Kiwi Burn Hut Loop Track, Mavora Lakes
Many trampers have vouched that Kiwi Burn Hut is a popular and great option for families, so we thought we’d check it out and put it to a true family-friendly test. With my toddler (and his dada) in tow, we set out to do the full Kiwi Burn Loop Track and spend one night at the hut halfway through.
Walking to Kiwi Burn Hut
Right at the start of the walk we faced one of the coolest features (in my opinion) of the track, the Kiwi Burn swing bridge. A chain metal bridge spanning approximately 15 metres across and standing at least 10 meters high over the gushing Mararoa River. Not at all for the faint of heart!
Signs state only one person at a time should cross the bridge, and when you’re on it I think you’ll agree. I was nervous to cross while carrying an extra 20kg of toddler + backpack with me, but I figured it was better for me than my much taller partner to cross carrying it all. A bit wobbly going across, and a bit unsettling viewing the patches in the chain link as you’re right in the middle, but we did it!
After crossing the bridge, a DOC sign details the 3 walking tracks that intersect at this point: Left to Kiwi Burn Hut (1hr 30min), forward to Kiwi Burn Loop Track (3hr 30min), or right to South Mavora Lake (2hr 30min). We decided to take the shorter route to Kiwi Burn Hut first and went left. Since I was carrying such a heavy load, my walking pace was a little slower than the suggested times shown on the sign.
The first hour of the walk is super easy and even a bit peaceful, taking you on a flat walk along the Mararoa River and through the Snowdon Forest. A few small streams crossed the path along the way, but were really easy to cross without getting wet feet. With the sound of running water most of the way and the bird chirps coming from above, there were heaps of talking points to keep our young one mentally engaged and entertained. Besides the nearby river at the start, this track is totally safe to let toddlers tot around on too.
Before we even started to work up a sweat, we were out of the forest and entered an open, flat grassy clearing. We followed the path stamped down into the knee high grass and the orange triangle markers. We crossed the very windy Kiwi Burn a few times as we rounded to the left of the clearing.
Just as I began to think about the lack of shade and the scorching sun on us, we saw something amazing. The top of the hut finally came into view. I was shocked to see it so soon, as we truly hadn’t walked for long at all. It was a very welcome sight though with a cranky, hungry toddler on my back. After an hour and a half of easy walking, we had made it to Kiwi Burn Hut.
Kiwi Burn Hut
Kiwi Burn Hut overlooks a large, open valley filled with grassy wetlands surrounded by lush green mountains. There’s lots of room for little ones to safely play both inside and out. Behind the hut is a small, shallow stream which is great fun for kids on a hot summer’s day.
Inside the hut we were pleased to find two separate bedrooms, each with 6 wooden bunks. We didn’t have the hut to ourselves, so this really eased my mind having the privacy of a separate room in case our little guy didn’t sleep so well that night. A luxury you don’t often get!
The kitchen has a spacious bench top for preparing meals, a sink with running water (fed by the rain water tank outside) and a wood-fired stove. The stove could potentially be a hazard to young ones who don’t yet understand the concept of heat or fire, but there’s plenty of room inside to keep them far enough away from it. Outside we found 3 metal fire pits covered with a metal grill, perfect for grilling up meat or late night smores!
Back to the Carpark from Kiwi Burn Hut
From Kiwi Burn Hut you have two options to get back to the parking area. The shorter route, returning on the same track you came in on (1hr 30min) or the longer route, walking the full loop track back (2 hours).
We were curious about what more views the full loop track offered, so opted to take the longer path to the left. Right away we lost sight of the path, but every few minutes we spotted a tiny orange triangle peeking up out of the 1.5 metre high grass. At times it didn’t even feel like we were following a track anymore, just stamping our own way forward.
Not only was it hard to constantly dodge sharp grass from poking both mine and my child’s eyes, we also had to avoid tons of prickly weeds scattered throughout the bushes. Lastly, there were a ton of small streams hidden under the wet, dewy grass that were impossible to see until you had already stepped in (or nearly tripped over) them. Wet boots, wet pants, blisters, no shade cover and the very bumpy terrain underfoot made this section quite unenjoyable for us.
When my son wanted a break from the carrier, we had to keep pushing forward because there weren’t many suitable spots to put him down for at least an hour and a half. It was mentally tough, and for a while there I think we all regretted the choice to take the long way back to the car. But we were so relieved to re-enter the forest again that we quickly forgot about the tricky section now behind us. After another hour of easy, peaceful walking through the forest, we arrived back at the swing bridge.
Overall, it took us just over 4 hours to complete the full Kiwi Burn Hut Loop Track.
We all agreed that we did not wish to ever repeat the wetlands portion of the walk again, but would happily return to the hut via the shorter walking track. Despite the tough walk on day two, the chance to easily stay overnight in Mavora made it all worth it.
The final verdict is in: Kiwi Burn Hut is the perfect hut for families with young children.
Distance: 12.5 km
Trail Type: Loop
Elevation Gain: 300 meters
Time: 4 hours
Hut Coordinates: 45°21'18.7"S 168°05'27.4"E
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Photos: ©2023 Kayla Laatz. Mountain Mamas NZ
Right at the start of the walk we faced one of the coolest features (in my opinion) of the track, the Kiwi Burn Swingbridge. A chain metal bridge spanning approximately 15 metres across and standing at least 10 meters high over the gushing Mararoa River. Not at all for the faint of heart! Photos: ©2023 Kayla Laatz. Mountain Mamas NZ
After another hour of easy, peaceful walking through the forest, we arrived back at the swing bridge. Photos: ©2023 Kayla Laatz. Mountain Mamas NZ
Photos: ©2023 Kayla Laatz. Mountain Mamas NZ