty-one bridges along The Old Ghost Road that provide safe passage over the main waterways. Be aware that some remaining (unbridged) waterways and trail sections have potential to flood under heavy and/or sustained rainfall. The most notable of these is Irishman’s Creek (at the 4km mark in the lower Lyell Gorge). Note that bridges exist (south to north) at the following locations:

  • Lyell Creek (lower Lyell Gorge);
  • Deep Creek (Lyell Gorge);
  • Stern Tributary (Stern Valley);
  • Stern Creek (Stern Valley);
  • Earnest Main (Earnest Valley);
  • Earnest Tributary (Earnest Valley);
  • Goat Creek Tributary (upper Goat Creek);
  • Goat Creek (upper Goat Creek – this is not at the hut site);
  • Unruly Creek (Mokihinui River South Branch valley);
  • Mokihinui River South Branch (Mokihinui River South Branch valley);
  • Wet Creek (Mokihinui River South Branch valley);
  • Limestone Creek (Mokihinui River South Branch valley);
  • Specimen Creek (head of Mokihinui Gorge);
  • Suicide Slips East (upper Mokihinui Gorge);
  • Suicide Slips Middle (upper Mokihinui Gorge);
  • Suicide Slips West (upper Mokihinui Gorge);
  • Jones Creek (mid Mokihinui Gorge);
  • Anderson Creek (mid Mokihinui Gorge);
  • Angel Creek (lower Mokihinui Gorge);
  • Johnny Cake Creek (lower Mokihinui Gorge); and
  • Welcome Creek (lower Mokihinui Gorge).

Please take note of the typical tramping times required.


Tramping The Old Ghost Road

For most trampers, The Old Ghost Road will typically be a 4-night/5-day undertaking. The direction of travel is less sensitive for trampers – take your pick. A south to north itinerary is described below purely for illustrative purposes:

Day One – Lyell Carpark (DoC Campground) to Lyell Saddle Hut, 18km, 4-6 hours. Steady grade on the old benched track climbing to the Lyell Saddle hut (885 metres above sea level). Beech forest dominates.

Day Two – Lyell Saddle Hut to Ghost Lake Hut, 12km, 3-5 hours. 6 km of graded climbing through cloud forest up to the tussock tops of the Lyell Range. Then it’s 6 km of relatively level open-tops travel to ‘Ghost Lake’ and the stunning Ghost Lake Hut. Unparalleled views of pure South Island majesty are yours with every stride. Note there is no water available between huts once on the alpine tops. Fill up at each hut and carry sufficient supplies. Take your time and enjoy the scenic stopping points.

Day Three – Ghost Lake Hut to Stern Valley Hut, 13km, 3-4 hours. Two sharp descents and ridge travel mark this day and it’s predominantly downhill (800 metres of altitude loss) all the way to Stern Valley Hut. There is no water in this section until Stern Creek is reached. Carry sufficient supplies. Prepare yourself for the Dr Seuss-like ‘Skyline Steps’ at the end of Skyline Ridge.

Day Four – Stern Valley Hut to Specimen Point Hut, 25km, 7-8 hours. With various destination options this day (including intermediate but more basic hut sites at Goat Creek and Mokihinui Forks), it’s on up Earnest Valley (north branch of Stern Creek) and through the strange but gorgeous open meadows of its catchment. At the twin lakes (Lake Grim and Lake Cheerful), the track switches back into climb mode through the ‘Boneyard’ heading for ‘Solemn Saddle’ and then leads on down through ‘The Hanging Judge’ into the headwaters of the Goat Creek catchment. Scrub and grass covered valleys form the way until the final couple of kilometres through bush to the historic Goat Creek Hut. Stern Creek Hut to Goat Creek Hut 14 km; 3-4 hours. From Goat Creek Hut it’s 8 km of flat walking down through the beautiful podocarp forest of the Mokihinui River South Branch to the Mokihinui Forks Hut (2 -3 hours). Then just a further 3 km, 1 – 1.5 hours down to the Specimen Point Hut settlement at the head of the mighty Mokihinui River Gorge.

Day Five – Specimen Point Hut to Welcome Bay/Seddonville, 17km, 4-6 hours. Undulating walking as The Old Ghost Road picks up the old miners’ track hugging the true left bank of the mighty Mokihinui River gorge with stunning river views.